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. And they cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb."--Rev. 7:9-10
The worth of forgiveness will not be fully known until time swells into eternity. To enliven hope and to encourage, strengthen, and embolden faith, the Holy Spirit withdraws the veil, and presents a prospect of the endless raptures which will then become reality. To this scene revelation here invites. Let revering hearts now intermix, and reap some first-fruits of the harvest which forgiveness will then surely reap.
I. THE TIME. When shall this bliss commence? It dawns when the endless age shall have arrived, and Jesus shall have "delivered up the kingdom to God the Father; when He shall have put down all rule, and all authority and power." (1 Cor. 15:24.) When the peaceful sway of the millennial prelude shall have brightened into fuller, richer perpetuity; when "the great white throne" shall be removed, because its work is finished; when death and hell, and whoever was not found written in the Lamb's book of life, are swallowed in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14), and the righteous shall have passed into life eternal. (Matt. 25:46.) This day is surely coming. Let us in spirit meet it, and ask, 'Will it find us in the rejoicing throng, whose sins are pardoned through the blood of Christ?'
II. THE NUMBER. "Lo, a great multitude, which no man could number." How blessed is the sight! During the earthly state the redeemed appeared to be a little flock--a tiny speck in a dreary waste, a rare flower in a weedy desert. The solitary pilgrim often sighed, "I, I alone, am left." But now how changed is the scene! The collected throng baffles enumeration--to count the happy hosts eludes all power; numbers are impotent to reach their expanse; no vision can embrace them--their horizon has no bound. On the right hand and on the left they stretch beyond all gaze--in the front and in the rear their vastness spreads beyond all measure. They are "a great multitude, which no man can number." They all on earth had sins as countless as their countless throng; but all their sins are now forgiven!
How wondrous is the blood of Jesus! How matchless is its worth! The result is worthy equivalent of its expenditure. All the efforts of the revealing Spirit, all the labors of ministers who agonized in prayer and toil, all the devotedness of missionaries and martyrs who counted not their lives dear unto themselves, were well spent to promote this end. Amid this vast assemblage shall we have place? We cannot fail, if we tread the appointed way. This great multitude found pardon at the cross.
III. WHERE DID THEY COME FROM? Once they were sinners upon earth, but now they are gathered safe around the throne. They come from every part and portion of our globe; out of every nation, and all tribes and people and tongues. The Gospel-trumpet sent forth a world-wide note--"Their word went into all the earth, and their sound unto the ends of the world." The word cannot go forth in vain--"it shall not return unto Me void; but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereunto I sent it." Here is fulfillment of the promise--here is the illimitable crop gathered from earth's wide field. Let, then, the faithful missionary, whether in the obscurity of distant climates, or under tropic sun, or amid the savage inhabitants of the northern snow, be bold and fear not. He is gone at heaven's bidding, to do heaven's work--his message will triumph; the cross will conquer. The Spirit through the Word will give life, and souls will be born again, unto forgiveness, and join the happy throng. The call has reached us--at the bidding have we fled to Christ?
IV. THEIR POSITION. "They stand before the throne, and before the Lamb." Distance no more intervenes--separation's barriers have fallen. Sin once spread veils between the sinner and God's smile; ignorance interposed mists, and unbelief wrought blindness. But sin no more obstructs. Thus forgiven multitudes stand in the very presence of their God and of the Lamb. They have reached the grand consummation of all their holiest hopes; they enjoy fulfillment of their most wrestling prayers; they gaze fully, clearly on the face of God, and live. The rays of His glory shine upon them, and they endure the blaze, and perish not--rather they bask exultingly in His light. They read the expression of all His love; they ponder the open volume of His heart; they know even as they are known. Shall we stand among them and thus see God? It will be so, if we are sprinkled with the redeeming blood.
V. THEIR ROBES. "They are clothed in white robes." Sin had stripped them of the garb of innocence, and polluted them with filthy garments; but sin is all forgiven, and no defilement remains. But how is their clothing thus beauteous? "They have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." They plunged into the cleansing stream. In faith they hastened to the remedial laver--its power was supreme. Through its virtue the scarlet stain became white as snow, and the crimson dye became white as wool. Shall we thus shine above the brightness of the sun? Have we thus washed?
They saw, also, by faith, the glorious obedience which Jesus in man's nature achieved. They put on the Lord Jesus Christ as a covering fit for the marriage-supper of the Lamb. They utterly shunned all merit of their own, and they received Him, and rejoiced in Him, and gloried in Him, as the Lord their righteousness. Shall we be similarly clothed? There is no doubt, if our shelter is in Christ.
VI. WHAT IS UPLIFTED IN THEIR HANDS? They wave palms. This emblem proclaims triumph and joy. Heaven is the place in which warriors rest, and the rejoicing sing. In the world numerous foes arose against them--their struggles were many; their conflicts were fierce; the battle was long; the fight was incessant.
But now victorious feet tread on the neck of every enemy. Sin never can again assail--the tempter can no more allure or threaten. Death has done its worst, and now they live securely in repose; the conquered grave has given up its prey; hell has no power to harm--enemies are swallowed up in victory. In token of this triumph they wave palms.
Shall our hands hold these pledges of successful combat? Good hope is ours, if we are fighting the good fight of faith, and are overcoming by the blood of the Lamb.
But the shout of triumph is a shout of joy, and palms express exuberant delight. The sin-forgiven drink deep indeed of the ever-flowing river of boundless bliss; but at present no tongue can tell, no image can depict, no heart can realize their full pleasures. They have all the happiness which God can confer; they have all the delights which the infinite capacity of glorified bodies and glorified spirits can contain. How wondrous is the amount! Who can estimate the pleasures at God's right hand for evermore! It is all theirs--all theirs forever. They feel it--they know it--they avow it--and in full realization every hand of all the innumerable multitude raises high its palm. Shall we be happy in this happiness? The promise is sure to us, if the expiating blood has cleansed us from sin's polluting stain.
VII. THEIR SHOUT. Open the ear of faith and hearken. "They cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God, who sits upon the throne, and unto the Lamb." When the assembled company of the redeemed thus fill the many mansions, what is the first sound heard? Salvation! Every voice is raised to cause the glorious home to echo and re-echo with the cry--Salvation! They all realize, We are saved; we are saved forever! Salvation is ours; we have reached salvation's shore; we have entered salvation's realms; we have obtained salvation's prize. "Salvation to our God, who sits upon the throne, and unto the Lamb." Ofttimes in the world thanksgiving was upon their lips--grateful notes were their frequent song; they delighted to ascribe praise. But now, for the first time, 'realized salvation' is the sum of the ascription to their God. All their gratitude and all their joy is concentrated in this grand shout--"Salvation!"
They know what they possess, and they know, also, how they obtained it. Is there thought of self, and human merit, or man-earned heaven? The thought is abhorrent to a saved soul. It is far otherwise. All salvation is of free grace. "Salvation to our God, who sits upon the throne, and unto the Lamb." The Father decreed it, willed it, planned it. His love chose every one of that vast gathering in His Son; His grace gave the whole number to be His bride, His jewels, and His crown; His wisdom contrived the mode by which they should be cleansed from every stain, and gloriously enrobed in righteousness; and by the Spirit's power be purified, fitted, sanctified. Every stone in salvation's beauteous fabric was selected, prepared, placed by a loving Father's hand. "Salvation to our God!"
The chorus adds, "and unto the Lamb." Salvation unto Jesus--the appointed, the expiating, the satisfying, the accepted Sacrifice. By His blood He purchased, by His sufferings He won, by His cross He earned, by His passion He procured salvation. To Him, and to His dying love and atoning merit be the praise. Without His death they must have died; through His death they live. Without His cross they must have passed into perdition; through His cross they hold salvation. Salvation is rightly ascribed to Him, for salvation is from His finished work. Hence sounds the melody of their grateful hearts. Befitting is this music for the redeemed to pour forth, for heaven to hear, for the Father and the Lamb to receive!
Here is the consummation of the bliss of the redeemed--here is the consummation of the work of forgiveness. God is glorified. All praise to His free grace! "Grace to it; grace to it!" is the universal and heaven-wide, heaven-long tribute.
Others indeed are present, who have no share in this forgiveness--even all the angelic hosts. Can they thus witness the joy of the forgiven, and hear this glory ascribed, and be unmoved? No--they fall before the throne on their faces, and worship God, saying, "Amen; blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, be unto our God forever and ever. Amen."
Is not forgiveness a blessed gift? Are not they happy who have gained it? Until we reach this rest of glory, while still we toil and struggle, while still we bear the pilgrim's staff--let us love and praise, and give glory to our God and unto the Lamb. Let our heaven begin before this earth is passed. Let faith exult before sight dawns; let hope take realizing flight; and let the constant feeling of our inmost souls be, "Salvation to our God, who sits upon the throne, and unto the Lamb!"