“Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 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.” (Revelation 7:13-14)
When the soothing and slightly haunting Norwegian tune of Den Store Hvide Flok from Lutheran Service Book’s “Behold a Host Arrayed in White” (#676) begins to play on the first Sunday in November, my brain instantly shoots to the funerals of my grandparents. This hymn captures the Revelation text so beautifully. I’ve included the text below for your personal mediation..
In Revelation 7:9-17, we see one of the greatest pieces of Gospel hope that every baptized Christian clings to in faith. As St. John peers into Heaven, he sees “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.” With seeing such a grand sight, John is asked about what his very eyes are beholding The countless throng have come from the great tribulation of our earthly existence and now rest with the Lord. How did they get there? Their robes have been washed by the blood of the Lamb, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Their sins have been atoned for, that is paid for by Jesus Christ on the Cross.
Dear brothers in Christ, your robes have been washed in the holy and most precious blood of the Lamb. In your baptism, your filthy robes have been made as white as that fresh Lake Superior winter snow. Your sins are no more. As you continue in your earthly journey, pastors announce Christ’s absolution to you and feed you His very body and blood for the forgiveness of sins that you struggle with on this side of Heaven.
You are not alone. Some of you have said goodbye to loved ones this past year. As you hear their names read in the All Saints’ Roll Call on the first Sunday in November, remember that you too will be numbered with the saints when you are called home to rest with the Lord. Sing with gusto when the Norwegian tune pops up. It’s okay if your eyes tear up a bit. As Gandalf said at the conclusion of The Return of the King, “Not all tears are an evil.” And yet, we know that the saints gathered around the throne of the Lamb are not crying. Their pain and sorrows are gone: 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. .
Behold a host, arrayed in white,
Like thousand snowclad
With palms they stand;
Who is this band
Before the throne of light?
Those are the saints of glorious fame,
Who from the great affliction came
And in the flood
Of Jesus’ blood
Are cleansed from guilt and shame.
They now serve God both day and night;
They sing their songs in endless light.
Their anthems ring
As they all sing
With angels shining bright.
Despised and scorned, they sojourned here;
But now, how glorious they appear!
Those martyrs stand,
A priestly band,
God’s throne forever near.
On earth they wept through bitter years;
Now God has wiped away their tears,
Transformed their strife
To heav’nly life,
They now enjoy the Sabbath rest,
The heav’nly banquet of the blest;
The Lamb, their Lord,
At festal board
Himself is host and guest.
O blessed saints in bright array
Now safely home in endless day,
Extol the Lord,
Who with His Word
Sustained you on the way.
The steep and narrow path you trod;
You toiled and sowed the Word abroad;
Rejoice and bring
Your fruits and sing
Before the throne of God.
The myriad angels raise their song;
O saints, sing with that happy throng!
Lift up one voice;
Let heav’n rejoice
In our Redeemer’s song! — Hans Adolf Brorson