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“These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” Revelation 7:14-17

In this world, the battle rages between those in the kingdom of darkness and those who are in the kingdom of light. And the battle is fierce as the devil and those allied with him seek to destroy the faith of all who hope in Jesus. With his lies and temptations to turn us away from the truth, he seeks to separate us from Christ Jesus and the mercy and forgiveness Jesus won for us when He lived a holy and sinless life in our stead and then went to the cross to pay in full the penalty for the sins of the world.

At times it may appear to us that the battle is lost as we struggle against the forces of evil and are tempted from within and without. We watch as friends and family members fall and turn away from Christ and His Word. Even our own hearts and desires would lead us to eternal ruin. We are spoken against and persecuted for clinging to Jesus and the comfort of His Word.

But the battle is not lost. As the battle rages on here in this world and the Scriptures warn us of the suffering yet ahead for believers, Jesus shows us a vision and picture of the end. He wants us to know we have the victory in Him. The eternal joys of heaven are certain for all who trust in His shed blood.

John writes by inspiration of the Holy Ghost (Revelation 7:9-12): “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; and cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.”

After we are shown God sealing His elect in this world to protect and keep them unto eternal life, we are lifted up into heaven, to the very throne of God, to see a great host beyond number arrayed in white. They are from every nation and kindred and people and language. They, together with the angels, stand before the throne and worship the LORD God and the Lamb of God who has taken away the sin of the world.

And who are these arrayed in white? And from where did they come? One of the elders answered John: “These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.”

Who is it that we see in heaven around the throne of God? It is you and me and believers of all time who have come out of the great tribulation going on here in this world. They are the ones who “have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” They have placed their faith and hope in Jesus; they have come to the cross of Jesus and had all their sins washed away in His blood which was shed for the sins of the world. They have, by the gracious working of the Holy Ghost, come to believe the Gospel – that the blood of Jesus, their crucified and risen Savior, cleanses them from all sin (cf. 1 John 1:7 – 2:2).

It is with all their sins washed away by the blood of Jesus and clothed in the perfect righteousness of Christ that they stand before the throne of God and before the Lamb and serve God day and night in His temple. It is because they have been cleansed in the blood of Jesus that God dwells among them and removes from them all the troubles of this fallen world.

As the Scripture reveals to us, “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.”

Though the battle rages on here in this world, we have seen the end. In Jesus and for the sake of His blood shed for us on the cross, we have the victory. He has shown us a glimpse into heaven and the glory that is ours there for Jesus’ sake. In Him, we trust and rejoice!

O dearest Jesus, holy and precious Lamb of God sacrificed upon the cross for the sins of the world, keep us through the tribulations of this world and preserve us unto the everlasting joys of heaven, for the sake of Your cleansing blood. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible]

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“And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.” Revelation 6:9-11

We are living in the period of the first four seals, with the fifth revealing the souls of the saints waiting in heaven for Judgment Day, and the sixth seal about to be opened, leading into the seven trumpets and seven vials of wrath (Cf. Rev. 6:1ff.; Matt. 24:1ff.).

“And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held….”

Here, much like in Rev. 7:9-17, we see the souls of those in heaven who had been persecuted and even suffered death for their witness to the truths revealed in God’s Word and for their faith in Christ Jesus and His atoning sacrifice upon the cross for the forgiveness of their sins and life eternal.

Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:10-12): “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”

And the saints in heaven “are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 7:14; cf. 1 Thess. 4:13-18).

“And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?”

They prayed for the day of judgment upon the ungodly who opposed God and His Word and rejected His Son, our Messiah and Savior (cf. Psalm 2). They sought God’s perfect vengeance on those who persecuted them for their faith in Christ and took their lives from them.

This should not surprise us, for we too pray for God’s eternal kingdom to come, for His will to be done and for His deliverance from all evil in the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:9-13; cf. Luther’s explanation in the Small Catechism).

And our psalm for All Saints Day requests this (Psalm 149:6-9): “Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand; to execute vengeance upon the heathen, and punishments upon the people; to bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron; to execute upon them the judgment written: this honour have all his saints. Praise ye the LORD.” Cf. Psalm 139:19-22.

“And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.”

Here we see God’s patience, His longsuffering, with this evil and sin-sick world. As Peter writes (2 Pet. 3:9), “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

God says, “Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” (Ezek. 33:11).

Thus, we see that God’s will and desire are that all would repent of their evil ways and look to Christ Jesus and His cross for mercy and forgiveness!

And note that these martyrs were told “that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.”

The Bible clearly tells us “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” and that “evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:12,13). It is why it is so important that we hold fast to Christ in faith and continue in His Word (cf. 2 Tim. 3:12-17; John 8:31-32).

And the number of those who will be slain for their faith in Christ and their testimony to the truth of God’s Word is not yet complete. It could be that we too, or our children, could face severe persecution and even death to follow Jesus and to trust in His name.

We heed Jesus’ warning: “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38; cf. Matt. 10:28).

And we hold fast to Christ because He alone is our Light and our Salvation (Psalm 27:1ff.). “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Act 4:12; John 14:6).

O Lord Jesus, I give You thanks for preserving in the true faith the multitudes of those who have been martyred or died in the faith before me. Keep me in the true and saving faith, trusting alone in You and Your cross for my salvation, and grant that I remain faithful to You unto death that I may receive the crown of life which You won for all by Your death upon the cross and will give to all who hold fast to Your name. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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“These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them….” Revelation 7:14-15 (Read v. 9-17)

In the opening verses of “For All the Saints” (by William W. How), we sing: “For all the saints, who from their labors rest, who Thee by faith before the world confessed, Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed … Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress and their Might; Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well-fought fight; Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light. Alleluia, Alleluia!” (Lutheran Service Book, Hymn 677).

Who are these saints? They’re not only the apostles and other prominent Christians over the past centuries; they’re all who have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ – all who trust in Him and His cross for forgiveness and life everlasting (cf. Eph. 2:11-22; Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:2; Eph. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; Col. 1:2).

And for these and all the saints we give Jesus glory and praise, for He paid the price for our sins and sent His Holy Spirit to regenerate us and bring us to faith in His cross, thus making us His saints – holy and righteous in God’s sight through faith in His blood shed upon the cross for the sins of the world (cf. Eph. 1:3ff.; Rev. 7:9-12).

As His elect, we are sealed and preserved in the faith by the gracious working of the Holy Spirit. He keeps and protects us as we face persecution and trouble in this evil world which is under the judgment of the Almighty (Cf. Rev. 7:1ff.; 12:1ff.; 2 Tim. 4:18; Phil. 1:6; Eph. 6:10ff.).

We sing: “And when the fight is fierce, the warfare long, steals on the ear the distant triumph song, and hearts are brave again, and arms are strong. Alleluia! Alleluia! The golden evening brightens in the west; soon, soon to faithful warriors cometh rest; sweet is the calm of paradise the blest. Alleluia! Alleluia!” (v. 5-6 in LSB).

And when we die – whether martyred or of natural causes – we who trust in Christ leave the tribulations of this world to join all the saints who have gone before us into heaven, to be with those who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb who suffered and died to take away the sin of the world (Cf. Rev. 7:9ff.; Phil. 1:23; John 1:29).

And there we await that day when Christ returns to judge the living and the dead and to raise up and give eternal life to all the saints, to all who have trusted in Him for salvation (cf. 1 Thess. 4:13ff.; John 14:1ff.; 1 John 3:2).

In the words of the hymn: “But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day; the saints triumphant rise in bright array; the King of glory passes on His way. … From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast, through gates of pearl streams in the countless host, singing to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost: Alleluia, Alleluia!”

We thank and praise You, O Christ, for redeeming us and bringing us to know and trust in You for forgiveness and life everlasting. Preserve us in the true and saving faith until we join the saints in heaven singing Your eternal praises. Amen.

[Scripture quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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“Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well-pleasing unto the Lord. Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.” Colossians 3:20-21

It is God’s perfect will that children obey their parents in all things — the only exception being when obedience to parents would cause disobedience to God (cf. Acts 5:29). Obedience to parents, God says, is “well-pleasing unto the Lord.”

This, of course, is one of the Ten Commandments of the LORD God. The Bible says: “Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth” (Eph. 6:2-3).

Such honor and respect for parents and others in authority over us are sorely lacking in our day. Children, in both selfishness and rebelliousness, dishonor parents, teachers and authorities and refuse to obey. Such disobedience and rebelliousness, they need to understand, is not only against their earthly parents and authorities but against God Himself, who placed their parents and other authorities over them for their good.

Disrespect and disobedience toward parents is disrespect and disobedience toward the LORD God. Not honoring teachers and authorities placed over us is not honoring God who created us and placed us under authority.

While it is, sad to say, the way of the world and our own sinful nature not to honor parents and authorities, those regenerated by God’s Spirit will see and acknowledge their own sinfulness in this regard and turn to the LORD God for His mercy and forgiveness won for all by the innocent sufferings and death of God’s own obedient Son, Christ Jesus. And, as a fruit of their faith in Jesus, they will also, with the help and aid of God’s Spirit, seek to honor and obey parents and others placed in authority over them.

Of course, the command to honor and obey parents has another side to it as well. Fathers are not to provoke their children to wrath and discouragement by being overly harsh or mistreating them. This command also applies to mothers, for they are helpmeets to their husbands.

Here, too, fathers and mothers often fail. Instead of remembering that their children are both created and redeemed by the LORD God and that He desires children to be brought to Him in baptism and raised up in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4; cf. Matt. 28:19-20; Acts. 2:38-39; Luke 18:15-17), they treat their children in selfishness and anger, punishing them when they get in the way rather than when they do wrong and sin. And, all too often, parents fail to bring their children to Christ Jesus and neglect to teach them to know the LORD and His Word.

Jesus’ warning is amply clear: “Whoso shall offend [cause one to sin or fall from faith in the Lord Jesus] one of these little ones which believe in Me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matt. 18:6).

Provoking children to anger and abusing or neglecting them and their needs, both temporal and spiritual, is also the way of this world and our old sinful nature. But such behavior on the part of parents, teachers and others in authority greatly displeases the LORD God, who gave His only-begotten Son to redeem not only adults but children, both young and old.

Again, parents and those in authority who have been born anew by the mighty working of God’s Spirit through the washing of water and the Word will examine themselves and their own attitudes and actions toward their children, acknowledging their sins and shortcomings and turning to their merciful heavenly Father for forgiveness and the strength to bring up their children as He would have them raised. In the shed blood of Jesus, there is forgiveness. In the working of God’s Spirit, there is help and strength to change one’s attitudes and actions.
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Dear Father in heaven, mercifully forgive me for dishonoring and disobeying my parents and others in authority over me. Forgive me also for failing to love the children You have placed under my care with Your love, for failing to be patient and understanding with them, for being overly harsh with them, for failing to bring them to You and teach them Your life-giving Word, and for failing to correct them and bring them up in Your nurture and admonition. Forgive me for the sake of Jesus, Your Son, and His sufferings, death and resurrection in my stead. By Your regenerating Spirit, give me the will and strength to conform my attitude and actions to Your holy will. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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“And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.” Matthew 9:2 (Read v. 1-8)

In private confession and absolution, and each Sunday in corporate worship, sinners confess their sins to the Lord God and look to Christ Jesus and His cross in faith for the forgiveness of sins; and, the pastor announces unto them the grace of God and, in the stead and by the command of our Lord Jesus Christ, forgives the sins of penitent sinners. “But who can forgive sins but God alone?” some may ask.

This is what the scribes asked within themselves when Jesus forgave the sins of a man, sick of the palsy. They thought Jesus was guilty of blasphemy because He, seeing the faith of this paralyzed man and his friends, said to the man, “Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.”

Of course, anyone can say the words, but if they lack the authority to forgive sins, those words are but a deception, a lie, a sham. But Jesus proved His authority to forgive sins. He said, “Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house.”

And, what happened? The paralyzed man “arose, and departed to his house.” Jesus’ proved His authority to forgive sins, and He proved that His words to this man were indeed true. This man’s sins were forgiven! He could depart in peace.

And what about the words of your pastor when he hears your confession and points you to Christ Jesus and His innocent sufferings and death on the cross for the sins of the world and tells you to “go in peace; your sins are forgiven you”?

He may not be able to heal the sick or raise the dead, but Jesus did and it is Jesus who commands him to preach “repentance and remission of sins” in Christ’s name (Luke 24:47). It is Jesus who commands His disciples and His pastors to forgive the sins of penitent sinners and to retain the sins of the impenitent as long as they do not repent (John 20:22-23). It is Jesus who said, “Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 18:18).

And notice that pastors do not forgive — or baptize, or administer the Lord’s Supper, or preach — in their own name and by their own authority. Rather, it is “in the stead and by the command” of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus healed the paralyzed man, proving His authority to forgive sins. Jesus even rose from the dead, proving the sufficiency of His sacrifice on the cross to satisfy God’s just wrath against all sins (cf. Rom. 4:23-25; 1 Cor. 15:1ff.; John 1:29). Certainly, He who paid for our sins with His blood and then rose again from the dead on the third day has the authority to forgive the sins of all who look to Him in faith.

So, when you confess your sins to God — whether in corporate worship or in private confession — and the pastor, based on your confession and your profession of faith in Christ Jesus, announces unto you the grace of God and proclaims to you that your sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake, you can depart in peace, in good cheer, for indeed your sins are forgiven by the Lord Jesus Himself — He has the authority to forgive sins! (Cf. Luther’s Small Catechism on Confession.)

O gracious and merciful God, forgive our sins for Jesus’ sake and grant us Your Holy Spirit that we may believe and rejoice in the pardon and forgiveness won for us by our Lord Jesus Christ and promised and assured to us in Your absolution spoken by the pastor. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible]

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