SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON/Fling Wide the Gates
Thursday, October 17, 2013 1:00 AM
"After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white and held palm branches in their hands. And they were shouting with a mighty shout, "Salvation comes from our God on the throne and from the Lamb!" (Revelation 7:9-10)
Hardly anything here on earth can adequately serve to prepare the people of God for that blessed Day which awaits us in glory. I've had the privilege to participate in a number of wonder-filled services of worship, but I imagine that none of these even come close - in blessedness or beauty -- to that grand assembly of which you and I, as believers, look to be a part one day. But shouldn't our service here (our service of worship) be marked, albeit in a lesser and somewhat flawed manner, by the same pervading sense of joy of which this passage bears witness? Even in our moments of deepest grief, is it not to be expected that the Christian should be sustained by visions of the victory we will help to celebrate?
So often in this life, our 'losses and crosses' conspire to rob us of the joy and assurance we are meant to know in Christ. Our sorrow-filled trudging along this pilgrim pathway quite often makes it nigh near impossible to rejoice and to look ahead, with hope, toward Canaan's happy shore. I find it exceedingly regretful, for instance, that many of the funeral services of the saints so often are devoid (or nearly so) of any genuine expression of triumph. Perhaps the cause for this is that many times a greater effort is given to the remembrance of the man than to honoring the Savior. Nowadays, it is becoming increasingly rarer even to have congregational singing at funerals. The confident singing of the great hymns of our faith are now so frequently abandoned in lieu of other more sentimental songs which seem to be selected more for their ability to comfort us in our loss than to fill our hearts with abundant joy for what our brother or sister, by God's grace, has now gained.
Have you ever given thought to the words of Henry Alford's 'Ten Thousand Times Ten Thousand'? Most hymnals, nowadays, don't even contain it, much to their discredit. Listen to these beautiful words: "Ten thousand times ten thousand in sparkling raiment bright, the armies of the ransomed saints throng up the steeps of light: 'tis finished, all is finished, their fight with death and sin: fling open wide the golden gates, and let the victors in." Now, that's a song worth singing over the remains of a loved one we know to be in the presence of our Lord! Why shouldn't we, at the very point of our severest loss, employ such a hymn to declare our unshakeable conviction that Christ has won the victory over death for our loved one and has welcomed him or her home? Why shouldn't our tear-filled eyes also sparkle with hope and joy as we contemplate the "raptured greeting" our loved one, in the twinkling of a moment, received by the Savior who, throughout his days here, was the chief desire of his heart?
John's vision here truly exceeds his capacity to describe in detail with any degree of adequacy. There simply aren't words sufficiently glorious to explain the beauty and wonder of what he was shown. The congregation was too numerous to count consisting of representatives from every nation and tribe and group of people. What pageantry! What joy! All of them gathered before the Lamb which was slain - Jesus Christ - waving palm branches of triumph and crying out with great shouts of victory. Doesn't it make you want to go? - to be there? Does this image not stir within you an intense longing to be a part of this happy throng of saints whose struggles are over? It does in me!
And what a comfort for us to know, with absolute certainty, that all of us of saving faith indeed will be included in that great assembly - each one whose name is recorded in the Lamb's Book of Life (Rev. 21:27). Alford tried to capture that truth by writing: "Bring near thy great salvation, thou Lamb for sinners slain; fill up the roll of thine elect, then take thy pow'r and reign: appear, Desire of nations, thine exiles long for home; show in the heav'ns thy promised sign; thou Prince and Savior, come." It is our hope that Christ the Lord one day will return to gather us all into His embrace. At that time, if death has not already graciously served that purpose, you and I will be reunited with those who have preceded us. At the blinking of an eye, we shall be dropped down into eternity. No more pain. No more sadness. No more broken relationships. Rather, an eternity of joy and the blessedness of our Savior's rest. Is that not something to shout about? Is that vision of grace not sufficient to bear us up in our 'losses and crosses'?
In the Song of Songs (8:6) we hear the woman asking her husband the following: "Put me like a seal over your heart, and like a seal on your arm." Believing (as I do) the Song to have been written to describe the bond between Christ and the Church, I interpret this request as our desire to know the closeness of our Savior and to have all our fears put to rest by His loving embrace. We crave a calm and assured settling of our faith as God reminds us of His unbreakable promises. That, I believe, is what He is doing here in this text where we are given just a glimpse of the victory party to come. He who has so faithfully carried us through life, assuredly will fling open the gates to welcome us home. Then, even now, let us rejoice!