9 After this I looked and there before me was 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. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” 11 All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying: “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!” 13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?” 14 I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who have come 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 spread his tent over them. 16 Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. 17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:9-17)
Happy Mother’s Day to moms. You matter! I just read a study that proved again how Christian moms are the go-to person for advice, encouragement, and sympathy. Dads? We’re preferred to moms in only two areas: Finances and logistics. That’s the fancy way to say money and cars. Come on, guys! But mom? Hungry? Mom feeds you. Hot or cold? Mom’s the wardrobe expert. Pain? Bandaids even when there’s no visible wound. Tears? Mom know how to wipe them away. I wonder if we could sum it all up in one word. What’s the feeling around mom? Home. You can grow up and move a dozen times, but mom’s house is still home! Mom makes us think of home.
Because most of us aren’t home anymore. For some of us, mom’s not even alive. For many of us, “home” is a sweet memory that we wish we could go back to. Most of us aren’t home anymore. We feel that. This longing—a longing to be back home. To a different time. To recreate that feeling from the past. Do you know what I’m talking about? There’s a fancy word for that: Nostalgia. Wise people have noticed how we go through life longing for something that we never quite get. You can get the whole family together at Easter, but it’s not quite home, is it? When it’s over, what do we do? Look ahead to the next thing. Inside every one of us, there’s this longing for something more. You could describe it in one word: Home. We’re longing for home!
If anybody understood that, it must have been the apostle John. By the time he wrote the last book of the Bible—Revelation—he was an old man. Maybe in his 90s. All his friends—the other disciples—were dead. Executed. I’m sure his mom was gone too! He was exiled on an island called Patmos in the Mediterranean Sea. Maybe that doesn’t sound so bad—being exiled on a tropical island! Just two weeks ago, a man who escaped from jail in Austria turned himself in to police after living for 10 years in Spain’s Canary Islands. People were shocked! He said it wasn’t home. He’d rather go back to jail. All John saw all day long was this big sea that separated him from everything and everyone he loved. Nostalgia? Oh yeah! John must have longed to be home.
So Jesus showed him home. I don’t think it’s what John expected! Jesus let John look right into heaven. “I looked and there before me was 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.” That’s home. Wow! How many people do you think have believed in God throughout history? If it sends chills down your back to be in church with 300 people on Easter Sunday, can you imagine 300 million people—maybe more? Wearing white robes. With palm branches. Praising God. That’s heaven!
We can’t skip over one important part of heaven. Where are the people from? “Every nation, tribe, people, and language.” There is no racism in heaven. Please don’t buy into the lies spreading around our country today. My sinful nature believes that my culture and my race and my way of doing things is better than that of other people. But salvation doesn’t come from me or my language or my skin color, it comes from the Lamb—Jesus Christ who died for every person of every race in the entire world. I want to thank you for the way you have welcomed people of different races into our church. The more diverse our country is, the more it looks like it will look in heaven! “A great multitude…from every nation, tribe, people and language…”
But all those people were just the start. “All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying: ‘Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!’” Can you imagine this? The angels number “thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand” (Revelation 5:11). Praising God! Have you ever experienced anything like this? Thousands and thousands of people wearing the same thing and all yelling together. Sound familiar? Heaven is like a Packers game. Only a million times bigger. That never ends. Focused on Jesus. And Jesus always wins!
Would you fit in? I’ve been studying Revelation with a group of Hispanic ladies. After these verses, a Hispanic mom timidly raised her hand, “Pastor, I must be really sinful. I hate to admit it, but all this scares me. I’m not like that. I’m not like Jesus!” What do you think? She’s absolutely right! She gets it! We don’t deserve heaven. Would you fit in? How clean—how perfect—are you? Every mistake we make is a stain, and every sin we hide on the inside is as plain as day to God. If we can’t keep our clothes clean—how about our souls? The last thing I deserve is to be standing in heaven with all the angels. What about you?
So how in the world did all the people in heaven get so perfect and clean and white? God wants you to know! One of the believers in heaven went to John and asked, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?” John answered, “Sir, you know.” I bet he was thinking, “What are you asking me for? How am I supposed to know?” And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” The people in heaven aren’t the good ones. Not the rich ones. Not the successful ones. They are those who’ve had the stains of sin washed off in Jesus’ blood.
That doesn’t make any sense! Moms know this: Blood doesn’t make clothes clean. Blood stains! Except, with God it’s the opposite. God told his people that “without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22). Our sin in God’s eyes is so serious that the only thing that can get rid of the stains of sin is blood. Your best good works can’t take your sins away! Even on your very best days, your sins still stain. But “the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). This is the great truth of the Bible. Jesus died so we can live. His blood forgives us! “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
Now this should go without saying, but we can’t miss an important detail here. There are people who ask, “Do you really go to heaven right when you die? Don’t you just kind of go to sleep until Judgment Day?” What’s the answer? Whom is John seeing in heaven? People! Far from sleeping, they wear white robes, wave palm branches, and have a grand old time with Jesus. When a believer dies, you don’t go to sleep. You go home! Heaven is your home.
And here’s what your home is life: “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. 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. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Sound a little familiar? Moms, don’t take this the wrong way, but Jesus is even better than mom. Jesus fills you so that you never hunger again. Jesus clothes you so that you never suffer again. Jesus wipes the last tear from your eyes, so that you never cry again. You can describe heaven in one word: Home! Remember that feeling of nostalgia? That constant longing for something you can’t quite find? This is what you’re longing for. What you’re waiting for. Home. Heaven is home!
Isn’t that what we want? We just haven’t made it yet. Five years ago, my family drove from Minnesota to visit my brother in North Carolina—24 hours in the car. We made it a whole 45 minutes before Isaiah started asking, “Are we there yet?” Isn’t that us with God? “Are we there yet? I want it now!” How does the Bible describe this life? “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation.” That’s the truth, isn’t it? The great tribulation. Don’t be surprised when life’s hard. Sin doesn’t just stain us. Sin stains everything in our world. The great tribulation…
How are we going to make it? We couldn’t make it on our own. But we’re not on our own. God wove this beautiful picture into his Word from beginning to end: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Our Shepherd leads us home.
But there’s something upside-down about our Shepherd. Did you hear who it is? “The Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd.” The Lamb is our Shepherd. That’s not normal! Little lambs aren’t supposed to be leading people around. Knowing the way is very important! On our road trip to North Carolina, we stopped for gas in the middle of the night, and two-year old Isaiah woke up. He looked at me and asked one question: “Dad, do you know the way?” “Yes.” He went right back to sleep. The Lamb knows the way. Jesus has already done it once for us. Does Jesus know how to endure the great tribulation? Yes. He did! Does Jesus know how to make it through death to eternal life? Yes. He did! The Lamb is our Shepherd. He leads us home.
That’s why King David could make such a bold claim at the end of Psalm 23: “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” That wasn’t a hope. It wasn’t a dream. It was a certainty: “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” That’s my home. God’s house is my home. You were made for something more than this world. That longing you feel—that nostalgia inside—it’s a constant reminder that we’re still not home. Every hunger, every thirst, every tear—it’s a constant reminder that we’re still not home. But we know right where we’re headed: The place with the white robes and the angels. Our Shepherd—the Lamb—will get us home.
Moms, please keep pointing your families home. We love how you fill our stomachs. We love how you calm our fears. We love how you wipe our tears. But the best thing you can do for your family is keep pointing us to our Good Shepherd. Remind us that mom’s house isn’t our real home. There’s someplace better. Remind us that moms can’t fill our stomachs forever, but someone can. Moms can’t wipe away tears forever, but someone will. And moms, when your own house is empty and your kids are gone and you feel alone, remember that you’re not home yet either. Not until you hear the angels and see the saints and praise the Lamb. The Lamb is our Shepherd, and his house is our home.