Revelation 026 – So Great A Salvation

Dr. Andy Woods | Jan 13, 2019 | Revelation 7:9-17 | Revelation

Andy Woods

So Great A Salvation    1-13-19

Revelation 7:9-17        Lesson 26

Let’s take our Bibles, if we could, and open them to the Book of Revelation, chapter 7 and verse 9, taking a look this morning at verses 9-17.  The title of our message is So Great A Salvation.  That’s actually the title of one of Charles Ryrie’s books, and I figure he’s home to be with the Lord so he can’t argue with me if I take his title… So Great A Salvation.

We are in or studying the Book of Revelation, in that futuristic section of the book which describes the judgments of God coming upon the earth.  And we  studied very early on in the Book of Revelation the opening of the seven sealed scroll.  Every time a seal on that scroll is opened, as we’ve talked about, another judgment comes to the earth.  These judgments apparently are very severe, so severe that when the sixth judgment is unleashed you see at the end of chapter 6, which records these judgments, a question, “Who is able to stand.”  Chapter 7 is an answer to that question because in the midst of the darkest hour of human history God provides a light through the sealing and the using of the 144,000 Hebrew evangelists.

This is something that’s sort of (as we talked about last time) interrupts the chronology.  There are about five times in this book where the chronology is sort of interrupted giving us a window into things that have happened before and things coming.  And every time  you hit a chapter 6 look for an interruption.  We’re at the end of chapter six and now we have our first interruption, answering the question that’s been asked, who can stand.

Is there anything any good going on in the midst of all of this darkness?  And in fact what we discovered here in chapter 7 is yes, something very good is on the horizon.  In fact, I’m very confident to say this, that the greatest awakening in the history of the world is yet future, where God is going to bring untold masses of people to Himself.  And it may be the earthshaking events of this time period that open the human heart to the reality of God.  Isn’t it interesting how times of distress have a tendency to do that to us, sort of like in the Book of Jonah.  You know Jonah, chapter 1, Jonah was running from God.  In chapter 2 though he was praying.  Why was he praying in chapter 2 but running in chapter 1?  Because God allowed a tribulation into his life, as you know, he was swallowed by the giant fish.  And in Jonah chapter 2, Jonah says this: As I was fading away I remembered the Lord.  [Jonah 2:7, “While I was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, And my prayer came to You, Into Your holy temple.”]

Maybe there’s some great distress that’s come into your life and  you don’t know why it’s there. Maybe it’s there to just sort of shake the ground beneath our feet to cause us to remember the Lord.  Apparently there’s a large group of people that are suddenly becoming God conscious interested in the things of God with the shaking of the earth.  I found it interesting that after 9-11 two weeks at least after 9-11 our churches were full, weren’t they.  I mean, you even had the Republicans and Democrats on capitol steps together singing God Bless America.  When was the last time you ever saw that happen?  Now I wish it had lasted a little longer, this revival, but it lasted about two weeks.  I’ll take two weeks.

And there’s coming a tremendous awakening to this earth through the events of the tribulation period and that answers the question, “who can stand.”  We see chapter 7, verses 1-8 the instruments of this awakening, the 144,000 from the twelve tribes of Israel.  We’ve seen their sealing, how they are brought to saving faith early on.  We’ve seen their number which we believe is a literal number, 144,000, and then we’ve seen their lineage—they’re Jewish, they’re Hebrews.  In fact, verses 5-8, as we saw last time describes 12,000 coming from each of the twelve tribes.

And then we moved from the first part of the chapter into the second part of the chapter which really is a description of the awakening itself.  What do these 144,000 preaches cause  under God’s power?  They cause this awakening, they cause salvation as God uses them.  So we see here it outlined, verse 9, salvation quantity, verses 10-12 salvation praises, verses 13-14 salivation’s timing, verses 15-17 salvation’s provision.  And as we look at this I hope we come away from this saying “so great a salvation,” because the salvation that’s going to be opened up to these people  yet future is being opened up today and if we have received it we are basking in it today.

Notice the quantity, first of all, of those saved.  Notice, if you will, Revelation 7:9, “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands.”     You’ll notice this expression “after these things I looked” and when that occurs in the Book of Revelation, the Greek there is meta tauta with a verb of perception, God is showing John something else.  So I’ve shown you the servant that I will use, now let me show you their fruit is what God here is getting at.

And what fruit it is, it’s amazing.  “…I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count,” an innumerable multitude.  This multitude is obviously very different than the group that was described earlier in the chapter.  I find this chart here very helpful.  Group one is Revelation 7:1-8; group two is in the second part of the chapter, verses 9-17.  In the first part of the chapter people are numbered, 144,000, 12,000 from each tribe.  The group in the second part of the chapter they’re innumerable, you can’t number them.  The group in the first part of the chapter are Hebrews; the group in the second part of the chapter come from all the nations.  The group in the first part of the chapter are sealed by God; this second group though, as we’ll see today, is slain and many of them suffer martyrdom.  The first group is sealed before the tribulation period or at least towards the beginning of it.  The second group, as I’ll show you, is converted out of the coming tribulation period.

You sort of get the idea here of cause and effect.  The cause is the first part of the chapter, the effect is in the second part of the chapter which explains to a large extent why these evangelists are Jews, Hebrews, coming from the twelve tribes.  They are fulfilling, in essence, God’s purpose for the nation of Israel.  The nation of Israel began in Genesis 12 with the calling of Abram from the Ur of the Chaldeans, and as he began to walk by faith God began to disclose to him promises and from those promises would come forth the mighty Jewish nation, the nation of Israel.  And God blessed them, the nation of Israel.  For what purpose?  We just sang about it in a song or two today.  Blessed to be a what? a blessing.  God said “I will bless those who bless  you and the ones who curses you I will curse, and in you all families of the earth will be blessed.

[Genesis 12:3, “And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”  Genesis 28:14, “Your descendants will also be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed.”]

God put His hand on a new nation that He had created, the nation of Israel, for the purpose of disseminating His blessings to the entire world.  That’s why when we get into this section of the Book of Revelation, after the church is in heaven, there’s such a heavy focus on the nation of Israel and their usability unto God.  We’re seeing the first part of that here in Revelation chapter 7.

Isaiah 42:6, of Israel, God says that she is “a light to the nations.”  [Isaiah 42:6, “I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I will also hold you by the hand and watch over you, And I will appoint you as a covenant to the people, As a light to the nations.”   Isaiah 49:6, “I will also make You a light of the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”  And isn’t it interesting that when you study the pages of God’s Word you see how Israel has never really lived up to her purpose.  Certainly as you go through the Old Testament you see one failure after the next.   In fact the failures are of such a magnitude that many people argue that God is finished with the nation of Israel.  And what we’re here to say is this: God is NOT finished with the nation of Israel, God has always desired to bless the world through the nation of Israel and you start to see a glimpse of it here in Revelation chapter 7.

And it’s not just true with the nation of Israel, it’s true with you.  When God chose you, when God called you, when God gifted you He didn’t just have in mind you, He wanted  you to be a channel of blessing to other people.  God blesses for the purpose of being a blessing.  That’s what our lives in the church age should be all about and we certainly see this pattern here with the nation of Israel.

It’s interesting that in Revelation 14:4, this group, early in the chapter, is called “the firstfruits.”  [Revelation 14:4, “These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb.”]  Firstfruits was part of the Jewish harvest cycle; the initial harvest would come in and that would give them confidence that the general harvest was right around the corner.  That’s who these 144,000 are, they’re the firstfruits of greater conversions and greater evangelism yet to come, described here in the second part of this chapter.

And I think God sort of knows what He’s doing, Amen, when it comes to selecting these Jews, 144,000.  As I’m understanding the events of the tribulation period they unfold very rapidly; there’s not time to enroll in a seminary and learn Hebrew, which is an exhausting process, I can guarantee you that.  What insight God has in selecting 144,000 that already know Hebrew, already understand Hebrew Bible, it’s not like a Gentile conversion where a person comes to Christ knowing absolutely nothing and they have to be taught and schooled over a long period of time.  Not so these Jews, they already have a working knowledge of Hebrew Bible that we call Old Testament and they just need someone, the Holy Spirit, to come along and connect the dots for them and to show them that the whole thing points to Jesus Christ.

Paul, the apostle, was such a man.  He was a Pharisee, he was steeped in Hebrew Scriptures and yet he did not fully understand who they pointed to before he became a believer in Christ.   And he was converted on the Damascus Road and the Lord personally tutored him (we believe probably around three years in Arabia, something like that, some quibble with that but the bottom line is the Lord personally instructed Paul so that his message lined up with exactly with what the other apostles were teaching.  And I believe what the Lord did with the Apostle Paul, Saul now Paul, is He connected the dots for him.  The blindness was taken away and he could begin to see Jesus in the Old Testament.  No doubt part of that process was seeing Jesus in Isaiah 53; maybe he had never seen a suffering Messiah there and he began to see how all of these Scriptures meticulously detailed point to Jesus Christ, the Savior.

And isn’t it interesting what fire that lit under Paul.  Once this illumination, once this realization came his way the Apostle Paul no doubt was the greatest missionary the world has ever seen.  Can you imagine the Apostle Paul multiplied by 144,000?  I mean, the same process goes on in the minds of these Hebrews and suddenly the veil is lifted and they get it and they see and they can’t help but talk about Jesus.  It’s interesting to watch a Jewish conversion, it doesn’t happen all the time but I’ve seen some… it’s almost like a fire is lit under them and they just can’t help but often­times the great persecution that comes their way from their own community, they can’t help but talk about Christ and the things of God.  And these are the instruments that God will use, these 144,000 evangelists.  And what a harvest this is, a great multitude which no one can count, watch this,” and all the tribes and peoples and tongues….”  [Revelation 7:9, “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands;”]

This is universal.  In fact, this is global and it helps us to understand what is revealed in 1 John 2:2 that Jesus died for the whole world.  [1 John 2:2, “and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”]   The whole world, because of what Jesus did, is savable.  Now they’re not personally saved until they trust in the provision of Jesus Christ but they are savable… there is nobody that is outside the purview of evangelism.  And we certainly see that here with this harvest coming from the 144,000.

There are people today that play all kinds of linguistic games with the Book of Revelation.  Some today are arguing, the late R. C. Sproul argued this in a book, The Last Days According to Jesus, you’ll see it in his book there that the whole Book of Revelation except for a few little things has already happened.  There’s not going to be any future antichrist, he already came in the person of Nero, etc. etc. etc.  They typically tie the events of the book back into Rome sacking Jerusalem in A.D. 70.  We have a slight problem with that, the Book of Revelation was written 25 years after A.D. 70… A.D. 95, just a little detail!  How could the book be a prophecy about A.D.  70 when it was written 25 years later?

Beyond that look at the manipulation of language you have to do to take this global event and ram, jam and cram it back into some sort of local first century happenstance.  No, no, the language won’t allow this; this is something that’s never happened before, that is yet future.  And you may be asking yourself, well, why isn’t God using the church here?  I mean, isn’t the church the instrument that God has  used over the last 2,000 years to reach a lost and dying world?  Didn’t Jesus tell the church, Matthew 28:19, “”Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations,” isn’t that what the church has been doing for the last 2,000 years?  [Matthew 28:19, “”Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, [baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,]”

Why isn’t God using the church?  I mean, why does this whole thing look so Jewish?  There’s an answer to that… the church isn’t here!  The church is in heaven, as we talked about, glorifying Christ.   And yet God does not leave the earth without a witness of Himself and He puts His hand back on the firstfruits of Israel because the reality of the situation is you may love Israel or hate Israel, whatever your attitude is towards Israel the reality of the situation is God has made certain promises to Israel that have never been fulfilled… ever!  And if God means what He says and says what He means and cannot lie, there has to come a point in history where He puts His hand back on that tiny nation and starts to use them once again.  And we see that here, do we not, in Revelation chapter 7.

What the church has left undone will be completed by the 144,000 and an innumerable multitude of Gentiles gets saved.  Now don’t confuse these salvations with something that Paul talks about in Romans 11:25-26, the fullness of the Gentiles, two different ideas.   [Romans 11:25-26, “For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; [26] and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, “THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION, HE WILL REMOVE UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB.” ]

Paul, in Romans 11:25-26 talks about “a partial hardening that has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in, [26] and so all Israel will be saved….”  You see, Paul there is talking about the completion of the body of Christ, the completion of the bride of Christ before the rapture.  Once the very last Gentile that the church is destined to reach has been reached the body is complete, the bride has been made full, and she will be translated to heaven.  But that doesn’t mean that God’s work on earth is finished without the church.  He still plans on reaching countless others which He will do with this 144,000.

We get sort of bent out shape about this, how is poor God going to do this without us being around?  I mean, He doesn’t even use our stained glass windows any more and our baptismal pools and all of our literature and radio stations and TV stations and publishing houses.  I mean, how can God do this without us being here?  The reality of the situation is God doesn’t need anybody.   In fact, remember what Jesus said when He rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, when the Pharisees said quiet down  Your disciples?  He said if these are quiet the stones themselves are going to start crying out.  God can use a rock to do His work.  And that’s sort of important to understand because we kind of, particularly in ministry, get into a mindset where boy, God is sure lucky to have me on His team.  I mean, He uses us by His goodness and His grace; He doesn’t need anything!  He doesn’t need the church, He uses the church because He loves the church.  And  yet what the church leaves incomplete will be completed through these 144,000 Jewish evangelists.

I have been asked by a couple of people what about the birth pangs of Matthew 24, the Olivet Discourse.  [Matthew 24:8, “But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs”]  Why do we call it the Olivet Discourse?  Because it was given on the Mount of Olives.  I asked that one time in a class and someone raised their hand and says that’s because we get “all of it” and that would not be the right answer.  Jesus gave a discourse on the Mount of Olives, you can read about it in Matthew 24 and 25.  He talked about these birth pangs and He talked about false Christs, war, famine, death, martyrs, earthquakes and the gospel of the kingdom being preached to the whole world.

Have you been paying attention to the order of this seal judgment?  We have a false Christ, war, famine, death, martyrs, earthquakes, and now we’re seeing evangelism. In other words, Matthew 24 is a parallel passage with everything we’ve been reading in the Book of Revelation.  It’s sort of interesting, isn’t it, to watch the whole Bible kind of come together as one.

And you’ll notice that these converts are standing before the throne and before the Lamb. What exactly does that mean?  They’re in heaven!  They’re in heaven with the Lamb Jesus Christ, who we know earlier in the Book of Revelation is seated on His Father’s throne in heaven.  In fact, that was what the whole scene was about in Revelation 4 and 5 concerning the source from which these judgments come, the Lamb in heaven and how He’s worthy to bring these judgments.

Well, how did these folks get into heaven?  I mean it says here they’re part of a great multitude that’s converted, and then we find them standing before the throne and the Lamb apparently in heaven.  [Revelation 7:9, “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands.”]

How did they get up there?  The answer is in verses 13-14, they were martyred.  [Revelation 2:13, “’I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.  [14] But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality.”]

You see, it’s going to cost people to believe in Christ during this time period because the antichrist will be running the system.  More on this martyrdom in just a little bit.  But notice that in heaven they are portrayed, verse 9, as clothed in white robes.  [Revelation 7:9, “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands;”]

What is that “white robe”?  It’s something that God puts on a person symbolizing their purity.  I hope that’s something that you have positionally, that white robe.  Paul says in Philippians 3:9, “and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own” are you planning on meeting God one day through your own righteousness?  I’m not, because I don’t think my own self-righteousness really means a lot at the end of the day.  I fall short constantly.  “… and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of” what?  “on the basis of faith.”   We receive righteousness from God, not because we sort of sewed together our own loin covering as Adam and Eve were doing early on, but because we have been clothed with the righteousness of Jesus Christ.  That’s the only way I ever plan on standing before God, not in what I have done but what He has done for me. We receive that as a gift by way of faith.  It’s the greatest gift you could ever have.

Apparently these martyrs that are converted have received that imputed transferred righteousness, “clothed in white robes.”  And look at the end of verse 9, “palm branches were in their hands.”  Didn’t Jesus ride into Jerusalem, John 12:12-13 and a large crowd was waving palm branches, branches from a palm tree?  What is that all about?  It’s about victory.  [John 12:12-13, “On the next day the large crowd who had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, [13] took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, “Hosanna! BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD, even the King of Israel.”]

What is that all about?  It’s about victory.  It’s about the victory that Jesus could have had, had the nation of Israel in the first century received Him as their Savior.  There were people that understood exactly what was happening, Christ was presenting Himself as King to the nation of Israel.  And  yet tragically He was turned down.  He was railroaded through the judicial system.  The evidence brought against Him was manufactured.  He was turned over to the Romans to be executed as a common criminal and He hung there, dying on that cross, the devil thinking he had won a decisive round not understanding that that death was paying for the sins of the whole world.  And they took that crown of thorns and they put it in His head, pressing those thorns, no doubt, into His scalp.  And how different it is when He comes back the second time, having not been rejected by the nation of Israel but received by the nation of Israel, no longer a crown of thorns on His head but  having many crowns.  Coming no longer on a donkey but on a white horse as a victor.  And Jesus is going to get His victory, history is moving in that direction.

And by the way, if Jesus is a winner what does that make you, if you’re connected to Him by way of faith?  You’re a winner too!  In fact, 1 John 4:4 calls you, calls us “overcomers,” as does 1 John 5:4-5.  We are  overcomers.  [1 John 4:4, “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.”  1 John 5:4-5, “For what­ever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.   [5] Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”]

Romans 8:37 calls us super overcomers.  [Romans 8:37, “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.”]  Why?  Why do I get that status?  Because according to Revelation 5:5 He, Jesus Christ, has overcome.  [Revelation 5:5, “…behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.’”]  The palm branches are a signification of His victory; He’s going to win, He’s on the winning side of history.  He’s an overcomer.  And that means little old me and little old you are winners too, not because of some great potential within us, it’s because of who we are united with, who we are yoked to.  That’s why Jesus, to the disciples, said, “Take courage, I have overcome the world.”  [John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.’”]  Don’t worry about it guys, I’ll do it in your place.  And what a time of celebration that will be and the victory of Jesus Christ.

We move away from salvation quantity to salvation’s praises.  And we see praise coming from Gentiles, verse 10, and then from the heavenly realm, verses 11-12.  Are you excited about your salvation?  I mean, is your salvation something that’s so real to you that you can’t wait to praise the Lord for it?  That’s what’s happening here in heaven.  It says in verse 10, “And they,” who’s “they”?  That’s this innumerable multitude arising in heaven following martyrdom, “they cry out with a loud voice saying, ‘Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’”  You’ll notice this expression “cry out,” the Greek is krazo [κράζουσιν].  This is not just mildly raising their voice, this is someone screaming out.  It’s the same words that are used to describe the demons screaming out at Jesus in Matthew 8:29,  “And they cried out, saying, ‘What business do we have with each other, Son of God?  Have You come here to torment us before the time?’”  They’re yelling it out at the top of their lungs, these demons, and consequently so are these martyred saints yelling it out.

Remember what they were yelling, the martyrs, in Revelation 6:10.  “How long,” same word, krazo, “How long until You avenge us, and our deaths,” and now they’re in heaven praising God for what?  Verse 10 is very clear, how long until You avenge us and our deaths, and now they’re in heaven praising God for what?  Verse 10 is very clear… “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”  [Revelation 7:10, “and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”]

In fact, it’s says when “they cried out with a loud voice,” the Greek there, you know what it literally means?  Megaphone, loud speaker, yelling out, screaming out, crying out, praising the Lord for what they have received, for their salvation, because once you have salvation you have the ticket necessary to beat the enemy which has held humanity hostage for so long, the last enemy called death.     Hebrews 2:15 says, “and might free” Jesus that is, “those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.”

You know what made the Apostle Paul the force that he was?  He could care less whether he died.  He says it over and over again, “For me to live is Christ, to die is” what? “gain.”  [Philippians 1:21.] He said, ‘absent from the body is to be” what?  “present with the Lord.  [2 Corinthians 5:8, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.]  Get your  mind wrapped around that and what can people do to you when you think about it?  You’ve got the ticket by which we arrive into heaven.

And I think they’re also praising the Lord not only for personal salvation but for the liberation of planet earth because what’s happening in this book is Satan is being evicted leading to the establish­ment of God’s long awaited  kingdom, now in the clouds somewhere but on planet earth.           Revelation 11:15 says, “[Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying,] “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.”]  The earth itself is redeemed to what God wanted it to be before the fall of man.  I mean look at how salvation is so essential to worship, personal salvation which beats death itself.  And then there’s a salvation coming to the whole world at the eviction of Satan.

This is worship folks; worship here in heaven is not about whether they’re going to sing my favorite song, whether I’m going to get my preferences met, whether I’m going to get the liver quiver today.  It’s all about Christ and what we have in Him by way of salvation and salvation yet future for the earth and they’re just shouting this out as they’re praising the Lord.

So the Gentiles are praising the Lord, and now verse 11 you see the other entities in heaven praising the Lord as well.  Take a look, if you could, at verse 11.  “And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God.”  You’ll notice it mentions angels, and then it mentions elders, which would lead me to conclude that the elders are not angels and the angels are not elders.  You say well where did these elders come from?  I mean why is it that every single heavenly scene we see in the Bible, whether it’s Isaiah or Ezekiel or wherever, we see the four living creatures, we see angels, but we never see elders.  How do these elders get into the mix?  Well the elders, as we have demonstrated back in Revelation 4 sound an awful lot like the church that’s described in Revelation 2 and 3.  So the elders is representative, I believe, of the church.

Now how does the church get up there into heaven?  And why is God using the 144,000 on the earth and not the church?  Because the church has been translated, that’s why.; it’s been taken into heaven itself.   And these four living creatures, I have a difficult time understanding exactly who they are; they seem like some kind of well-developed angelic class of some kind but they’re praising the Lord as well.  And notice that they’re not doing it from the comfort zone.  It’s not like sitting on you sofa and channel surfing… oh, I guess it’s time to praise the Lord.  They fell on their faces before God and praised the Lord.  In fact, this happens, when you track this down, I don’t know how many times, this has happened a number of times already as we’ve moved through the Book of Revelation.

Well, what are they praising the Lord about?  No doubt salvation, verse 10, but they’re praising the Lord for God Himself because He has certain attributes that the others don’t possess, verses 12, “saying,” what’s the content of their worship, “saying, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God” in other words their relationship with Him, He’s not their God, He’s our God, “to our God forever and ever. Amen.”

What does Christ say to the woman at the well?  He says, “Worship the Lord in spirit and” what? “truth.”  A lot of people have a very mystical idea of what worship is.  Eastern mysticism, to some extent, has crept into the church where people think worship is sort of emptying your mind of all content and the first idea that comes into your head is the Holy Spirit telling you what to worship about.  Anybody that tells you to empty your mind of content is not teaching biblical worship.  Biblical worship is content rich, you just have to have the right content, content about God, content about theology, content about who God is.  As you start grasping that how could we do anything other than verbally praise the Lord?

They notice here that blessing, glory, wisdom, honor, power, and might and eternality itself is sourced in God.  And you’ll notice here in verse 12 that the word “thanksgiving” is used, they are thanking God for who He is. When was the last time we ever did that in prayer?  Lord, I’m going to just forget my own needs and requests just for a minute and by the way, there’s a place obviously in the life of the believer to present needs before God, that’s acceptable and that’s appropriate and God wants us to do that, but I think so much of our prayer time is about  us.  So much of our worship time is about us.  How about just pausing for a minute and reflecting about who God is.  And all of the attributes of God and praising Him and thanking Him.  In fact, it says here “Amen.” What does that mean?  It is certain is what it means.  In fact, I think there’s an “Amen” at the beginning of verse 12 and at the end of verse 12 Amen, Amen, it is certain, it is certain.  That’s like when Jesus says, “Verily, verily I say to you.”  In Greek that’s amen, amen.

And then we move away from salvation’s praises to salvation’s timing.  When exactly are these salvations going to occur?  You have a very clear answer here in verses 13-14, in the form of a question and answer.  Verse 13, “Then one of the elders answered, saying to me,” now this is John who in a vision is seeing all of these things, “Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, ‘These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and where have they come from?”   John sees this massive conversion taking place and that prompts his prayer, or one of the elders I should say asked John who are those clothed in white?  I mean, why are they clothed in white we’ve talked about, but who are they and where did they come from?  I may have said that wrong, I think it’s one of the elders asking John.  “Then one of the elders answered … me,” there we go, “These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and where have they come from?”

Have  you ever been asked a question you can’t answer?  I love John’s answer there in verse 14.  I think we ought to answer in this way more.   “I said to him, ‘My lord, you know.’”  In other words, John is saying look, I’m just seeing this vision, I don’t know what’s going on here, but “you know.”  I’m reminded very much of the Book of Ezekiel, chapter 37 and verse 3, where Ezekiel was shown in a vision that valley of the dry bones which we know from that chapter represents the nation of Israel and her regathering in the last days into a skeleton and then breath comes into that body and speaking of not just the political restoration of Israel but her regeneration, the divine program for Israel..

And what an encouragement that must have been for those Jews who received that vision through Ezekiel while they’re 300 miles to the east in a place called Babylon, modern day Iraq, with their temple destroyed thinking that God had forsaken them.  And suddenly they see this through Ezekiel, Ezekiel sees this vision of these bones assembling themselves and God asked the question before He assembles the bones,   [Ezekiel 37:3]  “He said to me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’”  I like how Ezekiel answers, “And I answered, O Lord GOD, You know.”’ I don’t know, but You know.  That’s how John seems to be answering this as well, I don’t know but I know what the attributes of God are, verse 12, and He’s got this whole thing under control.

I mean, do I really have to know everything; I mean, do I have to understand every curve in my life?  Do I have to understand every roadblock, every success?  Do I have to demand an answer from God to everything?  I mean, aren’t there sometimes in the Christian life where circumstances come upon you that  you can’t figure out?  And you just say to the Lord, I don’t need  that now, You know, because You’re eternal and You possess all of those other attributes in verse 12 and I’m not.

Look at the answer there.  “I said to him, ‘My lord, you know.” And he said to me,” here’s the answer, “‘These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”  [Revelation 7:14]  Where do these people come from?  They came “out of the” tribulation period. Well how did they come out of the tribulation period and get into heaven?  You see an answer to this, it’s called martyrdom.  I  think it’s sort of a description of these martyrs that are described in Revelation 6 you’ll recall, arriving in heaven having experienced martyrdom, wondering when is God going to vindicate them.

And I want you to notice something very important here because this will save you a lot of confusion in your Christian life.  “‘These are the ones who come out of the” definite article, “great tribulation…. For years and years and years and years as a Christian I used to think that you know what, the first half of the tribulation period is not that bad because Jesus said in Matthew 24:21 that things will get really, really severe in the second half of the tribulation period, after the temple has been desecrated.  [Matthew 24:21, “For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will.”]  So I used to think first half not so bad, second half pretty bad.  I used to think the first half is just tribulation but then based on Christ’s words the second half wad great tribulation.

And isn’t it interesting how reading the Bible sort of throws monkey wrenches in all of our charts and graphs.  I mean, this is connected to the conversion of the 144,000 which happens when?  Early, early, early in the tribulation.  I mean, this conversion is connected to their ministry which happens with their sealing before, chapter 7 verses 1-3, any harm comes to the earth.

[Revelation 7:1-3, “After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, so that no wind would blow on the earth or on the sea or on any tree.  [2] And I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of the living God; and he cried out with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, [3] saying, ‘Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads.”’]

So what is happening in the first half of the tribulation period is just as much the great tribulation as what is happening in the second half of the tribulation.  I mean, it’s got to be that way, doesn’t it, because look at all the severe things that happen in chapter 6, antichrist, war, famine, death, martyrdom, cosmic disturbances.  Are we saying that’s not going to be so bad?  I mean, that seems to me to be a pretty great tribulation.  And so we believe that yes, the first half of the tribulation is the great tribulation, the second half of the tribulation, Matthew 24:21, is the great tribulation, my goodness, the whole thing is the” what? The “great tribulation.”  [Matthew 24:21, “For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will.”]

“For the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”  [Revelation 6:17] When was that statement made?   Towards the beginning, with the seal judgments.  This statement here, “the great tribulation period” connected to the 144,000 that are sealed early on; “early on” then, the first half is the great tribulation period as well.  So if that’s true then why in the world did Jesus, in Matthe24:21, Olivet discourse, which as we have said is a parallel passage to what is happening here in the Book of Revelation, why did He say this after the temple is desecrated which is the mid-point?  Why did He say in Matthew 24:21, “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will.”  He’s giving the impression that the great tribulation starts in the second half.

So if it starts in the second half why would Revelation 7:14 call it “the great tribulation” (first half).  Why would people say (first half) “for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand.”  [Revelation 1:17]  And people are saying to me, you’re the pastor, you give us the answer.  Well, here’s my best shot at the answer.  When Jesus made the statement “a great tribulation” in Matthew 24:21 following the desecration of the temple he was talking to who?  Israel!  That’s why he says, “Pray that your flight,” Matthew 24:20, what flight?  The flight they’re going to make into Jordan to be protected from the antichrist during the tribulation.  Pray that your flight will not take place on the Sabbath.  [Matthew 24:21, ““But pray that your flight will not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath.”] That sounds pretty Jewish to me.

You see, for Israel… first half, peace.  Why peace?  Because they have the protective custody of the antichrist.  Second half… bad, because he betrays the treaty and he pursues them as Satan himself indwells the antichrist.  For the nation of Israel the first half very much is a time of peace as they’re in His protective custody and covering and it’s the second half when things dissolve.  But that’s not what it’s like for the world; it may be like that for Israel but it will not be like that for the world.  As far as the rest of the world is concerned the whole thing is the great tribulation.

You say why is this important?  It’s important because God says to the church I have not appointed you unto wrath.  Everybody out there is saying we’re going to be here for part of it because it really doesn’t get bad until later.  Yeah, that’s true for Israel but we’re not Israel.  When it says “Pray that your flight will not take place on the Sabbath,” does that affect the church.   I mean, the Sabbath is the last day of the week, I thought we were worshipping the Lord today on the first day of the week.  People, when they try to develop their doctrine of the rapture are fishing in the wrong pond.  I mean, they’re fishing in areas that are clearly addressed to Israel.  For Israel it’s peace and prosperity for three and a half years, things fall apart the last three and a half years but that’s not how it’s going to be for everybody else. The whole thing, the whole enchilada, maybe that’s not the best metaphor, I’ll  use a Jewish metaphor, the whole shawarma for the world is the tribulation period.  That’s why you can’t be here for any of it, because God has specifically said, 1 Thessalonians 1:10, 1 Thessalonians 5:9, Romans 5:9, Romans 8:1, we’re not appointed unto wrath.

[1 Thessalonians 1:10, “and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.”  1 Thessalonians 5:9, “For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Romans 5:9, “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.”  Romans 8:1, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”]

And you’ll notice that when these martyrs arrive in heaven there’s another reference there, verse 14, to their white robes.   [Revelation 7:14, “I said to him, ‘My lord, you know.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”]

The time of this is the events of the tribulation period itself.  Salvation’s quantity, salvation’s praises, salvation’s timing, the tribulation period itself beginning early… well what about the provisions, verse 15-17?  I mean, what exactly do you get because you’re saved?  Ephesians 1:3 says we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, at the point of faith alone in Christ alone.  [Ephesians 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.”]

And we say God, I want a little bit more, and God says I don’t have anything else to give.  You have all the spiritual blessings you can imagine, it’s just a matter of dialing into those and accessing those in daily life.  And we see here three provisions coming to these saved martyrs.  A. Their service, verse 15; B, their satisfaction, verse 16. C, their shepherd, verse 17.

Notice their service, verse 15,  “For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him” when they feel like it… it doesn’t say that, “they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them.”  The first provision is service.  Serving God, think about that, forever, in what looks like to me a description of the heavenly tabernacle, the tabernacle in heaven that Moses patterned under God’s direction the earthly tabernacle from.  And there’s also a heavenly temple there as well.

Do we understand that’s our destiny in God?  Not just sit around on a cloud somewhere strumming a harp but perpetual service in God.  Do we understand that this is why God gives to the church spiritual gifts, to serve Him?  And everyone has a spiritual gift, at least one, because of the word “each.” Ephesians 4:7, 1 Corinthians 12:7; 1 Peter 4:10.  [Ephesians 4:7, “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”  1 Corinthians 12:7, “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”  1 Peter 4:10, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”]

Do we realize that the use of our spiritual gift today is just the warm up act for eternal service unto God?  That’s why you were saved, by the way.  Your salvation is not to just keep you out of hell.  Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; [9] not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”  Most people shut off the verse right there, but verse 10 comes after verse 9, Amen!  [10] “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”   I’m not saved by good works but I’m saved for good works.  I mean, the desire of God in my life is to use me to bless other people; that’s His desire for you!  When He saved you He was thinking about all the people that would be blessed through you and the gifting that He’s given  you.

And it’s very interesting in the Greek, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we” might” is what it should say, “so that we might walk in them.”  You say well how can you say that?  Because the verb “walk” peripatēo, is in the subjunctive, which is the mood of possibility. Got wants you to walk in the good works but are you going to walk in the good works or not?  That depends on a lot of things; are you going to grow in Christ or not.  Are  you saying, pastor, that I’ve got to do a bunch of good works to prove I’m saved?  I’m not saying that at all, I have preached against that every chance I get.  Your salvation is 100% inalterable, but birth needs to be followed by growth.  If  you grow or  you don’t grow you’re still born.  If you grow correctly or not correctly you’re still born.  The birth can’t be reversed.  But are  you going to walk in the works that God saved you for.  That we’ve got to leave up to time to see what happens in our lives, depending on our volition.  Am I going to submit to God in areas of my life or not?

And so this mass of people is serving the Lord.   Notice also number two, their satisfaction.  Look at verse 16, “They” that’s all these martyrs, will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat.”  Jesus said in John  6:35, “‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.”  Jesus said in John 4:13-14,  “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; [14] but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

There is no satisfaction in life and in this world without a relationship to the God that made you and redeemed  you.   You know why?  Because you’re functioning outside of  your purpose, I mean, try to assemble toys for the kids on Sunday morning, try to use a hammer when you’re supposed to be using a screw driver, or whatever,  I’m the expert at messing all these things up.  I mean, using something outside of its purpose actually can be destructive.  How do you ever find your purpose of why you exist if you have no relationship with the God that made you and the God that redeemed you, and the instruction manual.  Have  you tried to assemble something without an instruction manual?  You know why so many people are so frustrated in life?  They’ve never read the instruction manual, we call this the Bible.  What does that stand for?  Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.

And so we move into that purpose and suddenly we find a satisfaction of hunger and thirst which can’t be satisfied any other way.  And then it even says here in verse 16, “… nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat.”  Now I thought about this, why would it say that?  Because in the eternal state you know what there isn’t?  There’s a son, s-o-n, but there’s no sun, s-u-n.  Revelation 22:5, Revelation 21:23.  [Revelation 22:5, “And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.”  Revelation 21:23, “And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb.”]

There’s not even a moon which reflects the sun.  He’s saying well, if there’s no sun and there’s no moon how in the world is God going to illuminate everything.  Do you think poor little God is dependent on the sun, s-u-n, to illuminate His creation?  In fact, do we not understand that Genesis 1:3, the very beginning of the Bible, “Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.”  But wait a minute, hold the phone, the luminaries, the sun and the moon and the stars don’t show up until creation day 4, Genesis 1:14.  [Genesis 1:14, “Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years;”]  How did poor God get by those early days without His sun, s-u-n, and the answer is He doesn’t need the sun  And in fact, He’s designed history in such a way that humanity will understand that the source of light comes from Him, not something He’s created, because God understands that we, as human beings, have a propensity to worship the object rather than God.  In fact, the Book of Deuteronomy, chapter 4 and verse 19 says, “And beware not to lift up your eyes to heaven and see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, and be drawn away and worship them and serve them, [those which the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven.]” God understands the wickedness of the heart, He understands the wickedness of the heart, He understands that we worship things rather than Him, so He says I want you to read the first two chapters of the Bible very carefully and the last two chapters of the Bible very carefully; there was a time where light existed without the sun s-u-n, and there will be a time when light will forever exist without the sun, s-u-n, because it will be illuminated by Jesus Christ the Son, S-o-n.

I wonder what object in your life you’re worshipping, looking to that thing, that whatever it is, career, house, car, I’m not sure what is, it’s different for all of us, but we have a tendency to look at that thing or that person or whatever it is, as some kind of source of satisfaction for us.  And here we’re reminded God doesn’t need a secondary source to bless us.  He is our source!  Who are you looking for for your provision?   Your job?  Your retirement account?  Don’t we understand that God has provided for us through those secondary things?  And yet He doesn’t need those things.  In fact, your 401K could become a 201K and your job could disappear tomorrow and  yet the provision of God never stops in your life because He’s teaching us where these blessings come from.

So they have their service, they have their satisfaction, lastly, verse 17, they have what it’s really all about, the shepherd; “for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life….”  [Revelation 17:17]  You might want to jot down Psalm 23:2,  “He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters.”  What a description of the shepherding role of Jesus Christ. And look at the last part of this verse, “and God will wipe” 95% of the tears… NO, “every tear from their eyes.”  There’s nothing to be upset about, nothing to cry about, nothing to mourn over.

Not only is there no sun or moon in the eternal state, there’s no crying, mourning or pain, Revelation 21:4 says He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  [Revelation 21:4, “and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”]  Why?  Because He’s removed all of the things that are worth mourning over, death, pain, the first order of things.  I mean with the restored earth all of those things are forever gone; with Satan banished those things are forever gone so what is there to mourn over?  And so it’s a wonderful description of the provision that we have in salvation.  Service, verse 15; satisfaction, verse 16 and most importantly the shepherd Himself, verse 17.  Membership has benefits, doesn’t it?

A quick question as we close.  Have you received those benefits? Are you a member of this exclusive group, the blood bought saints of Jesus Christ.  How do you become a member?  You don’t have to crawl over broken nails and broken glass to get this.  You don’t have to give God your New  Year’s resolution.  In fact, salvation is you not giving God anything.  In fact, if you came to God and said here Lord, here’s what I’m going to give you in exchange for my salvation, aren’t we doing the works of Cain, Genesis 4, whose sacrifice is not accepted?   No!  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.”  Well if He gives what am I supposed to do?  I’m supposed to receive.  Well, I’m going to pick up my cross and follow Jesus.  No one is saved because they picked up their cross; we’re saved because He picked up His cross.  And we, John 1:12, chapter 1, verses 12-13, “as many as received Him to them He gave the right to become children of God,” we receive what He has done.  And you can do that right now as I’m speaking, in the quietness of your own heart as the Spirit of God places people under conviction to do this, to receive what Jesus has done for them.  Receive it as a free gift.  You say well how do you do that?  The Bible says about 150 times it’s by faith.  Faith plus what?  Faith plus nothing, because without faith it is what? impossible to please God.

Well, how do you demonstrate faith?  Faith is another word for trust.   A synonym for that would be reliance; another one would be dependence, you sort of come under the conviction of the Holy Spirit and you recognize that you can’t save  yourself and God has provided for us the provision and you trust in what He has done.  What else do I have to do?  That’s it.  No money involved, no pledges involved, no good intentions involved, it’s completely paid for and you receive it.  So my question is have you done that, because that’s what gives you access to these heavenly privileges we’ve been talking about.

I would challenge people, even as I’m talking if they’ve never done this the best  you know how and in the quietness of your own mind and heart that they would trust in Christ and Christ alone for salvation.  And for those of us that are in Christ now the issue becomes growth, developing to the full stature of Christ as God would have us to live our lives here on the earth.  And what we do in that area is a “might” it’s a subjunctive, we “might” walk  therein, maybe we will, maybe we won’t but the salvation is 100% guaranteed.  So my hope and prayer is that even as I’m speaking you have trusted in Christ and Christ alone for salvation.  If it’s something you need more explanation on I’m available after the service for a one on one conversation.  Shall we pray.

Father, we are grateful for the Book of Revelation and the things that it teaches us.  I pray you’ll continue to guide us and be with us as we move through this very important, very neglected but very important book.  We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said… Amen.