The Hope of a Worshipper

 

 

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The Hope of a Worshipper

Text: Rev. 7:9-17

Dr. Alex Tang

 

Summary

 

What is the hope of a worshipper? That one day, we can stand before God and worship Him. To see an end to our pain and suffering. To be home where we belong.

 

Text: Rev. 7:9-17

9 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.  10 And they cried out in a loud voice:  “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” 

11 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, 12 saying:  “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!”

13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?” 14 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.  15 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. 16 Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. 17 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.”

 

Introduction

John the apostle was now a very old man, in his eighties or nineties. The year was a.d. 95 or 96, over 60 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus. Under a wave of persecution stimulated by the Emperor Domitian, John had been exiled to the little island of Patmos, a forbidding and craggy spot in the Aegean Sea. While he was cut off from fellowship with the church he loved, and deeply concerned about the persecutions his “little children” were undergoing, John was given a great vision. He was taught that Jesus is the center of history to come, and a mighty voice commanded him to “write what you see.” And so the Book of Revelation is, in essence, a report by an eyewitness. The Book of Revelation is filled with symbols and symbolism. There has been much debate about the reason for, as well as the meaning of, particular symbols. Yet throughout Scripture, and especially in prophetic literature, similar imagery can be found. It is particularly helpful in trying to understand Revelation to look in the book itself for an explanation, or to look for Old Testament corollaries.

 

Bible Exposition (Revelation 7:9-17)

  REV 7:9 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.

Rev 4:2-3. John stated that immediately he was in the Spirit meaning that experientially he was taken up to heaven though his body was actually still on the island of Patmos. In heaven he saw a great throne with One sitting on it who had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. This jasper is a clear stone in contrast to the opaque jasper stones known today; it may have resembled a diamond. The carnelian is known as ruby or sardius. The jasper and the carnelian were the first and last of the 12 gemstones worn on the high priest’s breast. Jasper and sardius were used in relation to the king of Tyre and will be in the foundation of the New Jerusalem. The throne’s overall appearance was one of great beauty and color, enhanced by a rainbow, resembling an emerald, which encircled the throne.

Prior to this in Rev. 7:2-8 where John saw an angel putting a seal on the foreheads of 144,000 from all the tributes of Israel. 12,000 were chosen from the tribes. Dan is missing. Some scholars understand that these 144,000 will be those who will be present during the Great Tribulation.  Other believed that Rev. 7:2-8 shows the election of Jews and Rev.7:9-17 to be the election of the Gentile component of the people of God who will worship God. The gentile component seems to be the larger group.

 The white robes indicated cleansing or purity and the palm branches triumph or victory.

10 And they cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb."

This is one of the 14 doxologies in the Book of Revelation. The one praised is God and the Lamb of God.

REV 7:11 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, 12 saying: "Amen!  Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!"

Around the principal throne were 24 lesser thrones on which were seated . . . 24 elders. They were dressed in white and were wearing crowns of gold on their heads. The crowns were similar to those given victors in Greek games, in contrast with the crown of a sovereign ruler. The crowns seem to indicate that the elders had been judged and rewarded.

There has been much speculation on the identity of the elders. The two major views are (1) that they represent the church raptured prior to this time and rewarded in heaven, or (2) that they are angels who have been given large responsibilities. The number 24 is the number of representation, illustrated in the fact that in the Law of Moses there were 24 orders of the priesthood.

Many interpretations have been given of the four living creatures. As the Holy Spirit was seen symbolically in the seven lamps, probably the four living creatures symbolically represent the attributes of God including His omniscience and omnipresence (indicated by the creatures being full of eyes)—with the four animals bringing out other attributes of God: the lion indicating majesty and omnipotence; the ox, typical of faithful labor and patience; man, indicating intelligence; and the eagle, the greatest bird, representing supreme sovereignty. Another possible view is that they represent Christ as revealed in the four Gospels: in Matthew, the lion of the tribe of Judah; in Mark, the ox as the servant of Yahweh; in Luke, the incarnate human Jesus; and in John, the eagle as the divine Son of God. Another alternative is that the four living creatures are angels, who extol the attributes of God.

What is more important is their posture of worship. They fell on their faces before the One on the throne and worship. Prostrating ourselves is a sign of humility before One is worthy of all worship.

 

REV 7:13 Then one of the elders asked me, "These in white robes--who are they, and where did they come from?"

 

REV 7:14 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. 15 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.

 

REV 7:16 Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. REV 7:17 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."

REV 5:6-7. Though introduced as a “Lion” (v. 5), what John saw was a Lamb that appeared to have been slain or sacrificed. Yet the Lamb was standing in the center of the throne. About Him were the 24 elders and the four living creatures. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes. 

The Lion and the Lamb surely refer to Christ, with the Lamb referring to His first coming and His death and the Lion referring to His second coming and His sovereign judgment of the world. This is the only place in Revelation where Christ is called a Lion, whereas the word “Lamb” is found 27 times in Revelation and nowhere else in the New Testament.

Since horns symbolize strength (1 Kings 22:11), the “seven horns” represent the authority and strength of a ruler (Dan. 7:24; Rev. 13:1). The “seven eyes” defined as the seven spirits of God (cf. Zech. 3:9; 4:10) symbolically represent the Holy Spirit.

 

1.         The Hope of a Worshipper is To Stand Before the Throne One Day

7:9 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.

v.10 And they cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb."

v.13 Then one of the elders asked me, "These in white robes--who are they, and where did they come from?"

v.14 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.

v.15a,b Therefore, "they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple;

Have you ever wanted to be allowed into a room or place desperately? When I was training for my specialist degree, we have to take an exam called the MRCP. Those days we have to go to UK to take the exams, unlike now when you can take the exams locally. We all have to sacrifice a lot to go there. The government did not give us any incentives to go for further training. We have to saved  enough money for our trip, lodgings and exams fees. I have to take no pay leave to go there. We have calculated that we just have enough money for two attempts at the exam. And the passing rate was about 30%. And to be so far away from home when your children are so young. I was very desperate to finish and come home. In UK, there is this strange way of letting you know your results. All the candidates wait in the lobby of the Royal College- a fine old building. Then someone will stand at the door and call out the name of each candidate. When you reach the person, he will either shake your hands and invite you into a room where you will drink port with your examiners (which means you have passed) or you will be shown a side door out of the building (in which case you have failed). Never was I so desperate to go into the room. Never did I pray so hard. So when I was finally admitted, it was a great joy. It was great to know that I have passed. Joyful because I can come home to the ones I love. So can we even imagine what a homecoming it is like when we stand before the throne with all our brothers and sisters. Standing with all that we love, having came home to a place where we are loved. That is the vision, God has shown John. That we will stand before the throne. That in spite of how many times we failed Him, how many times we denied Him and how many times we betrayed Him, He still loves us and we shall stand before the throne of grace. That we are worthy to come into the throne room and stand before Him. That is our hope as a worshipper.

 

2.         The Hope of a Worshipper is To Worship God Forever

7:11 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, 12 saying: "Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!"

I am sure all of us at some time or other have experienced the presence of God when we worship Him. Sometimes it may be a fleeting moments of peace and joy. Sometimes it can be many hours we can stay in His presence and feel the rapture of worship. We called this the mountain top experiences. It is understandable that Peter will try to prolong such a moment as we have seen in my last sermon. But imagine that we can live in the moment of the presence of God forever, worshipping Him forever. Not alone but with all our brothers and sisters. And worshipping not a fearsome God which punishes us but a God who loves us. Our hope is to be able to worship forever.

 

3.         The Hope of a Worshipper is the Cessation of Pain and Suffering.

v.15 c. and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them.

v. 16 Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat.

v. 17 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."

 

                                                Tent/tabernacle

 

No hunger

No thirst

No sun burn

No scorching heat

Lamb

Shepherd

Springs of living water

No tears

 

Life is full of pain and suffering. One only has to read the morning papers to discover that there is so much pain and suffering in the world.

A sudden loss of a loved one.

A tsunami can destroy whole communities

An illness can cause us much pain. We never appreciate our health until we lose it. Many of us are young and healthy. Those of us who are getting on in years become more aware of the frailties of our bodies. Last year in Japan, I sprain my hamstrings in my left leg. Every step is an agony as sharp pain shot up my legs to my back,. Being kiasu, I went along with the tour instead of resting, hobbling along behind the others, in severe pain. We often take walking for granted. That painful experience in Japan taught me how much we take our bodily function for granted and do not make enough care of our bodies. We live in a world full of pain and suffering. We may try to explain it as C.S.Lewis did in his book, the Problem of  Pain. Many years later, after the painful death of his wife, Joy, from cancer, C.S.Lewis wrote another book, A Grief Observed. In it he wrote that even though he has all the reasons and knowledge on why pain and suffering happens in our world, only through the grief of his wife’s death did he understood it. He wrote, “Pain, you would like to know how I behaved when I am experiencing, not writing books about it; I will tell you- I am a great coward.” Nobody likes to experience pain and suffering. It is the hope of a worshipper that we can live in a place where there is no longer pain and suffering. John’s vision has shown us such a place.

 

4.         The Hope of a Worshipper is to be Home where He/She Belongs

The throne room where God and the Lamb are is our home. Where we belong. Where we are created to be. On earth, we are aliens, though resident aliens. Though we try so hard to be part of this world, this world is not our home. We are just passing through to that home we have with God. The hope of a worshipper is to make it home.

 

Closing Remarks

 

What is the hope of a worshipper?

  • That one day, we can stand before God
  • To worship Him forever.
  • To see an end to pain and suffering.
  • To be home where we belong.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

 

               

"treat, heal, and comfort always"

 "spiritual forming disciples of Jesus Christ with informed minds, hearts on fire and contemplative in actions"  

 

     
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