Summary: Considering the thanksgiving of saints in Heaven assists us to give thanks on earth.
GIVING THANKS IN HEAVEN
“The seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.’ And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying,
“‘We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty,
who is and who was,
for you have taken your great power
and begun to reign.
The nations raged,
but your wrath came,
and the time for the dead to be judged,
and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints,
and those who fear your name,
both small and great,
and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.’”
In the midst of scenes of terrifying judgements that shall be unleashed on earth dwellers, we witness a marvellous scene of praise and thanksgiving. The scene raises the question whether we can we give thanks in days of trouble? Can we praise God even as He displays His wrath? The scene unfolded in our text indicates that not only can the people of God praise Him and glorify Him when He judges evil, but that we shall indeed give thanks when God at last calls the earth to account.
GOD IS MIGHTY — During the Tribulation, after God has removed His people from the earth, and awesome, terrifying judgements are poured out on earth dwellers. The judgements are delivered in three heptads, or three sets of seven judgements. The judgements grow in intensity as life becomes increasingly unbearable for those who have rejected grace and chosen to identify fully with this transient, dying world. As I review the account describing those awful days coming on the earth, I note that the raptured believers, assembled before the throne of God, are fully aware of events on the earth.
Perhaps you imagine that the redeemed saints of God would be grieved at witnessing the destruction of the earth. Perhaps you think that the people of God gathered to the Master will be sorrowful at the knowledge of the painful judgements unleashed on those whom they have known during their life on the earth. Though we are a compassionate people, and though we now grieve over the sin of our loved ones and of our friends, we will be changed into the likeness of Christ. Transformed into His likeness, we will glorify God, rejoicing in His might, and in His holiness, and in His justice. So, the scene that John unfolds before us is a scene of praise and worship.
I do not want anyone to take away the thought that I condone rejoicing over the grief of others—not even over grief that results from justifiable divine retribution; I do not condone joy in the sorrow of others. Nevertheless, when we have been changed into Christ’s likeness, the old order will have passed away to be replaced by the new order. God’s glory and the glorious presence of the Saviour will have supplanted all thoughts of grief and sorrow. This is the meaning of the promise given those who enter into His joy, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” [REVELATION 21:4].
So, the scene set before us in the text presents the redeemed of God at worship following the Rapture. When you read of the “twenty-four elders” seated on thrones “before God,” it is a symbolic picture that speaks of the raptured people of God. There is a day, no one knows when that day will be, but there is a day when Christ will descend with a mighty cry that calls out the redeemed of this age. All that have died in the Faith will be raised, and those who are alive and remain will be transformed “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.” All who believe in the mercies of Christ the Lord, who have received His sacrifice because of our sin, are destined to bear His likeness.
What a glorious promise is that which is given through the Apostle John in his first letter. “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” [1 JOHN 3:2]. We who are Christians are destined to “bear the image of the Man of Heaven” [1 CORINTHIANS 15:49]. We who are the children of the Living God are “predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son” [ROMANS 8:29]. The Lord has promised that He “will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body” [PHILIPPIANS 3:21]. And, according to the Word He has given us, “He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them [we] may become partakers of the divine nature” [1 PETER 1:4].