Revelation 7:17


Sermon preached on November 25, 2012 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2012. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

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.

What will perfect bliss be like? Here on earth it's hard to imagine what perfect happiness would be like—but we can try. You know I love technology and I sometimes tend to think of bliss in terms of having the latest and greatest technology because it can save you so much time. I know what some of you are thinking—

"Larry's going to mention the Apple Stores."



Have you ever been to an Apple Store? I used to love them. About 10 years ago they were great. There were hardly any people in them, they were very spacious and quiet and you could play with any of their computers and iPods. They were great. But I hate them now. They're super crowded. They're noisy, busy and uncomfortable. They're like a zoo. So my idea of bliss is not longer associated with an Apple Store.

Being out on a golf course is pretty nice. But then again sometimes it's a beautiful day, a beautiful golf course, and you're playing with really close friends but your golf game is terrible. I saw a book once and its title was,

"Golf, A Good Walk Spoiled".



I can relate to that.

Fishing is pretty good. But then again, it's nice if you actually catch something. Fishing is not quite perfect when you don't catch anything except tree branches when you're casting.

Being with family is really, really nice. This past week we celebrated Thanksgiving and there's not much that comes close to perfection than being with family and good friends. That's pretty close to my idea of perfect happiness here on earth. But then again, I guess it depends what your family is like. It depends if your mother-in-law is coming! Marg has a cousin whose husband spend a good part of Thanksgiving Day out in the garage, and I quote,

"hiding from his mother-in-law",



cooking buffalo wings and deviled eggs, in order, and I quote again,

"to keep the peace".



As a rule I don't watch movies about dysfunctional families gathering for a holiday. But I've seen quite a few of them advertised. For some families, family gatherings can be a nightmare. Thankfully none of us has a family like that.

But no matter how wonderful your family is, it's not perfect. In this life families can be overtaken by sickness and separated by death. There can be great sadness even in really good families.

How is God going to make us perfectly happy in heaven? Will anyone be sad in heaven? How can one have tears in heaven? Will we be perfectly happy in heaven? What about if some of our loved ones aren't there? For example, what if you have a child that doesn't believe in Jesus. There's a possibility that he may die in his sins and be lost. Will that cause you grief in heaven? Our text says that God will wipe every tear from our eyes. What does that mean? Will there be tinges of sadness that God will need to take care of?

Some people believe that God is going, to a certain extent, erase our memories. We will have no memory of that lost son or daughter or other relative that didn't know Jesus so we will be able to be perfectly happy. Some believe that we will have no memory of our sin or of any sin, so we will be able to be perfectly happy.

Our Call to Worship today was from Isaiah 65:17f and it speaks about something like that. God said,

"Behold, I will create new heavens
and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered,
nor will they come to mind…
the sound of weeping and of crying
will be heard in it no more."

Will God erase part of our memories? Or will we retain our full memories and our minds and hearts be so transformed our minds so conformed to God's will that those memories will not cause us grief? Or will it be a combination of those two things? We're not sure of the details and how it will work out. But we are told that in glory, in the new order of things,

God is going to make us perfectly happy. We will be completely blessed.

The Greek word that is used here means, (BDAG, 344)

"to cause to disappear by wiping…"



Or,

"to remove so as to leave no trace…"



So the first thing that is implied here is that this is going to be a one time thing. God is going to wipe away our tears and we will never cry again. He will comfort us with an everlasting comfort. Robert H. Mounce summarizes the meaning well when he says, (Revelation NICNT; 167)

"The Lamb as heavenly shepherd leads his flock to the wellspring of life and wipes away the last trace of earthly sorrow."


Donald Macleod puts it this way, (A Faith to Live By, p. 328)

"it's almost as if when they get to heaven the tears are still there and God the Father is saying with such tenderness, 'It's all right, it's all over now!'"



So the image is not so much that there is sadness in heaven, but rather the image is of God making everything right when we first get there. Donald Macleod puts it this way, (A Faith to Live By, p. 328)

"The figure is a maternal one: the mother wiping away the tears, every last one, with meticulous tenderness. Why the tears? Because the children have been in the great tribulation (Revelation 7:14)…"



Macleod sees tears needing to be washed away because Christians have come through the great tribulation. This world of sin and misery is traumatic. It has been especially difficult for those pictured in heaven here. The ones before the throne are those who have come out of the Great Tribulation. During that time and during other times of persecution, not only do evil people war against God's people and make them suffer, but spiritual forces of evil are also involved and they will control much of creation and use it against the saints. The beast out of the sea and the beast out of the earth in Revelation 13 are examples of that. They will perform great and miraculous signs. The beast out of the earth will even cause fire to come down from heaven to earth in full sight of men. He deceives the inhabitants of the earth. The beast out of the sea also makes war against the saints and is able to conquer them. The old order of things is corrupted to such an extent that it seems that just about everything in the old creation is conspiring against the saints.

Then, in an instant, they will be in glory. God will wipe away every tear. Everything bad will be gone.

A parallel passage to our text is Revelation 21:4. It also speaks about God wiping away every tear from the eyes of His people also speaks about the new order of things. Right after it says that God will wipe every tear from their eyes, it says,

"There will be no more death
or mourning or crying or pain,
for the old order of things has passed away."

So the idea seems to be that

God wiping away their tears consists, in part, of the old order of things being done away with and it being replaced with the glorious new order.

Their great enemy, death, and the old order, corrupted by sin—filled with misery and disappointment—this will all be gone.

The only Old Testament passage which speaks about God wiping away the tears of His people is
Isaiah 25:8. The context there is the same. It says that God,

"will swallow up death forever."

God wipes away the tears from His people's faces in the context of Him swallowing up death forever—doing away with the old order of things.

What a relief it will be. How wonderful to be delivered from the old and see the new—the new heaven and the new earth. To know that death has been swallowed up forever, that it is gone. To have the vast vista of the new era open before them—how glorious it will be for them.
To be suddenly taken out of it and placed in glory, and having all that troubles us taken away—that can be summed up as God wiping every tear from our eyes.

How glorious it will be. How glorious we will be! 1 Corinthians 2:9 says,

"No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
what God has prepared
for those who love him."

We will see it then. God will wipe every tear from their eyes.

But that's only part of it. We must not miss two of the most profound and glorious things about having our tears wiped away.

One of the very best things about this is the fact that

God Himself will be the One wiping away our tears.

Our text is one of the most remarkable statements in all of Scripture.

"And God will wipe away
every tear from their eyes."

Think about that. This is the height of our redemption. We will be with God and He will dwell with us and comfort us. That's the context of Revelation 21 where it says that God will wipe every tear from our eyes. It says, (verse 3)

"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."

It is God who will be with us to wipe away our tears. Donald Macleod writes, (A Faith to Live By, p. 328)

"Not only are the pain and sorrow over. God himself comes so close. We feel his touch upon our souls."



Donald Macleod continues, (A Faith to Live By, p. 328)

"This highlights once again the uniquely Christian concept of God as Servant. It is as if God exists for the children. It's also so maternal: a mother investing so much of herself in her child, prepared even to lay down her life for him. Here is God Himself serving. On earth, Christ washed His disciples' feet. In heaven, God wipes away the tears and tends the bruises. I'm not sure that the memory of all those tears is necessarily eradicated. The Bible speaks of God putting our tears in a bottle (Psalm 56:8). He knows every one of them and for each He has His own comfort and His own recompense."



How comforted we will be. We will be comforted in the most ultimate way.

Donald Macleod, (A Faith to Live By, p. 328)

"Heaven means standing close to the majesty of God. But that is always the majesty of love, which means the believer's privilege is to stand eternally where it all began. No doubt he will gaze and gaze upon it, but he is not taken to the fountain merely to look. He is taken to drink. We will quite literally enjoy God."


The second glorious thing about God wiping away every tear from our eyes is that it occurs in the context of

the Lamb shepherding us.

Just before our text says that God will wipe every tear from our eyes, it says,

"For the Lamb at the center
of the throne will be their shepherd;
he will lead them
to springs of living water."

Jesus is going to be with us when our tears are wiped away. Donald Macleod writes, (A Faith to Live By, p. 328)

"But what poetry: the flock grazing eternally, under the loving eye of the Shepherd, at the heart of the grace and glory of God!"



The Lamb at the center of the throne will be our Shepherd. We already saw from Revelation 5:6 that this Lamb was a Lamb,

"looking as if it had been slain…"

Will our memories of sin and the lost be erased? There are passages in Scripture that suggest that this will not be the case. They suggest we will not lose our memories of sin and its consequences. They suggest that knowledge of our past sin, knowledge of the sins of others will not impinge on our happiness there. Indeed, they suggest that we will retain at least a certain memory of sin and that this knowledge will draw us close to Jesus and help us to love and appreciate Him like we should.

For example, when Jesus was transfigured, Moses and Elijah appeared with Him. Moses and Elijah, even though they were dwelling in heaven, had not lost their knowledge of sin and the consequences it was having on earth. Luke's gospel tells us that after Jesus was transfigured, they were talking with Him, (Luke 9:30–32)

"about his departure,
which he was about
to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem."

Moses and Elijah knew about the work that Jesus was going to do to defeat the devil and the curse of sin that was against us. They knew about the agony Jesus would endure in the Garden of Gethsemane. They knew about the suffering that He would endure by being nailed to the cross and by giving up His life there. They knew why He was doing it. They knew it was for them. They were glorified, sinless, perfect, yet they knew still knew about the sin of the human race. They knew about the consequences of sin. They knew about the work of redemption that Jesus was going to accomplish by dying on the cross.

It's also important for us to realize that after His resurrection, Jesus had the marks of the cross on Him. Thomas and the rest of the disciples saw them. The risen Christ has the marks of His death about Him. Here in heaven, the Lamb standing at the center of the throne is a Lamb, the Lamb that will shepherd us, is One,

"looking as if He had been slain".

This implies that in glory there is going to be a remembrance of sin, at least in the sense of us knowing what our redemption from sin cost Jesus.

These passages suggest that the marks of death that we see in Jesus, which are the marks of our sin—will constantly remind us of how much Jesus loves us. They will constantly remind us of how much we should love and adore Him.

Not only that, but
perfect blessedness is not incompatible with Christians judging the angels that sinned and judging world for its sin. In 1 Corinthians 6:3 the apostle Paul wrote,

"Do you not know
that we will judge angels?"

And in the verse before he wrote,

"Do you not know that
the saints will judge the world?"

In glory you Christians are going to be involved in judging the angels who have fallen into sin. You are also going to be involved in judging this old world—and that will involve not so much the inanimate creation—but people. It was Adam and his descendants who subjected the world to corruption and misery. We are going to reign, rule and judge with Jesus.

Yet while we do so we will know that if it wasn't for Jesus, we would be sharing in the same fate as the lost. We will be there, judging, at the side of Jesus, seeing Him looking like a Lamb that had been slain. We will see and be involved firsthand in dispensing justice, not only to the angels who fell into sin, but to lost human beings.

Perfect blessedness is not incompatible with knowledge of the fate of the lost, of the horror of sin and it's consequences. Indeed, those things will be aids which will help us to glory and rejoice in God and the salvation He has provided for us. Edward J. Young says that the fate of the lost, (Isaiah, Vol. 3, p. 537)

"should ever remind us of the greatness of our redemption and of the terrible punishment from which we have been saved by Christ."



Our Shepherd will be with us. We will see His wounds. They will be part of His glory. We will praise Him for His love and for His work for us. He will shepherd us and give us living water to drink. Donald Macleod writes, (A Faith to Live By, p. 332)

"Heaven means sharing in the blessedness of God so that in the very depths of our being there is divine contentment, joy and fulfillment. There is total shalom: a sense of sheer well-being. Every need is met. Every longing is fulfilled. Every goal is achieved. Every sense is satisfied. We see him. We are with him. He holds us and hugs us and whispers, 'this is forever.'"



We will be lost in Him. Our wills and hearts will be made perfect—perfectly conformed to His will and heart. God will wipe our tears away. It will be everlasting consolation. You will never weep again.

What a God we have! What a Savior we have! What a future we have! Christians, be amazed at your future. It will be greater than you can ever imagine. There are a lot of things that we don't know, but our text shows us one of the most comforting things for us to know. Cliffe Knechtle writes, (TJL- Conservation, Vol. 5, 2001, Issue 14, March 2001)

"Although I do not know why God allowed pain, I do know he wants to wipe every tear from our eyes and give us joy for eternity in his presence."



What a comfort that is. What a joy that is. What a blessing that is.


Lastly, for those of you who don't know Jesus. Know that none of this comfort will be yours unless you go to Jesus. There will be no one to shepherd you to springs of living water. There will be no one to wipe your tears away. Think of that—misery and pain without ever being taken away. You need Jesus. You need to go to Him now.