Greg Laurie - Afterlife
The story is told of Billy Graham going to a city to hold one of his great crusades. And Billy wrote a letter to his wife, Ruth, to tell her how things are going, but he didn't know where the post office was, in this particular town. He saw a young man standing on a street corner and he called out to him young man, where's the post office. And so the young boy told Billy Graham where the post office was. And then Billy said to that young guy, hey you want to come to this stadium tonight and hear me preach. I'm gonna tell people how to get to heaven. The little guy said how would you know how to get to heaven? You don't even know how to get to the post office.
Well, sooner or later, if you're a Christian, you're gonna enter the afterlife. And if you put your faith in Christ, you're going to go to heaven. What a great hope that is. The Bible says to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. You'll close your eyes on earth, and you'll open them in heaven. So we have basic two modes of transportation to get us to the afterlife if we're a believer. It's either gonna be death or the rapture. And I'm gonna talk a little bit about the rapture in this message. I'm gonna tell you what it is, why there is a rapture, when it would potentially happen, and a little bit more.
Let's read revelation 4:1-2. Remember John's on the Island of Patmos, he's been catapulted into the future, in kind of a spiritual time machine, I don't think it was a DeLorean, and he's seen things that are to come, and he writes about it now. And Revelation 4:1 he says, after these things, you might underline that phrase. After these things, John says, 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 things that will take place after this". You might underline those words, after this. And John says immediately, I was in the Spirit and behold a throne set in heaven and one sat on the throne.
So let's talk about the next event on the prophetic calendar, I already mentioned it, it's called the rapture. So if you're taking notes here's point number one, truly a question, what is the rapture? Listen very carefully. The rapture is a future event when Christ will descend from heaven and resurrect the bodies of believers who have died. Their spirits have gone to heaven but their bodies are still here in the earth, in the grave. At the same time we who are alive, if it happens in our lifetime, we will be caught up together with them, with who? With those others who are having their resurrection bodies given to them, we'll be caught up together with them in heaven. It'll be a great reunion.
Point number two, why is there a rapture? This is very important. Paul was writing to the believers there in Thessalonica. And they had loved ones who died. And they were wondering if they would ever see those people again. So he wrote these words inspired by the Holy Spirit to calm their hysteria and to bring them perspective. He's saying you are gonna see them again, going back to 1 Thessalonians 4:13, Paul says, I don't want you to be uninformed brothers, about those who have died so that you will not grieve as those who have no hope. It's as interesting, he says, I don't want you to be uninformed, and this sort of addresses the question of why should we study Bible prophecy?
Some would say, you can understand it. No, you can understand it. Let me take it a step further, you need to understand it. The more we know about the afterlife will better enable us to live a good life here on earth. And so it's very important how we view these things because it will affect us. And so Paul is saying, I don't want you to grieve as those that have no hope. Listen, when a Christian loses a loved one, when a loved one dies, we grieve. And I bring this up because sometimes well-meaning Christians will say to someone who's lost a loved one, well don't cry, they're in heaven. Excuse me, I will cry, I must cry. My sorrow is an indication of my love.
So Paul's not saying don't grieve, he say, don't grieve as those who have no hope. He saying don't grieve hopelessly, grieve hopefully. Yes you can miss them, yes you can be sad, but remind yourself of this fact, you will see them again. And so that's what he's saying to the believers there, and really in effect to all of us today. Paul writes in Colossians that we should set our affection on things above, another translation says think heavenly thoughts, or simply think heaven. So it's a good thing to contemplate the afterlife. It's an important thing for all of us to do.
Now here's the big question, the one that's asked more than any other, when is the rapture? And I'm gonna give you the answer. So get ready for it. Get out your pen, get ready to write it down. When is a rapture? Answer: ANY TIME. It can happen today, it could happen tonight, it could happen tomorrow, we don't know. The Bible says no man knows the day or the hour when the son of man will return. So here's John on the lonely Island of Patmos writing these words, and he's concluded again with the words of Jesus standing at the door and knocking. Now a door is open for John in heaven and he's hurdled into the afterlife.
Revelation 4:2 John writes, immediately I was in the Spirit, and behold of throne set in heaven, and one sat on the throne and He who sat there was a good jasper and a sardius stone in appearance. There was a rainbow around the throne, I find that interesting. A complete circular rainbow around the throne in appearance like an Emerald, around the throne were 24 thrones, and on the thrones, I saw 24 elders sitting clothed in white robes and they had crowns of gold on their heads. And from the throne proceeded lightning, thunderings and voices, seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. Before the throne, verse six, there was a sea of glass like crystal. And in the midst of the throne and around the throne were four living creatures full of eyes in front and back.
The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had the face of a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. And the living creatures, each having six wings were full of eyes around and within, and they don't rest day and night saying, "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was, who is and who is to come"! John is now in the afterlife. And what does John see in heaven? First of all, he sees the Lord seated on His throne. You know, that's a phrase we use often as Christians. Well, God's on the throne, and that's our way of saying God's in control. And indeed He is, John sees the Lord sitting on His throne in control of all things, and it's beautiful to behold. John's trying to describe these things. He says in verse three, they were like, were like, you know, it's not like the way a teenager says it.
You know, when they'll say like, I'm all and she's all, and he's like, and I'm like, and then like, hey, shut up, you know, it's not that kind of thing. John is trying to the best of his ability with first century language, to describe this amazing thing he has seen. How can he describe heaven? The apostle Paul was caught up to heaven, the third heaven, and he said, what I saw was indescribable. There's hardly even words I can use to explain it to you. But Paul said it was like a paradise. Imagine trying to describe paradise to someone who's never seen it. Imagine trying to describe the Island of Maui to a two year old. How are you gonna convey that information?
So here is John trying to convey to us what he is seen as he is taken into the afterlife. But he sees the Lord on His throne. Also verse four he sees 24 elders. Who are these elders? Nobody knows. They could be angelic beings, perhaps it's 12 patriarchs from the Old Testament, and 12 apostles from the New Testament. But they're given crowns, and we know already that there are rewards promised to us who faithfully serve the Lord and the crowns, the Bible speaks of a crown of life and a crown of rejoicing and more. And so the elders are given crowns, but this is what's important. What do the elders do with the crowns? They cast their crowns down before the Lord.
So when we're in heaven we're not gonna be walking around to, hey check out all my crowns, man, you know, check out all the metals and the ribbons. I have a friend who has been in so many track meets and other athletic events, he has so many ribbons. I don't think I won a single ribbon or award throughout my childhood, but this guy has so many. And I said, you wanna just put them all on at one time, just hang them around your neck and wear them all out, well that would be a little ridiculous. So no one's gonna be walking around with them and saying, hey, look at all my rewards.
You know, otherwise they got like Billy Graham man who could touch them. It's not about that, we take these things that we've done for God on earth, and we present them back to the Lord in heaven. In heaven there are also ominous storm warnings. Look at verse five. John writes from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings and voices, seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. This is all symbolic of judgment in scripture. From the safety of heaven, John can see that a storm is brewing on earth. He is in a shelter from the storm, but all of those things are coming to planet earth, which of course will be the great tribulation period.
And I already pointed out earlier, God has promised to keep His children from the great tribulation period. Because remember earlier we read in Revelation 3:10, because you have kept my command to persevere Jesus says, I'll keep you from the hour of trial which will come upon the whole world to test those that dwell in the earth. God will preserve us. He will deliver us before this time of tribulation that is coming upon the earth. And it's interesting to think about the simple fact that when we're in heaven, we're gonna know so much more than we know now. You know, you ever seen those little bobble-head dolls and the head's really big and it kind of moves around, you know, and it's not like we're gonna be bobble-heads in heaven.
Oh I know so much, but it's interesting, because the Bible says we'll continue to learn in heaven, but we're told in 1 Corinthians 13, we will know as we are known. So many mysteries will be revealed to us. Many problems will be solved. Many questions if not all immediately will be answered, but then we'll spend the rest of eternity just discovering more about the Lord, more about His glorious nature and His plan, et cetera. But in heaven, you're also remembering earth.
I think sometimes people think that we have sort of a brain-wipe, remember that movie men in black and people would see an alien so they do that little thing where they their memory would be erased. And people think their memory will be erased in heaven. Because they'll say, "well, we can't remember what happened on earth because we'll be so sad", that's not true. The Bible never says that actually. Because the fact is in heaven you will have perspective. You'll see things the way God sees them. As an example, in heaven, you're aware of the passing of time, because over in Revelation 6:10, we have those folks that have come out of the tribulation period, seen how long the Lord Holy and true until you judge and avenge our blood on those that dwell on the earth. So they're remembering earth.
How good you have a reward for something you did on earth in heaven, if you had no recollection of what you did. Well what's this ribbon for, this crown, why do I have it? I don't remember anything. No, you'll remember, but with perspective. Now, do people in heaven know what is going on in earth? Immediately be able to say no, they're oblivious to it. I don't know that that's completely true. They may know some things that are going on on earth. As an example, every time a person comes to Christ on earth there's a party in heaven, right? Jesus said, I tell you there's joy in heaven in the presence of the angels over one sinner that comes to repentance. So that shows a direct connection between an earthly event and a heavenly awareness.
So we need to expand our thinking about heaven. We have a lot of unbiblical ideas. We're gonna know more than we know now, that is for sure and we'll see it with perspective. Also John sees angelic creatures. Look at verse eight, four living creatures each having six wings, full of eyes around and within, and they don't rest day or night saying "Holy holy, holy Lord God Almighty, who was, who is and who has to come". Now, I know it's just so hard to visualize. If he did a drawing of this, it's almost a little scary, right? This is symbolic what John is saying that presence of the eyes just conveys the awareness of the angelic beings. The Bible tells us there are different rankings of angels. It seems to me that at the top of the heap, if you will, of the angelic world is Michael, who's uniquely identified as the archangel.
So he's a high ranking angel, he plays a singular role, going back to 1 Thessalonians 4, the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout and with a voice of the archangel. So Michael's a part of the great rapture event, we read of him elsewhere in scripture, but there's also Gabriel. Now, I don't know if Gabriel is an Archangel, but certainly Gabriel is a high ranking angel. A Gabriel was given the special blessing of revealing to Zechariah that he would be the father of John the Baptist. And of course it was Gabriel, that came to Nazareth and revealed to the young lady Mary that she was gonna have the privilege of being the mother of the Messiah. Also, we read about Cherubim and Seraphim, spoken in Isaiah 6, when it says, I saw the Lord sitting upon His throne, He was high and lifted up, and His glory filled the temple and the angels cried "Holy, holy, holy".
So Cherubim, Seraphim, Archangel, all kinds of angels doing the work of God. And they're doing a work in your life too. Because the Bible says the angel of the Lord encamps around those that fear Him. But no matter what, know that angels are actively involved in your life. Now here's the big question, what are we going to be doing in heaven? This is important because sometimes people think heaven is gonna be boring. It's gonna be a drag, we're gonna just sit around and fluffy clouds and plucked harps and just sleep.
Now, actually, some people might find that very appealing like a long nap, but we're gonna be doing a lot of things in heaven, starting with a worship. We'll be worshiping the Lord in heaven. Look at verse 10 here in Revelation 4, the 24 elders fell down before Him who sits on the throne, and they worship Him who lives forever and ever, they cast their crowns up for Him, listen to what they say, you are worthy oh Lord, to receive glory and honor and power, you created all things, for by your will they exist and were created. So they are giving honor to God and we will be worshiping the Lord. So get in the practice now, be a worshiper of the Lord. Because this is something we'll be doing a lot of in heaven. But we're not gonna just sit around and have one long church service.
I think that's all some people envision it. Oh, it's like church and Sunday when it goes too long, no, no, there'll be worship, and you'll see the Lord in His glory and you'll want to worship, but listen you'll be doing things as well. You'll be busy serving the Lord. Revelation 22:3 says, His servants will serve Him. We'll serve Him. So there'll be tasks for us to accomplish. Can you imagine the Lord saying, would you go do something for me right now? Yes, Lord, what can I do, anything you want. We're told in Revelation 7:15, that we're gonna be serving Him day and night in His temple. I mean, I'm looking forward to rest, but I can only rest for so long. I like to get out and do things. And I even like to accomplish things. You wonder will we be able to accomplish some things in the afterlife, we were not able to complete in this life?
You know, we all have dreams and aspirations, things we wished we could have done or maybe our dreams were shattered. And I think sometimes people act as though everything that can be done must be done in this life, and if it's not done in this life, then that's it. There's no other chances. Now I think it is important to do what we can with our life on earth, we certainly don't wanna waste our life. It was Corrie ten Boom, who wrote, "A life is not measured by its duration, but by its donation".
We all wanna make a donation with our life. But one if a life was cut short through disease or a disability? Or that life was shorter than we hoped it would be, because they died as a young man or a young woman. They had no control over those circumstances. That doesn't seem fair. So do they just lose and that's it, too bad you died younger? And that's the way it goes for you. And then you see other people living long lives, sometimes honestly, long wicked lives, long wasteful lives, and then you see someone that had so much promise and so much potential. I think of my own son aged 33, just such a wonderful young man, so full of talent and vision and plans for his future, and he was taken to be with the Lord at 33. But why do we think everything that can be accomplished can only be accomplished on earth? There are things that we will do in the afterlife as well.
Now as we close this message, the orders give us an insight as to why we exist. 'Cause this is a question that is often asked why am I here on earth? What is the meaning of life? Why was I placed here? These elders in heaven? Tell us why we are here on earth? Let's go back to Revelation 4:11. They say you're worthy oh Lord to receive glory, honor and power. You created everything and it's for your pleasure that they exist and were created. Why do I exist? Why do you exist? Why was I put here? Here's the answer, I exist and I was created to bring glory and pleasure to God. I was not created to bring glory and pleasure to myself. But there are people that dedicate their entire life to the pursuit of pleasure. The Bible even tells us in the last days people would be lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. At 1 Timothy 5:6, we're told she that lives for pleasure is dead while she lives.
Listen to this, living for pleasure is one of the most unpleasurable things that you can do. Let me say that again, living for pleasure is one of the most unpleasurable things you can do. It's been said the best cure for hedonism is an attempt to practice it, does go for it. You're saying so, Greg, are you saying that we can experience pleasure as Christians? No, I'm saying don't live for it. Don't make that the pursuit of your life because if you do, you'll never find it.
However, the Bible says in His presence there is fullness of joy, and on His right hand, there are pleasures forevermore. Jesus said in John 10:10, I have come that you might have life and that more abundantly. So oh yes, you can experience pleasure, but you experience it not by living for pleasure, but by living for God. My friend Randy Alcorn put it this way and I quote, "If we come to see the purpose of the universe as God's long-term glory rather than our short term happiness, then we will undergo a critical paradigm shift in tackling the problem of suffering". Well said. If I understand that the ultimate goal of my life is bringing glory to God, it changes everything.
Here's the bottom line, when you seek to fulfill the purpose you were created for, which is to know, glorify and worship God, you will find the happiness you've been seeking in life. You won't find the happiness you want in life by seeking it, you'll find the happiness you want in life by seeking Him. Because the Bible says happy are the people whose God is the Lord. Yes, God created you for His own glory. Isaiah 43:7, the Lord says every one that I've created, I've created for my glory. Then 1 Corinthians 10:31, Paul says, whatever you do, do it for the glory of God.
Here's what it means, whatever you're doing in life, whatever your career path, or if you're a student or a husband or wife or a parent or whoever you are, whatever you're doing, do it for the glory of God. And if you can't do it for the glory of God, maybe you shouldn't be doing it anymore. Jesus taught us in the Lord's prayer to pray, "Hallowed be thy name". If you can't write hallowed be His name or honored be His name over what you're doing, then don't do it. Do what you can ask God's blessing on, and do it for His glory. Why? Because life is preparation for eternity. We were made by God, we were made for God, and God wants us to practice on earth what we will do forever in eternity.
So let me close with this, are you ready for the afterlife? You cannot escape it, it is there. You're gonna get there if you're a Christian by death or by rapture. But non-believers are gonna enter the afterlife too. They of course would not go be a rupture, but they will go via death. And life here will end for some sooner than later, and we all have an appointment with the afterlife. I decide in this life where I will spend the afterlife. Maybe God has spoken to your heart, and you have seen your need for Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the son of God, who came from heaven to this earth. He was born in a manger, He died in a cross. He rose again from the dead. Why? Because He loves you. And He wants a relationship with you.
Listen, I'm not talking about religion, I don't wanna be a religious person, I don't think you wanna be one either, I'm talking about relationship with God. Jesus who died and rose again, stands at the door of your life, and He knocks, and He says, if you hear His voice and open the door, He will come in. Question, have you asked Jesus Christ to come and live inside of you? You might say well, I think so, I'm not sure. Hey, if someone moved into your house in the middle of the night, do you think you would be aware of it? I'm sure you would. And then the same way if Christ has come to live inside of you, you will know.
And if you don't know, maybe He has not come in yet. He's just a prayer away. All you need to do is say, "Jesus, I want this relationship with you, I want you to forgive me of my sin, I wanna go to heaven when I die". Would you like to do that? Would you like Christ to come into your life? If so, why don't you just pray this simple prayer with me? You could pray it out loud or you can pray it in the quietness of your heart. But this is a prayer where you're asking Jesus Christ to be your savior and Lord. Pray this with me now.
Lord Jesus, I know that I'm a sinner, but I know that you're the savior, who died on the cross for my sin and rose again from the dead. Now come into my life. I choose to follow you from this moment forward. Thank you for hearing this prayer, and answering this prayer, in Jesus name, amen.
Did you just pray that prayer with me? If so, I want you to know in the authority of scripture that Christ Himself has come to live inside of you. And let me be the first to say to you, congratulations and welcome to the family of God.