Glory! Glory!Revelation 7:1-17Theme: Eternity.In this week’s lessons, Dr. Philip Ryken teaches us about our future adornment, employment, and enjoyment.
LessonSo I ask you, have you asked Jesus to make you clean? If not, I really doubt whether you have anything suitable to wear for eternity. But if you do go to Jesus, you will find that God’s promise is true – that though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; that though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. The hymn writer William Cooper described that remarkable cleansing like this: “There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins, and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.” When we emerge from that cleansing fountain, we come out as spotless as the Lamb himself. When we exchange the filthy rags of our own righteousness for the pristine white robes of Jesus Christ so that we become clothed in his very righteousness, it echoes the words of the hymn, “Jesus, thy blood and righteousness my beauty are, my glorious dress.”
Scottish theologian Thomas Boston once wrote an essay on the history and theology of fashion. He explained that there were five times in the ancient world when people wore spotless white robes the way they are described here in Revelation 7. One was when Roman bondservants were freed from slavery. The white robe was a symbol of their emancipation. A second was a bride on her wedding day. She wore white to symbolize the joy of sexual purity. It is a tradition we maintain to this day. Thirdly, battle champions wore white robes to exhibit their victory for public display. The warriors were crowned with laurels, and then they paraded around the city in their victory robes. People attending religious festivals often wore white robes as a sign of celebration. Then, finally, Jewish priests wore white robes in the temple to show that they were set apart and pure for God’s holy service.
You can see how the white robes we wear in heaven are suitable for all of those reasons. We wear white for liberty. Like freed slaves we have been delivered from bondage to sin. We wear white for chastity, because like a virgin bride on her wedding day, we will preserve our passion for Jesus. And we will wear white for victory; like conquering heroes, we will win the victory over death through Jesus Christ. We will also wear white because life in heaven will be an endless celebration. And we will wear white for purity because like temple priests we will be set apart to serve the Lord.
The mention of the temple priests brings us to our blessed employment. We will be employed in the joyous business of heaven, which is to glorify God. We will stand before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple.
The idea of praising God day and night comes from the Levites in the Old Testament. The Levitical musicians would stay in the rooms of the temple day and night because they were always responsible for the work. The God of unending grace deserves unceasing praise. Their worship anticipated the glories of heaven. Strictly speaking, there is no temple in heaven. God himself is there, so all of heaven is his sanctuary, and if all of heaven is like a temple, then all of us will be priests to praise God with endless song.
The reason for our unending worship is found in the word “therefore” at the beginning of verse 15. That word establishes a connection between the grace that we receive in Jesus Christ and the glory that we give to God. The reason we will give God the glory is that we have been saved by grace. Notice also the object of our worship, which is God himself. In this whole heavenly scene, God himself is at the very center of it all. The great multitude stands before his throne and all the angels encircle his throne. The elders and the creatures bow down before his throne. So the glorious vocation of heaven is God-centered worship. We get a taste of eternity every time we come to church.
Yet our problem is that we soon tire of worshiping God. The most that we feel we can manage is about an hour of worship at a time. In fact, many of us secretly doubt whether we will want to worship God all the time, even when we get to heaven. But it will be different once we’re glorified. Then we will have the capacity to worship God without growing weary. Perhaps we will spend all our time singing. But it seems more likely that we will continue to do many of the things that we do on earth, flourishing in every area of human endeavor – creating works of art, conducting experiments of science, and playing games of sport – but doing them all to the glory of God.
During what five occasions did ancient Romans wear white?
What will be our employment in heaven?
Where do we get a glimpse of heaven here on earth?