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Tribulation Saints - Part 2

Tom Pennington • Revelation 7:1-17

  • 2022-02-27 PM
  • Revelation
  • Sermons

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You know, it's in these times such an encouragement to remember as we have sung together in several of the songs tonight that our God is King. He is King over all. As we approach this time in world's history, as we approach the passage we come to tonight, it's so important to remember that picture, that snapshot in Daniel chapter 7 which is a snapshot from when the tribulation is raging on the earth, when the man of sin, the Antichrist we talked about this morning, is wreaking havoc among God's people, when he is causing the world to worship him, when things appear to be at their absolute worse, God, the Ancient of Days, calls a judgment scene in heaven. He calls together for the thrones to be set up and God, the Ancient of Days, takes His throne and very calmly He hears the evidence against the man of sin and then He declares that he will be judged and his reign is over - all in perfect calmness. It reminds me of what the puritan once said that if all of the nations of the world, if every living human being, if all of the angelic hosts, if all the demons of hell, if Satan himself, if all of the intelligent beings God had created were to assemble together and come against God and His throne, it would affect God as much as a single drop would the rocks of Gibraltar – unmoved, unaffected. His kingdom marches on. And that's what I love about the Book of Revelation, because it reminds us of that great truth.

In the middle of that period of time, God is still a Savior and He will still be saving sinners. During the seven-year tribulation that's coming, God will raise up a massive contingent of missionaries, 144,000 Jewish evangelists, and He will commission them to preach the gospel. And the result of their ministry will be a staggering display of the grace of God, even as the world unravels. We meet the fruit of their ministry tonight.

Just to remind you of where we are in the Book of Revelation, this is just an overview. We're looking at, at chapters 4-22 which describe the things which will take place after these things. Using Revelation 1:19 as an outline, this is the stages, if you will, of Jesus' final triumph. In chapters 4 and 5, we saw the Lamb take the sealed scroll from the hand of the One who sat on the throne, the title deed to the earth. And then in chapter 6, He begins to break the seals. With chapters 6-18, we see the seven-year tribulation unfold and in chapter 6, the first six seals are broken and judgment rains down upon the earth. Chapter 7 is a brief dramatic interlude, a parenthesis in the judgments of the tribulation and the theme of this interlude is this: in His grace, God will save and commission 144,000 Jewish missionaries to preach the gospel during the coming tribulation and, in part through their ministry, He will save an innumerable multitude from across the globe.

Now, the last time we studied this chapter, we began by looking at the first part of it. The chapter begins with the divine commission of the 144,000 Jewish missionaries. Verses 1-3, there is a temporary pause in God's judgment and His wrath while then in verses 3-8, these missionaries are both appointed and sealed. Most likely, all of these 144,000 are saved shortly after the rapture and they will witness for Jesus Christ through the entire first half of the tribulation. But just into the second half of the tribulation and the first eight verses of this chapter, God will mark them. He will seal them to protect them during the rest of their ministry as His judgments continue to intensify and build in the trumpet and bowl judgments. After their ministry is complete, some of them may suffer martyrdom – we'll see that later in the book - but many of them may very well survive and enter alive into the millennial kingdom after the second coming. So, during that seven-year tribulation, God is going to raise up 12,000 Jewish people from each of the twelve tribes. He will have already saved them, but He will commission them and seal them as His witnesses on earth and they will be the most effective missionary force the planet has ever seen. Not only will these nearly 150,000 people be instrumental in the conversion of their fellow Jews, but people from all the nations. And that brings us to where we want to look tonight.

Beginning in verse 9 and running through verse 17, we see the divine salvation of a great international multitude. Let's read it together, Revelation chapter 7, beginning in verse 9.

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all the tribes, peoples, and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb." 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, saying, "Amen, blessing, glory, wisdom, thanksgiving, honor, power, and might belong to our God forever and ever. Amen." Then one of the elders responded, saying to me, "These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and where have they come from?" I said to him, "My lord, you know." And he said to me, "These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 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 no longer hunger nor thirst, nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any scorching 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."

The scene that we have just read together is taking place in heaven, and it's a stark contrast to the terror and the panic that will be unfolding on earth after the sixth seal is broken. Look at the end of chapter 6 verse 16, when the sixth seal is broken and the earthquake and all of the intervening experiences take place. "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?" That's the sixth seal. And then we have this interlude and in in the first eight verses we met those Jewish missionaries unharmed by God's wrath because God sealed them to protect them.

Now in these verses, verses 9-17, we meet a second group also unharmed by God's wrath but for a different reason and that's because God has removed them from the earth. This group is obviously different than the earlier group in the first eight verses. In verses 1-8, there's a definite number of people, 144,000, and they are Jews from the twelve tribes of Israel and they are prepared for danger on earth. But in verses 9-17, there is a great multitude which no one can count and they are from every nation on earth and they are secure in heaven. So, we're talking about two entirely different groups. Let's look at this group together, this international multitude.

We begin in verses 9-10 with the countless assembly of the named. Verse 9 says, "after these things." Now, as you know, this is John's familiar way to introduce a new vision. Some argue, by the way, that this second half of chapter 7 is not the result of the ministry of the 144,000, the previous verses, but rather is simultaneous to it. In other words, "after these things" simply means John got this vision after the earlier vision but these events don't occur after the 144,000. But John's language here implies that this vision chronologically follows the previous vision and is linked with it. Everything we've seen so far in the section we're looking at is all chronological, the six seals. Obviously the second seal happens after the first seal and then you have the interlude here that clearly is a break because we're going to pick up with the seventh seal after this interlude. So, everything is chronological and there's no reason to assume that this isn't also chronological. So, the ministry of the 144,000 is, at least in part, the cause of this great multitude. This is the effect of their ministry.

Now, as I noted last time, it seems likely that most or all of them have been saved and are now ministering. They're sealed and ministering in the tribulation period. Now after the sealing, then, of the 144,000, the first eight verses just into the second half of the tribulation, notice, "after these things," verse 9, John says, "I looked, and behold, a great multitude" - a massive gathering of people – "which no one could count." Unlike the group in the first part of the chapter, this group is not counted and even the attempt to do so would fail. Who are these people? Who is this countless assembly? Who are the people in Revelation 7:9-17? There are several views that are out there about who these people are. Some say it's the elect of all time, it's all of the redeemed. That can't be so because it ignores the clear and explicit comment of John in verse 14 that these people came out of the great tribulation. So, that can't be true. Others say: no, it's the 144,000 Jews. In other words, this is just another way to look at that group. This is a widely held view, but this also is very unlikely because these two groups are so clearly distinct. One's numbered, the other can't be. One's Jewish, the other is multi-ethnic and multinational. One's living in a time of wrath, the other has been delivered from it. One is on earth and one is in heaven. So, that's not a good view. A third possibility is these are tribulation martyrs. In other words, they are only those who have come to faith during the tribulation and had have been executed because of that faith. That's possible. But there's another problem with that view is that is in the Book of Revelation when John wants to refer to martyrs he is crystal clear that their martyrs. For exemple, in chapter 6, verse 9, h refers to those who are, "slain for the word of God." In Revelation 20:4, "those who were beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus." So, he's very clear about those who are, strictly speaking, martyrs. So, the fourth view is the more likely and that is these are tribulation saints. This is the best, most natural solution. Some of them may be martyrs, but others of them are not.

This multitude consists of both Jewish and Gentile believers who died during the tribulation. They will die either natural deaths or violent deaths resulting from persecution or, perhaps, from some of the effects that are produced from the disasters that occur on earth. Notice verse 9 goes on to say this great crowd, this massive gathering is from – literally, "out of" – "every nation and all tribes, and peoples, and tongues." This huge, uncountable throng is from every conceivable background and location on this planet. These four terms occur five times in Revelation, although not always in the same order, but they encompass all of humanity. "Nation" describes those who are united in the same political structure. "Tribe" - those united by family lineage. "People" - those united by the same basic genetic makeup or race. And "tongue" - those united by a common language. And John tells us that as he looked at this crowd there were some from each of these groups that will be in that countless number. Isn't that amazing. You see the grace of God in the middle of the tribulation as He redeems people from every single nation, tribe, people, and tongue. I can only imagine what that will be like. I've had the privilege of worshiping with believers on every continent, except Antarctica and South America. When I was at Grace Church in California, it was the most culturally diverse church I'd ever attended. There were, literally, people from every imaginable place and I'm grateful that our own church is growing to reflect the diversity of the DFW area. Worshiping with God's people from all different backgrounds and languages is one of the greatest joys and blessings of my life. Can you imagine what that moment would be like? A countless number from every place on this planet, from every conceivable background, loving the same Lord and adoring the same Savior.

Verse 9 says, "they were standing before the throne and before the Lamb." The fact that they're standing before the Father and the Lamb implies, obviously, they are redeemed. It implies that they are holy - they're not incinerated in the presence of God - but it also implies that they are victorious. He goes on to say, "they are clothed in white robes" - he's going to explain that in just a moment – "and palm branches were in their hands." In scripture, palm branches often accompany times of joy and celebration and even triumph. Palm branches were prominent during Feast of Tabernacles. The Greeks and the Romans even used them in victory celebrations and, of course, Jesus' disciples use them during the triumphal entry. So, this huge crowd is celebrating victory. The reason for this victory celebration is expressed in what I am confident will be a song. Notice verse 10, "and they cried out with a loud voice." The Greek verb tense here means "they keep on crying out." This will be the constant theme of their praise. And notice their praise isn't subdued, but it's marked by a loud voice. Again, the Greek is literally "with a megaphone." That's where we get megaphone from. A megaphone. With a loud voice. And, can I just climb up on my soapbox for a moment and say, when you sing to the Lord, don't be a wimp. Sing. Sing out. That's the praise of heaven.

Verse 10 goes on to say here was their song, "saying, 'salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.'" Salvation is the theme of their song. Now, that could mean two possible things. That could mean comprehensive rescue from sin and its consequences. Obviously, that's salvation, right? Spiritual rescue. Or it could mean salvation, the sense of victory over their enemies. The word salvation could be used in either of those senses. In other places in Revelation, for example in 12:10, 19:1. I honestly think John means both. Think about what this crowd has faced, what this great multitude has endured. They have been spiritually rescued during the tribulation. Can you imagine? And they have now been presented before the Father victorious. "Salvation to our God." What does that mean? It doesn't mean God needs to be saved. It means solely to God belongs the right, and authority, and power to rescue. "Salvation to our God." They identify the Father and the Lamb as the only source of spiritual rescue and physical deliverance from all their enemies. Listen, the song of heaven will be a song of sovereign grace. Salvation belongs solely to our God. He has rescued us.

As the scene continues, we see the praise of the angels join in in verses 11-12. Verse 11, "and all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures." The elders representing the redeemed, the four living creatures that angelic order that surrounds the throne of God. Just as in chapter 5, verse 11, the angels - by the way, they're described as more than one hundred million strong - the angels surround the throne just outside of the elders and these living creatures. And verse 11 says, the angels, "fell on their faces before the throne and worship God." These powerful, intelligent beings are awed by the grandeur and the majesty of God. And they fall down before Him in worship. Think about it. A single angel killed 185,000 soldiers in a single night and there are one hundred million of them. And they gather together in awe and worship in adoration of the God who made them. Throughout Revelation, worship is the constant occupation of all the angelic orders. I could take you through Revelation, I have the references in my notes, but I won't belabor that. I think you understand that they're all engaged in worship.

And here's the content of the angelic worship in verse 12. "Saying, 'amen, blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen." You notice their worship begins by affirming the salvation song of the multitude with an amen. That's what that first amen is. It's like what they just said, "we agree with that - salvation is to our God." Although angels don't experience salvation, Peter tells us in 1 Peter 1:12 that they are fascinated by it. They long to look into it. And here they are affirming the salvation song of the multitude and then they offer a tribute of their own. Between the two amens, the angels ascribe a sevenfold benediction to God like the one in chapter 5, verse 12. It's interesting, by the way, to note how the praise of heaven grows throughout this book. Praise is the primary activity that surrounds the throne and the person of God. It is unceasing worship. There's a great lesson for us there. You know, we get so preoccupied with things that don't matter. How often do you pause in your life and in your day to praise and worship God? It's what you do for eternity and it's what you'll do automatically when you see Him. And it's what the angels and all those in heaven are doing.

Now you remember, back in chapters 4 and 5 there are five great hymns of praise and the choir grows with each hymn. The first begins with a quartet of the four living creatures, and then the twenty four elders join in, and then millions of angels add their voices and finally, chapter 5, verse 13, says every created thing in the universe lifts its voice in praise and adoration of Christ and the expression of their praise there grows from a three-fold blessing in chapter 4, verse 11, to a seven-fold hymn in chapter 5, verse 12. And that is true here as well. Notice what they say: "blessing." Literally, "it's good, speaking a good words." It means to praise or bless God for who He is and what He's accomplished. "Glory." That's a word that comes from the Hebrew and it refers to the weightiness of God, the radiance of God, the heaviness, weightiness of His character. "Wisdom" is "sophia." They celebrate the wisdom of God's great plan of redemption. "Thanksgiving," is the gratitude that God deserves and which both His people who have been redeemed and the holy angels who watch them be redeemed gladly offer to God. "Honor," refers to the esteem that God is so worthy of. "Power," refers to His capacity to act against all forces and all opposition. "Strength," refers to His omnipotence, the divine quality that is in His person. There is nothing that God chooses to do that God can't do. Can you imagine that? You can't imagine that, but it's true. They conclude, then, by attributing all of these qualities, notice, as belonging to our God. I love that. The angels claim God as their own. He's, "our God," and they're committed to celebrating His attributes, notice, not merely for a moment, but forever and ever into the ages of the ages. And then, having done that, having listed these great blessings, they confirm the truthfulness of everything they've said about God by ending with the word, "amen." Let it be. This is true. This is absolutely accurate of God. That's the praise of the angels.

Next, we discover the identity of this great multitude in verses 13 and 14. Verse 13 says, "then one of the elders answered. You say, answered what? Well, that's a Hebrew idiom. That means that he's about to say what was prompted by something, but not necessarily by a question from John. He anticipates what John must be thinking as he's looking at this great crowd. Verse 13 goes on to say, "one of the elders answered, saying to me, 'those who are clothed in the white robes, who are they'" - what's their identity? – "'and where have they come from'" - what's their origin? Verse 14, "I said to him, 'my lord.'" That's an expression of respect. "You know." In Greek, "you" is emphatic. He says, "listen, I don't know. You're the one who knows." John's both admitting his ignorance and he's asking for information. "And he said to me, 'these are the ones who come out of the great tribulation.'" The unifying characteristic of this innumerable multitude is that they are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. By the way, the way that's worded implies that this crowd is growing day by day as the havoc is occurring here on this planet. They continue to come out of the great tribulation.

What is the great tribulation? Jesus, coined that term in Matthew 24:21. And in that same context, the Olivet Discourse where He's talking about the future, in that same context, He defined the time period of the great tribulation as the second half of the seventieth week of Daniel. It comes after the abomination of desolation, when the man of sin in the midpoint of the seven years creates an image of himself in the temple in Jerusalem and demands worship. The second half of those seven years is the great tribulation. The tribulation lasts for seven years. The great tribulation will last for three and a half years or, as its referred to later in Revelation, 1,260 days. And it will be - the great tribulation, the second half of the tribulation - will be a time in which the earth will face its greatest trouble, its greatest sorrow, its greatest wrath ever. And although God's people will not suffer the direct results of God's wrath, they will suffer at the hands of God's enemies in persecution.

Verse 14, goes on to say not only are these who are coming out of the great tribulation, but these are those who, "have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." Here we learn - and I love this - how this multitude has a right to be in heaven and it's the same reason you have a right to be in heaven. The clear implication here in this image in verse 14 is that their robes had once been horribly stained with sin. You're familiar with that picture. It's one throughout the scripture. They had lived in such a way that they had completely dirtied their garments but now their robes are blazing white. That cleansing occurred during the life of each of these persons in this great multitude while they were on earth and it's the same cleansing that every believer experiences. Cleansing of the soul is really what we're talking about. This cleansing of the soul is powerfully Illustrated in Isaiah 1:18. "'Come now, 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.'" You know what's interesting about that is that in the ancient world, the deepest dye, the dye that was reserved for the rich, was a deep crimson, burgundy kind of die. It was harvested from snails and that dye became so expensive - it had to be imported - it was so expensive that only the wealthy could afford it and when you put that dye in a white garment, in a cotton garment, it was irreparably stained that color. And that's a great picture of our sin. When you and I sin, every time we sin, it's as if we splashed ourselves with a dye that can never be removed. It's like our souls are stained. I feel that way. I'm sure you feel that way. When we sin, it's a stain on our souls and we've lived for years and years staining our souls but by the grace of God, our souls have been washed and I love that that image from Isaiah 1. "Though your sins are as scarlet" – though your soul is stained with the deepest dye mankind knows – "they'll be white as snow." The next time we have a snowfall here in Dallas, go out and look and remind yourself of that passage. Just as the snow covers all of the dirtiness beneath it and is pure white, even so our souls have been washed clean. If you're in Christ, in the sight of God, there isn't a single stain left on your soul. Though they be red like crimson, they will be like wool. I wish I had time to take it Zechariah 3 where there's a picture of this given as well. You can read it Zechariah 3:3-5.

Now, the fact that the crowd here in Revelation 7 are said to have washed their robes and made them white, don't misunderstand that. That, in no way implies that they're in heaven by their own efforts. The only cleansing agent is the blood of Christ, the results of His sacrificial death. Now, just stop there and think about that for a moment. That's really a shocking statement to make. How can anything be made white by washing it with blood? The point of the expression is that it is only through the blood offered in Jesus Christ's great sacrifice that our sin and guilt-stained souls can be washed white. I've explained to you before that when the scripture speaks of the blood of Christ, it's not talking about the human fluid that flowed through His veins. He had a human body, had human blood like your blood and my blood. There was nothing in that blood itself that was redeeming. He couldn't have pricked His finger and that blood have atoned for our souls. The blood stands in place of the death. He had to die the death of a sacrificial animal. He had to die in our place - suffering the death and the wrath of God that we deserved. And that's what's meant by "His blood." And, it cleanses us white as snow. That they washed their robes and made them white refers to their appropriation of the Lamb's cleansing death by faith. Acts 15 9 says He made no distinction between the Jews and the Gentiles, cleansing all of our hearts by faith. That's how the cleansing happens. The agent is the death of Christ, the blood of Christ, and that is appropriated, received by faith. So, that's the identity of the great multitude. They are true believers who were rescued out of the great tribulation.

That brings us to the future of these tribulation saints and I put in brackets here "and all saints," because while this is a specific description of their future, it's your future and my future as well. Let's look at it in verses 15-17. In these verses, we learn the eternal benefits that are theirs and ours.

First of all, they will enjoy and we will enjoy eternal acceptance with God. Look at verse 15. "For this reason they are before the throne of God." The only reason that they're in heaven, before God's throne, is their white robes - robes made clean solely through the violent, sacrificial death of the Lamb of God. And they are accepted in Him and their status will never change. "For this reason they are before the throne of God," and always will be. And, brothers and sisters, so will we - eternal acceptance with God. We are accepted, in the Beloved. God sees you as wearing the righteousness of His Son and He will not do to you, believer, anything He would not do to His own unique Son.

Secondly, there is eternal worship of God. Verse 15 says, "and they serve Him day and night in His temple." They have, and we will have, an assigned responsibility but the Greek word "serve" here is not the normal Greek word for serve. It's a word that usually describes priestly service. But here, it's not talking about the priestly sacrificial duties, like in the Old Testament priesthood, but, rather, about spiritual worship. Their service will be the praise and adoration of God. As the old hymn puts it, our God is the "center of unbroken praise," and they offer it day and night without interruption. And notice, they do so, "in His temple." That simply pictures the entirety of heaven as the sanctuary in which they serve. Chapter 11, verse 19, refers to, "the temple of God which is in heaven was opened; and the ark of His covenant appeared in His temple." So, they serve God in His presence.

Number three. Here's a third benefit that accrues to the tribulation saints and to us: eternal dwelling with God. Verse 15 says, "and He who sits on the throne" - this is God, the Father – "will spread His tabernacle over them." "Spread His tabernacle" literally means to pitch His tent. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew verb behind "Shekinah" - you remember the Shekinah Glory of God - that's the Hebrew verb behind Shekinah is the verb spread which means "He dwells." That's the idea here. What's promised in this passage is that God will pitch His tent among His people. I love that song we sing "is He worthy?" and one of the questions is, you know, is God going to again dwell with us? The answer is: Yes, He is. He's going to pitch His tent among us, but it goes beyond that. He's going to invite us to live in His tent as part of His family, eternally. He will spread His Tabernacle over them - eternal dwelling with God as His children.

There's a fourth blessing and that is: eternal provision for every need. Verse 16 says, "they will hunger no longer nor thirst anymore." This verse actually comes from an Old Testament passage. The promise in Isaiah to those who were returning from the Babylonian exile. 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 He will guide them to springs of water." In Israel, if you've been there, you understand that in much of the land, physical hunger and thirst were constant threats - particularly in the ancient world. But here, these expressions probably go beyond the physical. They probably encompass the full provision of every need - physical and spiritual. Dr. Thomas in his commentary on Revelation calls this, "the absence of unsatisfied desire." Can you imagine that? The absence of unsatisfied desire, eternal provision for every need.

Number five: eternal protection from every harm. "Nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat." This also comes from Isaiah 49 10. These described constant threats. Again, in the land of Israel, sun stroke, heat stroke, they are constant realities, but God will protect His people eternally from every potential harm - even the most ordinary, common, pedestrian ones. Absolutely no risk, no threat, no danger again, forever.

Number six: eternal care from Christ. Verse 17 says, "for the Lamb in the center of the throne." It's an interesting Greek expression. Literally, "the Lamb at the midpoint in front of the throne." It's slightly different from chapter 5, verse 6. But the point is: Jesus occupies the most important place - before the middle of God's throne. And what comes next explains how it is that God provides for His people in all of these other marvelous ways. Here it is. "For because" - here's why those other things are true – because "the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd." Here's the cause of the amazing provisions God has promised His people. It's because of the One who serves as our shepherd, Jesus Christ. All of these things are ours through Him. There's such an amazing contrast here in verse 17. Look at it again. The Lamb shepherds His people. The Lamb is a Shepherd and He shepherds His people. In Psalm 23, Yahweh is presented as our Shepherd King, John's gospel tells us that that's Jesus Christ. He is our perfect Shepherd King, and that's the picture here. And He will, guide them, "to springs of the water of life." Our Shepherd King guides us, or leads us, to springs of the waters of life. What is that? Well, the Old Testament describes God is the fountain of life. Psalm 36 9, "with You is the fountain of life." Jeremiah 2:13, "My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, to hew out for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water." It's a powerful picture. He's comparing the worship of Him, the true God, to the worship of idols, and He says, "look. Really? You can choose a collection bucket of water that's broken and dirty or you can choose Me, a spring of living water and you chose the cistern. God Himself is the spring of the waters of life and it's to Him - it's to God Himself - that the Lamb will lead His sheep. Look at Revelation 21:6, "I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life, without cost." It's eternal life which is, remember, John 17:3, "to know God and Jesus Christ, whom He sent." That's the springs of water of life. Look at chapter 22, verse 1. "Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb." This life comes from God. Verse 17, "the Spirit and the bride say, 'Come.' And let the one who hears say, 'Come.' And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes, take of the water of life without cost."

You know what that is? If you're here tonight and you don't know, Jesus Christ, you don't know your Creator through His son, Jesus Christ, this is an invitation to you. If you will turn from your sin and you will put your faith and trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ, in His perfect life lived in your place, in His substitutionary death in which He satisfied the justice of God against your sins, and in His resurrection. If you will believe in Him, repent and believe in Him, then you can have eternal life. That's the offer and that life is found only in God, through His Son, Jesus Christ. But it's ours if we're in Christ - eternal care from Christ. The Lamb will be our eternal Shepherd.

And number 7: the seventh great benefit here is eternal comfort. Verse 17 says, "and God will wipe every tear from their eyes." I've never thought about tears. I'm not a crier. On occasion, of course. We all do. And I do, as well. But have you ever thought about the amazing reality of ears? Your eyes produce tears constantly. They tell us fifteen to thirty gallons of tears a year. Now, there are three distinct types of tears. I didn't know this until this week, but I'll share this with you. It's fascinating. There actually are three distinct kinds of tears. First of all, there are basal tears. And those are in your eyes constantly to lubricate, to nourish and protect your cornea. They're in there right now. Then, there a reflex tears. This is your response to harmful irritants - whether it's smoke or you get something in your eye (onion fumes) and you produce larger amounts of reflex tears and often they contain more antibodies to fight bacteria. But there's a third kind of tear you produce, and that is your body produces emotional tears in response to various emotions. And most of those emotions are negative. Some scientists believe emotional tears contain hormones and proteins that are not in the other two types of tears. And tears are not just saline, but, like saliva, they contain enzymes and lipids and electrolytes and other things. When it comes to these emotional tears, the primary causes of our emotional tears are - think about this - things like regret, guilt, physical pain, emotional pain, the pain and suffering of others that we love and care about, the loss of things, the loss of friends, health issues, sickness, disease, and ultimately death itself. That's where our emotional tears come from. And what verse 17 is saying, in heaven, God will wipe away all of our negative emotional tears. Oh, we may still cry tears of joy. I suspect, we will. But here, all tears over past and present sorrows will be gone forever and God will banish such negative tears from His kingdom into the ages of the ages. You will never again cry negative emotional tears. By the way, I'm convinced that this promise implies that God is not only going to give us joy, but He's also going to help us understand the causes of our sorrow - His own plan in those things - and then having explained those things to us remove our sorrows forever. Isaiah 25:8 says, "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." Revelation 21:4 says, "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain." There you go. Those negative emotional responses. "For the first things have passed away." Can you imagine? Eternal, unending comfort.

This is what the tribulation saints can anticipate and if you're in Christ, this is what you can anticipate as well - eternal acceptance with God, eternal worship of God, eternal dwelling with God as His child in His own tent, as it were, eternal provision for every need, eternal protection from every harm, eternal shepherding from Jesus Christ, and eternal comfort never ever ends. No wonder the song of heaven is, "salvation to our God."

What are the lessons for us from this amazing chapter? Let me just point out a couple things. First of all, God's great purpose has always been to redeem a people by His Son for His son to His own glory. That's the theme of the scripture and that's what God has been about from the beginning. And folks, here's the good news: that will still be His great purpose, even during the tribulation. Yes, our God will pour out His wrath on this earth, but He will be redeeming people. Salvation belongs to our God. He is, by nature, a Savior. And if I can say this respectfully, He just can't help Himself. He must save. Secondly, even in the pouring out of His wrath, God still remembers mercy and grace. This is so important for us to understand about God. Lamentations 3:33 says, God does not afflict willingly. Literally, the Hebrew text says "from His heart." When God punishes, when God afflicts, He doesn't do it from His heart, meaning that He doesn't enjoy that. That's not something that brings Him delight in the ultimate sense. Instead, Jeremiah 32:41 says, "I will rejoice over them to do them good and will faithfully plant them in this land with all My heart and with all My soul." God says, "I punish because I'm just and it's right and I will do it, but I find no joy, no delight in the death of the wicked. But I do find delight with all My heart and soul in doing good to those who repent." Thomas Goodwin, the great Puritan, wrote this: "In Lamentations 3:33, when God speaks of punishing, He says, He 'does not from His heart afflict nor grieve the children of men.' But when he comes to speak of showing mercy, he says He does it 'with His whole heart, and with His whole soul,' as the expression is in Jeremiah 32:41. And therefore acts of justice are called His 'strange work' and His 'strange act' in Isaiah 28:21. But when He comes to show mercy, He rejoices over them, to do them good, with His whole heart, and with His whole soul." And unless you think that's just Thomas Goodwin, here's Jonathan Edwards, the greatest American theologian. He writes, "God has no pleasure in the destruction or calamity of persons or people; he had rather they should turn and continue in peace. He is well-pleased if they forsake their evil ways, that he may not have occasion to execute his wrath upon them. He is a God that delights in mercy, and judgment is his strange work." That's an encouragement to you if you're here tonight and you don't know the Lord, God finds no joy in punishing you but He will because He's just. That's why Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5, "we beg you, be reconciled to God." This tells us so much about the character of our God. It's why Habakkuk can pray this in Habakkuk 3:2: "LORD, I have heard the report about You" - what God was going to do to the people of Israel through the Babylonians - I have heard, "and I fear. Oh Lord revive Your work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years, make it known." Don't forget us, in other words. And then he adds this: "in wrath remember mercy. This is our God and I love the fact that this is true. Even when He is pouring out His wrath at its greatest. Number 3: God will welcome us into His presence as a loving Father, eager to have His children with Him.

So how you think about God? If you're a father, you know what it's like when your children want to be with you, even your adult children want to come home and spend time with you. There's a sense of joy in that. How much more there is in the heart of God, eager to see us, His children, in His presence and you pick that up in this chapter. And then finally, God the Son plans to show us the riches of His grace forever. You see it in verse 17 there of our text. But I love the way it's put in a couple of places. 1 Peter 1:13 says this: "therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely" - and notice this – "on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ." As I mentioned last weekend, if you think you've experienced grace so far - and you have - He's bringing more when He comes. And then, Ephesians 2:7 is one of my favorite verses in all the New Testament. After Paul describes what we were when God found us and then what God did when He gave us new life and He made us His own, he says - here's the reason God did it - "so that in the ages to come He might show the boundless riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." So, you're not just going to experience grace when Christ comes, you're going to experience a never-diminishing stream of grace throughout eternity. Why? Because you deserve it? No. Because this is who our God is. This is who our Lord is.

I hope you're encouraged as you think about the future. I hope you don't look at the headlines and feel like God is losing somehow. He's not losing. God is a Savior. He's working His purpose. He wins. We win with Him. As I've shared with you before, let me say it again. Our Lord's driving the bus. You're on the bus. He knows the destination and He knows the route that He's going to take to get to the destination. So, you have two choices. You can sit back and enjoy the journey or you can cling white-knuckled to the seat in front of you and have a miserable journey but either way, you're taking the same route and you're getting to the same destination. It's your choice. But this book tells us where we're going and that is where we will go. Let's pray together.

Father, thank You that when all around us seems to be imploding, when our world is behaving so irrationally, so sinfully in so many ways. Lord, we thank You that You are on Your throne and that You have an eternal plan of redemption, that You are working out a plan in which You are redeeming a people by Your Son, for Your Son, to Your own glory. Thank You Father, that You have swept us up in that great eternal plan - not because we deserve it but because Christ our Lord, our representative deserves it. And, in Him, we get everything that He deserves. Lord, thank You that we have washed our robes white in the blood of the Lamb, that we have not a single stain left on our souls but they're white as snow. Lord, what amazing grace. I pray for those here tonight who have never experienced that. Lord, help them to see Your character as I've described and explained it from the scripture - helping to see that You don't delight, You won't find any joy in punishing them, but You will because You're just and You must. But You cry out as Jesus, our Lord did over the city of Jerusalem. How often I would have gathered you as a chicken gathers its chicks. And Lord, I pray that they wouldn't resist You, but that You would draw them by Your grace, even tonight. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

Revelation