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“Dressed for Eternity”
Revelation 7:13-14


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
All Saints Day—November 1, 2009

Grace to you and peace form God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Today’s message is based on today’s reading from Revelation, part of the Apostle John’s vision of heaven, especially these verses describing the blessed in heaven: “Then one of the elders asked me, ‘These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?’  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 Lamb.’”

Jesus once told the Parable of the Wedding Banquet.  When the king in the parable found one of his guests not properly dressed in banquet clothing, he said to the servants, “Tie him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

The point of that parable is: Those who are not “Dressed for Eternity” in a robe of righteousness will not eat and drink at the heavenly banquet table, but will be cast out in the outer darkness of hell.

You could never be “Dressed for Eternity” with your own good works.  For, Scripture proclaims that in God’s sight, “All our righteous acts are like filthy rags.”  The filthy rags of your own righteousness are torn and tattered by transgressions, stained and soiled by sin, grimy and grubby with guilt.

Imagine standing at the door of a fancy restaurant dressed in such filthy rags.  Do you think you would be let in?  Imagine standing at the gates of heaven spiritually dressed in the filthy rags of your guilt, sin, and transgressions.  Do you think you would be let it?  Or, as the king in the parable said, “Tie him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”?

“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 in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.”  So St. John beautifully describes the blessed in heaven, and YOU are there.  You are there in his heavenly vision, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb, wearing a white robe.

“Dressed for Eternity” in a white robe of perfect righteousness.  A white robe, not of your own making, not woven with threads of your good works, or cut from the cloth of your own righteousness.  But, a white robe of the perfect righteousness of your Savior, Jesus Christ.  “These are they who have . . . washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

“Through him God reconciled to himself all things . . . by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” 

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins.”

“The blood of Jesus [God’s] Son cleanses us from every sin.”

“[He] loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood.”

“These are they who have . . . washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

Through Jesus’ blood and merit, you are at peace with God.  God forgives all your guilt, all your sin, all your transgressions.  Through faith in the Son of God, he removes your tattered, stained, and grimy rags, and dresses you for eternity in the perfect robe of Christ’s righteousness, washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb.  Not because you have earned or deserved it, but because by his life, death, and resurrection, Christ earned and deserved it for you.  As one of today’s Communion hymns says:

“Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness, my beauty are, my glorious dress. . .  This then shall be my only plea, Christ Jesus lived and died for me.”

“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 Lamb.”  That is how God sees you now; how God will see you when you enter the gates of heaven; how God will see you when you are standing with the great multitude before his throne: Washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb.

“These are they who have come out of the great tribulation.”  The “great tribulation” is your life here on earth, the accumulation of so many tribulations, both large and small.  As St. Paul says, “We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.”  “In this world you will have tribulation,” Jesus said.  “But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”

The “great tribulation” is first and foremost suffering on account of your faith.  As Jesus says in today’s Gospel Reading, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

In the seven churches of Asia to whom St. John addressed his Revelation, many Christians were being persecuted and even put to death because of their faith.  And in many parts of the world even today, Christians still endure that ultimate tribulation.

Any persecutions we endure are of a different sort, most often ridicule for not being of this world, not conforming to worldly ways, not succumbing to peer pressure, but, instead, as St. Paul says in Philippians, “living a life worthy of the Gospel, bearing fruit in every good work.” “Blessed are you,” Jesus says, “when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven.”

But, the “great tribulation” also includes much more.  The financial problems and unemployment many people in our nation are facing, that is part of the “great tribulation” of this earthly life.  Conflicts in your marriage, home, and family; troubles at work or school; sickness, infirmity, loneliness, sadness, unhappiness, all the problems you face in your life—all these are part of the “great tribulation.”

“When will it end,” we ask.  “When will all our troubles end?”  “Blessed are those who mourn,” Jesus promises, “for they will be comforted.”

“These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from? . . . 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 Lamb.  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 shelter 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 on 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.”

As today’s other Communion hymn says:

“When he shall come with trumpet sound, oh, may I then in him be found, clothed in his righteousness alone, redeemed to stand before the throne!” 

Washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb, “Dressed for Eternity.”

Amen.

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