South Sydney Anglican Church
7 February 2021

God’s Salvation plan includes people from all nations

Speaker: Matt Johnson

Bible Passage: Revelations 7: 1-17

Point 1:           In Eternity Jews will be Sealed and Saved (by God)

After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree. Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea: Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees (present earth) until we put a seal on the foreheads (Eph.4:30; 2Cor.1:22; Eph.1:13; Rev.9:4; forehead Ex.13:9; 13:16// Rev.13:16; 14:9; Deut.6:6-8; Deut.11:18; Eze.9:4) of the servants of our God.” Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.

From the tribe of Judah 12,000 were sealed,

from the tribe of Reuben 12,000,

from the tribe of Gad 12,000,

from the tribe of Asher 12,000,

from the tribe of Naphtali 12,000,

from the tribe of Manasseh 12,000,

from the tribe of Simeon 12,000,

from the tribe of Levi 12,000,

from the tribe of Issachar 12,000,

from the tribe of Zebulun 12,000,

from the tribe of Joseph 12,000,

from the tribe of Benjamin 12,000.

Point 2:          In Eternity, we will find all sorts of People Saved by God

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 before the Lamb (Rev.4:1 –  a door standing open in heaven; the one upon the throne and the lamb (heaven) – the Lamb starts opening the seals in heaven (6:1ff) and event sare happenbing on earth (6:3ff) They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”

11 All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying:

“Amen!
Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honor
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.
Amen!”

Point 3:          In Eternity, we will Praise God for the Blood of the Lamb

13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?” 14 I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb15 Therefore,

they are before the throne of God
and serve him day and night in his temple;     (heavenly temple)
and he who sits on the throne
will shelter them with his presence.
16 Never again will they hunger;
    never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,’[a]
nor any scorching heat.
17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne
will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’[b]
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’[c]

Big Idea:       God’s Salvation plan includes people from all nations

Intro:              Well morning friends and visitors and those viewing online. My name is Matt Johnson and today we are continuing a study on Making Disciples. Jesus said “Go and make disciples of all nations.Now as a church we want to be doing this always. But we are especially thinking about this now because we are having a Mission Week in the last week of March.

PRAYER:

Well the special theme for our Mission Week is ETERNITY (SLIDE 2). Last week, I introduced you to the story of Arthur Stace and how he became a Christian. But in the 1980’s a Sydney artist – picked up on Arthur’s Stace’s Eternity and gave it new fame and prominence. The artist’s name was MARTIN SHARP and this is one of his works (Slide 2).

 

Martin Sharp grew up in Bellview Hill (in the Eastern suburbs); just near Rose Bay. And in the 1960’s – Martin was fully involved in both the sexual revolution of Sydney and the accompanying music scene. He did a lot of album covers for British bands, like Cream and the American artists, like Tiny Tim. At certain points Martins life – was very dark with sexual promiscuity, drugs and rock & roll. But during the 1970’s Martin was commissioned to help paint the face of Luna Park and several exhibits. Sadly, just after this the GHOST TRAIN in Luna Park caught fire killing 6 children and one adult. It was tragic and it led Martin Sharp to start exploring the Christian faith.

 

In later life – Martin identified himself as a Christian (albeit a little bit of a strange Christian). He was probably always a little more liberal than our church. But a close friend of his named Polly Seidler (who studied at Moore College) believes that Martin had a genuine Christian faith.[1]

Anyway, after his conversion Martin started to include the word “Eternity” in some of his artworks.

Martin says that he first stumbled across Arthur Stace’s “Eternity” when he was a little boy written on the footpath of CRANBROOK RD in Rose Bay.[2] As a child it just intrigued him. But later as a Christian – he believed it was a wake up call for the world. Consequently, Martin painted an image of Eternity like this (SLIDE 3). This one is now housed in the National Art Gallery of Australia. But he did a bigger version of this. It was 4 METERS LONG AND 1.5 METERS HIGH and believe it or not – it was actually housed here in our church (right along that back wall) – where we used to have the data-projector – from about the year 2000-2010. So the word Eternity has strong links, not only with Redfern in general, but also with our church.

So what is our picture of Eternity. In Eternity God wants people from every nation, language and people group with Him, in heaven.

Point 1:         In Eternity Jews will be Sealed and Saved (by Jesus)

Show:                        Rev.7:1-4 (READ)

Explain:        Well friends, last week I explained that the church must make disciples because Jesus commanded it. Jesus told us – “Go and make disciples of all nations.But today, I want to say Christians should also make disciples – because God has revealed his big plan of salvation to us. We know how the story of the Bible ends. IN THE END only those who have washed their robes in the precious blood of Jesus are saved.

Now we don’t have time to unpack EVERY DETAIL today in Revelation 7. But what we easily see is that in the first half of Revelation 7 Jews are being marked for protection AND then second half of Revelation 7 – people from every tribe, language and people group are being saved. And what I want us to think about today is God’s plan and man’s prejudices. When we go out to make disciples – we have to be open to God saving ALL SORTS OF PEOPLE, not just people like ourselves…

So in this passage today we see God putting A SEAL of sorts on the foreheads of a whole lot of Jewish people. Look with me again at Rev.7:2 (READ; Rev.7:2-4). What the angel is doing is providing a seal of protection. Later in Revelation we are told those who have this mark are protected. Now in Revelation 6 – Jesus has been OPENING SEALS on a scroll and each time he opens another seal – a new calamity falls on the earth. It’s the end of what we might call ordinary history. Man is reaping the consequences of rejecting God and it’s getting bad. But Jesus is about to open a seventh seal in Revelation 8 AND as I understand it – the opening of the seventh seal probably corresponds to the beginning of what is called the great tribulation.

At the end of time (and just prior to Jesus’ return) there will be a period of increased chaos in the world called the great tribulation. (This is also the period when an ANTICHRIST figure of some sort will rule). Now I believe the opening of the 7th seal probably marks the beginning of this great tribulation period.

But just before this GREAT TRIBULATION begins we get Revelation 7. An angel says; “STOP! PAUSE EVERYTHING. We need to put a seal on the Jewish people before the chaos really begins.

Then we hear that 144,000 Jewish people from all the house of Israel receive some sort of mark of protection. I suspect that this may align with what we looked at in Romans 11 which says after the full number of Gentiles are saved, then – “All Israel will be saved.Now Revelation 7 tells us that at the end of time (and just before the great tribulation); God does something to seal 12,000 people from each tribe of the tribes of Israel. Now the number 12 represents the totality of God’s people. There were 12 tribes of Israel and 12 apostles. And 12 multiplied by 1000 represents a totality or fullness of God’s people. Now some people (like the Jehovah’s Witnesses who are not Christians) believe 144,000 is a literal number. But I think 144,000 here represents the whole house of Israel. Romans 11 tells us that at the end of time “All Israel will be saved” AND Revelation 7 tells us that just before the end a full and complete number of Israelites will be sealed for salvation. Now the normal way people are sealed for salvation is through THE HOLY SPIRIT. The Bible says the Holy Spirit is the seal guaranteeing our salvation.

Apply:            The point is – even as God gets ready to end the world – we are told the Jews still have a place in God’s purposes. God is sealing them for protection from what is about to be unleashed on the world. God has not given up on the Jews or discarded the Jews. When we look at Eternity – we see that God still has a special interest in the Jews.

So when it comes to Christian EVANGELISM and MAKING DISCIPLES we need to realize that still includes Jewish people. Now I say this, because there has been a kind of ANTISEMTISM in some parts of the Christian church. In fact, some of the most respected evangelical, reformed missionary organizations have NEVER SENT A MISSIONARY to Israel – even though it has been an independent state since 1948. That’s sad….

My point is that when it comes to making disciples – Jesus’ great commission to go and make disciples of all nations doesn’t preclude Jewish people. Even in the last moments of the world we see that God still cares about Jewish people. the question is; do we? Our making disciples needs to be inclusive of Jewish people AND all people…

Point 2:         In Eternity, we will find all sorts of People Saved by God

Show:                        Rev.7:9-12 (READ)

Explain:        Now what we saw in the previous verses happens on EARTH just before the great tribulation. But what we see now is a picture of HEAVEN (perhaps just after the great tribulation). As far as I see it – this is probably a picture of the interim state – prior to Christians receiving our resurrection bodies. When Christians die – I believe A) we go to be with the Lord immediately, where we wait B) for God to usher in the new heavens and new earth. Now in verse 14 John is told these are the people who have COME OUT of the great tribulation. Now “OUT OF THE GREAT TRIBULATION” could mean A) they have come out the other side of the great tribulation safely – ie they have prevailed through the great tribulation. OR B) it could mean they have been spared from going through the great tribulation altogether. Some Christiansthink the church will be raptured and taken to heaven before the great tribulation begins. But based on other parts of the Bible I think the church will be raptured and taken to heaven towards the end of the great tribulation.

But either way – in Eternity we see PEOPLE from all nations, and languages and people groups standing and worshiping together in the presence of God. This is THE CLIMAX of God’s promise to father Abraham at the beginning of the Bible. Just 12 chapters into Genesis God said to Abraham; (Slide 3; Gen.12:2-3). God ultimately fulfilled this promise to Abraham – through Jesus. Jesus was the Jewish descendant, the Messiah who ultimately died on the cross as a sacrifice for sin. But Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was not just sufficient to save the Jews, it was sufficient to save everyone who believes in him.

So Revelation 7 shows us that God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 12 is ultimately fulfilled. All types of people are blessed and saved by the precious blood of Jesus. This is God’s plan – to save all kinds of people.

Apply:            But are we (as a church) really in step with God’s plan? A) When Jesus first told the Jewish disciples to go and make disciples of all nations it was pretty clear what they were meant to do. But the disciples struggled because they had prejudices towards non-Jews. Peter had to get a vision from heaven before any of the disciples started sharing the good news of Jesus with non-Jews. Then when the Christian church became predominantly Gentile(non-Jews) in the 2nd and 3rd centuries – there gradually developed a kind of prejudice towards the Jews. The Gentile Christian church was happy to take the gospel to all the different nations of the world, just not the Jews. Thankfully, in recent years Christians seem to be more willing to evangelize Jewish people. Praise God. But all this signals the problem of prejudice. Prejudice often stops us from making disciples.

Sadly, in Australia’s history there has been a lot of prejudice towards Indigenous Aboriginal Australians. We can say “no, that’s not true.” But I think for many people it is true. There has been RACISM and there is still RACISM. So if we are going to truly fulfill the great commission and share Jesus with Aboriginal people in Redfern (we have to root this evil out of our heart). Redfern still has a high proportion of Aboriginal people (compared to other suburbs). Now do we want to see aboriginal people saved? More importantly do we want to see them in our church? (PAUSE) Of course, the answer should be “yes”, so we need to understand some of the aboriginal issues and work to break down the barriers so we can share Jesus with Indigenous Australians.

But it’s not just across CULTURES that we are prejudiced. Prejudice often exists between the poor and the more affluent. The wealthy often look down their noses at poorer people (like they are their own worst enemy) and poorer people often despise the wealthy because they seem like self-entitled arrogant twats. But the wealthy and the poor in Redfern are both sinners in need of a Saviour. We often also have prejudice with mental health issues or addiction issues or with certain types of sin. We don’t like certain types of people because they make us feel uncomfortable. So we avoid them OR we talk down to them OR we are plain rude to them. But Jesus told us 1) to love our neighbor and Jesus told us 2) to “Go and make disciples of all nations and all kinds of people.” So some of us need to think about the way we think, speak and act towards others. Remember God’s word to Peter; “Don’t call anything unclean that I have made clean.” (Acts 10:15).  I think (that like Peter) some people still need a vision from heaven to see the arrogance and prejudice with which they view and speak to others. None of us are better. None of us are worse. We are ALL SINNERS who need to come to Jesus. But our own prejudices and arrogance often hinders this process. All too often the way we speak and act hinders the process of making disciples. If we want to make disciples we actually need to learn to love and respect our neighbor – even in their brokeness…

Point 3:           In Eternity, we will ALL Praise God together for the Blood of the Lamb

Show:                        Rev.7:14-17 (READ)

Explain:        Well I just want you to notice THE CONNECTION between verses 14 and 15. Halfway through verses 14 it says “they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, THEREFORE “they are before the throne of God and serve Him day and night in the temple…” Friends, it is ONLY THROUGH THE BLOOD OF JESUS that any of us can approach the throne of God and serve Him. It is ONLY THROUGH THE BLOOD OF JESUS’that we can be washed clean. Our sins make us filthy in God’s eyes. In the spiritual realm all of us – are like dirty beggars on the streets. In the spiritual realm – all of us are like the lowest caste in the Hindu caste system – the untouchables.

But in Jesus – God came and touched us. THE PENALTY OF SIN (of uncleaness) – is that we deserve to die and be separated from God forever. HOLINESS and UNCLEANESS can’t mix. But when Jesus died on the cross he took the penalty upon himself and died in our place so we can be spared. SYMBOLICALLY, A) Jesus takes our filthy robes and puts them on himself accepting the consequences AND IN EXCHANGE B) he gives us his perfect robe of righteousness so that we can approach God and come into His presence.

THIS IS GOD’S GIFT TO US – when we believe in Jesus. It is not something EARN by being better than others. It is simply God’s gift to everyone who truly believes in Jesus – which means there is absolutely no CASTE SYSTEM in Christianity. There is no one worse than anyone else AND no one better than anyone else. Now this goes on and says all these different people who have washed their robes in the precious blood of Jesus receive the same blessings in heaven.

Never again will they hunger.

Never again will they thrist.

Jesus will be their shepherd

He will lead them by springs of living water

He will wipe every tear from our eye.

This is absolutely awesome. This is Eternity. Everyone is equally in need of Jesus’ blood and everyone is equally blessed. But let’s be clear – this is ONLY for those who wash their robes in the precious blood of Jesus. THEREFORE, means therfore. Access to the blessings of Eternity is ONLY through the blood of Jesus.

APPLY:         So if we care about our non-Christian friends and all the different people of Redfern we need to share Jesus with them. BUT NOT JUST JESUS. We need to share the blood of Jesus with them. We need to help people understand what Jesus did for them as he died on the cross.

He took our sinful, filthy robes upon himself and died for our wrongs AND in exchange he gave us his perfect, white righteous robes – so that we are fit for heaven. This is the message we must share with others. But we must do this with ZERO PREJUDICE. We need to do this as one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread. Like people living roughwe need to love one another enough to tell each other – there is this great soup kitchen down the road – where you can find eternal life in Jesus.

But sadly, prejudice AND blindness often prevents us from even seeing some of the people God is bringing across our path. Many church’s fail to see the Arthur Staces of this world. Many churchs fail to incorporate the slightly eccentric Martin Sharps of this world. Or worse yet, we get to some of these people and share Jesus with them – but we then treat them like second class citizens so that they take offence and leave our church (just after being born again). We need to remember that making disciples is not just 1) about getting people into the baptismal pool. Making disciples is about 2) helping people grow up and become mature in Christ. But sometimes pride (and sometimes just plain rudeness) – works against us making disciples.

I just want us to take a moment to examine our hearts. Have you been helping us to make disciples as a church OR has some of your conduct and speech been hindering us from making disciples? Perhaps you are white and you hold prejudices to dark skinned people (or vice versa)? Perhaps you hail from Taiwan or you’re an Uighur and you dislike mainland Chinese (or vice versa). Perhaps, you are a tough man and you intentionally talk down to effiminate men every time you meet them. Maybe you don’t like Middle-Easterners or Germans or bikies or hipsters or whatever. If you know there are prides or prejudices that may hinder you making disciples – ask Jesus to FORGIVE you and ask Jesus to HELP you see all people simply as sinners in need of a Saviour. No better than you and no worse than you. For only then – will we truly be in step with God’s great plan to save the people’s of this world…

[1] https://www.eternitynews.com.au/archive/mr-eternity-artist-martin-sharp-kept-eternity-story-alive/

[2] https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/archived/spiritofthings/5131110

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