Connections 05.12.2019: There’s Someplace Like Home

Revelation 7:9-17

I was sitting at a table with other ministers. We were at a workshop, and the leader had asked us to discuss issues we were struggling to come to terms with.

I was talking about the decision I’d made to return to a former church to serve a second time as pastor. I said something like, “I think my heart was in the right place, but I’m still not sure why I did it.”

One of my fellow ministers who was a pastoral counselor said, “Oh, I know why you did it.”

“Do tell,” I responded.

“You were looking for home,” he said.

I think that was a big part of it.

I’ve been blessed with two homes in my life. I lost one, but I still have the other.

(I’m talking about homes, not houses. I’ve lived in lots of houses, but I’ve had only two homes.)

I had a good home when I was a child and an adolescent, but I lost it when both of my parents died by the time I was twenty.

My Good Wife and I have established a home that’s been going strong for a long time. Between her, our two children, and our two grandchildren, I’ve been blessed and I continue to be blessed.

But I think that at that point twenty years ago when I went back to my former church, to the community where it was located, and especially to the people who made it up, I was still looking for home.

Maybe there’s a sense in which we’re always looking for home. One of the greatest promises that God gives us in Scripture is that God is preparing a home for us. One of these days, we’ll be safely at home, safe and secure. What a day that will be.

Scripture also teaches that God makes God’s home with us here and now. But the great promise is of the home in which we’ll have unencumbered access to God’s presence without any of the suffering, losses, and pains we know. We persevere through them with God’s help. But the day is coming when God will take us beyond their reach.

It saddens me to know that home is not a happy concept for some people because of the pain they have experienced or do experience there. My only negative experience of home is the fear that I’ll lose it; more specifically, I know the fear that I’ll lose the people who are my home. I was afraid of that when I was a boy, and it happened. I brought those fears with me into the family that my wife and I created, but thankfully they’ve not come to fruition again.

I’ll admit that the words of Jason Isbell’s song If We Were Vampires struck a nerve as I listened to them in 2018, the year of our fortieth wedding anniversary:

It’s knowing that this can’t go on forever
Likely one of us will have to spend some days alone
Maybe we’ll get forty years together
But one day I’ll be gone
Or one day you’ll be gone.

Again, for some people thinking of home produces a negative reaction rooted in painful experiences. But the Bible deals in ideals even as it confronts reality. Our feelings about home may be mixed, but that won’t be the case when we get to the one God has for us. When that happens, the ideal will be real.

We are blessed when we find home here. We embrace it even as we know that, even under the best of circumstances, it’s temporary.

But when God takes us home, the circumstances will be perfect.

And home will be permanent.

Discussion

  1. What’s significant about the “great multitude” in heaven “from all tribes and peoples and languages” (v. 9)?
  2. A lot of worship takes place before the throne. How important do you think worship will be in heaven? Why?
  3. The book of Revelation was written to people experiencing persecution for their faith. How might the words of our lesson text encourage them?
  4. What parts of the promises made in these verses mean the most to you? Why?
  5. Read verses 13-14. What lessons might this exchange offer us for thinking and talking about the book of Revelation in particular and about theological matters in general?

Reference Shelf

In rather startling imagery, the elder states that the faithful have “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” How can a bath of blood render their garments white? Here is another example of John’s paradoxical use of language. The idea of the cleansing effect of the blood of Christ appears elsewhere in the New Testament (see Heb 9:11-22; 1 John 1:7). John has already depicted the effects of sin as dirty or stained clothing (3:4; cf. Isa 64:6; Zech 3:3-4). Thus clean clothing represents a cleansed or purified life that is acceptable before God. The background for the concept of blood as a means of atonement is obviously the sacrificial system, in which blood represented the life of the victim. Leviticus 17: 11 explains, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you for making atonement for your lives on the altar; for, as life, it is the blood that makes atonement.” The ritual of the purification offering required that the blood of the sacrificed animal be daubed on the horns of the altar and then poured out at the base of the altar. This act purified the altar (Lev 4:1-35; 8:14-17). Lepers were rendered ritually clean in part through the use of sacrificial blood (Lev 14:1-57).

The “blood of the Lamb” is a reference to the death of Jesus. Through his sacrificial death Jesus defeated the forces of evil and made possible the victory of the faithful (cf. 1:5; 5:9). These individuals have been “washed in the blood,” meaning that they have participated in the life and death of Jesus. For some of the faithful, their commitment to the way of Christ leads to martyrdom. Their blood is mingled with the blood of the Lamb. For others, the demands of discipleship may take different forms, but they too share in Christ’s sacrifice when they align themselves unreservedly with him and refuse to yield to the demands and allures of the power structures and culture around them. Notice that salvation is made possible by the work of Christ—it is his blood, his sacrifice, that “whitens.” Yet faithfulness on the part of the believers is also required. “They have washed their robes,” which is a way of saying that they have aligned them- selves with the cause of Christ and made his faithfulness, even unto death, their faithfulness as well. Only those whose clothes are thus “washed in the blood of the Lamb” will have access to God’s final kingdom (22:14).

Mitchell G. Reddish, Revelation, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2001) 150-51.

Michael Ruffin is husband to Debra, father to Joshua (Michelle) and Sara (Benjamin), grandfather to Sullivan and Isabella. A graduate of Mercer University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he has previously served as a pastor and as a university professor. He lives on the Ruffin Family Farm in Yatesville, Georgia. He is the Connections Series Curriculum Editor.

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