AGCC Sun. a.m. 2/18/2001
#6 (Book of Revelation Series)

TEXT:     Rev. 7:1-17


John reveals the darkness of the tribulation period in our text, a time of great suffering and evil. YET, in the midst of even this great darkness he also reveals the power of the Gospel … a huge multitude find Christ as their Lord and savior! This is the picture of the gospel all through the ages, even in the dark ages. Whenever the world becomes a dark place the light of the Gospel continued to shine, Satan cannot overwhelm the light of the gospel. As Christ's coming approaches, the darkness is penetrated by the power of the gospel, there will be a multitude who will respond even as the end approaches. ILLUS:My horse invariably comes home in less time than he makes on the journey away. He pulls the carriage with a hearty good will when his face is toward home. Should not I also both suffer and labor the more joyously because my way lies toward heaven, and I am on pilgrimage to my Father's house, my soul's dear home and resting place? -- Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Quotable Spurgeon, (Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, Inc, 1990) We see hope even in the midst of darkness, the devastation of Satan will cause some to look for a better solution, one they will find in Christ. Why does God allow suffering and tribulation in this world? So we will turn from darkness toward His light. Satan is not in control, God is! PROP. SENT:      The Bible clearly teaches us that at no time will evil triumph over good, even though for a time it may appear this way. God's love will find a way to reach the lost, even in the darkest of times!

I. GOD'S PLAN       7:1-3

A. Comprehensive     7:1a 1. God's plan covers the whole world, indeed everything! a. "After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth…" b. The idea here is that God is concerned about the whole planet! 2. God's love and concern is not limited to only a portion of the planet, or a specific period of time … His love covers all time, all places. a. God does not abandon His creation, it may turn away from Him but He does not turn away from it. b. Even during the tribulation period on Earth God is watching out for the whole planet, Satan does not have free reign! ILLUS:God governs in the affairs of men; and if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, neither can a kingdom rise without his aid. - Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) - Edythe Draper, Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992). Entry 4933 c. It is God's nature to care … even when man turns his back on God! 3. Satan believes he has triumphed, that he is in control … but he is deluded by his own pride. a. Such pride of self importance is the basis of all sin. b. Such independence from God is what makes a man believe he is in control, that he is his own master. c. Such arrogance is at the root of all sin! 4. While those on the Earth think they are ruling however, it is really God who is in control of all things! ILLUS:At the board meeting: "So the vote is as follows: Larry, Ruth, Dan, Sid, and Marcia are for the proposal. God and I are against." -- Cartoonist Joseph Farris in Leadership, Vol. 9, no. 3. B. Control     7:1b-3 1. God limits the damage on the planet, even when the AntiChrist is in full power! a. The foolishness of pride is that we believe we are taking care of everything by our own strength. b. The truth be told, God is fully in control of what is happening in the universe, there is no time when His hands are tied. 2. God's purposes for establishing His kingdom will not fail ... this is the confidence of faith. a. We do not have to fear the future, God will always be in control of it. b. Even the greatest wickedness of man's scheming cannot undo or block the purposes of God. 3. This is the aspect about God that the world has a hard time swallowing … that God permits man to express evil … and yet such expressions do not undermine God's will for the future! a. God uses such painful times for positive results in those who walk by faith! ILLUS:Pearls are the product of pain . . . a precious, tiny jewel conceived through irritation, born of adversity, nursed by adjustments. Some oysters are never wounded . . . and those who seek for gems toss them aside, fit only for stew. - Charles R. Swindoll (1934- ) - Edythe Draper, Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992). Entry 10883 b. The amazing power of grace is the ability of God to take what is painful and produce spiritual wealth from it. c. Even in the tribulation period (as in all times of tribulation!) God's powerful grace is at work to transform what would appear to be losses into gains! 4. As God did with Job, He continues to control the powers of Satan even in the worst moments of history. a. It is hard to see this during such times of darkness however! b. It is not easy to find God's purposes within the single incidents of life, it is seen in the over all picture however! c. God considers the big picture and is always at work for our good, even when we can't see or feel any good in a moment of darkness. 5. We must guard against despair that comes when we can't combine all the works of God into a single unit … and trust Him even in the midst of the dark pieces of time. One day we will appreciate the whole picture and understand His purposes. ILLUS:When complimented on her homemade biscuits, the cook at a popular Christian conference center told Dr. Harry Ironside, "Just consider what goes into the making of these biscuits. The flour itself doesn't taste good, neither does the baking powder, nor the shortening, nor the other ingredients. However, when I mix them all together and put them in the oven, they come out just right." Much of life seems tasteless, even bad, but God is able to combine these ingredients of our life in such a way that a banquet results. -- Greg Asimakoupoulos in Fresh Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching (Baker), from the editors of Leadership. 6. God will never lose control of mankind … even when Satan is at his height of power … God is still the master! If this is true at the end of time it is also true right now! II. GOD'S PEOPLE     7:4-17 A. Conversions     7:4-14 1. God's plans are built around His love for His people! a. Even in the worst of times such as the tribulation period we see God acting around those who belong to Him! b. God will preserve a remnant … as He promised to Abraham. 2. We see in this text God's faithfulness to His promises to Abraham, there will be a Jewish remnant saved in the Tribulation period. a. The figure doesn't have to be taken literally as 144,000 … this multiple of 12 may simply indicate God's perfection, He will save perfectly those who turn to Him from Abraham's seed. b. One interesting note on the list of 12 tribes is that the tribe of Dan is missing completely … Manasseh is listed and Joseph to make the number as 12 tribes while eliminating the tribe of Dan. Dan was noted for its constant idolatry, and this may be why it is left out … or another theory is that the AntiChrist comes from the tribe of Dan. c. The important feature here however is that God will redeem those who come to Him even in the deepest darkness! 3. There will be hope even in the presence of the AntiChrist ruling … Christ will still seek to save the lost. a. Those who are sealed by the AntiChrist will be lost, but Christ will also find a remnant to seal, those whom He will save. (7:3) b. This vast group of Jewish believers will become the witnesses of Christ's gospel in these last days of tribulation. 4. The good news in this evil time is that this remnant of Jewish believers take the Gospel to the whole world and there will be a great host of people saved from every tribe, every nation, and every tongue. (7:9,14) 5. God's love and power has not diminished under Satan's terrible attempts to destroy God … in fact, the saving power of God is still very much at work in the world. a. There will be those who realize that their only hope is in Christ! b. Sometimes it takes this drastic darkness for men to realize their need of a Savior! ILLUS:The Pilgrims would not fully understand in their lifetime the reason for the suffering that beset them. The first official Thanksgiving Day occurred as a unique holy day in 1621--in the fall of that year with lingering memories of the difficult, terrible winter they had just been through a few months before, in which scores and scores of babies and children and young people and adults had starved to death, and many of the Pilgrims had gotten to a point where they were even ready to go back to England. They had climbed into a ship and were in that harbor heading back to England, ready to give up. It was only as they saw another ship coming the other way, and on that ship there was a Frenchman named Delaware, and he came with some medical supplies and some food, that they had enough hope to go back and to try to live in the midst of those adverse sufferings. And yet they came to that first Thanksgiving with the spirit of giving and of sharing. -- Ron Lee Davis, "Rejoicing in Our Suffering," Preaching Today, Tape No. 74. 6. If Christ can be found in the midst of horrible evil, surely He can be found right now! 7. Do you feel alone, empty, deserted, struggling in the darkness and wondering where God is? a. He is here, right now, waiting to come in … b. He responds to faith, so trust in Him and His purposes even when the outcome looks bleak. c. God cannot disappoint, indeed He is faithful! 8. Does this mean that everything goes well after finding Christ? a. Many of these believers will suffer martyrdom for accepting Christ during this time. b. Comfort isn't the goal of faith, commitment is! c. In the face of persecution and even death there will be men and women who will stand up in faith to be counted … their comforts in this world secondary to their commitment to Christ for eternity. d. Living for God is not a matter of being pain free in the here and now, it is a commitment of our lives to Christ NO matter the present cost. 9. When the elder asks John who all these believers are, and where they come from John simply responds, "Sir, you know." The elder then identifies these blood bought saints: "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." 7:14 a. Notice the elder is careful not to say that they have washed their own robes … they are washed only by the blood of the lamb. b. Even in the midst of great tribulation God's plans are at work. c. God is in control of all things … working out everything for the sake of His people. 10. God has a plan for your life, if you come to Him He will not abandon you, He will not allow darkness to overtake your life, He will be there in the midst of the greatest tribulation of your life. a. Why not trust Him? b. You don't have to wait until tomorrow! B. Celebration     7:15-17 1. John concludes this parenthesis between the 6th seal and the 7th seal with this wonderful picture of the redeemed of God worshipping Him, even those who have come through the great tribulation. a. The final outcome for believers is one of great celebration and victory. b. Though beaten and battered on earth, these saints now reside in heaven with the reward of the righteous. c. Not all the scales of justice show up in the here and now … but faith will NOT go unrewarded in eternity. 2. The former pains and sufferings will disappear in Heaven. a. Knowing this NOW helps us to endure what comes now and later. b. It is this knowledge that gives our present existence meaning … and with meaning we can handle about anything that comes our way! ILLUS:When Jewish psychiatrist Victor Frankl was arrested by the Nazis in World War II, he was stripped of everything--property, family, possessions. He had spent years researching and writing a book on the importance of finding meaning in life--concepts that later would be known as logotherapy, When he arrived in Auschwitz, the infamous death camp, even his manuscript, which he had hidden in the lining of his coat, was taken away. "I had to undergo and overcome the loss of my spiritual child," Frankl wrote. "Now it seemed as if nothing and no one would survive me; neither a physical nor a spiritual child of my own! I found myself confronted with the question of whether under such circumstances my life was ultimately void of any meaning." He was still wrestling with that question a few days later when the Nazis forced the prisoners to give up their clothes. "I had to surrender my clothes and in turn inherited the worn out rags of an inmate who had been sent to the gas chamber," said Frankl. "Instead of the many pages of my manuscript, I found in the pocket of the newly acquired coat a single page torn out of a Hebrew prayer book, which contained the main Jewish prayer, "Shema Yisrael" (Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one God. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.) "How should I have interpreted such a 'coincidence' other than as a challenge to "live" my thoughts instead of merely putting them on paper?" Later, as Frankl reflected on his ordeal, he wrote in his book Man's Search for Meaning, "There is nothing in the world that would so effectively help one to survive even the worst conditions, as the knowledge that there is a meaning in one's life. ... 'He who has a "why" to live for can bear almost any "how".'" -- Unknown, Leadership, Vol. 4, no. 3. 3. There will come a time when all sorrows will be erased, when all the sufferings of this world will pale in comparison to the rewards of eternity. a. When tough times come, even when there seems to be no justice now for sorrows suffered, remember that God doesn't always settle the accounts on this side of eternity. b. God takes notice of everything, and He is always in control … we need not despair even when the forces of darkness are pressing in on every side … the final outcome is victory for the saints of God! 4. Will be you be among that number around the throne of God celebrating? YOU CAN BE! CONCLUSION:   In the midst of tribulation we would expect a scene of devastation, yet John shows us a picture of God at work in the hearts of men and women who respond to Him. Even in a horrific time God's plan and purposes are being fruitful to win the lost. The power of the Gospel is greater than the power of Satan!