Tony Evans - Watching Heaven Open
Today I want us to look at a situation that happened in the life of Jesus so that perhaps we can open up our communication more and hear from heaven more clearly and not try to communicate in a frozen environment. I want us to see a situation where God promises that we can watch heaven open. The scenario is given to us in the book of St. John chapter 1, and it revolves around a man in this chapter whose name is Nathaniel. According to verse 44 through verses 46, "Philip, who is from Bethesda of the city of Andrew and Peter finds", verse 45, "Nathaniel". And he says to Nate, "We have found him of whom Moses in the law and the prophets wrote Jesus of Nazareth, son of Joseph". So he says, "All that the prophets and the prophecies of the Old Testament were anticipating, we've found him, and he's Jesus of Nazareth".
Well, Nathaniel has a question in verse 46, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth"? So when Nathaniel hears that Jesus is from Nazareth, he's not impressed. Verse 47 is where the story begins to get a little bit interesting. "Jesus saw Nathaniel coming to him and said, 'Behold an Israelite indeed in whom there is no deceit.'" So Nathaniel is not near Jesus, 'cause Philip is telling him to come to see Jesus. Nathaniel has never met Jesus before. Don't wanna meet him 'cause he from Nazareth. But as Nathaniel makes his way to Jesus, Jesus says, "Behold an Israelite who is not deceptive," ain't no guile, he's an authentic person. Nate starts looking around. "You talking about me? You don't know me, you don't know my people". He says, "How do you know me? You know where I'm from, you know I'm an Israelite. You've dissected my character. How do you know me"?
'Cause Nathaniel hadn't introduced himself yet, Philip hadn't introduced Nathaniel to Jesus. He just sees him coming, and Jesus answered and said, verse 48, "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you". Jesus says, "I know more about you than you think. Before Philip ever came to you, I know where you were, who you are, and I know what you were doing. You were sitting under the fig tree". What Jesus exposes is his omniscience, 'cause remember, he's the Son of God and the Son of Man, and he's fully human, he's fully divine and so this act of deity is exposed when he unveils Nathaniel to Nathaniel.
So before we go any further, I just want you to know God knows you, because Jesus Christ is omniscient and he has full knowledge of every human being. He said, "Not only did I know you", but watch this, "I saw you". That's called omnipresence. He says, "I saw you. I know all about you". Nathaniel answered him, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God. You are the king of Israel". Nathaniel makes a confession when he discovers the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. There is only one God composed of three co-equal persons: God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. These are equal in essence but distinct in function. The Father's not the Son, the Son is not the Spirit, but they make up the one Godhead, and they have been given functional distinctions. So they don't all do the same thing in the same way at the same time, but they always operate in sync with one another.
When Jesus is called the Son of God, that is his functional role in relationship to the Godhead, to carry out the plan and program of God, as you'll see in a moment, in history. As the Son of God, he yields to the Father so that the function of the trinity can be executed in time and space. That is the same way he's created humanity, with all people being equal but with functional differences. And within those functional differences, those differences are never an issue of equality of persons, it's only an issue of distinctiveness of function. So whenever you denigrate somebody for their creative reality rather than their function, you have misunderstood the nature of creation. We all bear the same essence, we do not always share the same function.
So he is Son of God by function. That is taken further when he says, "You are the king of Israel". But Nathaniel, we'll call him Nate for short. Nate says, "You are the Son of God who is also the king of Israel," 'cause Philip brings him. He looks at Jesus and says, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God". So Jesus hears it, obviously God the Father hears it, Son of God, and Philip hears it. So what has he done? He has confessed Christ publicly. Let me say that again. He not just believing in his heart, he's confessing with his mouth. He has publicly confessed Jesus's spiritual identity and his human responsibility. In one phrase, he's confessed it, he's acknowledged it, and he's identified it for heaven and for earth. Verse 15, "Jesus answered and said to him," to Nathaniel, "Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe you will see greater things than these"? Translation, you ain't seen nothing yet.
What do you mean? Verse 51, "He said to him, 'Truly, truly,'" that means sure enough, sure enough, for real, for real. "I say to you, you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man". Translation, you are going to see the supernatural, heaven opened, heaven opened. But you will see the angels of God, and their job is to carry out spiritually what you are needing to deal with physically on earth. He says, "You will see heaven open, you will see up there, and angels will be assigned to come down here, and you get to see it, you will see". In other words, you're going to see the supernatural. You're not gonna just be limited to the natural. Let's look at it again. Nathaniel said, "You are the Son of God," right? Jesus says, "You will be seeing angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man".
Ah, he changes the word. He confessed Jesus's deity. And Jesus says, "Now you're gonna see my humanity. You confessed my deity because you saw my omniscience, you saw my omnipresence, so now I'ma let you see my humanity. You acknowledge who I am in heaven, now I'm gonna show you a little somethin'-somethin' on earth". Son of Man, that's his humanity. Son of God, that's his deity. As Son of God, he grabs heaven, as Son of Man he grabs earth, and as the ladder, he brings the two together. You know what a ladder does? A ladder takes you up and brings you down. It connects two spaces of spheres. He says, "Jesus Christ is your connection to heaven". And he says, "Because you believed".
Now he didn't just walk around... Nate didn't just say, "I believe," he did confess it, but he confessed who Jesus was, and he confessed it in front of Philip, he confessed it publicly. He's called a man of no deceit, and a ladder is introduced to the equation. He not only knew that Jesus knew where he was and what he was like, he also knew that Jesus knew what he was thinking about. He knew what he was doing under the fig tree. Now, I know you wanna know where you get that from.
Turn your Bibles to Genesis 28. Genesis 28. If you're gonna hang with me, now, you need a Bible. You gotta bring a Bible to church, okay? 'Cause we don't want it to be my word, we want it to be God's Word. Genesis 28. Okay, so, in Genesis 28, verse 10, "Then Jacob departed from Beer-Sheba, and he went to toward Haran. And he came to a certain place and spent the night there because the sun had set. And he took one of the stones of the place and put it under his head and lay down in that place. And he had a dream and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending..." stay with me...
"...and descending on it. And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, 'I am the Lord, the God of your father, Abraham, the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie, I will give it to you and your descendants. Your descendants will also be like the dust of the earth and you will spread out to the west and the east and the north and the south, and you and your descendants shall all the founders of the earth be blessed. Behold, I will be with you and will keep you wherever you go and will bring you back to the land, for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.' Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, 'Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.' He was afraid and said, 'How awesome is this place!' This is none other than the house of God; and this is the gate of heaven.'"
Who is Jacob? His name means the deceiver. Jacob's name means the deceiver. Those of you who know about the life and story of Jacob know that he spent his life deceiving his brother out of his birthright. So when Nathan hears Jesus say, "You are sitting down". Jacob is laying down. "You're under a tree". Jacob put his head on a rock. "You're having a dream". Jacob sees the ladder, I got a ladder. Jacob is a deceiver. Nate, you are not known for your deception. He makes the connection between the Old Testament and the New Testament, since Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament.
Now, just to give you one other tidbit here, let me just tell you real quick why Jacob is under the tree, 'cause that may help you understand. He's in a certain place, and many of us are in a certain place, in a certain situation. What's the situation he's in? Verse 41 of Genesis 27 says, "So Esau bore a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing which his father had blessed him. And Esau said to himself, 'The days of mourning for my father are near, then I will kill my brother Jacob.'" You know the certain place he's in? He's running for his life. Jacob is running for his life. He's in a desperate situation, and he needs a divine intervention. Anybody in here in a desperate situation and you need a divine intervention? You need heaven to open up 'cause earth is shut down on you? His dream meant to Jacob that God would be accessible in the worst day of his life.
And notice what he said, he says, "And God was here and I didn't know it". Jesus was there, and Nathaniel didn't even know it. God is right there with you, and you don't even know it. Because he does not always make himself known. He is there, but you don't always know he's there, that is until heaven opens up. John chapter 1, "You will see heaven open". The Greek word there, you, is plural. This passage is not just for Nate, it includes you and me, 'cause it included all the disciples. "You will see heaven open, you will watch eternity enter into time, you will see the supernatural enter into the natural. If you confess me, if you acknowledge me, if you recognize me as the Son of God, then you'll see him do his stuff on earth".
After Jesus tells Nathaniel, "You're going to see heaven open, and you're going to see the angels doing their thing on the Son of Man, not on God the Father, but on me", the next thing we see is a wedding, because verse 1 of chapter 2 says, "On the third day, there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee and the mother of Jesus was there and both Jesus and his disciples were invited to the wedding". Remember what he said in verse 51, "Y'all will see". So not just Nathaniel, "I'm gonna show all y'all who I am". They are at a wedding, they run out of wine. The mother says, "They have no wine". "Woman," he says, verse 4, "What has that got to do with us? My hour has not yet come". In other words, it's not time for me to go public. His mother says, "Whatever he tells you to do, do it," verse 5. Mama got sense, okay?
Okay, he ain't ready to go public, so we gotta do it his way. There're six water pots. Jesus says, "Fill the water pots with water". So they filled them to the brim. Now, we're getting ready to see a miracle, but the miracle does not happen without human participation. He tells them to go fill the water pots. Nor does the miracle happen without natural ingredients, water. Water's already there, the people are already there. So he tells them, human beings, to fill the water pot, he uses a natural substance, which is water, and here's what happens, "Draw some out, take it to the head waiter, so they took them. When the head waiter", verse 9, "tasted the water which had become wine and did not know where it came from but the servants who had drawn the water knew. The head waiter called the bridegroom and said to him, 'Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely'", 'cause now they're not all same, "'then he serves the poorer wine'", 'cause now they don't know the difference.
"'But you have kept the good wine till now.'" This beginning of his signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee. So, let's package it up and call it a day. Jesus said in verse 51, "Because you confessed me, you believed what I said, you didn't fight me, you didn't argue with me, you accepted what I said and then you confessed me publicly, y'all", 'cause you is plural, "are gonna see heaven open". When they are invited to the wedding, they run out of wine.
Now, wine in the Bible is used negatively and positively. Negatively it condemns drunkenness, positively it's used for joy. You know what you get to see when heaven's open? God reversing a situation. Lack of joy became joy. Lack of wine became wine. And here's the best news ever, I can't leave you with any better news than this. The head waiter said, "In every wedding I've been to, every place I've gone, they serve the good wine first and they leave the bad stuff to last". But he goes to the bridegroom and said, "But you haven't done that. I thought the good wine was good wine, but this stuff you just came out with," the bridegroom didn't know where it came from, "But this stuff you came out with, it is the bomb. You done saved the best stuff for last".
The good news of this miracle is that God is so good at reversing stuff, that what comes last is better than what came first. That where you're going is better than where you've been and where you came from. That God can take the mess and turn it into a miracle. He can take yesterday's failures and turn it into tomorrow's victories. He can take lemons and give you some lemonade. He can hit a bullseye with a crooked stick. So if you need heaven to turn something around, if you need heaven to reverse a situation in your life, in your home, with your job, in your situation, if I can just get you to believe Christ, confess Christ, and trust Christ, he can take that messed-up situation and make the last part better than the first part, the next part better than the part you had before. He can turn your situation around. That's what he did. He can turn your water into wine. And you will be able to say, "The best part of my life was the rest of my life when I confessed Jesus the Christ".
Too many of us spend too much of our lives living under a closed heaven. We don't see God break through to show how powerful he is and how relevant he is to what we're dealing with on earth. But as I stand here in this canyon in the rockies and see the open sky above me, I'm reminded that God wants to break in into our earthly reality and let the invisible God become very visible in our daily lives. He doesn't want us living under a closed heaven when he is a God so far that he's untouchable. No, he wants us to be under an open heaven where he comes down and gets in the middle of our mess. He comes down and shows his purpose and our problems. He comes down and shows his strength and our struggles. No, we want an open heaven where God intervenes in the affairs of our lives. And just like the openness of heaven in this canyon, he wants to show his openness in your crisis and mine so that the visible presence of God is not an idea, it becomes a living experience.