Formations 04.30.2023: When Our Work Is Done

Revelation 7:9-17

In last week’s lesson from Acts 4, we caught a glimpse of the “church militant.” This is the church active in the world and boldly proclaiming the message of Christ despite the world’s hostility.

This week’s lesson shows us the church from a different angle. Revelation 7 gives us a vision of the “church triumphant,” worshiping God in heaven once their earthly work is done.

I can’t help but notice, though, how similar the church redeemed in heaven is to the church at work on earth. John describes it as a multicultural community comprising people “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (v. 9). By the end of the book of Acts, we’ve seen the birth of this world-encompassing fellowship.

The church in heaven is also a worshiping community. They offer unbridled praise to God and to the Lamb, with three separate hymns recorded in verses 10, 12, and 15-17. They sing with a loud voice (v. 10), falling on their faces in adoration (v. 11). They hold nothing back. They praise God with all that they have and all that they are. If this kind of exuberant worship is the pattern of heaven, I can only wonder what that should teach us about how to worship God on earth.

Finally, John describes this countless multitude as a redeemed community. “These are they,” the elder declares, “who have come out of the great ordeal” (v. 14). We can learn a bit about this ordeal from Revelation 6, which gives us a shocking image of conquest, warfare, famine, and pestilence—a world spinning out of control as it turns to anything but God for salvation. In short, the “church triumphant” has seen some stuff. But unlike the church here on earth, now it knows the perfect comfort of its Lord, free from danger and deprivation. “They have washed their robes,” the elder continues, “and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Now they are led by the Lamb as their shepherd.

Without a doubt, some streams of Christian tradition lean on the theme of future hope to an unhealthy extreme. Even I still sometimes have flashbacks to the timelines and dispensational charts of my youth. Even so, shouldn’t the gospel bring comfort? If following Jesus only calls us to pray more, give more, do more…whatever happened to grace?

Christ also offers hope. Yes, in this world, we work. But we also look forward to the time when our work is over and our suffering is past. Passages like this can remind us of this promise. They can be a welcome and even necessary component of a mature Christian faith.


• When have you needed a word of comfort in difficult times?
• How can we balance God’s call to work in the world with God’s offer of divine rest?
• How does the gospel offer hope?

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.


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