Robert Jeffress - Worship Like You've Never Experienced
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. People often ask me, pastor, if heaven is forever, then what are we going to do all of that time? It's a fair question and I'm happy to report that there will be many things to do in heaven, but today, I'm going to focus on one of the most central activities that we'll participate in. My message is titled, "Worship Like You've Never Experienced", on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
In Stephen Covey's runaway bestselling book, the 7 habits of highly effective people, he has a chart in that book showing how most people spend the bulk of their time and the chart is divided into four quadrants. In quadrant number one, he calls these activities that are both important and urgent. Life threatening crises. Deadlines at home or work. Things that are important and urgent but then quadrant two includes things that are important but not urgent. Things like exercising, reading your Bible, developing healthy relationships. They're not always urgent but they are important. Quadrant three shows things that aren't important but urgent. Text messages that demand an immediate response. Meetings to go to and so forth. And then quadrant four are those things that are neither important nor urgent. Scrolling through social media. Watching television, except Pathway to Victory of course. Other things, busy work. Things that are neither important nor urgent.
Stephen Covey says we spend most of our time in three of those quadrants but the one area of life we tend to spend very little time in is that second quadrant. Those things that are important but not urgent. Somebody has said the important things in life are seldom urgent and the urgent things in life are seldom important. Have you discovered that? You know, at the top of the list of those things that are important but not urgent is our worship of God. There's nothing that cries out to us everyday, worship, worship, worship and we don't tend to put that on a high priority list but would anybody argue that worship is unimportant? In other words, we're going to see today when we get to heaven, we're going to be doing a variety of things. There's not just one thing we do in heaven. We're going to be doing many things in heaven. Nobody's going to be bored in heaven but even though we're going to do a variety of things, central to everything we do is going to be the worship of God and that's the scene that we see pictured in our passage today.
If you have your Bibles, I want you to turn to Revelation 4 as we discover worship like you've never experienced. Revelation 4. Now in our study of Revelation, we have come to the third and the final section of this book and far above the most extensive section of the book. Remember the setting for the Revelation? John the apostle had been exiled to Patmos by the Roman government because he refused to acknowledge Caesar as being Lord and it was while he was on Patmos that on Sunday, the Lord's day, Jesus appeared to him and gave him a vision of what was to come in the future that would ultimately culminate in the return of Jesus Christ. It was an unveiling, not just of events but Jesus himself in his glorified state and the purpose of this Revelation was to encourage John, the first century Christians who were being persecuted and all of us up until today to remain faithful to Jesus Christ. Why should we be obedient to Jesus Christ regardless of the cost? Because Jesus Christ is returning one day. He's returning soon to reward the righteous and punish the unrighteous.
That is the theme of the book of the Revelation. The soon return of Jesus Christ our Lord. And so the Lord appears to John and in chapter 1:19, he says John, write down three things. The things which you have seen. The things which are. And the things which are yet to come and that's the threefold division of the Book of Revelation. The things that you have seen. That's chapter one. John saw Jesus Christ, not as that baby in Bethlehem that we'll celebrate in a few weeks, but as the King of kings and the Lord of lords, Jesus in his exalted state. Secondly, he said write down the things which are. That is the condition of the seven churches and we saw that in Revelation 2 and 3. Jesus is carefully inspecting not only churches but the Christians who make up those churches. He's always watching, always evaluating, and then he said write down the things that are to come.
Now when we come to chapter four of Revelation, the church is in heaven. In chapters 2 and 3, the churches were on earth and Jesus was inspecting them. The church is in heaven and we see the church around the throne of God and we see that these two chapters, chapters 4 and 5, are a prelude to the Great Tribulation that's about to begin on earth. This is a scene in heaven of what the church is doing before the tribulation begins. Now the question is how did the church get from earth into heaven? It's through an event that we call the rapture of the church. Now people say where do you find the rapture in the Book of Revelation? No, the word rapture is not mentioned in the Book of Revelation but it's mentioned elsewhere and yes, it is taught elsewhere.
In fact, the actual word rapture is used in the Bible. Don't let people tell you oh, the rapture's not found anywhere in the Bible. Yes it is. In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Paul described it. He says for on that day, the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel and with a trumpet of God and the dead in Christ shall rise first and then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord. That phrase caught up, harpazo in Greek, is the word rapture in Latin and we've transliterated it into English. The rapture of the church. The Bible says we're going to be in heaven when the tribulation takes place and that's very clear in chapters 4 and 5. The church, as we're going to see in a moment, is in heaven praising God before the tribulation begins on earth in chapter 6.
Now pastor, why do you believe and teach so strongly about a pre-tribulation rapture? Why are you so certain that the church will not be on earth during the outpouring of God's judgments on the earth? Let me share with you three reasons for that. First of all, the promise of God. The promise of God. One thing that is true throughout scripture is that believers have not been exempted from persecution or problem or even tribulation but we have been exempted from experiencing the wrath, the judgment of God. Noah and his family were exempt from the flood. They were exempt from God pouring out his wrath upon the earth. Lot and his family, as ungodly as they were, they were nevertheless spared the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah and so it will be for believers. We do not have to fear the wrath of God.
1 Thessalonians 1:10. Paul writes wait for his son from heaven whom he raised from the dead. That is Jesus who delivers us from the wrath that is to come. Or 1 Thessalonians 5 :9. For God has not destined us for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. Do you remember in Revelation 3:10? Jesus was giving a message to the church at Philadelphia but it's very clear that he fast forwards past Philadelphia to another age in the future, another time, and he makes this promise. Because you have kept the word of my perseverance, I will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world. This wasn't just an empire-wide testing. It was a testing on the whole world to test those who dwell on the earth. Jesus was saying there is a group of Christians who will be protected. They will be delivered. Ek, the Greek word means out of, from, the worldwide testing that is yet to come.
The promise of God is that we do not have to fear the wrath of God. That doesn't mean we're exempt from suffering. That doesn't mean we're exempt from experiencing man's persecution against man but we never have to fear the wrath of God. The second reason I believe in the pre-tribulation rapture is the absence of the church in Revelation 6 through 18. It's interesting to me that in chapters 2 and 3, you see the church very present on earth and Jesus is talking to the churches. When you get to chapter 19 and the return of Jesus Christ, I can't wait for that and it's going to be a great day when Christ returns, that's chapter 19, but in between that time from chapters 6 through 18 that deal with the Great Tribulation, you don't find the church mentioned one time. Why is it through all of those detailed descriptions of what is happening on earth, there is not one mention of the church in chapter 6 through 18? It's because the church isn't here. The church is in heaven with God. That is the promise of God.
There is no church on earth in Revelation 6 through 18 and finally, the reason I believe in the pre-tribulation is the, rapture, is because of the purpose of the tribulation itself. Why is it that for the final seven years of earth's history, God is pouring out his wrath upon the earth? There are two reasons for it. Number one is for the salvation of Israel. Daniel 9 talks about this final week of years, the seven years, as Daniel's 70th week to give Israel one last chance to respond. God is not willing for any to perish but for all to come to a knowledge of the truth. It's an act of God's mercy to motivate them to repentance. The salvation of Israel. Secondly, the tribulation serves for the condemnation of unbelievers. God is going to pour out his wrath on unbelievers and the tribulation is the time that that happens on earth before an eternity in hell.
Now think about it. The salvation of Israel. The condemnation of unbelievers. Neither of those purposes fits the church. We don't need to be saved. We've already been saved. Secondly, we don't need to fear the condemnation of God because the condemnation we deserved was poured out on Jesus Christ. That's why that hymn we sung just a moment ago, for on that cross where Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied. The great promise of scripture in Romans 8:1 is this. There is now therefore no condemnation awaiting those who belong to Christ Jesus. If I have to fear some future punishment of God then the death of Jesus Christ was absolutely worthless. But it wasn't worthless. Jesus absorbed in some inexplicable way the punishment that you and I deserve and that's why I believe in a pre-tribulation rapture. That's just the warm-up for the sermon.
Now let's get to the text at verse 1. After these things I looked and behold, a door standing open in heaven and it says and the first voice that I heard like the sound of a trumpet speaking to me said come up here and I will show you what must take place after these things. Jesus said I'm going to give you a sneak preview, John, of the things which must, dei, D-E-I in Greek, the things that have to take place. Notice about the end time events, Jesus doesn't say these are things that could take place or might take place. These are things that have been ordained by God. They must take place and they are going to take place to bring about the return of Jesus Christ. John says immediately I was in the spirit.
We don't know if John was literally caught up into heaven or his spirit was caught up into heaven but he said and behold, I saw a throne that was standing in heaven and one sitting on the throne. He saw a throne, a large throne in heaven, and he saw one who is standing or sitting on the throne. Who is that one sitting on the throne? It's very clear that it is God the Father. How do I know it's God the Father and not Jesus the son? Because next time, when we get to chapter 5, we're going to see Jesus the son pictured as the lion and the lamb who receives from the one sitting on the throne the seven sealed book and so this is obviously God the Father, the one who is sitting on the throne.
Now I want you to notice three specific things that John witnessed in heaven. First of all, notice the description of God, the manifestation of God in verse 3. And he who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius stone in appearance and there was rainbow around the throne like an emerald in appearance. Why does John say it was like this? It's a very simple answer. Nobody's ever seen God. And nobody has ever been able to witness God and nobody ever will be without dying. No man has seen God except Jesus Christ. In John 6:46, Jesus said not that anyone has seen the father except the one who is from God. In Colossians 1:15, Paul is writing about Jesus Christ and says he is the image of the invisible God. Why has no one seen God? Because God is invisible. Doesn't mean he's not real but it means he is invisible. At most, people on earth have seen the manifestation of God. Moses saw the trailing edge of God's glory when God placed Moses in the cleft of the rock. What John saw, the best he could describe it is as light emanating from the throne. In fact, that is a common description of God the Father, as indescribable light.
In Psalm 104:2, David said that God the Father covered himself with light as with a cloak. Paul, writing about God, says in 1 Timothy 6:16, he alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light whom no man has seen or can see. John described this light as the reflection of three brilliant and costly gemstones. These three stones are significant because they appeared in the breastplate of the high priest, and not only that, in Revelation 21:19, they're described as some of the foundation stones of the new Jerusalem. Look at them with me quickly. He says first of all, I saw a jasper, as light from a jasper stone. That was probably a diamond, relating to God's holiness and purity. And then he talks about the sardius stone. That was a blood red stone that was found in the city of Sardis and probably representation of God's justice and wrath.
And then notice thirdly, John says he saw a rainbow around the throne of God. The rainbows we see today are multicolored, aren't they? But this had a single color. It was emerald, it was green. Probably a representation of God's mercy. The late Warren Wiersbe observed, usually a rainbow appears when? After the storm. This rainbow appears before the storm of the tribulation that is about to take place. It is a reminder that even during these awful next seven years of God's judgment, you see God's mercy. Even in the midst of judgment. Jesus talked about that in Matthew 24:22. He said unless those days of the tribulation had been cut short, no life could have been saved but for the sake of the elect, those days will be cut short.
Now notice in addition to the description of God, the worshipers of God around that throne and there are three that are mentioned. First of all, the 24 elders. Verse 4, and around the throne were 24 thrones and upon those thrones, I saw 24 elders sitting clothed in white garments and golden crowns on their heads. Now who are these 24 elders? Some people say oh, it's the angels. No, angels are never numbered in the Bible. As we'll see next time, it says myriad upon myriad of angels, it's an incalculable number of angels but they're never specifically numbered like this. Other people say this represents the church. That unique group of believers who were saved between the time of Pentecost and the rapture. The church, the bride of Jesus Christ. That's a possibility.
Other people say no, it's not just the church. It's all of God's redeemed. You have the 12 apostles representing the church and the 12 tribes of Israel representing elect Israel and this is a picture of all of the redeemed and that's a very real possibility as well. What is very clear is these are not angels. This is the group of God's redeemed, those who have been washed clean by the blood of the lamb. That's why you find the word white garments. These are those who've experienced salvation. The angels have never experienced salvation. They long to understand how God could save fallen humankind. That's why, and we'll talk about this more the next time, you never find the angels singing anywhere in scripture. Angels don't sing. It's the redeemed who sing. The angels say.
You'll find what they say in scripture but it's only the redeemed who sing and they're doing so dressed in white garments and their golden crowns, those are the victor crowns, the stephanos, representing the rewards we receive in heaven. That means by the time we get to chapter four, the church has not only been raptured, the bema seat, the Judgment Seat of Christ has already taken place. The church has been redeemed and rewarded. Why 24? Remember that in David's time, there were so many priests that not every priest could serve at the same time and so they did so in groups of 24, spent certain time in the temple performing their service. These 24 elders are representative of all of God's redeemed who will be standing before the throne. Secondly, he saw the seven spirits of God and from the throne perceived flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder. When do you see lightning? You see it right before a storm, don't you? It's a signal that a storm is coming. This is a signal that the tribulation storm is about to come.