“VISION IN HIGH DEFINITION”
Text: Revelation 7:9-17
Sunday May 8, 2022 – Easter 4
Trinity – Creston/Mt. Ayr
Grace, mercy, and peace is yours from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!
Our text for this Fourth Sunday of Easter Sunday is from Revelation 7.
Let Us Pray: Dearest Jesus, send your Holy Spirit to remind us that it is you the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. We can confidently look forward to a new heaven and a new earth that will be beautifully detailed and wonderful well beyond anything we can ever imagine! Amen.
Dear Fellow Redeemed in Christ:
It’s Friday evening, and it’s been a long week. You’re not interested in going anywhere or doing much of anything, you just want to get home and away from the stressful world! You get home and bring up your Net Flix account, and select your movie.
The rest of the family is off doing their own thing. And that’s the way you want it—at least for tonight. “Just me and my movie, that’s all I want.” You have a great meal to eat, nuke some popcorn, grab a drink and get settled in your favorite chair!
Then taking it all into the living room, you pop in the movie, sit down, find the remote to your 72” HD TV, and you’re set to go. After the opening credits the movie begins with a near deafening roar, and suddenly you’re whisked away to another place and time.
Yeah, you just can’t beat high definition tv and surround sound. You’re right in the middle of all the action. It’s like you are there!
Somewhere on the Isle of Patmos, around the end of the first century, the apostle John, loved by the Lord, has a similar experience. He, too, has had a rough time. He’s been in exile and for some time now imprisoned with little freedom.
We have no idea the manner or method God delivered John’s vision to him. Nor do we know the time frame in which he received it.
But for our purpose today, we’re going to assume it was not unlike the scenario we just described—with the obvious exceptions that satellite TV, surround sound, or Net Flix was not available on Patmos.
And as that goes, John didn’t need nor did he have a 72” HD TV with surround sound. But the language of the Revelation to St. John certainly suggests his vision was nevertheless in high(!) definition.
The first scene opens with John stepping through the doorway to heaven. A voice like a trumpet blast invites him to see what is to come. And suddenly, he’s before the very throne of God and one seated, whose appearance leaves him breathless—a vision of sparkling elegance surrounded by the brilliance of a heavenly rainbow.
Hard to take it all in. One could easily miss the twenty-four elders, their thrones and crowns, but there they are. Only to be overpowered by flashes of lightning and claps of thunder directing one’s attention to the seven spirits of God appearing as blazing torches.
Then suddenly, you’re facing four living creatures whose likeness even Steven Spielberg would struggle to conjure. And in spite of their frightening appearance, the creatures are unceasingly praising God, as the elders bow before the eternal God, also praising God’s magnificent glory (Rev 4:1–11).
Quickly, the mood changes, as John sees in the right hand of God a scroll, perhaps the blueprints of God’s eternal plan for his people, sealed with seven seals. And since the mighty voice of the angel finds no one in heaven or on earth worthy to open the seals, John is now weeping (5:1–4).
God’s people are in peril. Who will put his plan into action? Hope has been dashed! Who will save and shepherd God’s people? Is all humanity to fall victim to the consequences of sin and be consumed by the darkness of death eternal? Are we all to wander aimlessly as lost sheep without a shepherd in a world of ravenous wolves?
John, however, is quickly comforted by the voice of one of the elders directing his attention to the long predicted conquering Hero, “the Lion of the tribe of Judah,” who is able to open the scroll and its seven seals (5:5).
There we are along with John, surrounded by God on his throne, living creatures, angels, and elders. And there in the midst of it all is a Lamb who appears to have been slain but who now stands in our midst (cf. Jn 20:19).
As the Lamb takes the scroll from the One on the throne, worship resumes, and we’re surrounded by the magnificent, unrestrained melody of joy as the four creatures and the elders sing a new song: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Rev 5:12).
And with a thunderous crescendo they’re joined by the whole host of heaven and earth in rapturous praises of the worthy Lamb who was slain (5:6–14).
With scroll in hand, the Worthy One begins to break the seals, and, in what seems only a moment, the life of the New Testament Church flashes before our eyes as each seal is broken.
With a voice of thunder, the tribulation unfolds, as the conquering victor rides in on his white steed, followed by a red horse unleashing war and death.
Then a third steed, black, lets loose famine and economic chaos. Not far behind is a pale horse charged to kill one quarter of all mankind with all manner of violence, hunger, disease, and ravenous beasts (6:1–8).
The fifth seal could be compared to Ebenezer Scrooge’s second visitor, who reveals to him the faces of ignorance and want beneath his cloak. We’re given a glimpse under the altar of heaven at the souls martyred for their faithful testimony to the Lord.
All this culminates with the sixth seal making known the end, when all of creation collapses in on itself as kings and generals, the powerful and the slave, seek to hide from the coming wrath (6:9–17).
But all is not lost, for John is comforted . . . and so are we. For those who are left to do battle, carrying out the Lord’s mission, are sealed.
Sealed and preserved as they walk in this valley and shadow of death, that they might soon join the white-robed Church Triumphant, worshiping and praising our God together with the four living creatures and the elders in a symphony of joy (7:1–9).
Who are they—these in white robes? The movement stops (pause) as John asks one of the elders.
These are they who have washed their robes white in the blood of the Lamb. They are those who have by faith followed the Lamb and persevered in the midst of all this fallen world can dish out.
The Shepherd has led them through all the consequences of sin that each of us has inflicted and encountered in this earthly pilgrimage: hatred and anger, broken relationships and broken bodies, lust and greed, hunger and thirst, scorching heat and freezing cold, death and tears.
At the Shepherd’s leading, they have come out free and clear. Washed clean in the blood of the Lamb—robed in white by the grace of God and the Shepherd, the Lamb who leads us.
Jesus, the Lamb and the Shepherd,
Leads Us, Along with the White-Robed Multitude,
to Streams of Living Water,
living water washing over us with eternal life, destroying death and wiping away all the tears of mourning.
There is a painting depicting Jesus gently and lovingly holding a young black lamb. The painting was done by an inmate with the Texas Department of Corrections who likely viewed himself as an outcast or, if you will, a black sheep of his family and perhaps of the family of humanity.
The obvious implication of the painting is that our Lord loves and accepts the black sheep of the family of humanity. He loves the black sheep that each one of us was at one time (Col 1:21).
But this image goes deeper than that. In order to save us poor miserable sheep, the Shepherd became one as well. He took upon himself all that is the dark sinfulness of humanity and bore it unto death on a cross—taking upon himself the full wrath of God that our enmity with God deserves.
And this Lamb who was slain rose again to shepherd his people to eternity, gathering them into the unnumbered fold of heaven, where God will wipe away every tear of mourning from our eyes. The tears of sin and the tears of death will be wiped away forever.
As revealed to John in a magnificent HD vision (Rev 7:9–17), the Lamb who was slain and the Shepherd are one and the same, saving us for all eternity.
Depart today led by the Shepherd/Lamb and with an HD vision of your eternal future. Amen.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the true faith in Christ until life everlasting. Amen.