After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
15 “Therefore they are before the throne of God,
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
the sun shall not strike them,
nor any scorching heat.
17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
– Revelation 7:9-14 [ESV]
The story is barbed, fictional, but instructive. Not all scientists are atheists. But this story has an atheist scientist challenging God: I can create life. We’re on the verge of doing it. I will prove it. God, indulgently says, OK. Have at it. The scientist picks up some dirt he proposes to use to make his point. Wait just a minute, God interrupts. Get your own dirt!
Scripture is clear on this: “The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof” (Psalm 24:1). His are the cattle on a thousand hills. The gold is his. The mountains are his. He sets the boundaries for the raging sea. Check out Job 38 and following if you want a reminder of the far-reaching implications of all that.
But in these verses from Revelation, all this has been realized. John is showing us what reality truly is, and will be shown to have been from before the foundation of the world. There is no gloating here. There is no need for comeuppance toward those who deny God’s existence or sovereignty. But note well what is celebrated! Just as St. Paul speaks of in Ephesians 1:6, God’s glorious grace is celebrated here. This is not a told-you-so moment. This is a celebration of God’s goodness, love, mercy, kindness, and salvation. All praise to him for sharing these gifts!
Consider the list: Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might. They all belong to God. And he gives them freely to those who love him, who trust him, who serve him, who have faith in him.
And that’s a good thing. For we don’t always fear, love, and trust in God above all things. We fall short. We sin. That’s why the blessing of salvation is so important. The multitude before the Lamb remind us: “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
That salvation is God’s rescue of lost sinners. It’s God’s redemption of wayward fallen creatures. It’s God’s ransom from the devil, death, and the evils of the world. It’s all the doing of God. The lamb was slain for us. He won our salvation by taking our sin, sickness, and rebellious self-defeating actions upon himself. He took it all into his being, and it killed him. But now he reigns. And the salvation that belongs to our God is his gift to all.
Sadly not all want this gift. They want to live under the delusion that they can chart their own course. They don’t want to be accountable. They do not want to admit they need a Savior. We can do nothing about that except continue to proclaim the truth of God’s majestic might and his glorious grace. In the end his might will be fully realized by all, and his salvation will be enjoyed by all who believe.
“Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” That’s a brutal lesson for atheists, but the joyful confession of we who believe!