Howard Mooney - Fellowship Meeting - Smeaton Convention - 1986

Revelation 7:13, “One of the elders answered, saying unto me, 'What are these which are arrayed in white robes?  And whence came they?'...'These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb…'”

 

There may be some of us here in this meeting this morning who in the last months have lost somebody who is near and dear to us, maybe a father or mother or brother or sister.   The question that naturally comes to our mind at times like this is, “Where do they go when they die?”  Paul made a simple but very definite statement:  “We go to be with Christ which is far better.”  Then the question arises, “Just where is Christ?”  These verses in Revelation answer those questions.  If you wonder about your loved ones and what experience they are going through and if they are conscious of where they are, the Holy Ghost has left these verses on record for us to know that they are with the Lamb who did so much for them in life, and in death, and He is continuing to do everything for them in eternity.

 

This book of Revelation took on a simpler meaning to me when I discovered that it is an account of the Sunday morning meeting, and, in fact, it is an account of the last Sunday morning meeting you read of in the Bible.  Chapter 1:9-10, John was a prisoner on the Isle of Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony he held.  He was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day and the Lord drew near and they had sweet fellowship together.  The Lord proved on this occasion that it doesn't take a great number to make a wonderful meeting.  There were only three in this meeting:  the Lord and John and the servant that transferred the message.  They had such a wonderful meeting that it took twenty-two chapters to describe it.

 

The story of the first day of the week, the story of the fellowship of God's people of which we have been rejoicing over these days, comes to my mind as I think of this picture, because I can't find anything in the book of Revelation but what God would be just as anxious to reveal to us when we come together every Sunday morning.  Every Sunday morning is intended by God to be a fresh revelation.  During the week, the world is revealed, and the devil, and all they have to offer.  In order to offset that, God has planned the little fellowship meeting Sunday morning, and God gives us a fresh revelation of all He has to offer His people now and eternally.

 

The first thing John received in this meeting was a fresh revelation of Jesus, and then he received a fresh revelation of his own need, which drove him to his knees at the feet of Jesus.  Next he received a revelation of what he could do to help his brethren.  Then he received a fresh revelation of the greatness of this thing and the future of this thing and how worthwhile this thing is.  He saw how kingdoms of this world would be destroyed and how there would be a new heaven and earth. There is a lot in this book that we don't pretend to understand.  There are a lot of symbols that are foreign to us.  Many refer to conditions at that time and have no relation to us today; but generally speaking, we have a picture of every Sunday morning when we come together.  John received one of the greatest revelations he had received of Jesus.

 

I've wondered why the Pharisees, who had absolutely nothing, had such a glorified, happy, contented feeling and the Lord's people, who have everything, had such a needy feeling.  In Luke 18, we read about the Pharisee who went up to the temple to pray.  He was measuring himself by the poor victims of sin down the street.  He was so thankful that he wasn't like other men were.  That's why he felt so good and he had such a glorious feeling in himself.  The reason we have such a poor and needy feeling is because we don't measure ourselves by the poor victims down the street, but by Jesus, and we get the same feeling that overcame John on this occasion, “I fell on my face as one dead.”  Anything that drives you and me to the feet of Jesus is a wonderful benefit because no one has ever perished at the feet of Jesus.

 

The throne is the central theme of this book; it is mentioned thirty-one times--God on the throne and the Lamb in the midst of the throne.  The key to understanding the whole book is found in chapter 19:6, “The Lord God omnipotent reigneth."  This was after the powers had been destroyed that had been such a menace to John and others.  The Lord's people were gathered together in victory.  Read chapter 11:13 often.  After all was accomplished, the Lord God omnipotent was still reigning.

 

I can understand why God gave John the vision of the throne.  There were feelings distressing him at that time.  They were under an emperor who had treated the Lord's people unmercifully.  He had had John arrested and banished to the Isle of Patmos where only the worst criminals were.  John could have been feeling, “What's wrong?  Is this thing going to pieces?”  He'd have feelings that God has launched a program that He can't see through; he'd feel that evil is triumphing over right; and he'd feel that, “I have given sixty years of my life to something that is going to pieces right before my eyes.”  I have tried to put myself in John's place.  That is why God gave him such a glorious picture of the throne and the Lord God omnipotent on the throe.  He was saying, “John, this thing isn't going to pieces, and evil is not triumphing over right.  John, this is just among the 'all things that work together for good,' and this is going to enrich your life and ministry.  At the end of this, you will be able to prophesy again, and you will have a message that none of the kings can talk about”--that's in chapter 10:11.

 

One of the reasons why I suppose it is easy for us to question things when we think things are going wrong and they don't turn out like we expect, is that we're looking at things from a little, limited, selfish standpoint of view, and God is looking at things from an eternal standpoint of view.  Things that might seem like a disaster today often turn out to be the best thing that ever happened, in the long run.  A visiting brother spoke to us along this line.  He cited the captivity of Paul, and he said that you could imagine the Christians saying, “Why did the Lord let that happen to Paul?  Why should a useful servant be so mistreated?  Why doesn't God do something about it?”  While these saints were wondering what had gone wrong, Paul was rejoicing because things had gone right.  In Philippians 1, he told them, “I want you to know that that which has happened to me has worked out for the furtherance of the gospel.”  His bonds in Christ--the bond that bound him to Christ, that made him willing rather to die than to be separated from Christ--were known throughout all the palace.  In what better way could God have gotten the gospel into Caesar's palace?  You don't walk into a king's palace, rattle a steel gate in front and say, “I want to talk to you about the truth.”  Those people in the palace and some of the others around benefited from what they received from the ministry of Paul in prison.  One of the nicest things about the letter to the Philippians is in the last verses, where Paul said, “All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar's household.”  That was a triumphant finish to that effort.

 

Oftentimes we worry at the moment, distressed because something seems to go wrong, and then we awaken to the fact that that turns out best in the long run.  While Paul was in prison, he had time to write some of those most valuable letters to the Christians.  Philippians is one of them.  Today, hundreds of years later, you and I are being greatly enriched by those prison epistles that Paul wrote at a time when those looking on thought it was a terrible tragedy, but God proved it was something that worked out in the long run far better than we could ask or think.  We are today being enriched by the letters Paul wrote at the time of his imprisonment.

 

Before Jesus left His disciples, He told them of things that would take place in this old world.  “Men's hearts will be failing them for fear…and when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, be ye not troubled.  These things must needs be; this is the fulfillment of the scripture.”  He left them with the comfortable feeling in their heart that nothing is going to happen unless He allows it, and if He does, it will be for the good of His Kingdom and His people, and it is for the fulfillment of the scripture and that His purpose might go forward.  So he said, “Don't be troubled, even though others around you are distressed.  Let others know you have a hope.”

 

Jesus gave that wonderful message of assurance to the disciples in Matthew 24:6, and shortly after this, Jesus found Himself before Pilate.  Pilate, gloating in his power looked down and said, “Knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?”  Jesus looked up into the face of that foolish man and said, “You could have no power at all against Me, except it were given thee from above.”  Don't fool yourself; you are not on the throne today; you are just a medium in the hand of God, bringing about the fulfillment of His will.  Salvation was depending on the crucifixion.  John 19:11 connects with Isaiah 26:3, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee:  because he trusteth in Thee.”  He trusts in the fact that the Lord God omnipotent is reigning; he is trusting that nothing will happen unless the Lord allows it, and if He allows it, it will be for the good of the Kingdom and His people, and for the fulfillment of the scriptures, and that His purpose might go forward.

 

I turn to Isaiah 26:3 when I have a tendency to get disturbed.  Romans 15:4 tells us that these things that were “written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.”  That takes in Isaiah 26:3 and the verses of the words of Jesus, and many other forms of assurance God has given to His people.  Isaiah 54:17, “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn.  This is the heritage of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me.”  If you look at the Bible from the right angle, and decipher it from the right viewpoint, you will get hope.  That is the purpose of the Bible.  Even though around us is a hopeless world and so much that is distressing, that does not leave God's people without hope.  If at any time your hope in God is shaken, or your confidence in God's ability is shaken, go back to the scriptures.

 

In this book of Revelation, the throne is the central theme of the book, but the Lamb is the central figure of the book.  Twenty-seven times we read of the Lamb.  No portion helps me understand better all the Lamb is doing for us.  There was a time when I was younger that whenever I thought of the Lamb of God, I thought of Jesus dying on the cross, but I found out there are multitudes of things God has provided for His people through the Lamb of God.  When John the Baptist introduced his first disciples to Jesus, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”  That was a wonderful introduction--that this atonement for sin has come--all those pictures pointing to Calvary are now being fulfilled.  The next day, John and two of his disciples stood and looked upon Jesus as He walked, and John said, “Behold the Lamb of God.”  He didn't add this, but the thought in his mind was, “Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the confusion of the world.”  The religious world was never in a worse state of confusion than when Jesus came.  It was called darkness; people were sitting in darkness with no hope and without God.  There is no greater darkness than the darkness of confusion.  There were many movements of that day--all believing in the true God, and all reading the Bible but all getting a different meaning, and all adding to the darkness of confusion that was already in the world.  While it would be a real comforting message to the disciples when John said, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,” even more it would be a comfort to know that here is the Lamb of God that taketh away the confusion of the world.  Jesus could say, “I am the light of the world:  he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”  If you follow Me:  I am walking that you will know how to walk.  You will never have any questions or doubts and fears, or doubts about the future of this thing.  Walk as I walk, and there will be no darkness there.  1 John 1:7, “If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.”

 

In Revelation 14:4, a good part of that great throng is rejoicing before the throne above.  They are not all there.  These are they that followed the Lamb whithersoever He goeth.  They had never been taken up with the false brides; they had given their whole thought and time over to wholly following the Lamb.  When we follow the Lamb, He is bound to lead us to the safety and fellowship at the right hand of God.

 

At an airport in Pakistan, we saw a planeload of Pakistanis come into the airport looking so distressed and disappointed.  These people had made a pilgrimage to Mohammed's tomb because they get a certain blessing that will carry them into the future.  Their faces were saying, “Here we are following a leader, and the end of the trail is an empty tomb.”  Jesus went to the tomb to prove the power of the resurrection, but His footprints took Him beyond the tomb to the throne of Heaven.  If we faithfully follow the Lamb, it is going to lead us also beyond the loneliness and darkness of the tomb, to the right hand of God.

 

In chapter 17, we have a picture of the Lamb as our defender.  The other verses speak of the Lamb as our redeemer who taketh away the sin of the world, and the example of the Lamb who taketh away the confusion of the world.  Verses 13 and 14 in this chapter are the New Testament equivalent of Isaiah 40:5 where we see the nations as a drop in a bucket.  These were the controlling nations of the world at that time.  The Lamb overcame them because He is Lord of lords and King of kings.  “If the Lord is for us, who can be against us.”  I hope we will all leave here with all assurance that it doesn't make any difference what opposition or powers are against me.  Even though all is united against the Lamb and His flock with Him, the Lamb overcame them.  If you just keep following the Lamb and keep in close touch and fellowship with Him, it won't make any difference what will rise up against you in the future--you will find yourself more than conquerors through Christ.  The devil is an exponent of fear.  He knows that fear has torment.  That is why he would put any thought in your mind of fear--fear of the future, apprehension because the future is unknown.  But we can take home with us the many messages of assurance that if the Lord is with us, it won't make any difference what is against us.

 

In chapter 19, we see the Lamb as our bridegroom.  Verse 7, “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to Him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready.”  Verse 6 is the verse that is the key to the meaning of the book of Revelation.  As a result of that, now, verse 7, “Let us be glad…”  This illustration explains what it is that holds this fellowship together.  People know we are not an organization, and that we have no elected officers and no headquarters, yet we have a worldwide fellowship that is compacted together.  We're held together by love--the same love that bound the bride and Bridegroom together.  It is a love that is stronger than death.  Did it ever occur to you that when Jesus died on the cross of Calvary, among many other things, He proved to the whole world, “I would rather die than let my church down?”  He had given His life for that bride.  Doesn't that love grip you today also?  Wouldn't you rather die, wouldn't you rather face death than to let the Lord down, and let the Lord's people down, and His great work in the world?  The love that binds us together is a love that is stronger than death.  The whole way of God is a way of love.  It was planned in love, it was introduced in love, it was established on the cross in love, and since then it has been held together by the fellowship of love, and one day this will terminate in the greatest love scene this world has ever known when the bride and Christ are united.

 

You remember the Titanic; people thought it was foolproof.  The captain made a very, very foolish statement at the beginning of that voyage, “Even God Himself can't sink this ship.”  Three young Irish couples were on their honeymoon.  This night, when the ship began to sink, the women and children were ordered to get into the lifeboats and the men to stand back.  When the time came for these young brides to say goodbye, they couldn't let go.  They clung on, and according to the one who witnessed the scene and lived to record it, when the cold waves of the Atlantic finally hid them from view, they were still clasped in each other's arms.  That was human love that was stronger than death.  We're thankful that the bond that binds us together with Christ our heavenly bridegroom is a love that is stronger than death, holding this together and propelling it so wonderfully into the world.

 

In Revelation, we also have the full provision of the Lamb to meet every need within.  In chapter 15, they were not only rejoicing over the fact that the Lord God omnipotent had protected them and saved them from enemies without and brought them to that rejoicing place, but He had met their every need.  There had been no lack in their requirements; He took them to the end of the journey--it was all provided through the Lamb of God.

 

In Proverbs 30, we have the words of Agur.  In verse 31, he mentions a king against whom there is no rising up, and the only king against whom there is no rising up is the king that is doing more for his people than they expect.  Agur saw that the only king that fits into the picture is our King, Jesus.  He is constantly loading us with benefits and doing for us far beyond what we could ask or think.  When we come to the end of a convention, we don't feel like rising up against Him, but we feel like rising up to put more into it than we ever have before.

 

In Revelation, we read of the great multitude of people rejoicing, and the Lamb was still in the midst of them; the Lamb that had lived for them, and the Lamb that had taken away the confusion of the world, and the Lamb that had died for them to take away the sins of the world, and the Lamb that had stood beside them to protect them from the dangers of the world--that Lamb was still with them.  These verses weren't put there to fill in space or stimulate a false hope; they are recorded by the help of the Holy Spirit so that we would have the comfort of knowing what our loved one is rejoicing in today and where they are. The Lamb is still leading them and feeding them and bringing them to the place where God Himself will wipe away all tears.

 

The question was asked, “Who are these…these are they which came out of great tribulation and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb?”  “Tribulation” is a derivative of the word tribulam, referring to threshing wheat.  It is referring to separation, experiences where God can separate the wheat from the chaff, from things we no longer need, and bring us closer to the One who has given Himself for us.

 

Separation is a vital part.  Whenever I look upon that piece of bread on Sunday morning, I think of separation.  Many kernels of wheat were separated, and as a result, it was made into a loaf and used to put us in remembrance of Him.  When I partake of that, I am not only expressing a real appreciation for the One who was willing to be separated wholly to the will of God, I am also testifying to the fact that I am willing for the same separation.  The Lord said, “If you are willing for that, here is the cup.  This will remind you that every provision is made whereby your sins can be blotted out, and your sins are buried in the sea of forgetfulness.  These around that throne had come through that avenue.  They were made clean by the blood of the Lamb.  The Lamb made all the provision, and He was still making provision.  We hope that every Sunday morning meeting this coming year will be as beneficial as that one John had on the Isle of Patmos.

 

Hymn 311:

 

LIGHT AFTER DARKNESS

 

Light after darkness, Gain after loss,

Strength after weakness, Crown after cross;

Sweet after bitter, Hope after fears,

Home after wand'ring, Praise after tears.

 

Sheaves after sowing, Sun after rain,

Sight after myst'ry, Peace after pain;

Joy after sorrow, Calm after blast,

Rest after weariness, Sweet rest at last.

 

Near after distant, Gleam after gloom,

Love after loneliness, Life after tomb;

After long agony, Rapture of bliss,

Right was the pathway leading to this.