The world loves the underdog. For some reason people cheer more and more for the opponent not expected to win (unless the opponent slated to win is your favorite). Stories like David and Goliath are fan favorites, even those who don’t like the Bible like this story. The underdog is just fun to root for. Maybe due to the reality that many of us have found ourselves in those situations where we were the underdog and knew how helpful it is to have cheerleaders in your corner, or we just enjoy a good paradox. The Bible is full of these types of paradoxes: the weak will be strong while the strong will be weak. You must become last in order to become first. The poor will be come rich. On and on these paradoxes go; yet we miss the meaning of many of them. Jesus and the OT continuously tried to point out these paradoxes as literal facts but we can tend to miss them.
The end of Revelation 6 left the elite and powerful of the world crying out for death and asking a question: Who can Stand?! These are the rulers, those who are rich, those who are considered “first” and those who are strong. When the wrath of God comes, we see the truth of Jesus’ paradoxes. We see that these rich, strong and powerful people are now laid so low as to desire death. So deep is their weakness that they beg an answer to the question: “Who can stand”. And this passage answers that question, but it also gives us the result of what “Standing” is! So we will see the answer to this question in the Scriptures for today:
Who can Stand and what’s the result?
9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 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, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
15 “Therefore they are before the throne of God,
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
the sun shall not strike them,
nor any scorching heat.
17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:9-17 ESV)
Those Washed in Blood (vs. 9-14)
Here, we see yet another paradox. This group of folks standing in white robes, crying out in worship are those who’ve been washed in blood. Wall says:
“The elder knows well the redemptive paradox: robes are whitened by the Lamb’s blood; wrath is exchanged for wrath, so that life may be purchased through death. This is what lost humanity must know in order to “stand” before the throne of a merciful God.” (Wall, 2011)
Those who look to the sacrifice of the Lamb will be washed away and can avoid the wrath of God. Again, we can get bogged down with all types of questions about the tribulation here but what we do know is there is an ultimate crescendo to God’s wrath that will ultimately end the world we know now. Those who seek to bathe in the blood of Jesus will be purified and spared the wrath. This in theological terms is called “Propitiation”. Jesus is our propitiation. He bore the wrath of God on our behalf. His death was taking and bearing that intense wrath so we wouldn’t have to. By His sacrifice we’ve bee completely wiped with a clean slate and clean robes and can now come before Him, where before we couldn’t.
God’s sacrifice of Jesus and declaration of what it means for the world is the most gracious act! In Old Testament times, during one of the great feasts, this was symbolically done by what we now know as the “Scape goat”. The Priest would choose the best lamb from the flock and lay the sins of Israel upon this lamb, drawing the wrath of God from Israel and placing it upon the lamb. Next the priest would send the lam away into the woods to die. This is where we get the phrase scapegoat from, someone taking the blame for our misconduct.
God offered us a scapegoat. His ultimate goal is NOT judgment, but rather Salvation. He desires all of us to turn to Him, to receive the freedom from His wrath by accepting Jesus as our scapegoat.
They are Protected (vs. 3; 15-17a)
We are a people sealed by God. Some would try to debate what this “sealing” means, but Ephesians 1:13-14 is clear: “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”
God protects those sealed by the Holy Spirit who believe that Jesus is their scapegoat. When the ultimate crescendo comes, we who are sealed by the Spirit will be spared the coming wrath of God. We will be able to stand! The answer is right there. Not only can we stand but we are promised to be sheltered by His presence, have no hunger, thirst or faintness by the heat of the sun. We will be completely protected from the things which were never part of God’s original design! We will again drink the flooding waters of life.
Let me remind all of us as well that Revelation is a picture of now and not yet, not just of the not yet. This means that these results of being able to be People who stand are ours in some measure now! Look back to the portion of Ephesians when it says the Holy Spirit is our down payment and we receive from Him a portion of the amazing fullness of Heaven. So, although we can’t receive the Full measure of Heaven, we can receive a portion of it. God desires to put us under His wings of protection. Will we still suffer here on this earth? Yes. That is why it is referred to as “the Great Tribulation”, However, we are able to Stand! The Holy Spirit living within us can give us the strength to endure what we must and spare us the worst. We can receive his protection, we can ask for it, and seek it out. He desires for us to be a people who ask, yet too often we try it on our own, we neglect to seek the shelter of His wings, but we can in fact receive it!
They are Comforted (vs. 17b)
I believe from this passage that when we get in front of the throne, we will be able to share our grievances from earth with God. It will be a healing process with our Abba and he will hear our pain and wipe away every tear from our eyes. In effect, we will be comforted. Those sealed will be comforted and every tear we shed in our grief will be wiped away. We will receive healing from God. All the pain gone, all the wounds healed, all the issues wiped off the slate. God knows the need for us to be comforted. He knows our deep seated reality that we can’t move forward until our past has been healed. We may think we can. We may pretend we can but we can’t and that’s why before we enter into Glory he will wipe away every tear from our eyes!
If you don’t know Jesus as your scapegoat, your savior and your deliverer and aren’t sure if you are sealed with the Spirit, please don’t leave tonight until you allow Him to free you from your sins and place the wrath upon Jesus. Jesus desires to free you, protect you and comfort you. Give over to Him and His love!
If you do know Jesus, I truly believe he desires to comfort you. Many of us have hidden pain and we don’t truly believe that God desires to wipe away out tears. Cry out to your Abba, use the portion of the inheritance that is ours NOW and allow Him to heal the pain, the hurts in your life. If you need, Pastor Joe and I will be up front to pray with you. If you need a woman to pray with you, my wife will be willing to do so