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Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
SERMON TEXT: Revelation 7:1–8
Atfer this I saw four angels, who stood at the four corners of the earth. They were holding back the four winds of the earth so that the wind could not blow on the earth, the sea, or any tree. And I saw another angel coming up from the east, who had the seal of the living God. He called out with a loud voice to the four angels who were given power to harm the earth and the sea. He said, “Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees until we have placed a seal on the foreheads of God’s servants.” And I heard the number of those sealed: 144,000 sealed from all the tribes of the people of Israel;
- from the tribe of Judah, 12,000, who were sealed,
- from the tribe of Reuben, 12,000,
- from the tribe of Gad, 12,000,
- from the tribe of Asher, 12,000,
- from the tribe of Naphtali, 12,000,
- from the tribe of Manasseh, 12,000,
- from the tribe of Simeon, 12,000,
- from the tribe of Levi, 12,000,
- from the tribe of Issachar, 12,000,
- from the tribe of Zebulun, 12,000,
- from the tribe of Joseph, 12,000,
- from the tribe of Benjamin,12,000, who were sealed.
Angelic Arithmetic Assures Us
Grace mercy and peace from God our father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
If you are like me you probably did not receive a whole lot of joy from math class in elementary school. Some of you are not like me very fortunately, because we need to have accountants we need to have people who pay attention to numbers in this world because numbers are important. Arithmetic is for many people very reassuring because in arithmetic the answers always make sense. Two plus two is always four. Four plus four is always eight. Eight plus eight is always sixteen. It’s not all this wishy-washy jibber jabber flimflam that we get these days in all of our modern philosophies. While arithmetic in elementary school may not have brought me very much joy, there is a kind of arithmetic that God intends to bring us great joy, and that’s the angelic kind of arithmetic that we get to enjoy once in a while here in the book of Revelation. The book of Revelation is as its name indicates a revealing of something that otherwise would remain covered up. The Greek word apocalypse is the word that we translate as Revelation and it means exactly that. You open up the curtain and you reveal what it is that is standing behind what you actually see.
As we look at the world around us today it is chaotic. We’ve got fires burning throughout the world not only in the United States, but seems to be especially pronounced in the Northwest this year. We’ve got an 8.1 earthquake that just struck Southern Mexico yesterday, and we’ve got hurricane Irma just on the tail of hurricane Harvey and another one out at sea that is already affecting the Caribbean islands that were first hit by Irma just a few days ago. The world seems very chaotic. Some people look at the chaos in the world and they say that’s proof that there is no God. In other people are driven to the Lord and call for his protection, and callout in prayer to him for help. I think that the fact that you’re in church today indicates that you’re one of the latter. You’re one of those who because of the chaos in the world today, because you see the injustice that prevails, and because you see the sin that surrounds you and is even within you. You are here because you see the assurance that only the Lord can give you.
That we are part of something BIG
Let’s look at some of this angelic arithmetic today. Let’s see how the Lord assures us that we are a part of something big. Yeah let’s look at the first verse of our text again Revelation 7:1
After this I saw four angels who stood at the four corners of the earth they were holding back the four winds of the earth so that the wind could not blow on the earth the sea or any tree
The four The number four is repeated repeatedly here. There are four angels. There are four corners and there are four winds. Can we understand this is a symbolic representation of the earth? God uses human language, and he accommodates himself to human figures of speech. He uses human imagery to paint a picture for us in the book of Revelation. So here are the four angels positioned around the four points of the compass. We all know that the earth doesn’t literally have corners, and the ancient people of Israel knew this too, but it literally and it figuratively represented North, South, East, and West. Not only did it represent the four ends of the earth in every direction, but the four winds. Also referred to every direction of earth. And what is it about those four winds that the Angels covering the four points of the compass are are going to do? It says that the Angels were holding back the winds so that the wind could not blow on the earth, the sea, or any tree. Just a few minutes ago I was watching a WebCam that’s positioned on top of a hotel in Key West Florida. It will probably be even more dramatic in the morning if the camera is still there ,and if the lights are on and you can see anything. Tonight you could see the wind toppling those trees are making those trees sway in the wind. Many of the palm fronds are blowing off. I was surprised there was still power with the way the rain was coming in sideways, and seeing the flashes of lightning from time to time. It was a very awesome site. We know-especially these last weeks-we know what wind can do. We’ve seen it we’ve seen the damage on television. Some of us have seen the damage from these destructive winds firsthand. Wind can be very scary. Thankfully the Angels are holding back the worst kind of wind. The worst kind of wind is a bigger thing than hurricane Irma or any other hurricane that’s ever been. We’re talking about the wind of God’s judgment. The wind of God’s judgment upon the earth. What is it that is holding back this wind?
I saw another angel coming up from the East…
This is the place where the sun rises, Ανατολιος Anatolios, that’s the Greek word for sunrise. It’s also the Greek word for the East. He had the seal of the living God. He called out with a loud voice to the four angels were given power to harm the earth and the sea. The ones that were holding back the winds and could release it.
He said, do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees until we have placed a seal on the foreheads of God’s servants.
That we have Eternal Life
As we watch the aftermath and the cleanup of hurricane Harvey in Houston. And as we watch with anticipation and dread and fear the path of hurricane Irma coming up Florida’s western coast, we are filled with a sense the word witnessing something big in history aren’t we? Whenever we live through a big historical moment like 9/11, that will see the 16th, I can’t believe it’s 16 years already. The 16th anniversary of the of the planes going into the twin Towers in New York on Monday. When when we see those things, or when we witness the wars that our country is been a part of. When we mark the days of our lives by disasters that we have witnessed; like the terrible fire that burned through Yorba Linda in 2008, we have a sense that we are part of something that is bigger, but those are all earthly things. When I say that that angelic arithmetic assures us that were part of something big, talk about something that’s bigger than earth. It is as big as God and it is as big as God’s heart of love for you, because that seal that God is holding out for you is the seal of his salvation. It is the protection that he gives to his children. It is the sign of his ownership of you. In the olden days they used to brand cattle. They is to take a hot iron with the symbol on the end of it, they would heat in hot hot coal fire, then they would burn that symbol into the hide of an animal, a horse, or steer. I’m glad they don’t do that anymore. Nowadays they tag that years of livestock, a much more humane practice. So my uncle on his farm, he’s got Hampshire sheep and every one of those cheap as an ear tag. That tag also as a chip in it just like your pets at home probably have a chip in case they get lost. And that ship and the number that’s written on it and with my uncles number his farm number on the back identifies that that animal belongs to Richard Remke. Now you are owned by God and that’s not an insult. God created you so he has ownership of every creature, but God also owns you in such a way that you belong to him by faith in Jesus Christ and you belong to him as a son or as a daughter. So God looks at you and says that’s my child and you can look at God and you can say that’s my father. We belong to one another. That’s how big this belonging is.
We are a part of a wonderful family and that seal that the angel holds that comes from the east.
- That seal is your faith in Jesus.
- That seal is your baptism.
- That seal is the Holy Spirit.
- That seal is whatever sets you apart as a child of God; the means of grace.
When you are baptized probably the pastor made the sign of the cross on your head and on your heart marking you as a child of God. If you were here for the worship service on Ash Wednesday last year and participated in the imposition of ashes, you receive that mark on your forehead, or we also do it for those who don’t like ashes on their head, on the back of your hand, the sign of the cross. We sing in one of our hymns, one of the popular hymns in our congregation, Lift High Across –the love of christ proclaim that all the world may know his holy name.We lift high that cross whenever we let our light shine. Whenever we lead our Christian faith be known. Jesus said that by this they will know that you are my disciples. If you love one another and if we love another person not only will we do what is best for their bodies, but we will also do what is best for their souls. We will tell them about the salvation that God has worked for all people by his innocent life, and by his death on the cross. By his resurrection from the dead. That he is given all people redemption. That he has called all people with his Gospel because he wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. He wants everyone to know that Jesus has taken their sins away so that they by faith hold onto that gift and receive the blessing of life eternal. That is the seal that is on your forehead. In this Angel is holding back the destructive winds of God’s judgment until the very last one of God’s chosen elect people receive that sign and receives the gift of eternal life. God wants you and me to be a part of that something big. He wants you and me to spread the gospel of Jesus, because who knows if you might be the one that reaches the very last saint. The very last child of God to be sealed and then you usher in the day of God’s coming.
That We are under God’s protection
We are under God’s protection and boy does it seem like we need that protection more than ever. Doesn’t it? If it’s not the hurricanes. If it’s not an earthquake. If it’s not a wildfire, maybe it’s a personal calamity or tragedy that circling around in your life. Maybe it’s a terrible disease or an illness. Maybe it’s not you. Maybe it’s a loved one. Maybe it’s something that you see in the news, or something that you see in your neighborhood that has your heart aching. You need God’s protection, and how amazing it is that, that angel who rises from the East with that seal is telling the four angels holding back the winds of the earth, to wait. Wait until it’s exactly the right time. And if God is waiting with that judgment wind until exactly the right time, while he is waiting, while he’s holding that back patiently, he also assures you that everything that happens in the meantime is going to be for your good. It tells us that everything works out for the good for those who love God and who are called according to his purpose. You have God’s promise on that.
Now there’s another very fascinating way that God uses arithmetic to assure us of our eternal life.
I heard the number of those sealed, 144,000 sealed from all the tribes of the people of Israel.
144 as you all you math geniuses you can tell me is 12 squared and you can also tell me that 144,000 is 144×1000, which is 10 cubed or 10×10×10 are you with me so far? A 144 then as the square of 12 represents the same thing that the number 12 does and in the Bible, 12 is used as the number of tribes of Israel. It’s also used as the number of apostles. There are other times too that the number 12 is used in. If it’s in a symbolical book like the book of Revelation, it seems to represent the same thing each time and that is God’s church, God’s people. The 24 elders in the book of Revelation, are the leaders of each group. The 12 tribes and the 12 apostles and the people that followed them. So 144 is the church and 1000 is a number for completeness. Ten (10) is a complete number because you’ve got 10 fingers and 10 toes, unless you’ve been in an accident and you lost one (like my friend Matt), but most of us have 10 fingers and 10 toes. That’s the number of completion. So you get the number 100 that’s a lot of completion, you get the number 1000, that’s a lot lot of completion. Complete number of God’s church and the people that are in it. 144,000 is a symbolic, not a literal number and it represents all of the people of all time that have come to know Jesus as their Savior, by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the word and the sacraments. It represents everybody who will live forever with God in heaven and so that includes you and that includes me.
Jehovah’s Witnesses and some other groups count the 144,000 as a literal group a small group of very select people who will judge the earth. There are also some who look at the 144,000 coming from each of the tribes of Israel and they believe that this is a literal number of Jewish people. Israelites will be chosen at some point in in some great tribulation or rapture or millennial kingdom to be witnesses of the truth and to complete the conversion of the Jewish nation. But each of the tribes of Israel as listed here cannot be literally 12,000 from each tribe. This is a figurative list and God uses this kind of figurative list throughout the apocalyptic book of Revelation. To try to explain this well, when God inspires the book of Revelation and it lists the 12 tribes of Israel, the 12 names are not the same between the two chapters. In fact, I’m very disappointed because of the name that my parents used to call me, because my name seems to be left out from this list of the 12 tribes. You probably didn’t notice because I read it so fast, but you don’t find the tribe of Dan anywhere in this list. You find the tribe of Levi, but Levi was left out of other lists because Levi did not receive an inheritance with the people of Israel, rather the temple was the inheritance of Levi. And you usually don’t find Joseph, but here he is. Joseph is here. Joseph is usually replaced by his sons Ephraim and Manasseh. So taking out Levi, and taking out Joseph, but adding Ephraim and Manasseh we get back to the number 12, even though that’s a different list than the literal 12 sons of Jacob. Are you with me so far? God wants us to realize that this is a symbolic representation of people being drawn from all parts of the visible church God wants us to realize that people from this nation and that nation, and this language and that language, and from this time and this century and another century, people are being gathered in to be his holy chosen elect people. So that we can gather around God’s throne and worship him forever and ever. That will be perfect joy and perfect peace and it is assured to you and me because we have received the seal. We have received the seal of the forgiveness of our Lord Jesus Christ and if you have been marked then you will surely be recognized. You will be known and you will be saved. So even if you struggled with math. Even if you struggled in arithmetic class, you don’t have to know all the answers. The important thing is to know that God has the answers and while we may look at it, at a book like Revelation, the apocalypse, look at it and there are some things that mystify us and confuse us. We don’t have to understand every detail, but we are assured of this, God knows all of the details and God will certainly keep his promise.
Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
SERMON TEXT: Revelation 7:1–8
See Second Lesson Below
FIRST LESSON: Joshua 4:1-9
When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord told Joshua, “Take twelve men from the people, one man from each tribe, and give them the following orders: ‘Pick up twelve stones from here in the middle of the Jordan, from the place where the feet of the priests are standing securely. Carry them over with you and put them at the place where you will stay tonight.’” So Joshua called the twelve men whom he had selected from the people of Israel—a man from each tribe. Joshua said to them, “Go to the middle of the Jordan in front of the ark of the Lord your God, and each man is to lift up one stone on his shoulder. The number will correspond to the number of the tribes descended from the sons of Israel, so that this may be a sign among you when your children ask in the future, ‘What do these stones mean for you?’ Then you shall respond to them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off in front of the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord. When the ark passed through the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones will serve as a permanent memorial for the people of Israel.” So the people of Israel did just as Joshua had ordered. They picked up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, corresponding to the number of the tribes descended from the sons of Israel, as the Lord had instructed Joshua. They carried the stones over with them to their lodging place and deposited them there. Joshua also set up twelve stones in the middle of the Jordan at the spot where the feet of the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant had stood. The stones are there to this day.
SECOND LESSON: Revelation 7:1–8
After this I saw four angels, who stood at the four corners of the earth. They were holding back the four winds of the earth so that the wind could not blow on the earth, the sea, or any tree.
And I saw another angel coming up from the east, who had the seal of the living God. He called out with a loud voice to the four angels who were given power to harm the earth and the sea. He said, “Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees until we have placed a seal on the foreheads of God’s servants.”
And I heard the number of those sealed:
144,000 sealed from all the tribes of the people of Israel:
from the tribe of Judah,12,000, who were sealed,
from the tribe of Reuben,12,000,
from the tribe of Gad,12,000,
from the tribe of Asher,12,000,
from the tribe of Naphtali,12,000,
from the tribe of Manasseh,12,000,
from the tribe of Simeon,12,000,
from the tribe of Levi,12,000,
from the tribe of Issachar,12,000,
from the tribe of Zebulun,12,000,
from the tribe of Joseph,12,000,
from the tribe of Benjamin,12,000, who were sealed.
VERSE OF THE DAY: 1 Timothy (I Timothy 1:10b
Jesus Christ has destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel
GOSPEL: Matthew 16:13–20
When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But you, who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he commanded the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.