All Saints’ Day November 1, 2020
2 Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, 3 saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” 4 And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel: 5 12,000 from the tribe of Judah were sealed, 12,000 from the tribe of Reuben, 12,000 from the tribe of Gad, 6 12,000 from the tribe of Asher, 12,000 from the tribe of Naphtali, 12,000 from the tribe of Manasseh, 7 12,000 from the tribe of Simeon, 12,000 from the tribe of Levi, 12,000 from the tribe of Issachar, 8 12,000 from the tribe of Zebulun, 12,000 from the tribe of Joseph, 12,000 from the tribe of Benjamin were sealed. 9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 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, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” 13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming 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 shelter them with his presence. 16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. 17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
In the Name of Jesus.
Two scenes. One scene in Heaven, the other on Earth.
The scene in Heaven: A great throne, upon which sits the Living God. Taking his position before the throne, the Lamb who is God the Son—he is extolled as the Lamb because he gave himself on Earth as the sacrifice to atone for every sinner.
Before the throne and before the Lamb, a multitude, to great to be counted. They are clothed in white robes. White, because the clothing is the righteousness of the Lamb, the holiness of Christ Jesus. This is the garment put upon them when they were on Earth, when they received the Name of God and his seal of salvation. The Name given in Baptism, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, is the seal, the promise, that all those ransomed by the Lamb belong to life, eternal life, and not to death.
But they are on Earth no longer; they are in Heaven, at the Throne.
The things of the Earth, the sin, the distress, the doubt, the shame, the guilt, the sickness, the death, the fear, the affliction by Satan and the demons—the things of the Earth, this tribulation, it belongs to them no longer. They are at the throne. And at the throne, there is only life.
They stand before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and they cry out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
That’s the one scene, the scene in Heaven.
All the saints who have preceded; the saints of the Old Testament church, those who bore the holy Name, who were clothed in righteousness, Moses and Elijah, Ruth and Naomi, David and Bathsheba and all the rest; the saints of the New Tew Testament church, those bearing the holy Name, clothed in Baptism’s white robes, Matthew and Mark, Elizabeth and Mary, Paul and Timothy and all the rest; those who came after, Augustine and Ambrose, those martyred under Nero and those under Domitian, those martyred in our own generation by the Muslims on the shoreline of Libya, those who have died in our own generation of sickness, of the weakening of age—all the saints who have preceded on Earth, they stand at the throne in Heaven, where there is no more tear, no more pain, only life.
The other scene, the scene on Earth. This is the 144,000, the number of overflowing fulness, the 12 times 12 times 10 times 10 times 10, the number symbolically so big it leaves out no one belonging to the Lamb.
Belonging to the Lamb on Earth, it’s all those clothed in the Lamb’s righteousness, all those sealed with the holy Name in Baptism, all those who live not according to what they see around them on Earth, not according to what they see in their own flesh, but who live according to faith in the Lamb.
These sealed on Earth, that’s the church on Earth, us and our families.
We are on Earth, we are in this life of sin, but we do not belong to it. We belong to it by our life of flesh, our life of temptation, our life of living pressed down by the accusation of the Law. And this life of flesh is what we see with our eyes, this life of tribulation.
The tribulation of our own sin, our aggravation of never being able to keep up with the holy Law, our failure of being able to justify ourselves before God by anything we do, this tribulation of the fear around us, of the desperation of a society seeing itself crumble but not knowing what to do about it—but out of this tribulation, we are coming. Revelation 7:14:
Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
Tribulation—that’s life here on Earth. The Earth has been given over to the sentence of death, and so it is also with the life of our sinful flesh.
When we look around us to see hatred stoked between different peoples, when we see the disregard for life, even for the most vulnerable life of the child still in the womb, when we see the despising of those who are our elders, when we see the fear, the lashing out, when we see all of this even in our own sinful hearts, we must know we are in the great tribulation—the tribulation gripping the Earth until our Lord Jesus comes again.
But we are being delivered out of it.
Two scenes, John shows us in his great Revelation. One, the scene in Heaven: it is only life—peace and holiness, standing in eternal life at the throne in Heaven, rejoicing with all the saints who have gone before us and all those who will follow. The other scene, on Earth. It’s tribulation. It’s everything belonging to the sinful flesh. It is a life of an empty struggling for justification before God by works of the Law.
The scene on Earth, we are coming out of that. Out of the great tribulation, we are being brought into the scene at the throne, the life of no pain or death, no fear of the Law, the life into which our Lord has sealed us, giving us the pledge and promise of his own Name.
In the Church, it is All Saints day, the day upon which the Church remembers those sealed by the Lamb who have died in the past years. We rejoice.
We are given to rejoice not because we find in joy in death. We do not. Death is evil. It is not natural; it is not part of being human. Death is the strike of the most evil, most unnatural, most inhuman attack against the Lord’s gift of life.
It belongs not to our life as humans, but to our life as sinners.
We do not rejoice in death, we do not try to excuse it as if it is natural, but we are given to not fear it. For we do not belong it.
We are coming out of the great tribulation, being brought to stand before the throne. And on the throne is the living God, the Father who created us, who, when he saw our sin, did not abandon us, but sent the One to save us, the Lamb who bears the sin of the world.
Around the throne, it is only the living ones. Those who belong to life are those bearing the holy Name, sealed in Baptism’s white robes—they are forgiven of all sin and they cry out along with the angels,
“Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!
Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
In the Name of Jesus.