Jack Graham - The Community of Heaven
Turn to the book of Revelation, chapter 4 of the Revelation. John was given a glimpse of glory. He was allowed to see into our future and speak of God's plans for our lives in eternity. And not only the end of the world, but beyond this world. It's called the Book of Revelation. Heaven is real. We saw that in our first message in the HEAVEN series, "The Reality of Heaven". A real place in real time, prepared for God's people, a prepared people. It is beautiful, it is wonderful, it is indescribable.
So many of the images that we see regarding heaven in Revelation, as well other passages, these symbols, these images are reflective of the fact that heaven is beyond our comprehension so God uses word pictures and portraits that help us get a grasp of just something of what it is like. "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man what God has prepared for those who love and fear Him". That scripture goes on to say, "But God's Spirit has revealed these things to us". So we have the Revelation. We don't have to live in speculation regarding our future but we can live in revelation, the revelation of Jesus Christ, not just the book of Revelation, but all of God's Word that describes our glorious future with Him. In Him there is a future and a hope.
So today we're going to talk about "The Community of Heaven", meaning who's there and how will we know them. Because not only is heaven real, it's about relationships like life. It's said that life is all about relationships, the rest is detail. And so it's true regarding heaven. It's about relationships with this truth, it will be a redeemed company, redeemed relationships. Our prayer, our passion is that we would long for heaven, that we would long for Him, to see Jesus, that we would love Him and love His appearing, and knowing that one day we will see Christ and will be with Christ. We talked about in our last message, our first message in this series, to set our affections, our mindset on heaven above, not on earth below. That we should live with this brand new perspective, when God is making all things new in our lives.
So maybe I should pause and just say how did you do this week? Did you think more, talk more about heaven, what you are learning, what you may be experiencing? I hope you will. My goal is to help us embrace eternity even more, that we would envision God's future for us and explore all of the glories and the adventures of being with Christ in heaven forever and ever. And so one of those portraits, pictures is in Revelation, chapter 4, beginning in verse 1: "After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, 'Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.'"
This is a key verse in the book of Revelation because it speaks of an open door and our being raptured, enraptured into the presence. John is symbolic of all believers who are enraptured into the very presences of God. He sees a heavenly vision. The trumpet sounds and so it is a description of what is to come when Christ comes for us. And he says: "I will show you what must take place after this". After these things, and thus, the book of Revelation. What is the future. Verse 2 says: "At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne".
Skip down to verse 4: "Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal. And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox"... Notice these similes "like", "like an ox" "like a lamb". And one "with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature flying like an eagle. And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they ceased not to say (let's say this out loud), 'Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!'" Verse 11 says: "Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created".
A praise to the Creator/God. There is a redemption song. There's no evolution song in heaven. It is a creation song and celebrating the One who has created all. Are you contemplating your future? We start with God Himself in heaven who will be there. Obviously heaven is consumed and consummated with the very presence of God Himself. The one who is described as Creator and Sustainer and Redeemer. The Lamb upon the throne. The one who rules from eternity His everlasting Kingdom. And the presence of God, the Bible says, fills heaven and earth. The Scripture says, "And God will be with them, and His people will be with Him". Revelation 22, verse 4 says that "We will see Him face to face". We will see God's face and He will write His name upon our foreheads. His face!
In the Old Testament the Scripture says that no man can see God's face and live. To see the burning glory and pure white hot holiness of God would strike us dead. But in Christ we have been redeemed and invited into the very presence of God! The veil has been torn from top to bottom, not to let God out, but to let us in! And we are now in His presence and one day face to face with Him, our Lord Jesus Christ! And no one will doubt or wonder who is God or who is on the throne! It won't be Buddha on the throne! It won't be Mohammed on the throne! It won't be Confucius on the throne! It won't be some petty world dictator on the throne! It will be God Almighty, the Lion, the Lamb who reigns forevermore! He is on the throne! And when we see Him we, of course, will be awestruck with His majesty! Astonished that we are in His presence. We will be on the ground on our faces, and then, not only on our faces, but then on our feet, standing and worshipping and praising God! Because there is so much joy, because we are present with Him.
Psalm 16:11 says, "At your right hand are pleasures forevermore". "In your presence, Lord, is fullness of joy". "At your throne fullness of joy, at your right hand pleasures forevermore". It is that promise of pleasure forever with Him that excites us, that gets us ready to go to heaven. Job was seeking clarity and comfort in the midst of his great suffering in life. Everything seemed to have been taken away from Job and he wrestled in the midst of his suffering. And yet, when he came to the conclusion he saw and heard from God Himself. And here's what Job wrote in Job 19: "For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has thus been destroyed (that is, when I die) yet in my flesh I shall see God (speaking of the resurrection one day), whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold (We shall behold Him!) My eyes shall behold, and not another".
It's not just somebody else talking about Jesus; I will see Him because I have a relationship with Him. And he said, "My heart faints within me". He said, "This is just, my heart is exploding in anticipation of seeing Him". You will have no trouble recognizing Him. He's the one with the nail prints in His hands. The only man-made thing in heaven will be the prints of the nails in His hands as a perpetual reminder of the sacrifice and blood that was poured out for our redemption and our salvation, which He offers as a gift to all who will receive Him. Yes, I will know Him by the prints of the nails in His hands. And as I said last week, the same nail scarred hands that opened to us the door of grace will open to us the doors of glory. We will see Him! And instantaneously, immediately all of our questions, and we have questions in life. Mysteries, suffering, problems, perplexities that we cannot answer this side, but immediately in His pure light "we will know even as we are known".
The most often repeated word that you will hear in heaven is not, after Jesus Himself, will be "Ah-ha! That's what it was all about". "Ah-ha! This is why it happened. God had a plan. He truly was 'working all things together for my good.'" God's got a plan for your life and it's an eternal plan. And He's not finished yet. He's still working and weaving His master plan in our lives. So, yes, we will live in light. "Now we see through a mirror darkly (according to the Scriptures. It's vague) but then we shall see face to face; we will know even as we are known". And we shall behold Him! And we will be with Him! Listen to me! We will be with Him! We will walk with Him and talk with Him! We will worship Him! We will live in His presence! Our God, our Savior! God has given us this sure promise!
There was a man in the New Testament. It's in the Christmas story. His name is Simeon. God gave Simeon a promise that he would not die until he saw the Lord Christ, the Messiah. And so he waited and he waited and he waited. He was an old man, and one great day Mary and Joseph walked in with a little baby in their arms, the Savior, Jesus; born the Savior of the world. And that old man Simeon took that Christ child in his arms and he began to praise God. Because God made him a promise that he would not die until he sees Jesus. We should live with that same kind of anticipation, that we will see Jesus, that one day either in rapture or in death we will see our Lord, the One on the throne. But then, those around the throne. These images here, and just because they're images and symbols does not mean they do not represent something real. These things are real! Don't get the idea, "Well, these are all bizarre kinds of expressions that I can't understand".
Well, they're sometimes difficult to interpret as in this passage, as to who these creatures are and who these four faced creatures are, and so on. But these are but symbols of something else, but they are real! They represent something very real! And, one, there are angels around the throne of God. The heavenly hosts worshipping God 24/7, forever and ever and ever. Saying "Holy, holy, holy". Isaiah saw this in Isaiah 6 and reported when he went to heaven in that vision that around the throne of God these angel beings are worshiping God. We're grateful for the angels. There are millions and millions and millions of them! They interact with our lives. They serve the people of God. The show up again and again and again in Scripture; from cover to cover in God's Word we meet the holy angels. But their primary focus is the worship of God and singing the hallelujahs and the choruses of praise to God and leading anthems of exaltation. We will sing and shout! The angelic choruses will be worshiping God!
Can you imagine the thunderous mighty power of that heaven host praising God? Angels will usher us into God's presence. Jesus told a story of a poor man by the name of Lazarus who died. And when he died, everyone thought unnoticed, the angels were there to take him into the presence of the Lord, into paradise itself. You will not die alone as a believer. You will not die in fear as a Christian because that moment, however it comes, whenever it comes, the angels will carry you into the presence of God. Jesus Himself will meet you there. There is no fear to die because we know the Lord. These heavenly beings worship and serve Him continually. I wish I could say more about the angels. You'll just have to check out my book on the subject. But the focus is not only on the angels, but the redeemed, represented here in Revelation 4 by these 24 elders who set by the throne of God. Most Bible scholars believe, I certainly believe it, that they represent the Old Testament and New Testament saints, the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles. Twenty-four!
So people who trusted in God, Old Testament, New Testament believers. You say, how were Old Testament believers saved? Christ had not come yet. They were saved by believing the promise and anticipating the One who would come, and trusting in Him. They were saved by looking forward to the coming of Christ. We are saved by looking back to the coming of Christ and His cross. But the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son cleanses from all sin, past, present and future. So these are the redeemed of the ages. They are around the throne of God. Now the question is often asked: Will we know one another in heaven? What about our loved ones who have left us? I can tell you that saying goodbye is the greatest grief on earth. Saying goodbye to the people that we love. We miss them because they leave us for a while. We haven't lost them.
If your Christian husband is with the Lord, you haven't lost him; you know where he is. We don't lose our loved ones. They leave us for a little while. But one day the Bible promises us, Jesus promises us that there will be no separation. Separation is painful beyond words. When you bury a loved one, a husband, a wife, a child, you feel like you bury your own heart with them! Such great grief! We long to see our family and our friends! It's human! It's an aspiration that is real, and, of course, God will reunite us with our saved family members who precede us into heaven. The Thessalonian Christians were asking that same question. Will we know one another? Will we see our loved ones ever again? They had died and had disappeared. Christ had not come. And so where are they; will we ever see them again? And that is when in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4, the Apostle Paul wrote to encourage and comfort them, and he said, "I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep, that you sorrow not, even as others who have no hope".
The grief is real; the pain is real, but we don't sorrow as those who have no hope. "If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord... that the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord will be caught up (watch this) together in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and so shall we (family and friends and loved ones and the redeemed of the ages!) so will we ever be with the Lord". Yes, we're going to run to Jesus! Yes, we're going to worship Jesus! Yes, we will most and forever be enthralled with His presence! But Jesus knows our need for relationships. There will be friendships and relationships.
You say, "Will we know one another in heaven"? Of course! Do you think we'll know less in heaven than we know right now? In fact, you probably don't even really know the person you think you know until you get to heaven, and you'll see God's grace in their lives. And you'll be so excited to see your family and your friends, and meet the... Can you imagine meeting Paul and Peter and David and Solomon, and all the rest? Just having long conversations. Imagine that. When John saw heaven he saw people from every nation, every creed, every tongue, every tribe, every ethnicity, every race. People from all over the world. Heaven will be multiracial, multiethnic place, marked by love and grace and peace. No more racial hostility! No more brokenness! No more segregation! No more separation! Because we are together forever in Christ!
And our goal this side of eternity must be to come together now in preparation for our being together forever! And there should only be one people in Christ! There's only one color in Christ: it's the royal red blood of His cross! We are redeemed! We are ransomed and we are there, not by the color of our skin or our ethnicity, but because of Jesus and His grace! It's amazing grace for every race! That's what it is! And we will be together. Not everyone is going to heaven. In fact, the Bible tells us that many will not go to heaven. 1 Corinthians 6 "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, no men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God".
It's a pretty sick list! But, I love verse 11. Some of you are thinking, "I've done some of that. I've done maybe all of that! There's no hope for me"! Verse 11 says, "and such were some of you"! This is not who you are, this is what you were! You are now a sinner saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ! You're made brand new! He's making all things new! You are washed in His blood! Sanctified, justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Spirit of our God! Saved? Or lost? Revelation 21 "But as for the cowardly, and the faithless, detestable, murderers, sexual immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death".
Yes, there is a heaven, and yes, there is a hell. Verse 27 of that same chapter, "But nothing unclean will enter into it (lest heaven would become a hell), nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those, (watch this) who are written in the Lamb's book of life". Is your name in that book? It can be; it must be. You make your reservation. We've all had the experience of showing up somewhere without a reservation. Can't get in. Not everyone is going to heaven. It's a sad and tragic fact that there are some who are lost forever, even as those who trust in Christ are saved forever.
And one final word before we close this down this week, and that is what are we doing to help the lost come to Jesus? Because our heart should be breaking for our family members and our friends who don't know Him. The same reality that we will spend a conscious eternity with Christ, forever in His presence is also the same reality that those who do not know Jesus will spend a conscious eternity in hell forever and ever and ever! How on earth can we be silent? We've got family members and friends we don't even know where they're spending eternity! We've never even discussed it with them.
But here's the good news. So many are open and ready and responsive. I've found in my life in sharing my faith so many people want to know! Nobody's told them! Or they have all these ideas that are so wrong about the future, or they're just waiting for you, for me to talk to them, to raised the subject, to tell them who Jesus is and what Jesus has done. And, oh by the way, it's not just us convincing people! We have the Holy Spirit to give us words, to prepare their hearts! And many are prepared and would welcome a conversation with you, their friend, their family member, about their future. And you can tell them about Jesus. We want to take as many people to heaven with us as possible! Because it's going to be wonderful; it's going to be glorious, and we don't want to go to heaven without you.