2nd Endtime – Saints Triumphant
Salvation and power and glory belong to our God forever and ever Amen! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, Are you a stranger here? I had never been that far away before. Katie and I had a wonderful wedding and shortly afterwards we went on a short honeymoon to a resort in Mexico for a few days. It was going to be great. It was an all inclusive resort, several restaurants to pick from, pools to swim in, beach, exotic food and drink, it was going to be great. So we got there and we’re going to have a blast. Then, Katie got sick from the food or the water, from my own ignorance and pride I got the worst sunburn I’ve ever had in my life, anything touching my skin burned and throbbed, it was miserable. And to top it off the travel agency never gave us a time when we were going to be picked up and taken back to the airport some 40 minutes away. Then they were supposed to meet with us at the resort, they never showed up. I tried calling them, I don’t know Spanish and they didn’t know English. Ahh!! Are we going to be stuck here? By the end we felt like strangers and we were ready to go home.
What about you? Do you feel like a stranger here? Perhaps life on earth can be somewhat like a honeymoon gone bad. We have such big plans for life, such big dreams, we look forward to so much. Perhaps we have big plans of going to school getting an awesome job and being very successful. But then we find ourselves in a job we don’t really enjoy and not nearly as successful as we hoped. Perhaps we have big plans for building our dream house just the way we want it to be. But then it doesn’t turn out quite so nice, there are certain design flaws, we wish we would have done this or that differently. Perhaps we have big plans for our children to settle down and have wonderful loving families. But then there’s disagreements, quarrels, misunderstandings with in-laws. We have high hopes for getting this or that, Thanksgiving and Christmas advertisements and flyers are coming out, oooh, I could really use this or that, wow, that’s a good price. But then that Black Friday deal just doesn’t quite satisfy us as much as we’d hoped, isn’t quite as fulfilling as we thought it would be. Maybe the person we voted for won, maybe not. Will our country go in the direction we want? Maybe, but probably not.
Is life on this earth often like a honeymoon gone bad? If we marry ourselves to this world, the things of this world, life in this world, it will always be a bad honeymoon. If we live like this world is our home, our paradise, we will always be disappointed. In a little while we are going to sing a couple verses of the hymn, “I’m but a stranger here, heaven is my home.” Perhaps it gives us an opportunity to ask ourselves: Do I really believe it? Do I live my life in such a way that I make it clear that HEAVEN is my home? Do I approach life that way? Do I see this life as a place that I’m just passing through and is very short?
What would our lives look like if we approached life that way? Well, first of all, spiritual things would be absolutely #1, for only those things will last forever. I would constantly reflect on the wonderful things Jesus has given me. I’d be constantly looking to be patient, kind, gentle, honest, loving and forgiving. I would use my time, my talents, my treasures first and foremost in service to God and His Word. After all, if I’m a stranger here and heaven is my home, wouldn’t my life display that attitude? And perhaps most of all it would affect how I view death. If I was really putting into practice the truth that I’m a stranger here and heaven is my home, then death would not be a tragedy, death for the believer would be a wonderful victory! Yes victory! Why? Because for the believer, death is the time when I enter my eternal home of heaven, get to see Jesus face to face, get to experience the full blessings of all that Jesus has done for me!
So, are you a stranger here? Is heaven your home? Do we live our lives that way? Do we reflect it with our attitudes? Do we struggle with it? Or are we trying to marry this world and make this life our honeymoon? The reality is: that will always be a honeymoon gone bad.
God has a way better answer for us. He lifts our eyes away from the here and now and focuses us on our real wedding and our real honeymoon. He reminds us that we are strangers here and our real home, our real citizenship is in heaven. One of the places God does this is in our text for this morning.
Here God gives us a picture of an incredible triumphal song we are going to sing in heaven. First, there’s a great multitude, that seems to be the entire heavenly host all believers of all times together with the myriads upon myriads of angels, shouting, “Hallelujah! (Praise the LORD) Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries.” Who is this prostitute? Well, as you know, the book of revelation is full of imagery and symbolism. Often God pictures His people in Scripture as His wife, His bride. In fact, God wants all people to be faithful to Him, to honor and worship Him alone. People “cheat” on God when they believe or teach anything that’s not in God’s Word. So the Prostitute here seems to be anyone who leads people astray, teaching things contrary to God’s Word, leading people away from God and Jesus, persecuting God’s people and making life miserable for them. In the end they will be condemned and we’ll praise God for defeating our enemies who are also His enemies. In heaven God will have no enemies and so we will have no enemies. How cool is that?!
Then we have 24 elders and 4 living creatures also praising God. The 24 elders seem to indicate the sum total of believers again. There were 12 Patriarchs in the OT from whom the church was built and in the NT there were 12 apostles whom God used to build the church. The 4 living creatures seems to be either representatives of all creation or 4 mighty angels. Then this chorus of praise reaches a crescendo “Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come and his bride has made herself ready.”
This is the wedding celebration we’re all waiting for! In the NT times they had an interesting wedding custom which we heard a little bit about in the Gospel for this morning. They didn’t have an engagement period. Rather, the two families of the couple who were getting married would get together, the couple would make their vows and promises to each other and would be considered husband and wife. But, they didn’t live together as husband and wife for normally about a year until the day when the wedding celebration would begin. Then the groom would come to the house of his bride and pick her up along with her attendants and they would go and have a week long celebration at their new home. Well, Jesus is the Groom, the Lamb, the Lamb of God who died to take away the sins of the world. In your baptism, through God’s Word, He’s betrothed himself to you, you are His bride, what you and I are waiting for is the wedding celebration. That’s what we see here in the text and that’s going to happen when Jesus comes either at your death or at the end of the world to take you home to ultimate wedding celebration in heaven and for the ultimate honeymoon that will be enjoyable beyond all imagine, perfect, and will last forever!
And how do you know it’s true? Look what it says Jesus has given you: Fine linen, bright and clean, was GIVEN her to wear. How do you know you’re going to be there? You’ve been given the clothes to wear: Jesus, your blood and righteousness, my beauty are, my glorious dress. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Although your sins are as scarlet they shall be as white as snow. The fine linen that you wear stands for literally the righteous decrees of the saints. The fine linen is the verdicts of not guilty that God has passed on you because Jesus died and rose for you!
And since that’s true, you can live as a stranger here, for heaven is your home. Knowing that heaven is your home helps you keep the things of this life in perspective. The big things of this life will seem trivial compared with eternity in heaven. When life seems overwhelming I can still move forward for heaven is my home. When things in life go poorly, I can still live with optimism for I know the final outcome, I know heaven is my home.
And how awesome heaven will be! You’ll get to meet Abraham and Sarah, Moses, Elijah, Daniel, Peter and John, believing loved ones who have gone before you, your parents, your grandparents, your spouse, your child. You’ll get to look into the eyes of your Savior Jesus, you’ll get to experience the place where joy knows no end, multitudes of people from every nation, tribe, people, and language wearing white robes who “have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb …never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. 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. 7:14-17) Yes, YOU, saint triumphant, will be there, as Christ’s bride at the ultimate wedding celebration forever! So be a stranger here, for heaven is your home! Amen.