Jack Graham - An Endless Hallelujah
All of us who are Christians, we want to know what heaven is like. And, of course, we have questions that we can't answer. And we will never comprehend the greatness, the grandeur, the glory of heaven until we're actually there. And yet the Bible tells us what we need to know. On a need-to-know basis God gives us beautiful descriptions of the place called heaven, and what heaven is like. In Revelation 21, the first five verses, and you're going to need to keep your Bibles open today because we're going to be looking at these scriptures one by one as best we can in the time that we have together. But the first five verses say this:
"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. 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 are passed away.' And He who was seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.' And He said, 'Write this down for these words are trustworthy and true.'"
Not the speculations of men, the experiences of human beings, but the Word of God! I want to so preach today to help you see just a little more of the greatness of our God and the glory of that place that He has prepared for us. First, in a new creation: He said, "There will be a new heaven and a new earth". The earth and the atmosphere around the earth is the first of the heavens; the planetary, the space, the stars above us and beyond us, this is the second heaven; the third heaven is the throne of God, the place where God dwells, rules and reigns. And so at the end of the age, of this day and dimension as we know it God is going to transform the heavens and the earth; that is, the universe around us, the heavens and the earth and the atmosphere all around it. I'm not talking about the heaven of heaven, the throne room of God, but rather heavens and the earth. And God will create a new universe for a new world and give us a brand new world order.
This is not new information because Isaiah the prophet spoke of this much earlier. Isaiah 65, verse 17: "For behold, I create new heavens and new earth, and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind". We're often asked: "Are we going to remember our times on earth, and are we going to remember what happened on earth"? I can't totally answer that question, but I do know the longer we're in eternity, the more earth and every thing that happened here will be in the rear-view mirror. Because we have something brand new, something far better! Jesus said in Matthew 24:35: "Heaven and earth will pass away, but by no means will My words pass away". This is the passing away of the old creation. This world as we know it will change. Our world is getting old. This globe is groaning under the curse of creation. It is like a clock running down; it is like a body wasting away; it is like an old garment that is to be discarded. It is not evolving; it is devolving! And how will this old earth and the heavens around it meet its end? How will the first heaven pass away?
Second Peter, chapter 3 tells us, we're going to put this on the screen for you, but you may want to turn in your Bibles to 2 Peter, chapter 3, verse 7: "By the same word the heavens and the earth that now exist", talking about our contemporary world, what we now know, "is stored for fire, being kept until the Day of Judgment and destruction of the ungodly". Scientists will tell us that the elements, the building blocks, the atoms that form this world and everything in it are fueled with fire. This pulpit, filled with fire; the clothes you're wearing, fire; the atoms, the pew you're sitting on, this building, fire everywhere. The present atmosphere is stored with this fire. Our world is the picture really of an egg and the shell of an egg that has been filled with fire! That's the picture that we have here. But in verse 10 it says "But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed".
People talk about the world beginning with a big bang. It didn't begin with a big bang, but it's going to end with a big bang! And 2 Peter 3:11, "since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness"? How foolish to live for this world when it's all going up in smoke! This world is passing away, and everything in it! "Therefore", verse 12, what are we to be doing? "...waiting for and hastening (looking forward to) the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to His promise we are waiting for a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells". So John sees this brand new world! The word new is a word in the New Testament which means "new of a different kind; new as to quality". It's the same word that Paul uses in 2 Corinthians 5:17: "If anyone be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things are passed away; everything has become new".
When you become a follower of Jesus, your old life is done and you have a brand new life in Christ. We're still in process; we're still under construction, but this new life is now in us. We have a brand new life and if your life isn't new, you need the Lord. And so, that's the word, "a new heaven and a new earth". Just as I'm the same me in one sense, I mean, I have the same body but my body, my life, my spirit is being renewed day by day. So the old heavens and the old earth will be made brand new. Absolutely different! And yet literal. When you look at these symbols in the Revelation and certainly these pictures of heaven, portraits of heaven, you may ask the question, "Is this literal"? And I say it's more than literal; because the pictures are only portrayals of the reality of what it is! So maybe you would rather use the word, "Is it real"? And the answer is yes, it's real!
And God gives John and others who write of heaven words and vocabularies and just really ransacks the human understanding of things that are almost impossible to understand this side of eternity. So these symbols are beautiful and instructive and helpful as we think about heaven. In this new heaven and new earth one of the first observations that John makes is that there is no more sea. Do you see that in verse 1 of Revelation 21? "There is no more sea". Seventy-five percent of the covering of the earth is water: sea, ocean. But interesting that John said, "I didn't see the sea". In a very personal sense this was so meaningful to John because John was exiled on the Isle of Patmos, away from his family, away from his friends, away from the church that he loved, and the Aegean Sea separated this man from all that was dear to him. And so when he saw heaven and he woke up in heaven he said no more separation. Heaven is a place of security and intimacy and familiarity.
The ancients also viewed the sea as angry and beastly, and deadly, of monsters, leviathans that ruled the deep. And so this picture of heaven where there is no more sea is a reminder to us that there's now no separation between us and our God; we are with Him. And that, as we've been saying throughout, is what heaven is all about. It's not so much about what it looks like or what it is, streets of gold, gates of pearl, but the precious Savior who awaits us there. Our God, we desire to be with Him whom as the Scripture says 1 Peter 1:8, "we loved though we have not yet seen". A new creation. And then comes a new city, a prepared place. Man had built cities without God, but God builds a city not made with hands, whose foundation whose builder and maker is God. Our cities are filled with crime and darkness, but this city is filled with light. We are pilgrims on the way to this city. The city that comes down from above in Revelation 21, verse 2 is the holy city. It is the new city of Jerusalem, just the capitol city of the new heavens and the new earth.
If you read the passage in front of you, you will discover that this is a mammoth, massive city. We don't have time this morning to measure the city but you can actually measure the capitol city, the holy Jerusalem, and don't worry about it; there's plenty of room for everyone! And in this place, this amazing city we will live in the immediate, intimate presence of God. Who could fathom that? We'll see Him face to face, and look into His eye, and hold His nail-pierced hand and thank Him forever for what He's done for us. It will be in amazingly new condition: Everything's going to new about this wonderful new heaven, the new earth. He mentioned some of the former things that will be no more... these familiar "no mores"; verse 4 says there is no more crying, no more tears.
We come into this world crying; it's about the only thing we can do for ourselves starting out. But we spend our days crying and we live crying and die crying. Over the years I have prayed and watched over and led funeral services and tried to give comfort and counsel to those who are hurting and those who are crying! This is a world filled with tears! A trail of tears! But in that place God will wipe away our tears! A nail-pierced hand will take away our tears! There will be no more weeping. Until that day the Scripture says God puts our tears in a bottle. He already knows, He already cares... Jesus cares when you hurt, when you're in pain. God knows; God understands! But one of these days every little tear He's going to wipe away! No more tears! No more death! Death is universal; that means it includes all of us.
But the reason that we dread death is because death is so unnatural. We were made to live, we were created for eternity! But something has happened that has injected death into the human experience, and that something is sin! The consequences of sin and man's rebellion against God! So in heaven death is destroyed! First Corinthians 15:26: "The last enemy that will be destroyed is death"! The last enemy! Revelation 20:14: "Then death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire; this is the second death". Death is universal, it is unnatural, it is certain, it is inevitable, but there is no death in heaven! No more grieving widows in heaven! No more funeral services and long processions to the grave! No more dark, lonely nights because death has taken away someone that we have loved with all of heart! No more tombstones, no more gravestones on the hillsides of heaven! It doesn't exist! Amen?
When we get to heaven, the blind will see the vision of our great God! The lame, the crippled, the disabled, the paralyzed will be leaping and dancing and praising God! The deaf will hear the great praises to God! The wounded will be made whole! The perfect place for God's people! Verses 5 and 6, the future things. In an instant everything will become new. We'll move into this brand new world. So the question is: What is like: once we get there, what is heaven like? Well it is as everything that God intended it to be. That's what it will be like. People ask, "What are we going to do? Are we just going to go to church for ten zillion years"? We're going to worship, that's the first thing we're going to do. We're going to sing and praise and worship God.
In Revelation... again so much about heaven in the book of Revelation, contains more songs than any other book in the Bible with the exception of Psalms itself, the songbook of the Old Testament. These great songs, these new songs! We will sing, we will praise, we will worship God, and yes, we'll serve Him! Don't think of heaven as one long permanent retirement home! The Bible says in Revelation chapter 22, verse 4 that His servants will worship Him! His servants will worship Him! And the word for worship there means to work or to serve.
Imagine doing something with all of energy that God gives you. You will have limitless eternal energy. You will be able to do what you've always wanted to do and do it for the One that you love, and never grow tired. Nobody's going to walk up to you in heaven and say, "Thank God, it's Friday"! We will serve Him night and day. We will share fellowship in heaven; first, with Christ as we noted, and most importantly with Him. We will be with the One that we have loved. But not only with Christ but, of course, we will be with our loved ones and our friends who are there before us and who will come after us, united in Christ. As the Scripture says in 1 Thessalonians 4:17: "together with the Lord". We will be "caught up in the clouds with the Lord, together forever" with our loved ones and our friends.
The question is often asked, of course, will we know one another in heaven? And the answer is: We won't really know one another until we get to heaven. Then we 1 Corinthians 13:12, " will know even as we are known". We will laugh and celebrate in heaven. There will be no more tears in heaven, but much laughter, much joy. Psalm 16:11, "At thy right hand," the psalmist said, "is fullness of joy at Thy throne. Pleasures forevermore". The gladness and the glory of heaven will cause us to celebrate forever and ever and ever! The Bible tells us that we'll be resting in heaven. Revelation 14:13 says, Blessed, happy are they (that's another happy word) "Blessed are they who die in the Lord. Yes, forever they will rest and their works do follow them".
Now here resting is not sitting in a rocking chair and wasting eternity away. But the idea of resting here is same idea in which Jesus said Matthew 11:28, "Come into Me all ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest". Rest for your soul. In this world we are restless. There is stress, there is pressure, there is striving, there is struggle! It's a part of the whole curse thing. But in heaven we will be at peace. We will be at rest. Not wringing our hands with worries and fear. We will be delivered from life's burdens and carrying that heavy weight around, because we will be at rest. How should we respond? What is this word to us? Let me wrap it up by saying this: this is a word of encouragement; strong word, encouragement, to give courage; comfort, strong word, to give fortitude. Com-fort, to give fortitude.
1 Thessalonians 4:18, "Comfort one another with these words". Jesus said, regarding our future in the Father's house, He said, John 14:1, "Therefore, do not let your heart be troubled". The the hope of heaven, the promise of heaven gives us the strength to endure, during hard days, in tough times, when life is hard, when we're disappointed, when a relationship is broken, when a dream dies, when a body is tired, when the night is sleepless and long, that we may endure because of the promise of heaven! When aging is catching up with you! It's an encouragement to know that a better day is coming! It's on the way. It encourages us to live godly lives! We're to live as if we're to be the last day on earth, because it could be our last day. But our future is so bright, and therefore, we live each day in view of eternity with purpose and we live with a passion for Christ that produces a renewed righteousness and devotion to spiritual matters, developing a walk with Christ.
Second word, this message should bring to you a word regarding evangelism. The good news is that there is a heaven, that Jesus has provided the pathway into the presence of God by His cross and through His resurrection, and that the whole world needs to hear that story, that Good News of Christ! One of the greatest evangelism tools that we can use is to remind people that you're going to stand before God one day. Everybody knows they're going to die if they really stop to think about it. And let me tell you another little secret, including the hardest, most difficult of your friends, your buddies, everybody's afraid to die. When I preached the message on hell several weekends ago, I can't tell you how many people have said to me, we were so moved by the prospect that our loved ones, our family members, our friends are on their way to hell that we went immediately to share the good news with our friends, with our family members.
You see, the hope of heaven is a powerful incentive for us to share Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:11 "Knowing the terror of the Lord we persuade men". And one other final word: the word regarding examination. Do you know that you're going to heaven? The Scripture says, "Let every person examine his own heart, test your own faith". Are you sure? Because this same passage that talks about heaven, speaks of those who are excluded, starting with the unbelieving and the cowardly who deny Christ! There is a judgment coming, a great, terrible judgment! The lost will be condemned and only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life will go to heaven. You must do more than just die to go to heaven! Is your name in the Lamb's book of life?
You say, "How do I get my name there"? By repenting of your sin and receiving Jesus Christ into your life as your Savior and Lord. The One and only One who died for you and rose again, and who now has ascended and is coming again. This same Jesus, the one who's the Alpha and Omega described here, who is upon the throne of the ages, the Ancient of days, the One who has provided this one and only pathway.[John 14:6 "I am the way, the truth, the life"! Settle this! Do you know? You must know! Not just think so or maybe so. Do you know that you're going to heaven? If not, settle that question today.