Thanksgiving Be to Our God Forever and Ever! Amen
Revelation 7:9-17 – Cultivating a Heart of Thanksgiving
Christ the King Sunday – November 26, 2017 (am)
How are you doing at being thankful?
During this month of November we’ve been cultivating a heart of thanksgiving.
We were reminded of our call to thanksgiving from Psa.100:4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! Then we heard from Paul in 2Co.9 how giving to the Lord’s work (overflows) in many thanksgivings to God (12). This past Wednesday we asked briefly: How do we give thanks? And the pinnacle of our answer was in coming to the Lord’s Table—εὐχαριστία, Eucharist, is the Greek word translated thanksgiving. And that is why we’ve celebrated communion together at each of our main gatherings during this month of November.
Today we’re finishing this emphasis by taking a glimpse into our eternal future, into the very throne room of God where we see in the great crowd of those already gathered there a preview of what we’ll do when we arrive.Let’s look at Rev.7:9-16 to discover the role of thanksgiving in heaven for all eternity, then see what that teaches us about how we should live here until we arrive there.
A Preview of Our Activity in Heaven – 9-17
If you want to outline this passage it could be like this:
I. 9-12 – John Sees and Hears the Innumerable, Omni-Ethnic, Worshiping Multitude in Heaven
II. 13-17 – An Elder Explains the Identity, Involvement, and Experience of that Multitude
But we’re going to treat vv.9-17 as one unbroken thought.
In Rev.6 we see the beginning of the end of days, the opening of the seven-sealed scroll that was held in the right hand of the glorious One who was seated on the throne (5:1), the One who was surrounded by four (magnificent) creatures, full of eyes in front and behind (4:6), and by twenty-four elders also seated on… thrones (4:4). The scroll was taken from the hand of this One by the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Lamb standing, as though it had been slain—the Lamb with seven horns, complete authority and power to rule, and… seven eyes (5:6), the omniscience of God—His all-knowing, all-seeing eyes. This Lion-who-was-a-Lamb was worthy to take the scroll and to open the seals because He was slain, and by (his) blood (he) ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation (5:9), and (he) made them a kingdom and priests to our God (5:10). He was worthy to open the scroll (5:9), and even to receive worship (5:12), because He had accomplished salvation for all God’s people at the cost of His own life. And this seven-sealed scroll contains that full story, complete with the great blessings and great judgments that are necessarily part of it. In c.6, six of the seven seals are opened, and with them come the judgments that must precede the full delivery of the Kingdom of Him who is seated on the throne, and of the Lamb.
But in c.7, there is an interlude before the opening of the seventh seal (8:1), delaying final judgment until the full number of God’s servants on earth could be sealed—protected from feeling the fury of His wrath as it is poured out. There is the background, bringing us to the threshold of our text today.
9 After this I looked, John wrote, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb in heaven, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, signs of victory (Morris 116), 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” They were praising God in heaven for His salvation, which He provided through the Lamb, Jesus! They receive it! And: 15 “Therefore they are before the throne of God, (serving) him day and night in his temple, His presence; and he… will shelter them with his presence. 16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. 17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, just like in Psalm 23, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” This is their experience! This is their salvation!
11 And all the angels were standing around the throne, and they were marveling at this salvation the Lord had provided for His people, just as Peter said they do (1Pe.1:12, … things into which angels long to look). … And they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! The angels were affirming the worship of the multitude—indeed, salvation does (belong) to our God! In fact, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanks-giving and honor and power and might (belong) to our God—for His salvation—forever and ever! Then, again to close: Amen.” This sevenfold ascription of praise to God by the angels (12)—blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might—is identical to that offered in 5:12 by the chorus of the living creatures and the elders and… many angels, … myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, except that wealth there is replaced with thanksgiving here. Interesting…
A Prescription for our Activity on Earth
With that quick overview of this glorious text of Scripture, I want to take just a few moments to drill into this ascription of thanksgiving that is offered to God in eternal worship to see what it means for us today. Each of these seven items has a definite article before it: 12 … the blessing and the glory and the wisdom and the thanksgiving and the honor and the power and the might be to our God…. This has the effect of saying it is the ultimate expression of each of these qualities that is due Him—(the) blessing that is above all blessings (Morris 113), (the) glory that is above all glories, (the) wisdom that is above all wisdom, etc. This is what is due to our God forever and ever! So, (the) thanksgiving that is due to Him is thanksgiving that is above and beyond any other thanksgiving (cf. Morris 102). It is that spontaneous act of thanks which (people) utter when they realize more vividly than ever before their happiness (Preston & Hanson in Mounce 163 FN32) in Him. Or, we might say, wherever else thanksgiving might be appropriately offered, God is even more to be thanked than any other who is receiving it—even rightly receiving it.
Many years ago, before Jean and I had children, we found ourselves in a season of time when we were entirely without cash—no buying-power at all—and Christmas was approaching. We wanted to go visit my parents in Georgia, not having been there for quite a while, and we knew from experience how much the trip would cost. We knew there was no way for us to do it. But we also believed that the Lord was leading us to go. So, we committed the matter to Him in prayer, packed the car on a Sunday morning, and headed off to church, prepared to leave for Georgia immediate afterward, but knowing full-well that unless God supplied the money, we would drive right back home an unpack. That Sunday progressed as usual. And immediately after the morning service we both got involved in ministry conversations that kept us occupied until the large sanctuary at Moody Church was virtually empty. We would never have mentioned the need to anyone, but the way things happened that day we didn’t even have an opportunity to do so. After our separate dialogues, we met up near the front of the room and started to leave for home. But just then an older man called out to us. He greeted us, then handed us a Christmas card. He said something like: The Lord laid it on my heart to bless you two this Christmas. I hope this does so. When we got to the car we opened the envelop, and the card included a check for the exact amount we needed to go to Georgia. We’ve learned many lessons from that experience over the years. And we’ve had many more like it. But my reason for telling it today is simply to ask this question: Was that man deserving of our thanks? Absolutely, yes! But what we read here in Rev.7:12 is that, above and beyond our thanks offered to him, thanksgiving is due to our God.
That is what we see here! For all eternity, thanksgiving—(the) thanksgiving—will be due to our God, forever and ever! Amen? There will never be a time when thanksgiving to God becomes obsolete. There will never be a place when thanksgiving to God will be inappropriate, or insignificant, or unwelcome, or un-called-for. There will never be a person in whose presence thanksgiving to God will be upstaging, or undiscerning, or offensive. (The) thanksgiving is due to our God forever and ever! (The) thanksgiving that is above and beyond all other thanksgivings (2Co.9:12 is rightly and fully ascribed to Him!
Two lessons flow from this passage as we seek to cultivate a heart of thanksgiving. First, whenever thanks is due to anyone, it is due even more to God. Let this be a reminder. James wrote: 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from (our heavenly) Father …. The Apostle Paul asked: 1Co4:7 … What do you have that you did not receive? … Answer: Nothing. And John the Baptist added: Joh.3:27 … A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. Thanksgiving… be to our God forever and ever! Amen. (12) Let’s never forget!
Second, the thanks we offer to God will continue for all eternity. So, cultivating a heart of thanksgiving here and now is one of the best ways to prepare for eternity. And it’s not just a duty. It’s an honor! It’s a privilege to offer thanks to God! We see that right here in this passage with the many graces we receive in Him—the privilege of being in His presence forever (15), of having our every need fulfilled, our every weakness covered, and (look at the end of v.17) our every sadness erased—our every regret, our every disappointment, every failure and injury and injustice and loss we’ve endured. God will wipe away every tear from (our) eyes. And I suspect there will be many, don’t you? But none of them outweigh (the) thanksgiving that’s due to Him.
As we cultivate a heart of thanksgiving this morning, we’re setting our hearts in line with heaven. We’re fixing our vision on eternity in the presence of God, and of the Lamb. We’re pressing ourselves in the direction of finding satisfying soul-relief, taking the most direct route toward that destination. And we’re entering in to the salvation God has provided for His people. We’re drinking deeply from the springs of living water (17), that satisfy all those who are (sheltered) with the presence of God (15) and whose robes have been made white in the blood of the Lamb (14).
As we opened this Series four weeks ago, we urged you to write down three things: 1) one specific thing you’re thankful for with regard to your salvation; 2) one specific answer to prayer, or provision of God, or encouragement that you know came from Him; and 3) one specific person who should hear of your thanksgiving to God for them—being specific why.How are you doing at this exercise?
Bottom line today: press on in your pursuit of cultivating a heart of thanksgiving. By God’s grace and for His glory, press on! Let’s become a people who so enter in to the fullness of our salvation that it actually shows itself among us in many thanksgivings to God (2Co.9:12). Who knows how many discouragements that will deliver us from—how many tears it will wipe away even on this side of heaven? And let’s press on knowing that we’re engaging in an eternal activity as we cultivate thankful hearts—we will never regret seeking to excel in this act of grace (cf. 2Co.8:7).
Let’s now come to the Table of the Lord with thanksgiving for the Lamb who was slain for our salvation.