David Jeremiah - A Look Into Heaven
The first thing we're going to learn about is the church's exit from the earth, the church's exit from the earth. Here are some reasons why we know that the church goes to heaven, if I can say it in this way, between the third chapter and the fourth chapter. Between chapter 3, where the church is on the earth, and chapter 4, where we see the church is in heaven, somehow, the church got up there. And we know how that happened, we know that takes place through what is called the Rapture.
Now, how do we know that's true by studying the book of Revelation? Follow my logic, will you, as we look at the Scripture. First of all, because of the sequence of events in the book of Revelation, because of the sequence of events. The inspired outline of the book of Revelation is in the first chapter and the 19th verse. Look down at verse 19 in your Bibles of the first chapter, and notice what it says. It says here's what John's assignment was. He was to, "Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and then the things which will take place after this". Notice what it says in that last phrase in verse 19, "The things which shall take place after this"?
Read verse 1 of chapter 4. "After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, 'Come up here, and I will show you,'" what? The things that shall take place after this. The same phrase that is in the 19th verse of the first chapter is in the first verse of the fourth chapter, linking those two things together. The fourth chapter is the beginning of the prophecy of John under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit about all the things that are going to take place after this, after what? After we go to heaven, and what's going to happen when we're in heaven, what's going to take place up there, what's going to take place down here.
Now, here's another interesting thing that helps us to realize this is true, and that's the silence concerning the church in chapters 4 through 19. You would expect if the church were still on the earth during chapters 4 through 19, there would be some writing about it. Here's an amazing truth. The word "church" appears 19 times in the first 3 chapters, and from chapter 3, verse 22 all the way through the rest of the book, it is not mentioned once as being on the earth. Number three, you notice that the Spirit of God has gone from the earth to heaven. Why is that? Where does the Holy Spirit live on the earth? He lives in us, right?
Now, he's available, obviously, in other ways, but the basic ministry of the Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit lives in believers. So you would expect when the believers are gone, guess what, the Holy Spirit's gone too. One of the reasons why the tribulation is hell on earth is when you take the restrainer away, there's no one left to hold back evil. What kind of things are going to happen when the Rapture takes place? Well, the Bible says the first thing that will happen is there's going to be a voice, remember? And the Bible says there will be a voice of the archangel.
Read Revelation 4:1, "And the first voice I heard". 1 Thessalonians 16, "The Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, and with the voice of an archangel". There's a voice in the Rapture passage in 1 Thessalonians 4, and there's a voice in Revelation chapter 4. What else do we know about the Rapture? Well, along with the voice, there's going to be a trumpet, remember? "And the trump shall sound". Read Revelation chapter 4:1, "And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet". 1 Thessalonians 4:16, "The Lord himself will descend from heaven with the trumpet of God". There's a trumpet in Revelation 4; there's a trumpet in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4.
What else do we know? The Bible says not only is there a voice and a trumpet, there's going to be a change. Revelation 4:2 says, "Immediately," John is speaking, "I was in the Spirit". What do we read about the Rapture in 1 Corinthians 15? "For the trumpet will sound, and the dead in Christ will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be," what? "Changed, for this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality". I am absolutely convinced that if you read the book of Revelation the way it was outlined by Almighty God himself, you will have to understand that after the third chapter, a dramatic shift takes place.
The church is no longer on the earth: the church is in heaven. The tribulation is about to start on this earth, 7 years of hell on earth, which is described in detail in chapters 4 through 19. But we will not be here to experience that, for the Bible says, "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus". We will be taken to heaven in the Rapture, which could happen, by the way, at any moment, and even before we're finished with this service, and that would be all right with me.
So between chapters 3 and 4, the Rapture happens. The church is in heaven. We look through an open door now into heaven, and Revelation 4:1-11 is what John sees as he envisions this time in the future, and he looks through the open door. The first thing we've looked at is the church's exit from the earth. And now, in these first 11 verses, the church's existence in heaven. And now you can kind of follow along in your Bibles. You won't have to jump around very much, and you'll be able to see the argument that's here.
Revelation 4:1 says this. John is speaking as he writes, John the apostle, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. He said, "After these things," after what things? The things about the church that we've already studied. "After these things, I looked, and behold, a door standing open into heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, 'Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.'" The very first verse of this chapter describes an open door in heaven. The door is open into heaven only twice that I'm aware of in the book of Revelation.
First of all, Revelation 4:1 says, "After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven". In Revelation 19, verse 11, we read, "And then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse". Watch carefully. In chapter 4, the door to heaven opens and somebody goes up. In chapter 19, the door to heaven opens and somebody comes down. In chapter 4, the door opens, and John is invited as a representative of the church to come up to heaven. In chapter 19, we're told, and you know this story, that one day Jesus Christ is going to come back to this earth riding on a white horse, and he's going to come back out of the door of heaven, and take control of planet earth.
So the door to heaven opens twice, once when some people go up, and once when Jesus comes down. The key word in chapter 4, men and women, is the word "throne". One of the great themes of the book of Revelation is the sovereignty of God over all the world. And I love that theme, especially now, because when you look around today, it looks like nobody's in charge, everything's out of control. Every day, you read the newspaper, and it seems like it's worse than it was the day before. And you wonder where is this all going? And I just want to tell you when you look up into the heavens, when you look through the open door, there's a throne there, and Almighty God is on the throne.
I'd just like you to know that. That's a great encouragement to me. There's somebody in charge that may not look like he's running things because he's granted some space to people here to do their own thing. But he hasn't lost control, I promise you. There is a throne in heaven, and that throne is occupied by God Almighty. Now, seated upon the throne is the triune God, verses 2 and 3. John says, "Immediately I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. And he who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance". He's on this throne. And the brilliance of who he is, you can only describe it in terms of these beautiful stones.
Now, the Bible says when you look in through the door of heaven, there is the throne of God, and seated on the throne is the triune God, primarily God the Father. Notice, secondly, the Bible says surrounding the throne is a rainbow. Verse 3, "And there is a rainbow around the throne, and it looks like an emerald". Are you painting this picture in your head? Here is Almighty God on the throne, and this emerald rainbow surrounding the throne. And sitting around the throne are the 24 elders. Notice verse 4, "And around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes, and they had crowns of gold on their heads".
The 24 elders seated upon the 24 thrones do not represent the angels or the 12 tribes of Israel. The elders represent the church age. They represent the saints. How do I know that? Well, let me just help you with it. First of all, I know it because of the praise that is on their lips. The 24 elders are part of the choir of heaven. And over in the fifth chapter of the book of Revelation, we are given an opportunity to hear them sing. And listen to these words. On the screen, you can read them. "And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures, and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying," listen, "you are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and have redeemed us. You have redeemed us. You have redeemed us to God by your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation".
Who does that sound like, people? That sounds like the church, doesn't it? Redeemed out of every tongue and every tribe and every nation, all of our missionaries all over the world preaching the gospel. And out of all of these nations and all these languages, people are coming to Christ. And they're a part of the universal church. And the universal church is represented in heaven by this picture, by the 24 elders. "Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and you have made us kings and priests to our God, and we shall reign on the earth". Who is that? That's the church. One day, the church is going to reign on the earth with Almighty God, did you know that? During the millennium, we are going to come back.
When the Lord Jesus comes through that door on the white horse, the Bible says at the end of the age, for the battle of Armageddon, he's going to be accompanied by his angels and by all the saints. That's you and me if we're Christians. We're going to come back to this earth, and we're going to reign on this earth. So, I'm pretty sure, in fact, I'd like to be very dogmatic that the 24 elders who are in heaven represent the church of Jesus Christ. And what are they doing? They're gathered around the throne to worship God. By the praise on their lips, we know this is the church. But next, notice, by the clothes on their bodies we know this is the church.
Read again verse 4. Notice how the elders are dressed. "Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes". Notice Revelation 19, verses 7 and 8. This is what it says, "Let us be glad and rejoice and give him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his wife". Who is the wife, friends? It's the church. "And his wife has made herself ready. And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints". So we know the 24 elders are the church because of the praise that's on their lips and the clothes that's on their bodies. And thirdly, we know this is the church because of the crowns that are on their heads.
Revelation 4 says, "And they had crowns of gold on their heads". Each of these three elements describe the elders who are before the throne. Now watch this: the praise that's on their lips, the clothes that are on their bodies, and the crowns that are on their heads. We know who these people are. This is the church of Jesus Christ. These people represent you and me. They're there in advance of us. They're there to represent us. They're there to picture us. Now, isn't it interesting how this all ties together? If you go back to the churches that were on earth in chapters 2 and 3, I'll just read these to you, and you can see how cool all this is if you study the Bible.
Revelation 3:21, "To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with me on my throne". The church was promised a throne. Revelation 3:18, "I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed". The church on planet earth was given a promise of white raiment. And then in verse 10 of chapter 2, "Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life". The 24 elders represent the church. So let's just back up for a moment and take a breath, and notice what we've seen. Seated upon the throne is the triune God. Surrounding the throne is a rainbow. Sitting around the throne are the 24 elders. Notice verse 5, sounding forth from the throne are lightnings and thunders and voices. Revelation 4:5, "And from the throne proceeded lightnings, and thunderings, and voices".
Do you remember when the Lord met with the Israelites at Mount Sinai and gave them the law? And Moses went up and got the law, and came down. And do you remember what the Bible says happened at that time? "There were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain, and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled". That's the way it was when the law was given. And because the law has been so immeasurably broken, those sounds will occur again from heaven as Almighty God is about to move to this earth and mete out judgment upon those who have rejected him and his Word.
Now, notice verse 6 in chapter 4. Spread before the throne is a sea of glass. The throne is surrounded by this incredible translucent glass. Notice in verses 6 through 8 that, situated in the midst of the throne, are the four living creatures. And the picture is getting more full. "In the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature was like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying, 'Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come.'"
Standing in the midst of the throne are four angelic beings who are about to enter into the judgment of the world. How many of you know that when God judges the world during the tribulation, he uses his angels to carry out the judgment? Listen to this, Revelation 6:1. "Now I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying with a voice like thunder, 'Come and see.'" Revelation 6:3, "And when he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, 'Come and see.'"
So the four living creatures are angels that do specific things for God. And the first thing they do is they execute judgment. But they also lead in worship. They are involved in one of the great scenes in heaven, and that is singing to the one on the throne are the creatures and the elders. Now, watch carefully. Revelation 4:9 through 11, "And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to God who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever, and they cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 'You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they exist and they were created.'"
I wish I could create in my mind the awesomeness of this scene. John is seeing all of the threatening and the thundering and the lightning. And all of a sudden, as if captured by the majesty of it, the angels began to say, "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come". And the representatives of the church, the 24 elders, hear the angels begin to sing, and they fall down on their knees, and they take the crowns that they have just been given in the judgment for their faithfulness to Almighty God, and they take the crowns off of their heads, and they bring them to Jesus and to the Father. And they lay their crowns at the throne as a gift of love to the one who has loved them so much. And they throw them at the feet of God and of Christ, and they begin to sing.
And this is what they sing. "You are worthy, O Lord. You are worthy to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they exist and they were created". I don't know about you, I don't want to be left out at that moment. I'm going to ask God to show me how to get a crown. Hope I'm working on a couple of them already, but if I'm not, I'm going to do the research I need to do because I want to be in on that ceremony. I want to be in on that ceremony. But if you're there as a part of the church, your worship and praise to God will be a lot different than the angels. They'll be singing one set of lyrics, and you'll be singing another one. They'll be singing about God, but you'll be singing to him.
When it comes our turn to worship, it's not enough for us to talk about who God is in the third person. We have to fall on our faces and say, "Lord, you are worthy, you are deserving, you are the one". There's an intimacy in second person praise that goes beyond talking about who God is, describing what he is like. Second person praise is directed to God himself, and only the redeemed can do that. If you are not redeemed, you cannot know anything at all about second person praise. I do believe that the Lord inhabits the praises.