Heavenly Healing and Happiness1
People are coping with the current crisis in differing ways, most of which are only making matters worse. I have long held the belief that the best way to manage the anxiety and fear that arise from earthly chaos is by meditating on the peace and blessings of heaven. And there is no better place for us to see this than in Revelation 7:13-17.
Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 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. 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. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. 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” (Rev. 7:13-17).
Before I unpack these incredible blessings of heaven in God’s presence, I want you to take note of a critically important word. It’s actually two words in the Greek text that are translated as one word in English. It is the word “therefore” that opens v. 15. It is John’s way of alerting us to the reason or cause or ground or basis on which these people are before the throne of God. It points us back to the last sentence in v. 14. In other words, the only reason why these people are before the throne of God and enjoy these remarkable blessings is because “they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
Stop for a moment and ask yourself this eternally important question. If you are confident that in eternity future you will stand joyfully “before the throne of God” and enjoy these incredible blessings, on what basis do you believe this? What is the ground for your hope? What is the cause that accounts for this? To what or to whom would you point and say: “That’s why.”
If your answer is: “It is because I’ve lived a fairly decent life on earth. I’ve done the very best I could. I tried to be a good father, mother, son, daughter, friend, and employee. I’ve been really sincere in my religious life. I attended church on a fairly regular basis. I was baptized and I partake of the Lord’s Supper and I’m a covenant member of my local church. Yeah, that’s why I anticipate standing before the throne of God.”
If that is your answer, I pity you. More than that, I appeal to you to look at the reason John gives. The only reason anyone in any age or anywhere on earth can have hope of standing before the throne of God is because by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of Jesus. Have you? Well, have you?
As I read vv. 15-17, I see no fewer than eight blessings that we will experience in heaven, the confident hope and expectation of which will serve powerfully to put our hearts at ease and to equip us to face whatever the future days may bring.
(1) The first one is that we will stand “before the throne of God” (v. 15a). Whether we will be able to stand upright for very long is doubtful. My guess is that we, like the 24 Elders before us, will fall on our faces in adoration and joy and love and gratitude.
(2) Second, we will have the pleasure of serving him “day and night in his temple” (v. 15b). Our service will not be to shore up any weakness in God or to perform tasks that he’s too tired to get done on his own. Our service is that of worship and praise. The word translated “serve” is not the ordinary Greek word that means to do work for someone or to come to their aid. It is the word that refers to sacred service in the temple of lifting up prayers and praise. And notice that it will be endless: “day and night”!
(3) Then we are told that God “will shelter” us “with his presence” (v. 15c). The word “shelter” literally means he will set his tabernacle over us. This is a clear allusion to Ezekiel 37:26-28, a passage that in its OT context is a prophecy of Israel’s restoration. There God says, “I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forever. My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
You won’t need a home or a tornado shelter or a mansion of any sort to keep you safe. God’s very personal presence will be your shelter! You and I will quite literally live in, with, and under him in all his glory!
(4) The fourth, (5) fifth, (6) sixth, and (7) seventh blessings are all drawn from Isaiah 49:10, yet another text that refers to the results of Israel’s restoration: “They shall not hunger or thirst, neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them, for he who has pity on them will lead them, and by springs of water will guide them [or be their shepherd]” (Isa. 49:10).
What does he mean by all this? This is the prophet’s way of summarizing every form of physical harm or deprivation or suffering that we might endure in this life. And God will guarantee that no such harm or pain or loss will ever be experienced by his people in the new heavens and new earth! They shall not hunger or thirst, which is to say that whatever your deepest desires may be, he will fulfill them; whatever it takes to fill you and satisfy you and bring you greatest happiness, he will provide.
I’m especially pleased to know that no “sun shall strike” me as I bask in God’s presence. Facing triple-digit heat these days in Oklahoma is at times overwhelming. But whatever discomfort it may bring, in God’s presence we will suffer no threat from the sun but God himself with guide us “by springs of water.”
(8) As if that were not enough, another prophetic promise tied to Israel’s restoration is appended to this list of blessings now applied to the church. In Isaiah 25:8 the prophet declared that God “will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth.”
Is there any practical benefit in thinking on these things? Does it help you face today’s loss and tomorrow’s pain? Oh, my Yes! A thousand times, Yes!