Revelation 7:15-17

Sermon preached on November 18, 2012 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2012. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

Two or three years ago our daughter Patricia asked us to look after her cats for a year. She brought them from Toronto and left them with us. I think the cats began life on the streets of Toronto and they were very skittish, almost like feral cats. When they first arrived, we decided that rather than give them the run of the whole house that we would keep them in the big family room. They were so afraid that they would hide in there. Numerous times we went in there and we couldn't find them. Or we'd find one and we wouldn't be able to find the other one. We thought that one had escaped into the other part of the house. They were masters at hiding. That room is big but we were amazed at how they could disappear. So what we had to do is to eliminate their hiding places. It took us awhile but we made it much harder for them to disappear. But one of them adjusted by hiding under the blankets of a bed we had out there. We'd notice a lump under the blankets and find that she had wormed her way under them.

The cats were scared. They didn't know that Patricia had left them with a good family and that they were safe. No one was going to hurt them. With the exception of one person everyone in the family loves cats. We felt sorry for the cats. It was heartbreaking. The move to a new environment was very traumatic for them.

Fear is a terrible thing. You can't be comfortable when you're afraid. In many places the Bible tells us not to be afraid. Even though there is danger all around us, even though the devil has been thrown to earth and he is filled with fury, even though he goes around as a lion looking for someone to devour—we are not to be afraid. We are to be vigilant, alert, watchful—but not afraid.

But what makes us safe? In early February Mitt Romney received Secret Service protection. He was running for President and late last January the Secret Service announced that they would soon be giving him Secret Service protection. It began on a Tuesday. I don't know if he felt safer on Tuesday than he did on Monday. But the presence of highly trained body-guards certainly added to his security.

But what makes us safe? It's God's presence. If you're a Christian you're safe right now. In John 10 Jesus said that He had His sheep in His hand and that no one could pluck them out of His hand. God is with us. The Holy Spirit lives in us. Our bodies are His temple.

But in glory we are going to experience the presence of God in a far higher way. One of the main things that show the blessedness of the saints in heaven is the fact that

God will spread His tent over us.

This is remarkable image. In verses 15-17 we read,

"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.
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.'"

The RSV translates the part about God spreading His tent over them this way,

"He who sits upon the throne
will shelter them with his presence,"

Robert H. Mounce tells us that this means that God,

"will make his Shekinah to dwell with them"."

God's visible glory, the Shekinah, will be with them, will come over them like a tent to dwell with them.

God spreading His tent over us shows us at least two great things about our situation in glory.

The first thing it teaches us is that

in glory, God will protect us, completely and forever.

The new heaven and the new earth will be about security, peace—about the absence of fear. There we will be with God—very close to Him, sharing in His life, His security.

God's 'Shekinah' is His glorious presence. Robert H. Mounce writes, (Revelation, p. 166)

"For the tent to be over his people is a way of saying that the immediate presence of God will shelter and protect them from all that would harm."

This image is based on Old Testament imagery. In Isaiah 4:5–6 God told His people that His presence would protect them.

"Then the Lord will create
over all of Mount Zion and over
those who assemble there
a cloud of smoke by day and
a glow of flaming fire by night;
over all the glory will be a canopy.
It will be a shelter and shade
from the heat of the day,
and a refuge and hiding place
from the storm and rain."

The images of smoke by day and a flaming fire by night are taken from the time when God was leading His people in the wilderness to the Promised Land. God's presence was with them to protect them. We read about it in Exodus 13:21–22,

"By day the Lord went ahead of them
in a pillar of cloud to guide them
on their way and by night in
a pillar of fire to give them light,
so that they could travel by day or night.
Neither the pillar of cloud by day
nor the pillar of fire by night
left its place in front of the people."

God's presence came down upon them to protect them. God led them to the Red Sea. When Pharaoh pursued them and came close, the people became afraid but Moses said to them, (Exodus 14:13–14)

"Do not be afraid.
Stand firm and you will see
the deliverance the Lord
will bring you today.
The Egyptians you see today
you will never see again.
The Lord will fight for you;
you need only to be still."

What happened next was astounding. We read, (verses 19–20)

"The pillar of cloud also moved
from in front and stood behind them,
coming between the armies
of Egypt and Israel.
Throughout the night the cloud
brought darkness to the one side
and light to the other side;
so neither went near the other
all night long."

God protected them. God's presence protected them. We see the same thing in Psalm 48:8. It says,

"As we have heard,
so have we seen in the city
of the LORD Almighty,
in the city of our God:
God makes her secure forever."

Ezekiel 37:26–28 tells us that this was something that God's people were to look forward to. God said,

"I will make a covenant of peace with them;
it will be an everlasting covenant.
I will establish them
and increase their numbers,
and I will put my sanctuary
among them forever.
My dwelling place will be with them;
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
Then the nations will know
that I the Lord make Israel holy,
when my sanctuary is among them forever."

We get a glimpse of this idea of protection in Exodus 40:34–38,

"Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting,
and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.
Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting
because the cloud had settled upon it,
and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle."

Moses could not enter. Now Moses, was one of the redeemed. But at that time, God's glory was too awesome for Him.

Right now Satan can come near us. Evil men can come near us. The sun can beat down upon us. But they cannot come near God's glory. We already saw that at the end of chapter 6 when the wicked cry out to the mountains and rocks to hide them from,

"the face of him who sits on the throne
and from the wrath of the Lamb."

Revelation 20:11 says,

"Then I saw a great white throne
and him who was seated on it.
Earth and sky fled from his presence,
and there was no place for them."

In Revelation 15:5–8 John wrote,

"After this I looked
and in heaven the temple,
that is, the tabernacle of the Testimony,
was opened.
Out of the temple came the seven angels
with the seven plagues.
They were dressed in clean, shining linen
and wore golden sashes
around their chests.
Then one of the four living creatures
gave to the seven angels
seven golden bowls
filled with the wrath of God,
who lives for ever and ever.
And the temple was filled with smoke
from the glory of God and from his power,
and no one could enter the temple
until the seven plagues
of the seven angels were completed."

God's glory is a profound threat to the unclean. It strikes terror in those who are unclean. They cannot approach God. 1 Timothy 6:16 tells us that God,

"lives in unapproachable light…"

He is unassailable. No threat, no evil, no danger, no sin, nothing profane can come near His glorious presence. His glory causes them to flee in terror and defeat. In the future His people will be brought into His glory. His glory is like an unbounded ring of protection around Him. Grant R. Osborne writes, (Revelation BECNT, p. 329)

"in eternity the saints will literally experience the Shekinah presence of God. In 21:3, 15–18 the New Jerusalem is depicted as a Holy of Holies, so in that sense the people of God will spend eternity in a heavenly Holy of Holies as God dwells among them. Yet there is even more meaning than this, for we are told God "spreads his tent" [over them], and the idea of God's Shekinah being placed "over" his people signifies protection and comfort. They will never again fear any harm or misfortune (7:16)."

In the coming era—God's glory will be over us. His glory will cast Satan and all other enemies into the lake of burning sulfur. Our home forever will be in the inner sanctum. We will dwell, in the cloud of God's glory. Nothing bad, nothing harmful, nothing incompatible with the glory of God will ever be able to come near us. There is nothing greater than this security, this safety in the visible glory of God.

The second thing we should understand about God's spreading His tent over us is that

God will satisfy us—we will have perfect contentment, we will be perfectly comforted.

That's what the context here is about. It says,

"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.'"

Revelation 21:3 is a parallel to our text. The same Greek word is used—it's also about God making His dwelling with His people and satisfying them. We read,

"And I heard a loud voice
from the throne saying,
'Now the dwelling of God is with men,
and he will live with them.
They will be his people,
and God himself will be with them
and be their God.'
He will wipe every tear from their eyes.
There will be no more death
or mourning or crying or pain,
for the old order of things
has passed away."

Lord willing, we're going to look at this more next week—but for now, just note that because God will spread His tent over us—we will be filled with inexpressible joy. As David said in Psalm 16:11 about being in God's presence,

"You have made known to me
the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand."

Safety, blessedness, joy, eternal pleasures—that's what we will experience in God's presence. How wonderful it will be.

By way of application, this means at least three things.

First of all, think of it, you will dwell with God. God will spread the glory of His presence over you. This will be so incredible. John Calvin writes (on 2 Peter 1:4)

"For we must consider from whence it is that God raises us up to such a height of honor. We know how abject is the condition of our nature; that God, then, should make himself ours, so that all his things should in a manner become our things, the greatness of his grace cannot be sufficiently conceived by our minds."

What God is going to do for you is so great we can hardly conceive it.

This should cause you to be in awe.

You should be in awe of your great Savior. You should be in awe of what He has done for you. You should be in awe of what He will do for you. Jesus is preparing a place for you—what a place it will be. In John 17:24–26 Jesus prayed to the Father,

"Father, I want those you have given me
to be with me where I am,
and to see my glory,
the glory you have given me
because you loved me
before the creation of the world…
I have made you known to them,
and will continue to make you known
in order that the love you have for me
may be in them and that
I myself may be in them."

Can you imagine? Being with Jesus. Seeing His glory. Being made known to the Father. Having the love that the Father has for the Son in us. Jesus Himself being in us. God is going to lift us that high.

Secondly, since this is true,

you should be striving to show others God's glory right now.

In the future you're going to reflect God's glory perfectly. Here we do it very imperfectly, like broken mirrors. In light of what God is going to do for us we should be striving to properly reflect God's glory now. We can do it to a certain degree. In 2 Corinthians 3:18 the apostle Paul wrote,

"And we, who with unveiled faces
all reflect the Lord's glory,
are being transformed into his likeness
with ever-increasing glory,
which comes from the Lord,
who is the Spirit."

How well are you reflecting God's glory now? Strive to do it more and more. Strive to grow in grace. Strive to be more like God now—practicing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians. God's visible glory is going to shelter and protect the people of God. Only with God is there joy, delight, happiness, eternal contentment. Outside His glory is unimaginable darkness, terror and horror.

You need to go to Jesus.

You need to have a personal relationship with Him. You must not miss out on this most blessed of gifts. Ask Jesus to save you today.