God is harvesting his saints in death. He plants seeds, waters them and harvests them. Leithart adds that the blood of the martyrs is not simply the seed of the church, “it is also the founding blood of a new world.” God sprinkles his seeds and collects them at the harvest as a fruitful and plentiful innumerable number.
Peter Leithart adds that “musical instruments and a sung liturgy are a musical confession that the Lamb is on the throne…unmusical worship is a confession that “Jesus is not Lord” (335).
Then one of the elders addressed me, saying: “These dressed in white robes—who are they and where did they come from?” And I said to him, “My lord, you know.” Then he said to me, “These are the ones who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” For this reason, they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple, and the one seated on the the throne will be a shelter over them. No longer will they go hungry, neither will they thirst again; the sun will not beat down upon them, nor any (scorching) heat; for the Lamb at the center of the throne will shepherd them and guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
A couple of quick notes:
a) There is a strong liturgical element in this text beginning earlier in verse 7. The vestments of this martyred group is liturgical in nature. The word for robes is stolē in the Greek. The color “white” also becomes a liturgical color.
b) “Springs of water” in verse 17 appears later in chapter 14 when speaking of God’s control of all creation. The springs is a source of life for sojourners.
c) This post tribulation scenario involves the Lamb providing shepherding for his people. Hence, the heavenly realm still is incomplete until the parousia.
Leirthart translates Revelation 14:6 & 7b as: “And I saw another angel flying in mid-sky heaven, having an eternal gospel to gospelize those who dwell on the land…because the hour of judgment has come.” The words “Gospel” and Preach” have the same root. a This premise entails that the gospel is meant as a public means of execution to the nations since Revelation is addressing a time of judgment. The Gospel gospelizes not only for the sake of saving sinners but also to bring judgment upon those who trample on the Son of Man. The Gospel is apocalyptic in nature.
- Leithart, Revelation Commentary, 91 (back)
In Leithart’s monstrous Revelation Commentary he points to Robert Jenson’s observation that God is a talkative God. Jenson observes that the first thing the Bible records is that God speaks and creates by speaking. Leithart concludes:
The Father is never speechless, never silent, never lonely or taken aback, never at a loss of words.
Note: It’s not very common to post writings from others on my own blog, but I have done it a few times in the past as a way of revealing my joy in exposing the profound observations of others. Tom is a dear friend, parishioner, and a capable student of the Bible. He took a single thought from a sermon of mine and developed it to something much better than I could have written.
Guest post by Tom Robertson
“…as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” –The Apostle Paul
“Heaven is the blueprint; earth the raw material.” Uri Brito
Uri Brito is the pastor (my pastor) at Providence Church in Pensacola. The quotation above comes from a sermon he preached a few Sundays ago. The Apostle Paul is familiar to you all. His words were written nearly 2000 years ago from an Ephesian prison. I believe Uri’s illustration may be a little unsettling to the average Christian, especially when compared with Paul’s description of Heaven as “gain” and “far better.” Now, no one believes Pastor Brito is talking about mere drawings and measurements. However, he is at a minimum suggesting that Heaven is a kind of starting point and not the finished product. After all, a blueprint is the plan, not the dwelling place. If this is true, then it follows that Heaven is imperfect. And this sounds a bit alarming.
A Place Where No Storm Clouds Rise?
Most of us – at least most of us in “the South” – grew up singing songs that promised we’d leave this world and fly to a place of eternal and undiminished joy. Our understanding was that Earth is toilsome, a place where we must spend “just a few more weary days.” We all thought Heaven to be a place where “no storm clouds rise”, where “joy shall never end”, “no tears ever come again.” Heaven was not a mere temporary lodging. Yet, scripture teaches that Christians will live in a new heavens and a new earth forever and ever. In fact, all things will be made new (Rev 21:5). We ourselves will be made new; our resurrected and glorified bodies will be fit to enjoy a renewed cosmos (Phil 3:21).
So, we will not live forever in Heaven. In fact, Heaven and Earth were never intended to exist forever as separate places. The plan was always for a unity (See Gen 1 and 2, Acts 4:21, Phil 3:20-21, Col 1:20, Rev 21 and 22). At the moment, however, we are in the midst of a cosmos which has undergone what C.S. Lewis described as The Great Divorce. When Adam sinned creation “fell”; Heaven and earth were “torn asunder” with all the resulting pain and consequences of a divorce.
The Coming Unity
It was Ephesians 1:9-10 – “making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth” – which occasioned Pastor Brito’s comment “Heaven is the blueprint; earth is the raw materials.” God’s plan, said my Pastor – said the Apostle Paul, no less – is to unite all things in Christ, both in heaven and on earth. It has always been the plan, which is why Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Neither Heaven nor Earth is meant to be alone.
Heaven is Imperfect
Does this mean that heaven is not a pleasant place? Certainly not! Paul’s confession, that to “die is” not only “gain”, but “far better” (Phil 1:21-23), settles that. To be sure, the comfortable accommodations of heaven are preferable to a sin-ravaged world. Yet, Heaven separated from Earth is imperfect – imperfect, but not defective. Neither was Adam defective. Yet, He was not perfect until joined to Eve. Just as it was not good for Adam to be alone, it is not good for Heaven or Earth to be alone. The ink pen resting on the desk is not defective, but when taken in hand, put to paper and employed by a master poet it becomes perfect. Similarly, Heaven will become perfect when it is intertwined with a gloriously liberated Earth.
So, until then, we are to do what we can to “heavenify” earth, so says my Pastor – “Heaven is the blueprint; earth the raw materials.” And if we happen to leave this Earth before Christ speaks into existence a new cosmos, we’ve been told by a reliable source that our temporary accommodations will be quite comfortable. For to depart and be with Christ is “far better” says Paul – far better, but not perfect.
I started this many years ago and have been encouraged to continue it. Here is the first:
Revealing Revelation Conference held at Christ Covenant Church of Chicago, with Dr. Peter J. Leithart addressing the book of Revelation in 7 talks. Dr. Leithart says, “Revelation is often read as if, when we turn the page from Jude, we’re no longer reading about early Christian communities in a Greco-Roman world, but about the end of the first millennium AD, or the Black Death, or the turmoils of the Reformation era, or the Cold War, or the War on Terror and Jewish-Muslin tensions in today’s Middle East. So it’s again important to state the obvious: Revelation is a book of the New Testament.”
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