Sealed By God In Holy Baptism
May 11, 2019 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras
Verse: Revelation 7:3
This sermon was corrected by it author on May 16, 2019. In the original I wrongly identified the Beast of Revelation with the devil. Revelation's Beast is not the devil himself, but the "devil's envoy." As Jesus is God's Anointed One who came to earth to do God's will, the Beast is his polar opposite: come to do the will of the devil.
Christ Lutheran Church
May 12, 2019
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
Sealed By God in Holy Baptism
And I watched as he opened the sixth seal, and as he did the earth quaked violently and the sun went black as sackcloth, and the whole moon became like blood; the stars fell from the sky to the earth like a fig tree drops its winter fruit when it is shaken by a mighty wind. And the sky vanished like a scroll that rolls up and every mountain and island was moved from its place.
Then the kings of the earth, and the magnates and the mighty military men and the rich, along with the poor both slave and free, hid themselves in caves and beneath the rocks of the mountains begging the mountains and the rocks, "Fall upon us, and hide us from the face of the One seated upon the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb. For the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to withstand?”
After this I saw four angels stationed at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth so that no wind should blow upon the earth, or the sea, or upon any tree. Then I saw another angel rising up out of the east who had the seal of the Living God. And he cried out with a mighty voice to the four angels to whom the power was granted to bring harm to the earth and the sea saying, "Do not harm the earth, neither the sea nor the trees until we should seal the worshipers of our God upon their foreheads." And I heard the number of those sealed, one hundred and forty four thousand, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel. Revelation 6:12–7:4)
Beloved in Christ you are the 144,000!
You have received the seal of the living God: the seal is your baptism!
On the “great day of wrath” that we hear of in today’s epistle all men will lose their courage. Their desperate philosophies and swaggering rhetoric will vanish like a moth over flame. And according to St. John’s vision they will hide themselves in caves and beg the mountains to fall on top of them, to cover and shield them from the face of Jesus who is seated upon the throne.
But you “will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked.” (Ps. 91:8)
You will not lose courage but will rejoice with unspeakable victory as you take your place before the throne of the Lamb and join heaven’s never-ending liturgy.
You will not need to call to the mountains to hide you because God himself will: shelter you in his presence. You will no longer hunger or thirst because the Lamb on the throne will shepherd you, and God will wipe away every tear from your eyes.
We gain this good promise from the Book of Revelation which is the most precious, and at the same time, most abused book of all Scripture.
As governments enact child labor laws to prevent the misuse and abuse of children; one wonders if the church could not enact similar statutes to prevent the abuse of this dear book.
In some quarters of the church it gets no love at all – while in others they can talk about nothing else. But, like children pining away in a Singapore sweat-shop, they force it to do things it was never meant to do.
The first problem we mentioned, that of ignoring the book, has been somewhat remedied by the church’s three year lectionary that came into use about 50 years ago (and to use in Christ Lutheran Church only 2 years ago.) Before that the Book of Revelation was rarely, if ever, heard in the church.
But as we noted previously, this year all of our post-Easter epistles (and sermons) come from the Book of Revelation, and so let us return to the day’s epistle now.
Let us first consider what the angel that had the “seal of Living God” says to the four destroying angels. He calls out to them and says:
"Do not harm the earth, neither the sea nor the trees until we should seal the worshipers of our God upon their foreheads."
These words should fill us with courage, Beloved, because they are a sign of God’s mercy. A sign of God’s patience. The sign of God’s love.
Much of the world, indeed most of the world, is lost in sin and does not worship Christ; but worships the Beast of Revelation who is the devil’s chief envoy; and the Great Whore of Babylon which is the world system. And truth be told even we, who are sealed with holy baptism, are vulnerable to the momentary pleasures of sin.
And they are momentary! The pleasure part of sin, the part that excites our nerve endings and makes our frontal lobes tingle is the bait. The cheese in the mousetrap that looks so lovely, so appetizing, just sitting there minding its own business, waiting to be loved by someone.
But do not go near, Beloved! Because that lovely chunk of cheese will break your neck, and splatter your blood.
And so the warnings of Revelation are not just meant for those who don’t believe in Christ work of salvation … but also for us. To warn us, and to frighten our flesh so that we don’t “play in the street” of sin and get flattened by an 18 wheeler in the process.
It is natural to wallow in our sins. In our adulteries, idolatries and the various pursuits of happiness that we pursue. Natural to shut out any thoughts of God, of judgment, of the “paths of righteousness” or the Great Day of Wrath. The Day that comes even now in small doses. But that will come to the whole earth in a big and unavoidable way: “THE GREAT AND TERRIBLE DAY OF THE LORD.” (Joel 2:31)
The prophets of culture love to frighten us with their predictions of various “environmental apocalypses” that can only be prevented if we stop using plastic drinking straws, now!
But these are only diversions from the real apocalypse that is disclosed to us in Revelation. And the only way to avoid that is to be sealed with the seal of the Living God. To “wash your robe and make it white in the blood of the Lamb” by holy baptism, and to live the baptismal life.
But how does one do that? First by believing the promises that Scripture attaches to baptism: that it “delivers from death and the devil and gives eternal life to all who believe”. Then by hearing the voice of the Good Shepherd and following him, rather than your sinful inclinations, each day.
But what does that mean?
The voice of Jesus is heard in the church, in her worship, teaching and preaching. You will hear no other voice here. No politics. No cultural creeds. No personal opinions. Just the voice of the Good Shepherd from the church’s tradition, to your ears, to your heart, to the everlasting life that Jesus promises and will deliver.
Where there is life there is hope. There is the opportunity to repent and be baptized, to turn from your worldly ways and follow Jesus by living a religious life. By re-orienting yourself and your priorities to the things that we learn from Sacred Scripture. This is the life that follows baptism.
Then no one will ever be able to snatch you from the hand of your God and Savior. Then goodness and mercy shall follow you all the days of your life and you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Amen.