Third Sunday After Easter

Theme
"HE WILL SPREAD HIS TENT OVER US!"
Verses
Revelation 7, 9-17
Hymns
436, 550 v 1-2, v 3

                                                                   Revelation 7:9-17

After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”

All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God,  saying: “Amen!  Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever.  Amen!”

Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”  I answered, “Sir, you know.”  And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.   Therefore, “they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them.  Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst.  The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat.  For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water.  And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

            The scene is the bedroom of 8-year-old Emily.  Dad is getting her ready for bed.  They have said their prayers, and now Emily is about ready to lie down in her pretty princess canopy bed and go to sleep.  Of course, her bed is inundated with so many stuffed animals, there’s hardly any room for Emily to sleep.  Dad suggests that we put some of these animals on the dresser so she can sleep better.  But Emily says, “No!  Daddy!”  The animals need to stay on her bed.  As long as they are under her canopy, they are safe, nothing will hurt them. 

            And as she is about to close her eyes, she sits up with a look of panic.  One of her stuffed animals is missing!  Dad, says, “No!  I’m sure they are all here!”   But Emily insists one of them is missing!  We need to find him so he can be safe!  And Dad asks, “You have tons of animals.  How can you possibly know one is missing?”  But Emily knows that one of them is missing!   Suddenly she is out of bed searching high and low for her beloved stuffed animal.  Dad tries to convince her that it’s OK, we’ll find him in the morning.  It’s late and you need to go to sleep!  The stuffed animal will be safe for one night!   But Emily insists.  They need to find it.  And sure enough, she finds her stuffed owl sitting on the arm of the couch in the living room.  Satisfied, she grabs him to her heart carries him back to her bed, puts him in his place, and now she can sleep!  All her stuffed animals are safe with her under the canopy of her bed!   All is right with the world!  And Dad walks out of her bedroom, with a questioning smile about his silly little daughter!

            Silly little girl?  Or a fantastic example of our God!  Our God, too, is surrounded by so many souls, from so many different places, that you can’t even number them.  And yet our God knows each and every one of them.  He knows when one is missing!  He knows when one is hurting!  He knows when one is bruised and bleeding.  And He will not rest until He makes sure that each and everyone of them is safe and secure, and under His protection, so nothing can harm them.  But our God doesn’t put us all under the canopy of His bed!  No!  As the apostle John hears, “HE WILL SPREAD HIS TENT OVER US!  And we will be safe!

                                                                                                  I

            John sees a glorious picture of heaven!  “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.”   At the Tower of Babel, God confused the languages of the people, and from that time on, there was diversity in our world.  Different languages!  Different skin colors!  Different nations.  And not only did those things divide the people, many times they sparked animosity, hatred, war, and sometimes, an attempt to exterminate each other. 

            But John sees that these differences are over!  People of different skin color!  People of different languages!  People of different political leanings.  Now living together as one huge happy family!  All dressed in white!  All rejoicing in the victory celebration of heaven. 

            And the reason for this change?  “And they cried out in a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb.’”  During their life, someone came to them and shared with them the beautiful message of God’s salvation.  And each one of these people, regardless of how different they are on the outside, came to believe in the one and only Savior from sin.  And now they are united in one family for the rest of eternity.  I mean two of these people could have been engaged in mortal combat each trying to kill the other for “their cause,” and both of them died.  And now, instantly, without hesitation, they are both brothers in the faith, and fellow saints of God, and fellow dwellers of heaven.  Every dividing characteristic has vanished!  The only thing that matters is that each of these people believe in Jesus.

            And each one sings the same song!  “I didn’t earn a place here!  I don’t deserve to be here!  I didn’t do anything to get here.”  They all sing, “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”  Salvation is from God.  God planned our salvation!  Jesus carried out that plan!  The Holy Spirit planted that faith in me, and made me part of God’s family.   Each one of us are here for one reason and one reason only.  Jesus died on the cross for me!  The Holy Spirit touched my heart and caused me to believe it.  God’s work!  Not mine!  For each and every one of us. 

                                                                                           II

            One of the elders explains to John who these people dressed in white were.  “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”  The “Great Tribulation!”  Some people think they need to figure out what this “Great Tribulation might be!”  What greater tribulation can God’s people go through than what we go through in this world.  Our world is a beautiful place.  So many blessings!  So many miracles!   So many good things happening to us! 

            And then suddenly and without warning this world becomes dangerous, vicious and deadly!  How many aches and pains we endure just because we are human beings.  The heartaches we endure when people we trust betray us!  Hearts crushed when people we loved stop loving us.  And then add to that, the things we suffer simply because we are a Christian.  Heartache!  Pain!  Misery!  Watching someone we love die!  Coming to grips with our own death!  These people came through the horrible tribulations of our world!  But then so has every other person who ever lived in this world!   So, what’s so different about these people that John sees? 

            This group, we’re told, “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”   At one point in this Great Tribulation, these people were brought to know Jesus.  At that point their robes were washed!  And they were not just clean!  They were white!  Whiter than anyone could get them.  They were made white through the blood of Jesus.  Because they were covered with the blood of Jesus, because they were brought into the kingdom of God, they were cleansed and made acceptable for heaven.

            And because of that, we’re told, “And he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them.”  They are safe in the arms of their God!  Whether they hang on to their faith or not is not up to them!  Whether they are strong enough to endure that Great Tribulation is not up to them.  Whether they have the ability to resist Satan’s temptations, is not up to them.  Because if it were up to us, we would fail miserably.  In fact, we have failed miserably haven’t we.  But it’s not up to us.  God has “spread His tent over us.”  He has brought us into His kingdom, under His canopy, under His tent, and we are safe!  Just like Emily’s stuffed animals!

            God tells John, “For the lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, he will lead them to springs of living water.”   And remember what Jesus told the Jews in our Gospel lesson?   “I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand,” Our hope for Heaven, our forgiveness of sins, the fact that we are children of God, heirs of Heaven, is because of one reason only.  Jesus has hold of us, and He won’t let go.  God has spread His tent over us!  And we now are safe.

            John sees the glory of Heaven!  “Never again will they hunger!  Never again will they thirst!  The Sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat.  And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”  No more arthritis!  No more heart disease!  No more lung problems!  No more diabetes!  No more wicked people viciously doing things that hurt us!  No more saying good-bye to people we love!  A place where nothing will harm us!  Ever!  Peace with God!  Peach with each other!  We can’t wait to get there! 

            But what our God offers us here isn’t just a future joy that we will find once we’re in Heaven.  We already have it!  Oh, yeah, we’re still living in the Great Tribulation!  There will be pain and hurt mixed with our joys and happiness!  We will have heartache!  But know that, “GOD HAS SPEAD HIS TENT OVER YOU.”  You are safe!  Satan will never be able to rip you out of God’s hands!  Satan will never make you so wicked and evil that your God will turn away from you!  No matter what you have done, God will never turn away from you in disgust and revulsion!   He already did that to Jesus!  Even if we go through difficult times, we have our Shepherd leading us through it, promising to turn it into good.  We have our God protecting us! 

            But the words I really love are these, “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”   God has a crowd around Him so numerous no one can count it!  And yet in that crowd, our God knows which one is crying, and to whom He must go to wipe away a tear!  Despite all the prayers and all the needs, God knows your specific needs personally!  And He never gets you confused with your younger sister like so many other people did.  He knows what you need, even before you ask for it.  And even before you start praying for relief, God is already at your side, doing what needs to be done.  To the world your troubles may seem so minute they don’t even deserve being talked about.  But to God, each and every one of your needs, causes Him to come right to you, sit down next to you take you in His arms comfort console heal, and to wipe away that tear!

            Just like little Emily who knew that one of her many stuffed animals was missing, and could not rest until he was safe with her under the canopy of her bed, so our God is surrounded by a crowed of people from every nation and tongue that no one can number, and yet he knows when one of us is hurting!  He knows when one of us is missing!  He knows when one of us is lost and in danger.  And He will not rest, until He has brought you to safety, and until HE HAS SPREAD HIS TENT OVER YOU!  And He will keep you safe!  Now!  And forever!