The elder speaking to John in Revelation 7 lists the blessedness of the great and countless multitude of the redeemed. Every aspect of this blessedness is dependent on one thing only: their robes are washed in the blood of the Lamb. The saving, atoning, cleansing blood of Jesus Christ is the sole basis on which these blessings are granted.

They are before the throne of God … This access is gained only by means of the Mediator, Jesus Christ, our great High Priest, who is also our King, the Lamb on the throne. Paul wrote of this in Ephesians 2:6 and 18 as a present reality.

and serve him day and night in his temple … Here is a perpetual service, a perpetual worship – a life lived in the service of God. This recalls earlier references to the redeemed as ‘priests’ [1:6; 5:10]. Here we must remember that we are in the midst of a vision. We must not be deceived into thinking in terms of a physical temple. Revelation 21:22 tells us quite clearly that there is actually no temple in the world to come – because God himself, and the Lamb, are there and they themselves are ‘the temple’. The physical Temple was a mere symbol, a weak shadow, of the real presence of God. And here we are in ‘the big picture’ – a picture of a world in which everyone honours, serves, worships God with every fibre of their being and every moment of their lives. What we were created to be, that we will then be. Created, and recreated, in his image. Reflecting his beauty and his glory. [Read 1John 3:2.]

he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them … God dwells with them and his protection is over them, just as those redeemed from Egypt lived under the protection of the pillar of cloud and fire, symbolic of God’s protection. The redeemed live under ‘his tent’. They are precious to him. He is their refuge.

Unlike the protection experienced in this life, this security of the redeemed is an eternal security, without physical threat and without spiritual threat. Here is the new heaven and the new earth where God dwells with his people and all actually is right with the world [see also Revelation 21:1-5].

Never again will they hunger … Verse 16 sums up the absence of physical threat. All that is dangerous, all that threatens physical survival is gone. Three aspects are mentioned here – hunger, thirst, excessive heat. Other aspects are mentioned later. Perfection is restored to the physical world.

But behind these symbols of real physical perfection, we must also see the total spiritual sustenance and completeness enjoyed by the redeemed: Jesus, the bread of life, promised that whoever believed in him would never again hunger or thirst [John 6:35]; Jesus promised that the water he gives becomes ‘a spring of water welling up to eternal life’ [John 4:14]. Paul taught that the redeemed are ‘complete’ in Christ [Colossians 2:10]. All spiritual hunger, all spiritual thirst, all spiritual lostness, emptiness and destitution are removed and replaced by complete and sustained spiritual satisfaction. For the redeemed Christ, the Lamb, is all they need, more than they need: his grace, his forgiveness, his love, has been lavished upon them, super-abundant, immeasurable, incomparable, inexhaustible [Ephesians 1:7,8; 2:7; 3:17b-20].

For the Lamb … will be their shepherd … Taking up a concept rich with significance, the elder now tells John that the Lamb, now sharing the throne of God, will be their shepherd.

The reality expressed by David in Psalm 23 here reaches its eternal perfection.
The promise of God in Ezekiel 34 is here completely fulfilled.
The perspective of Jesus Christ in John 10:1-30 is here in place.

The Lamb is the Shepherd. The Shepherd is the Lamb who was slain.

‘The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep’ [John 10:11,15].
‘No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord’ [John 10:18].

The ‘springs of living water’ to which the shepherd leads the redeemed [Revelation 7:17] is the salvation, the ‘life … to the full’, the ‘eternal life’ promised by Jesus, the good shepherd [John 10:9,10,28].

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. The exodus from Egypt was a cause for rejoicing; the return from the Babylonian exile was a cause for rejoicing. But here is an even greater cause, and even greater joy, an even greater removal of human tears. Now, there are no more tears, and there is no more cause of tears. As we will learn later [21:4], all pain and sorrow will be gone. This is the new heaven and the new earth, where truly the redeemed will experience ‘everlasting joy’ [Isaiah 51:11].

© Rosemary Bardsley 2015