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Revelation’s Seventh Beautiful Beatitude
Revelation 22:14


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost—September 19, 2010

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

This morning we conclude our sermon series on “Revelation’s Seven Beautiful Beatitudes” as printed on the back of the bulletin:

“Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.”

“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.”

“Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed.”

“Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!”

“Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them.”

“Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book.”

And, today our final meditation is on “Revelation’s Seventh Beautiful Beatitude,” from today’s Epistle Reading:

“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.”

In “Revelation’s Seventh Beautiful Beatitude” we see how the last chapters of the Bible go back to the very first chapters of the Bible.  Because, the Bible is not just a haphazard jumble of ancient writings.  It is all one, interconnected story, inspired by one divine Author.  And, so, the last chapters of Revelation are really the climactic conclusion of the epic story begun in the first chapters of Genesis.

Genesis tells us that in the Garden of Eden, the Lord planted two special trees in the middle of the garden: the Tree of Life, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  “And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden;  but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.’”

Why was this restriction put into place?  Martin Luther comments that obeying this one command God gave them was Adam and Eve’s way of worshipping God.  “Here we have the establishment of the church . . . without walls,” Luther says.  “This tree . . . would have been the church at which [they] would have gathered on the Sabbath day. . .  this Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was Adam’s church, altar, and pulpit. Here he was to yield to God the obedience he owed, give recognition to the Word and will of God, give thanks to God, and call upon God for aid against temptation.”

But, instead, of worshipping God by keeping this one command, Adam and Eve listened to the serpent Satan, disobeyed, and ate the forbidden fruit.  By their sinful disobedience they brought sin and evil and all its consequences, into our world as a whole, and across the intervening millennia down to each of us in our lives.  The Apostle Paul puts it this way in Romans: “Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.”

One of the consequences of this fall into sin is that humanity was put out of paradise and could no longer eat of the Tree of Life: “And the Lord God said, ‘The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.’  So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden. . .  After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.”

God did not want us to live forever in our fallen state, to endure for eternity the evil consequences of our sin.  That would be no paradise.  And, so, in the first chapters of Genesis the Lord bars the way to the Tree of Life, and then he puts into action his plan to redeem the world, to restore paradise lost.  “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.”

Through Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, unfolds the story of salvation, God’s plan to send his own Son as Savior of the world.  Jesus of Nazareth was much more than just a pivotal figure in world history; much more than just a great teacher or prophet or religious leader; much more than just a man.  He is the divine Son of God, come down to earth and made man, for us and our salvation. 

“For God so loved the world,” Jesus says, “that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned.”

Jesus said that he “came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  He lived a perfect, sinless life, so that he would be a perfect, sinless, holy sacrifice, worthy to pay for the sins of the world.  He gave his life as a ransom for you.  As Hebrews says, “He appeared to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself . . .  we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

Paul sums up the Gospel beautifully in Colossians: “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things . . . by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.  But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.”

God the Father accepts the sacrifice of his Son for you, as payment for all your sins.  On account of Christ, your sins are all forgiven, you are now holy in God’s sight, without blemish, and free from accusation.  As the Apostle Peter says in Acts, “Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” 

“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.”  The seventh chapter of Revelation uses this same imagery to describe those who have faith in Jesus: “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”  The Apostle John puts it this way in his First Epistle: “The blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanse from every sin. . .  He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”

“Blessed are those who wash their robes.”  When I was a child my mother had a set of dishtowels that showed the traditional chores for each day the week: Friday was cleaning day, Wednesday sewing day, Saturday baking day, and Monday was wash day.  Today is Sunday, but it is wash day for you.  For, Jesus invites you today to wash away your sins and make yourself white in his blood.  “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.”  Oh, what a happy ending!  The flaming sword is extinguished.  The guardian cherubim fling open the gates to paradise and you are invited in. 

Oh, what a happy ending!  The epic story that began with the fall of humanity in the first chapters of Genesis has its climactic conclusion with the restoration of all things in the last chapters of Revelation.  Paradise restored; everything finally put right again; you will enter and eat of the Tree of Life and live forever, as God intended, in perfect peace and joy.

“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.”  The first paradise, in Genesis, is described as a perfect earthly garden.  The final paradise, in Revelation, is described as a perfect heavenly city.  “The Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God . . . ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men. . .  they will be his people, and God himself with be with them and be their God.  He will wipe away 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.”

“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.”  Blessed are you, for you are washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb.  Blessed are you, for you are granted by God the right to eat of the Tree of Life and so live forever.  Blessed are you, Christ opens to you the way to paradise, the gates of heaven standing waiting for you to enter in.  “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.”

Oh, what a happy ending to your life.  Oh, what a happy ending to story begun back in Genesis.  Oh, what a happy ending to “Revelation’s Seven Beautiful Beatitudes.”

Amen.

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