Tuesday, July 14, 2020

What Does Heaven Look Like?

When John was banished to the island of Patmos, he was given a unique and life changing perspective. Not only did he see the unveiling of the true Jesus Christ, but also received letters to give to the seven churches in the region of Asia Minor. Today, John is given a unique look into heaven, the one place, we as believers are anxiously awaiting for one day but we get a glimpse of what awaits the believer of Jesus Christ today.

John, was the only apostle that died of natural causes in church history. It wasn't the plan, the Roman Empire had condemned him for proclaiming the gospel as had all the other apostles. According to church history, John was placed in a cauldron of boiling oil, and it didn't affect him. He was taken out of that and banished to the island of Patmos. John received from the LORD, the Book of Revelation, and gave him little snippets of heaven to get excited about. We serve a mighty God! Read Fox's Book of Martyrs to see just how God can act in the lives of those who die for Him. It encourages us to die for our faith because something more awaits us much like Stephen, who was stoned and saw into heaven before he died.

John is going to show us a preview of coming attractions when he gets a glimpse into heaven on a tour. We learned in the opening chapter of Revelation 4, that the Holy Spirit showed John what awaits those who died for Christ and also at the rapture of the church, where it was caught up into heaven and it not mentioned again until Revelation 19, when it appears with Jesus Christ at the Second Coming.

John now begins to describe for us what he sees as he begins his tour of heaven.

Revelation 4:4-11 ~ "Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peal of thunder. Before the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night, they never stop saying: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come." Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who sits on the thrones and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you create all things, and by your will they were created and have their being."

John is telling us what we will see when we get to heaven, what we will one day see. This is a sneak preview of where we are going. If you are a Christian, and that is not belonging to a special club or church, it simply means if you belong to Christ, if you have looked to Him and asked for forgiveness, if you believe that He was raised from the dead, that you have confessed this with your mouth, You are a Christian.

John is seeing heaven. What do you tell someone who is dying? One day you will encounter someone who is dying? Will you tell them how their portfolio looks like or how Wall Street is doing that day? They won't care. All they care about is their position with God! They are going to be departing from this world into the presence of eternity. They want to know about the Lord. The number one thing you can give to someone who is dying is the knowledge of Jesus Christ, as Lord and Savior! Some might ask, "Shouldn't I pray for their healing first?" No! why take the chance, first pray for their salvation, then pray for their healing. It doesn't matter if a person is raised from their death bed, only to be healed and then go off living their Christ-less life. What is important is that they come to know Jesus first. So pray for their salvation and also give them the gospel. So we often get weak in those moments when we should be willing to step out and share the gospel with those in need. We need to speak with them in those moments and share that gift of salvation.

From that moment on whatever happens from that point on, they will awake knowing that Jesus is their Savior and heaven awaits! Or if the Lord decides to come today, we will see the glories that John is sharing with us today. Another thing we want to share with those who are dying is what John is sharing with us in Revelation 4, these sneak peeks into heaven as it were. Heaven! What it looks like, smells like, feels like...not much is given to us in the Scriptures in detail, but what he does share we can get excited about.

It will be a unique place! Heaven and what we're going to see, these 24 elders have a unique place before God. The word "elder" represents the word "church" here. That gets our attention immediately. 24, in the Old Testament, the order of priesthood was established, that the ministry was to take place 24/7 by 24 orders, or courses of priests. To always represent the ministry of God, to his people. So what some scholars believe is that the 24 number are actual representatives, they remain unnamed because they are not important, God is the only important one, that the represent the church age believers, meaning that it is in Christ that He has declared us to be kings and priests forever. And it could be, that they represent us or maybe its broader than that. Maybe they represent all of the Old Testament priesthood and all of the New Testament priesthood and in a symbolic manifestation they represent all believers. That is a unique thought. Pick one, it doesn't matter to me. We know this, that they represent the believer!!!

So why is that important to me? Number 1, is their proximity to God. That they are around the throne you can't get any closer than that. Do they always have a front row seat?I don't think so. In this world, we have time zones and time lines and in heaven, its much different. In this world, we have to deal with problems. In heaven, there won't be any problems. When John sees 24 elders seated in thrones before the throne of God with perfect access to God, and if they are representatives of all believers, then what does that mean? That all believers have immediate access to the close proximity of God. I like that because I don't like standing in line. No lines, that is a time issue. It is eternal there. What this is referring to is that we will have immediate access to God.

Revelation 4:4 ~ "Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads." 

Who are these elders and why these thrones? It is that they represent the entire body of believers in heaven. 24 would represent the entire body of believers, their unique place = heaven. Heaven is a reality. As a Christian, do you ever feel like God is not near? You don't feel Him near. Sometimes we don't always need to feel anything, like others do. The just shall live by faith. But we want feelings, but feelings can come and go. When we pray, we don't hear anything, but we feel like He has left us. Do we have an emotionally based relationship with God or a faith based one? Are you going through a seasonal period in your life or what some call a desert experience, where you feel God is not listening to you or near you anymore? When you sin, in thought or in deed, you know, you have a bad thought, how long does it take for God to speak to you? Right away!!! How long does it take God to speak to you when you are blowing it? Instantly!!!

When you feel like you're in the wilderness, get on your knees and pray, "Lord, is there something wrong? What is going on, is there something going on? Have I sinned, have I erred, have I departed from You? You know how long it will take for Him to answer you? About a second! If nothing comes, then dust yourself off, and get up and go because you're in a trial and your faith is being tested. Keep going. You're not always going to see glimpses of heaven. This is given to us that we might know based upon faith, the revealed Word of God where we are going and the proximity is that where we are going to a place where we will see God face to face. This is our destiny. This is our destination. This is our eternity, that we, as a Christian, will be with God. The proximity is manifested before us through the 24 elders.

We won't have to wait in line to see God. Somehow in His eternity we will be in the proximity of Christ. It wouldn't be heaven if we had to wait in line. We will see Him face to face. There is a unique place the elders have that we shall have.

The 24 elders have a unique practice before God. They are sitting. The word "sitting" means to sit. It means to rest. It means to get off your feet. The word here in English, Greek, Hebrew or any other language means this, to sit down and to rest. Why is that important? It is very important because the elders are seen in heaven, having taken the seat of rest. They are sitting upon a throne, we will see what else they have, but they are sitting. When we come to Christ as Christians, what does the Bible command us to do? To rest in Christ. The book of Hebrews says that there is a rest, to those who believe in Christ. A rest. A rest, we might ask, from what? The elders, note, are sitting down. Do you see them up in heaven working? Nope! Do you see them up in heaven ringing their hands? What am I going to do? Sit down. No, I don't want to sit down. They are not doing that. We can also translate this word in the English language, "repose" We would say this in our modern tongue and I mean this reverently, they are kicking back! They are relaxed. How can they be relaxed? Because, before you come to Jesus this is how you live, you're religious, you're trying to do the best you can but you fail miserably so you are caught in this web, of trying, trying, trying and failing, failing and failing. You ask God to forgive you, and then you even make God promises, "I'll be better today God, I'll be better." God just shakes His head, "I don't want to see, there is no way." You can't do it, that is religion. When you come to Christ, you say, God I can't live this life. I can't do it! In fact, Paul said, the very thing I don't want to do, I do it and then thing I want to do, I don't do it. Oh Lord, deliver me from this body of sin and death.

Romans 8:1 ~ "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."

How can this be? How can this be true? Because we go from a religious life to a relationship to God, to relational relationship with God, and He is your friend, day in and day out. Not based upon feeling but based upon fact and faith.

You just have to imagine this tour from John's perspective. The orders of priest were called to minister before the Lord, the 24 elders, the orders who were required to minister 24/7. You see John who is witnessing this. They are ministering before the Lord, representing the ministry of the church. They are also sitting. In the Old Testament wilderness tabernacle and in the Temple in Jerusalem, there were no seats, there were no chairs. That is important, because earthly priests are to minister without stopping. But now we see heaven, Jesus is seated, the Father is seated upon the throne, and the 24 elders representing the church, they are seated. We are done!

There will come a time when no more pastors, no more missionaries, or no more evangelists any longer. There will be no more church so to speak, except for the fact that we will just be worshiping before the LORD! Our mission will be completed!

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