Have you ever wondered what it will be like in heaven?
Revelation 7:9-17 is a priceless picture of the blessed dead. It has comforted many people in the face of suffering and death. Some ministers believe that the multitude in this reading consists of those who have been saved during the Great Tribulation. They argue that these people are the harvest of the 144,000 Jewish witnesses. The ones who will be saved during the Great Tribulation will not be individuals who had a chance to be saved during their lifetimes. They will be those who heard and received the gospel message for the first time during the seven year period and who were martyred for their faith. The tribulation will be a time of unexpected affliction and unprecedented grace.
The church is seated below the throne, but this group is standing and wearing robes that have been washed in the blood of the Lamb of God. Their outer garments are worn with dignity, beauty and distinction. Palms were a part of the celebration of the Feast of the Tabernacles. The Jewish people sat on booths and waved palm branches to recall the joy of God’s complete deliverance from slavery in Egypt.
The practice of falling before the throne in worship is customary for the multitudes in heaven. By saying “Amen!” the angels agree with the praise of the multitudes and then add their own anthem of praise.
In God’s temple, the way to the presence of God is open to everyone, as opposed to the Old Testament temple. In that temple, God resided in the section called the Holy of Holies. The only other person who could enter the Holy of Holies was the high priest, and even then he could only enter on the Jewish Day of Atonement. The Holy of Holies was separated from the rest of the temple by a curtain. This was the same curtain that was torn in two when Jesus died on the cross. When Jesus died, he torn down the barrier between us and God. People could have direct access to God through Jesus Christ.
God’s son is a lamb and a shepherd. The statement “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” is very exact. The tears are not just wiped away, they are wiped completely from the eyes so that nothing is left but joy and abundant life in Christ. What a comforting and hopeful statement! It provides hope not only for those in heaven but for those who suffer and mourn here on earth. No matter how hard things are for us here on earth, we can be comforted by Christ’s love for us.
This passage leads to a discussion of heaven. It’s like window shopping. In this passage we are looking through a window and are seeing a small picture of what heaven will be like. We see a group of people who are no longer tainted by our evil, sin-filled world. People of every race, colour, creed and religion are together and can understand each other. There are no divisions or groups. They do not suffer from fear, want, hunger or hurt any more. God will guard and protect them just like he guards and protects us.
Scripture teaches us that there is a personal, once only resurrection to eternal life. Believers have the sure knowledge that death is not the end but the beginning in a new life in heaven. The only answer to death and its power in this world is Jesus. He died and rose again to defeat the power that sin and death have over us. He has promised that all who believe in him, trust him, and put their confidence in him will have eternal life.
This scene is impressive. A huge crowd of people has gathered before the throne of God. Angels and other heavenly creatures are also in the crowd. The people in the crowd are wearing robes that have been washed in Christ’s blood. In other words, Christ gave his life for them and for us. There is power in the death of Christ to do what no one else can do. The white robes do not make anyone pure. They represent the purity and personal holiness that comes only from the death and resurrection of Christ. In the Book of Revelation, white is a symbol of holiness.
John has given us a glimpse of heaven. We see that the healing that will go on in heaven is broader than that of our own personal lives and the lives of our loved ones. Heaven is a place where all of life’s injustices of this world will be made right, where the lowly will be lifted up and the mighty will be brought low. It is a place where God’s vision of a community of justice, peace, and equality will finally hold sway.
As wars rage on and as diseases and disasters continue to exist and as the global economy continues to struggle, we may know more than we think about the “great ordeals” and blood-stained robes that John identifies. Amid all of this chaos, there is hope. When war, famine and disease have done their worst, salvation belongs to the God above and not to worldly Gods.
This coming Sunday we will celebrate All Saints Day. It is a day to remember those who have died-those who have been made clean by the blood of Christ and are now celebrating with the crowd gathered around the throne of God. That thought gives us comfort. It’s hard to be sad for them when they are in a place where there is no more suffering, sorrow or pain. The only sadness is for those of us who aren’t there yet, but at the same time we have hope that when we die we will join them in front of that great white throne. This gives us something to look forward to. On that day, we will get a complete picture of heaven instead of the glimpses we get in the Bible. We will go back to the one who created us-Jesus.
Our souls, which were once condemned to spend eternity in hell, have been given new value. Jesus paid the price with his life so that we could be washed from our sins. The old self is gone and we become new people. Because of Christ’s death and resurrection, we can be assured that nothing in our past and nothing anyone else says or does can change the value God has given us. We have become priceless to God. God wants us to come to the knowledge of the truth of hope, help and eternal life in Jesus.
Today you might be reminded of your loved ones who have died. Today is a day to remember them with thanks for what they have meant to you. Today is a day to praise God for their faith and the peace they are now experiencing. We can be assured that the Lord who walks with us each and every day of our lives is the same Lord who will be waiting for us in heaven.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, NKJV (Nashville, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013)
- Pastor Vince Gerhardy, “A Glimpse of Heaven.” Retrieved from www.lectionary.org
- Pastor Vince Gerhardy, “A Great Crowd.” Retrieved from www.lectionary.org
- The Rev. Dr. Nora Tubbs Tisdale, “Glimpsing Heaven in Thin Places.” Retrieved from www.day1.org
- Pastor Ken Klaus, “A New Value.” Retrieved from www.lhm.org
- Palmer, E.F. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 35: 1,2&3 John/Revelation (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.: 1982)
- Austin B. Tucker, “White Robes and Palm Branches.” Retrieved from www.preaching.com
- ESV Study Bible. Part of Wordsearch10 Bible software package.
- Pastor Gregory Seltz, “Today is the Day for God’s Grace for All.” Retrieved from www.lhm.org
- The Rev. Marshall A. Jolly, “The Saints beside You.” Retrieved from www.episcopaldigitalnetwork.com