God’s Message of Victory!
The text for this sermon is Revelation 7:9-17. Pastor Jim Kniseley presented this sermon at Resurrection on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, April 25, 2010.
Dear Friends in Christ,
My sermon today is based on the second lesson, from the Book of the Revelation. If there is a word that I would apply to this book, the word is “victory.” The Book of the Revelation is about God’s eternal victory through Jesus Christ.
The best and most useful way we can understand the Book of the Revelation is as a message of hope. God’s victory over all the forces of evil is assured and our salvation is already accomplished. That means that we can live our lives now in such a way as to reflect what we already know about the future.
(1) A pastor was invited to give the invocation at an athletic field used for the Special Olympics. Eight hundred special athletes came to participate in games designed just for them. The event started with a parade of athletes. Eight hundred young men and women made their way around the track, banners held high and flags waving, cheering as they went. Some of them limped, some had braces on their legs and used crutches to walk. Others had arms that dangled uselessly by their sides. Some were in wheelchairs and had to be pushed but they were all there filled with the excitement of the games that were to come. Finally, they made their way around the track and into the main grandstand to await the beginning of the games.
Then there came the entry of the Olympic torch. Joel, a young teenage boy entered the stadium and began to run around the track with the torch held high. The farther Joel went the faster he ran until finally he was running as hard as he could go. The people in the stands began to catch the excitement of this young man and his run to the finish line and the platform. They stood and began to applaud, then to yell and finally to cheer. Young Joel came down before the stands, ran up the platform and at the top, turned and in true Rock fashion, jumping up and down, waving his arms, he thrust the torch in the air as high as it would go.
As the spectacle unfolded, one word came to mind – victory. Victory – they had already won it! Before the games start, before the first race is run, before any one of them grows too weak and tired to finish that race, before anyone finished last, victory had already been won. Victory was in the air, it was in their faces, it was in their voices, in truth it was in their hearts.
Eight hundred special athletes, bedraggled, maimed, crippled, and yet they stood and cheered young Joel. Why? Because, regardless of the outcome of the games, they had already won. That, dear friends, is the spirit of the Book of the Revelation. It is the spirit of the Christian life. For all of us who have been baptized, before the games of life ever begin, we have already won the victory.
I really like the portion of the Revelation that is today’s second lesson. The message of inclusiveness is so apparent. John says he saw before him a great multitude that no one could number from every nation, tribe, people and language. They are right there before the throne of God and in the presence of Jesus, the Lamb. The next time some Jehovah’s Witnesses knock on your door and you let them show you the verses in the first part of Revelation 7 that talk about only 144,000 being saved, and they ask if you want to be part of that number, you just ask them to read the next part of chapter 7 that shows God’s victory celebration for this great multitude, too numerous to count.
What are the folks wearing in heaven? White robes. These robes have been washed white in the blood of the Lamb. In other words, their sins have been taken away by the sacrifice of Jesus, and their white robes signify they are pure and blameless in the eyes of God. Ever wonder why worship leaders often wear white robes? The practical is to cover our everyday clothes and keep our minds focused on things other than fashion, but it is also the churches’ way of thinking to the time when we all will be clothed in white robes in heaven.
(2) John Quincy Adams was one of the early presidents of our country. When he was very old, he endured a particularly bad winter. He was in bed for months. When spring came he was determined to go for a walk and, with the aid of his cane, he made his way slowly down the street. A friend passing by said to him, “Well, tell me, how is John Adams today?” The old gentlemen replied, “If you’re asking about this old house in which John Adams lives, I can tell you it is in pretty bad shape – the windows are broken out, the roof is caving in, I can’t remember anything anymore. The foundations are weak and tottery. Why most any wind that comes along makes this old house shake and tremble. I dare say that this house is in such ill condition that no doubt its tenant will soon be moving out. But, if you’re asking about John Adams himself, then I can tell you he’s all right and will be a thousand years from now.”
Do you hear it? Do you hear the note of victory? It’s the same note that we hear from the apostle Paul when he says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith; now I go to receive the victory, the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the Righteous Judge, will award to me that day and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing (2 Timothy 4:6-8).
People of Resurrection, our salvation is assured, the victory is already won. Let’s live now as God’s victorious people and let’s not be afraid of anything.
(1) and (2) are from Under the Wings of the Almighty, Robert F. Sims, C.S.S. Publishing Company, 1992