Let Us Join in Singing the Song of the Lamb
John the Baptizer’s Testimony
Text: Revelation 15:2-4
And I saw something like a sea of glass mingled with fire, and those who have the victory over the beast, over his image and over his markand over the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, having harps of God. They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying: “Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints! Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, for Your judgments have been manifested.”
In Christ Jesus, the Lamb worthy of our praise, dear fellow redeemed:
What is your favorite reference to music in the Bible? Do you like Psalm 95:1? “Oh come, let us sing to the LORD! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.” Or do you perhaps prefer Psalm 98:1? “Oh, sing to the LORD a new song! For He has done marvelous things; His right hand and His holy arm have gained Him the victory.” Those passages celebrate God’s redeeming love and His wondrous power to save. The Bible also quite often encourages us to use music in worship. The apostle Paul, for instance, tells us: “Let the word of God dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Col. 3:16)
Music and singing are often associated in the Bible with joy, excitement, and praise! Those are words, however, we do not often associate with Maundy Thursday. When we think of Maundy Thursday, words like somberness, prayer, and betrayal come to mind. Yet, we are told by both Matthew and Mark in their Gospel accounts of that evening that Jesus and His disciples sang a hymn before leaving the Upper Room and going to the Garden of Gethsemane (cf. Mt. 26:30; Mk. 14:26).
Our text is yet another vision from the Revelation. In this vision we are taken once again into the presence of God in heaven. As the final judgment approaches and God’s wrath is about to be released upon the earth, we see a host of believers singing and celebrating the victory of our God. LET US JOIN today IN SINGING THE SONG OF THE LAMB! As we shall see it proclaims the Lord God Almighty to be our King, even as it should move us to glorify His holy name!
The setting of this vision is just prior to Judgment Day. There have already been three visions of sevens—seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven signs and characters, all of which stopped short of final judgment and which precede a final vision of seven bowls of wrath. This vision of final judgment is about to unfold concluding with Christ’s triumphant return. But prior to its unfolding the persecuted believers on earth are given one last glimpse of heaven—their ultimate destination in order to bolster their faith prior to the end.
What would these final days on earth be like? Why is God so concerned about us? Paul tells us: “...in the last days perilous times will come: for men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness, but denying its power” (2 Tim. 3:1-5a). My dear friends, does this not describe the world in which we now are living? People are so often cold, calculating, and cruel! Let us, therefore, look with perceptive eyes upon this vision of heaven intended to bolster our faiths and help us persevere in faith until Jesus indeed comes!
As this vision begins John says: “I saw something like a sea of glass mingled with fire, and those who have the victory over the beast, over his image and over his markand over the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, having harps of God.” John takes us back to his very first vision of the throne room of God (cf. Rev. 4). There before the throne was that “sea of glass,” but now it is “mingled with fire”—a reference to God’s approaching judgment. Standing on that “sea of glass” are the souls of the departed saints—those same people featured in the vision we discussed in our last Lenten Service (cf. Rev. 14). They were holding their harps and rejoicing in the victory they had already won over Satan’s minions on this earth. These are the individuals who refused to compromise their faith on earth and so avoided the “mark” of the beast and “the number of his name.” Having already passed through death, they were safe in heaven.
My dear friends, let us remember that, unlike those saints in heaven, we are still on this earth and subject to the temptations and soul-trafficking attempted by this unbelieving world. Satan and his followers want to control you and me. They want to place their “mark” on us by filling our minds with the thoughts, values, and approaches of this world. They want us to embrace the number of the beast’s name—666 and worship men rather than our God who is a perfect seven. This is quite simply the religion of humanism as manifested in its many and varied forms all around us. They want to lead us away from Christ, thereby stripping us of any thought of or hope in the future Jesus is preparing for us (cf. Jn. 14:1-3). Remember, that Satan and this world do not care if we maintain some semblance of our Christian faith, if it does not have any practical impact on our lives. Religious trappings can more easily lead to self-deception.
Let us, therefore, listen carefully to what these saints in heaven are singing. John records: “They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying: ‘Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints!’” The saints sing both “the song of Moses” and “the song of the Lamb.” While the time and the circumstances of both songs are different, the content is the same. The song of Moses, which we heard as our first Scripture Reading today (cf. Ex. 15:1-19), is the first hymn of praise to God recorded in Scripture. It celebrates the LORD’s victory over Pharaoh and his army at the Red Sea. The LORD parted that sea, allowed Israel to escape through that parted sea, and then used its collapsing walls to destroy Pharaoh and his chariots. God thereby delivered His people from what appeared to be certain death and destruction. The song of Moses proclaims that the LORD God is almighty and His works marvelous, for God’s power was used to save!
The song of the Lamb likewise proclaims that the Lord God is almighty. It proclaims the Lord God Almighty to be our King! It does so for two reasons—His works are “great and marvelous” and His ways are “just and true.” While the LORD delivered His chosen people from slavery in Egypt through Moses, He has delivered His chosen elect from slavery to sin, Satan, hell, and death through Jesus. No one else could ever have done that. God did it by His great and marvelous work of Jesus’ incarnation. He loved us so much that He sent Jesus to take on our human flesh, so that He might live among us, endure the effects of sin with us, and then suffer the punishment of hell for us. God in grace declares us righteous for Jesus’ sake, justifies us, and thereby removes our sins from us. This act of divine justice has been proclaimed now for nearly 2,000 years. This Gospel proclaims the truths of God providing a genuine liberty leading to eternal life for all who believe it! My dear friends, LET US JOIN IN SINGING THE SONG OF THE LAMB! It proclaims the Lord God Almighty to be our King!
It should, therefore, move us to glorify His holy name! The song of the Lamb now asks a rhetorical question: “Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name?” The answer, of course, is you and me, and everyone else whose minds have been touched by that gospel message of love and forgiveness, and whose hearts have been reborn through the work of the Holy Spirit. The song then states three reasons why this will be the case: “For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, for Your judgments have been manifested.”
First, the song proclaims the singular holiness of God. God alone is holy. We are not. We confess that every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer and as we confess our sins in each and every worship service. God’s holiness stands in judgment of our sins. Yet we need not fear the holiness of our God. Rather we should glorify God’s name as holy and do so with great joy and confidence. Why should we do so? We do so in view of the redemption undertaken and accomplished by Jesus. We too have been declared holy and saints before Him! John writes: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:9). Consequently Paul identifies us with the saints: “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Eph. 2:19). We are privileged to join believers of every generation to proclaim: “Sing praise to the Lord, you saints of His, and give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name.” (Ps. 30:4)
Second, we hear the saints in heaven proclaiming that “all nations shall come and worship before You.” Looking at all the divisions between nations on this earth, one might be tempted to question this assertion, but these saints in heaven have already experienced this as a reality. Think of the earlier description of these saints: “Behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (Rev. 7:9). One of the great joys we possess as Christians in our small Church of the Lutheran Confession is being involved through the CLC Mission Program with over 58,000 fellow believers living on six different continents all worshiping and working to proclaim the same message of salvation to souls. We do not know and probably will not meet most of these people before we go to heaven, although some of us will meet at least some of them through the Mission Helper Program. Think of the even greater joy we will experience when we will one day stand side by side and worship our Savior God! In view of that future, let us glorify His holy name!
Third, the song of the Lamb should move us to glorify His holy name, because His “judgments have been manifested” or made known through His precious word. When we hear the word “judgments” we may well think of God’s condemnation of sin. Those condemnations are real, and they are serious. But God’s judgments also include His declaration that sinners have been made holy through the blood of Jesus Christ. This is the message we have been commissioned to share with the world—“be reconciled to God!” (2 Cor. 5:20b) We would face God’s condemning judgment on the Last Day were we to reject that gospel invitation and place our trust in ourselves or someone or something other than Jesus Christ. But as we abide in Jesus, we can rejoice in God’s judgment of “not-guilty” pronounced upon us all for Jesus’ sake. It is God’s gracious judgment, not any of our own, that gives us the joy, the hope, and the confidence to remain faithful to God in the midst of the many challenges of this life.
The end of time is coming quickly! The persecutions of Christians will only increase as we draw close to that day. LET US JOIN IN SINGING THE SONG OF THE LAMB, for it proclaims the Lord God Almighty to be our King, even as it should move us to glorify His holy name! Amen.