Who Can Stand - Part Two: The Church at the Last In Heaven
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Who can stand? The church.
→ The church on Earth.
We’ve already met the firstfruits: the church on earth (vv1-8) symbolized by the 144,000 [(12 tribes of Israel) X (12 Apostles) X (1000 the basic military unit of Israel)]- the fullness of Israel including the Gentiles grafted in.
Now also we meet the church at the last: the church pictured here in heaven.
→ The Church in Heaven.
The second part of the answer we could almost consider in the past tense: not who can stand, per-se, but who has stood? The answer is all of the saints who have gone before us in an innumerable crowd from every nation. They are pictured here as the church delivered, pure, and worshipping God in fullness. By description they are the church at the very end.
What’s more, God’s faithfulness is on display as we read that they are innumerable. Listen for the answer to the promise of Genesis 16:10, to Abraham that God would give him more descendants than can be counted.
Who can stand? The church at the beginning and the church at the end.
What’s the key lesson: Even as God’s judgement falls on earth (6:1-14), even when godless men seek only to hide from Him and refuse to repent (6:15-17), the church on earth marches forward as an army for battle with the gospel (7:1-8), and the church in heaven is comforted (7:9-17)!
→ Dear Church: We must never lose sight of who we are, and whose we are, for He Will Win The Battle!
We are able to stand because he is able to make us stand.
Who can stand in the outpouring of the wrath of the lamb and in the holy consuming presence of the almighty Father upon His throne?
The church on earth, and the church in heaven.
The church at the first and the church at the end - and everywhere in between.
Who can stand?
You can stand dear church. You can stand for he is able to make you stand!
Look to This innumerable multitude and see yourself standing amid them victorious in Christ alone!
The next vision begins with “After these things I looked...” John sees a great multitude, unlike the mere 144,000 which is completely countable - they are the mustard seed at the beginning, they are the widows mite, they are the first. This new crowd however is completely innumerable. It’s members come from every nation, tribe, people, and language. The emphasis on the church on earth in the last passage is that they are sealed by God. But these are standing. They are standing complete in heaven with their mission accomplished. Their wounds are satisfied, their struggle has come to completion, and their tears are dried.
This is the first real bit of information we learn about this multitude: They stand.
And where do they stand? They stand before the throne and before the Lamb. If you will let your mind play over the layout of the throne revealed in chapter four what do we have?
→ In the Center was a throne, and one sitting upon the throne. Around that throne were twenty-four thrones with crowned elders upon them. In front of the throne were seven lamps of fire - the seven spirits of God. A clear, smooth expanse is in front of the throne and in the center are four living creatures full of eyes all around. Now this multitude beyond number stands - presumably upon that crystal-like expanse in front of the throne upon which sits God the Father and between the throne and the creatures stands Jesus the lion of the tribe of Judah, looking like a lamb who was slain. Every aspect of the image carrying forward a reference to the story of God that has unfolded throughout the Old Testament. Every symbol an affirmation for the churches who first unrolled the scroll that John sent them bearing this text - every portion an encouragement for our hearts that God - in the strength and glory of his might and power is able to make His people stand before him. Because his wrath was poured out on Jesus upon the cross, all who take shelter in Christ will stand.
As you read about this massive crowd, hear the echo of Jude 24-25.
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
Who can stand? The church on earth, and the church in heaven. The church across the ages. By the abundant grace of God dear church you stand in Jesus Christ if you stand at all. You stand in Jesus Christ along with Peter, James, and John. You stand with the Apostle. You stand redeemed by the same blood of Jesus that redeems Moses and Adam, and David the king.
They stand before the throne and the lamb and they stand in white robes.
We have seen white robes elsewhere already in Revelation. In Revelation 3:4 God tells the church in Sardis that those who overcome will be clothed in white garments. In Revelation 6:11 the martyrs beneath the altar are given white robes, and we’re about to discover in just a few verses how these white robes symbolize salvation. If you look forward to verse 14 for just a moment you will see that these white robes are symbolic of salvation. These are those who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. If taken literally of course it make no sense, because Blood is certainly not a whitening agent -but the symbolism readily translates for those who know Christ as savior- as redeemer - as forgiver. His blood, his death cleanses us from all sin.
Can you hear the faint echoes of Isaiah 1:18 here?
“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.
More direct for us perhaps is Isaiah 64:6
For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
Better Yet consider if you will the future text of Revelation 22:14
Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city.
The third description I want you to notice is how in verse 9 they are pictured worshipping.
They hold palm branches. In scripture that has highly significant meaning. According to Leviticus 23:33-ff On the fifteenth day of the seventh month the last of the Jewish Festivals begins: The Feast of Booth’s. The Feast of Booths the people would dwell away from their homes in shelters reminiscent of the shelters they lived in as God guided them through the desert. Booths, is a celebration and remembrance of the way God both guided Israel and provided for them in their forty years in the desert. It came to take on significance as a remembrance celebration of all the times God guided Israel.
Significantly for our passage in Leviticus, at the very beginning of the feast they are instructed to take the foliage from beautiful trees including palm branches and to “rejoice before the Lord your Go d for seven days” (Leviticus 23:40).
Fortunately for us, we get to see and experience their worship...
They cry out echoing Psalm 3:8, “Salvation belongs to the Lord”. They worship praising God for salvation which belongs to God upon the throne and the Lamb. Pay attention to the juxtaposition of the saved church crying out and the terrified unrepentant crying out in Revelation 6:16-17.
Here is the great truth of the gospel. The saved are redeemed by it, the unsaved are condemned by it. The blood of Christ cleanses the sin of every repentant believer - but the unrepentant treat the blood as unholy, trampling it underfoot (Hebrews 10:29).
When they worship, as it was in Revelation 4:9-11 when the elders fell down to worship when the angels praised God, so now the angels fall down in praise as the redeemed church praises God.
And in their worship they cry out with a sevenfold worship (indicating complete worship) saying:
2. and glory
3. and wisdom
4. and thanksgiving
5. and honor
6. and power
7. and might
be to our God forever and ever Amen.
Identifying the Vast Crowd
Identifying the Vast Crowd
We already know that this crowd comes from every nation, tribe, and language group. But who are they really. That question hangs over the passage. Thus one of the elders approaches John and asks him who they are – inviting John to consider this very question along with us.
John, naturally defers to the elder who tells him specifically who they are.
1. They came out of the great tribulation
2. They have washed their robes...
We have already looked at them washing their robes in the blood of Christ as their salvation. So there is no question whatsoever that this group is the church because the language of redemption describes the church. This is the called out ekklesia of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The great question we must investigate is what does he mean they have come out of the great tribulation?
The most likely foundation is Daniel 12:1.
“Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued. Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase.”
When a passage starts with “At that time” it means we need context. Daniel 11 is dealing with the rise of the Antichrist, whom we have yet to be introduced to in Revelation. During that time it seems great persecution will arise against Christians. So bad will it be that as Jesus said in Matthew 24:21-22 that Unless those days had been cut short none would survive.
For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.
What Jesus describes and what Daniel describe is this final period of Tribulation coming upon the earth. But keep in mind that even though What we call Daniel’s seventieth week (Daniel 9:24-27, especially v27) depicts what Revelation shows as a seven year tribulation - remember that tribulation, trials and difficulties have always been with the church. Tribulation has always afflicted the church, as even John begins this book saying in Revelation 1:9 that he was partner with the churches in THE tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus. In that vein we might consider this vast crowd as having come out of the tribulation of the ages. Following Christ has always been an upstream against the crowd reality. But the designation of the great tribulation, a term used also in Matthew24, and indicated in Daniel 9 both indicate that in the last days the trials and tribulations upon the church will be greater than ever.
That’s why we need to consider the meaning of “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation...”
Standard dispensational teaching is that this clearly refers to the rapture. But I think there is far too much evidence for Christ coming once at the end rather than one and a half times. What seems to fit here is that this is a massive crowd of martyrs.
Remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 24, “Unless those days had been cut short...” no one would survive.
The elder here is referring to a massive martyrdom of Christians at the last, though perhaps it includes those martyred throughout all the ages.
I have mentioned before that in the twentieth century, more Christians were martyred than in all the prior centuries of the church combined. The rate is only climbing.
And it seems that the number of martyrs during the tribulation period is a near uncountable number!
Christians in every age must consider the question, Am I willing to die for Christ?
Are you willing to die for Christ? Here's a better question: Are you willing to live for Christ?
The truest test of whether or not you are willing to die for Him is whether you are willing to live for Him. If he owns your life he already owns your death. If you own your life - who owns your death?
The Reward of the Church
The Reward of the Church
These worshiping saints, the church at the last is rewarded and comforted in the final three verses in language that is largely drawn from the prophets, and this we can do quickly.
God will dwell among them as in Isaiah 4:6
There will be a shelter to give shade from the heat by day, and refuge and protection from the storm and the rain.
Verse 16 repeats the promise of Isaiah 49:10
“They will not hunger or thirst, Nor will the scorching heat or sun strike them down; For He who has compassion on them will lead them And will guide them to springs of water.
And verse 17 points to the 23rd Psalm, Isaiah 49:10 and Isaiah 25:8.
He will swallow up death for all time, And the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces, And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; For the Lord has spoken.
All of these promises of the Old Testament are coming true, all of the hurts and worries of the world are erased. The tears of the suffering are dried, and the mourners are comforted forever.
The vision of Heaven in one half is of all things made right. The saints are satisfied, the saints are at rest, the saints are at worship. The church is provided for, protected, directed, and comforted.
The vision of heaven in the other half is of the church in the presence of God.
In the end, it’s all about God - it’s all about the Lamb. It’s all about Him.
and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”
Who can stand?
In chapter 7 we see the firstfruits of the church, and the church at the last. The first, and the last. And every one in between.
The great question for you is, will you stand? You will if you are standing in Christ.
For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them. They will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”
All I Once Held Dear
All I once held dear, built my life upon All this world reveres, and wars to own All I once thought gain I have counted loss Spent and worthless now, compared to this Knowing you, Jesus Knowing you, there is no greater thing You're my all, you're the best You're my joy, my righteousness And I love you, Lord Now my heart's desire is to know you more To be found in you and known as yours To possess by faith what I could not earn All-surpassing gift of righteousness Knowing you, Jesus Knowing you, there is no greater thing You're my all, you're the best You're my joy, my righteousness And I love you, Lord Oh, to know the power of your risen life And to know You in Your sufferings To become like you in your death, my Lord So with you to live and never die Knowing you, Jesus Knowing you, there is no greater thing You're my all, you're the best You're my joy, my righteousness And I love you, Lord
Songwriters: Kendrick Graham A