Based on: Revelation 7:9-17
They were far from home, strangers in a strange land. Their home was the land of Judah, in the land that God had promised to Abraham and their forefathers, but 600 years before the first Easter the king of Babylon attacked Judah, laid siege to Jerusalem, and took many of the Jews with him back to Babylon. He separated them from their homes and from the Promised Land and made them exiles in Babylon.
What hopelessness they must have felt. “Has God abandoned us?” “Has he forsaken us?” But God calmed their fears with these words through the prophet Jeremiah, "‘I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’"
You and I understand what it is like to be far from home, don’t we? You see, as sheep in the flock of the Good Shepherd, our home is with him in heaven. We are living outside of the Promised Land, away from the place God has prepared for us in heaven. It may look hopeless here in this foreign land we live in, but in God’s Word, in the book of Revelation, God tells us about our hope and future. He tells us that Christ, the lamb, is our shepherd. God tells us we are his flock and we will live with him forever.
The apostle John saw some wonderful visions about what would happen in the world from his time up until the end of the world and even beyond that in heaven. Earlier in the book John tells us there are 24 elders and here in chapter seven one of the elders says, "The Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd." This Lamb is Jesus, the one of whom John the Baptist said, "Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." This Lamb is our shepherd and he is even now gathering his flock together.
John tells us he saw "a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands." This is the people of God, the flock of the Good Shepherd, the bride of Christ, his church.
They are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They lived their lives on this earth, they felt the pain and suffering of this world, and then God calls them home and makes them part of his flock. Day by day he adds to this multitude that no one can count.
Look into this great crowd of people, this flock of the Good Shepherd. It contains all the believers from Abel killed by his brother Cain to those living when the Lord returns. Look into this crowd and you will see Adam, Eve, Abraham, Moses, the Apostle Paul, Martin Luther. You see friends and relatives – believers who have gone before us, whom the Lord has already rescued from the pain of this earth. There is also a place for you. You and I are in that glorious assembly on judgment day, in the flock of the Good Shepherd for eternity.
But how is it that we received the honor of being part of this multitude? One of the 24 elders gives us the answer, "they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." The blood of the lamb has made our robes white, pure white, without a single stain. Before they were washed in the blood of the lamb they were black with the soot of our hate, filthy with the dirt of our selfishness, and filled with the stench of our disdain for God. But in the miracle of Good Friday and the assurance of Easter the blood of the lamb removed every trace of dirt and filth.
We can’t help but respond, "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb." This miracle of salvation could only be accomplished by God and only by the sacrifice of the Lamb. The angels see the results of God’s saving power and even they are compelled to fall on their faces and worship, "Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!"
God’s plans include us in this multitude. We are part of the flock and the Lamb is our shepherd. We see this picture that the apostle John describes for us of God’s people in heavenly glory, and we know that even now we are part of God’s church, we are part of the flock and the Lamb is our shepherd. But our life with him now is very different than our life will be with him in heaven. This revelation given to the apostle John gives us a small window into what our life will be like in heaven.
Here on earth, none of us are perfect. In fact, we are far from perfect. When I try to worship my savior this sinful body gets in the way. It is a struggle. The Bible says that every Christian has this struggle in him between what the sinful nature in us wants to do and what we as Christians want to do. So throughout the week we might think about God every once in awhile but for the most part he’s not on our minds, and when we come to church our mind might wander occasionally from our worship of Christ.
In heaven things will be different. As the apostle John is watching this vision unfold before him, one of the elders talks about this flock of the Good Shepherd. He says, "They are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them." No longer will we have this sinful body holding us back from worshiping our God, but this body will be transformed into a body without sin. We will have this perfect desire to serve our God and a perfect ability to serve day and night in his temple. Our thoughts will constantly be about him and our minds will not wander.
But for now we are living with these sinful bodies in this sin filled world. There is pain and suffering, sometimes great pain and suffering. We know why. It is all the result of Adam and Eve disobeying God in the Garden of Eden as well as the result of sins committed throughout history. Our own sin only contributes to the suffering.
The elder in John’s vision talks about the effects of sin when he says, "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." No longer will we suffer because of the things we do or things other people do. No longer will we suffer because of what Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden. Why? The Lamb at the center of the throne removed sin forever – Adam and Eve’s sin and our sin. Every sin that caused our suffering or the suffering of others is forgiven. Therefore the effects of sin – the suffering and the pain – will also be gone forever.
But while we live on this earth there is suffering and pain and sometimes the pain causes tears. Dear fellow members of Christ’s flock, has that happened to you? Do you remember a time when the horrible effects of sin caused tears to roll down your face? We know what that is like, but look again at this comforting picture of heaven. The elder says one more thing about our life in heaven with the Good Shepherd, "God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." All those things that cause you to shed a tear in this life will be gone. Every death, every accident, every cancer, every broken relationship, every reason for your heart to ache will disappear. And what will be left? Unending joy.
Dear Christian, does all this sound too good to be true? When we look at the world around us it may seem that way, but rest assured it is true. We have God’s promise that we are part of the flock of the Good Shepherd and one day we will see ourselves as one of those people in the great multitude standing before the throne. We will come face-to-face with our shepherd and he will take care of us and we will live with him forever.