A Revelation of Heaven
to Exploring the Word. Thanks for joining us. This is your opportunity
to dig deeper into the richness of the Word. And we trust you will
come up with some inspiring discoveries. Jeannie, what do you have
is a question from Ray, a writer actually, who makes a living making
up stories. And he started wondering about the stories about heaven
he’s heard. “People have so many different ideas about
what heaven is going to be like. Do we just make up heaven out of
our imaginations? Does the Bible have any specifics on what life
will be like up there?”
interesting. Heaven is a fascinating subject, and there’s
all kinds of speculation about it.
don’t you think Christians ought to have a clear answer about
I’m afraid some of our pictures in the past haven’t
been very convincing.
How does heaven
become real for people? Well, when it comes to the subject of last-day
events, one book in the Bible stands head and shoulders above the
rest---the book of Revelation. It’s twenty-two chapters focus
on the end times, or eschatology. And it, like the book of Daniel,
pictures the future graphically, using a variety of symbols.
Did you check
out chapters 21 and 22? That was our assignment from last week,
remember? We’ll be talking about some of the clues about life
in heaven you hopefully picked up.
one of the last books of the New Testament to be written--- penned
around 95 A.D. by the beloved Apostle John. He was in the custody
of Roman authorities, exiled on a little island called Patmos. When
I visited that rocky wind-swept place and looked out over the Mediterranean,
I could well imagine John’s isolation.
the apostle used symbols in part to disguise the fact that he was
writing about Jesus winning in the end, not Rome. The young Christian
church was entering a period of persecution, mainly because Rome
had started to enforce a cult of emperor worship. John, like his
fellow believers, affirmed that Jesus, not Caesar, is Lord. And
he believed that the future, that history itself, lay in Jesus’
So he finds
himself in Roman chains as he writes this “revelation”
given to him, he says, by Jesus Christ. He wrote in the shadow of
the powerful, and pagan, Roman Empire. And yet through these chapters
you will find remarkably bright and vivid pictures of heaven. We
catch glimpses of that other world. John gives us dramatic scenes
in fact, that give us a taste of a future face-to-face life with
going to put those scenes together. So get your Bibles ready. We’ll
come up with Revelation’s picture of heaven, the most authentic
picture to date.
John gives us our first glimpse of heaven in the first chapter of
his Revelation. He describes a vision in which he encounters a glorious
being. It begins with Revelation 1:13. He sees:
the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded
about the chest with a golden band. His head and His hair were white
like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire;
His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His
voice as the sound of many waters.” Revelation 1:13-15
The phrase “the
Son of Man” is used 80 times in the New Testament to describe
who? Jesus Christ.
John had spent
a lot of time with this Man, of course, all over Galilee and Judea.
But now Jesus looks like anything but the humble carpenter, or wandering
rabbi. John is awed by his eyes; they’re so brilliant and
piercing they seem like two dancing flames. Christ’s skin
shines like polished brass. A radiance around Him makes His hair
look white as snow. And His voice is as deep and resonant as the
John is catching
a glimpse of Jesus—as He appears in heaven. This is a spectacular
first vision in Revelation about things to come tells us one thing
very clearly: heaven has Jesus at the center.
around a fascinating person, and a loving God. Heaven isn’t
just an empty space we fill with our imagination. Heaven isn’t
just a vague place inhabited by shadowy figures.
No, at the center
stands this extraordinary figure, Jesus Christ. This is the most
fascinating personality in the universe.
heaven about? It’s about getting to know God, face-to-face.
Heaven is going to be a thrilling experience because Jesus Christ
is a thrilling experience; we’ll be exploring the height and
depth and breadth of His character forever.
move on to our second glimpse of heaven. It comes to us in Revelation
Here we see
the throne room of heaven. In verse three we see an emerald rainbow
hovering around God’s throne. In verse six, a “sea of
glass, like crystal,” spreads before it.
And then we
see, in verse seven, symbolic creatures, full of eyes. Day and night,
John tells us, they declare this, verse eight:
Lord God Almighty,
Who was and is and is to come!” Rev. 4:8
This is a chorus,
apparently sung over and over again. Why? What does it mean exactly?
What is this scene telling us about heaven?
of two Sahara tribesmen might help us understand. A couple of Muslim
nomads were flown to France by a pilot who befriended them. They’d
spent their entire lives in the desert. It was the trip of their
lifetime. They were shown all the glittering sights of Paris. But
there was one thing in France that impressed them far more than
the Eiffel Tower or the Palace at Versailles.
The two tribesmen were taken to the countryside and there they saw
a waterfall. They stood before it in silent awe. Their guides couldn't
coax them away. Finally they asked, "When are they going to
turn it off?" These men of the desert had to wander for days
in search of a drink of water. They just couldn't believe this flood
could just go on and on. The men of the Sahara stood transfixed,
thinking, water, water, all this water.
You know something.
That’s what heaven is going to be like. Why are those symbolic
creatures pictured saying, holy, holy, holy night and day? Because
nothing in our world has prepared us for the wonder of God’s
holiness. In our world, selfless love is as hard to come by as water
in the desert. But when we look at God we see love pouring from
Him in every circumstance. His love never stops, never gives up.
It’s like a thundering waterfall in a dry and thirsty land.
What this scene
tells us is that worship is at the heart of heaven.
But please note,
this is a special kind of worship. It’s not just sitting around,
singing hymns and strumming harps. It’s not just a religious
duty. No, this is an expression of the awe that’s filling
our hearts. It’s being overcome before the waterfall. It’s
an exuberant celebration.
Worship in heaven
is about expressing our deepest emotions in all kinds of ways.
why we see an emerald rainbow, a sea of glass. That’s why
there’s thunder and lightning. That’s why the living
creatures cry out exuberantly. That’s why, at the end of the
chapter, we have 24 elders throwing their golden crowns before the
throne and breaking into praises.
All these sights
and sounds reflect an intense emotional experience. It’s worship
that comes from the heart. It’s joy flooding out from our
what heaven is going to be like.
move to one of the last scenes in Revelation. Look at chapter twenty-one,
near the end of book. In this chapter John tells us about the heavenly
city we’ll inhabit, the New Jerusalem. It comes down out of
heaven “as a bride adorned for her husband.” Chapter
twenty-one actually gives us a tour of this city. Look at verse
foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds
of precious stones.”
John goes on
to describe jasper, sapphire, sardius and topaz. Nobody’s
pouring mere cement here. The very foundations of the city gleam
Go down to verse
twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one
pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent
Pearls the size
of a city gate. Streets made of translucent gold. Quite a city.
What is this telling us? What does all this dazzle say about heaven?
Do you remember
what Christmas time was like—as a little child? Maybe you
visited grandmother’s house, or some other relative. Maybe
you celebrated at home. But didn’t those presents piled under
the tree seem like a mountain? Didn’t those packages just
burst with color? Didn’t that Christmas tree seem enormous?
And didn’t all those twinkling lights on it dazzle you?
are very vivid for many of us. Why? Is it just because the wrapping
paper was so colorful? Just because the twinkling lights were so
bright? No, it’s because all that represents home to us, the
best of home. That’s when we felt loved the most. That’s
when we felt we belonged. That’s when we were happiest.
those reasons that the Christmas lights twinkle so brightly in our
what God is showing us with this dazzling city. He’s showing
us that we’ve got a real home here.
remember Christ’s famous words, “In my Father’s
house are many mansions. God has prepared a home for us in the New
Jerusalem, a home of our own. It’s having that place of belonging
that makes everything seem like a gem.
Now look over
at verses 25 and 26 in this chapter. Here’s something else
John saw about the city:
shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there).
And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into
it.” Rev. 21:25,26
Why are the
gates never shut? Because all this glory and honor keeps flowing
into it. What does that mean? It means everything good and great
comes into this city. The achievements of the nations, the creative
expression of all peoples—it finds its way here. The most
powerful pieces of art, the most moving pieces of music, the skill
and craft and wisdom of every culture finds a home in this city.
In other words,
our heavenly home is furnished with the best of life.
not just talking about furniture of course. Everything excellent
and honorable, everything lovely and gracious, finds expression
in this place. No wonder the streets shine like gold. No wonder
the very foundations gleam like jasper.
indeed give us a clear picture of heaven we can hang onto. It’s
a picture about real life in a real place. It’s a picture
of face-to-face relationships with a real God. It’s a picture
of the kind of worship that expresses our deepest emotions. It’s
a picture of a special home furnished with the very best in life.
And most important of all, it’s the Revelation of Jesus Christ.
It’s glimpses of heaven from the One who is preparing those
mansions for us there.
know Lonnie, I recall a time when heaven seemed terribly real to
me. Remember that trip to Banff we took about a year after we were
LONNIE: I sure
were driving across Canada toward the seminary Lonnie would be attending
and he wanted to show me Banff National Park. That was some little
detour! I’d just never seen such majesty—the snowy mountains
just etched into a perfect blue sky. Everything was on such a grand
scale and I felt so tiny there. I took Lonnie's hand and said, "Heaven
can't be more beautiful that this!"
Since then we’ve
had other glimpses, other foretastes of heaven in our travels. And
I think it was some of the poorest people in the world who gave
me the brightest pictures. People in Africa who, in spite of all
their hardships, had smiles that just melted your heart. People
in the Philippines who showed incredible hospitality.
Such poverty, and such generosity. They showed me what Jesus is
like. And for me, He’s what heaven is all about.
I have to say, though, that it was Lonnie who really helped me believe
in something as fantastic as heaven. Because of my background I
had a hard time really grasping unconditional love. But after Lonnie
and I started dating and our relationship grew deeper and deeper,
I finally started absorbing that kind of love. I remember I often
told my mother, "Lonnie looks at me the same way I picture
Jesus looking at me."
been very, very blessed Jeannie, in so many ways. You’ve helped
me open up more and experience things I never would have otherwise.
And you know, we’ve also seen examples of how heaven becomes
real for people in the worst of times as well. I’m always
amazed at the ways God breaks through to people and shows them something
Heaven can come
close even in our grief, even in the dark. In fact, the book of
Revelation shows us that heaven has a special place for the wounded
and hurting. It’s here in the last chapter, chapter twenty-two.
Let’s read the first two verses:
showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding
from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street,
and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore
twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. And the
leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” Rev.
What is this
picture telling us? It’s telling us that heaven is going to
be a place of nourishment, abundant nourishment. It’s telling
us that God is going to fill every single empty place in our hearts.
There’s enough fruit, there’s enough nourishment, to
more, the leaves of this tree of life are “for the healing
of the nations.” This is talking about complete healing, healing
for all our wounds.
is a place where every tear will be wiped from our eyes. God will
take care of all our wounds, all our scars, all our regrets, all
our painful memories.
Every one of
us, no matter what our background, can live with heaven in our hearts.
All of us don’t have the same emotional resources of course,
the same imagination. But we can all do this: we can journey on
this earth with the values of heaven. We can invest ourselves in
some way for eternity. We can keep reaching out to the God who is
preparing a mansion for us in His Father’s house.
Will you determine to do that right now, with me as we pray? There’s
more to life than just the glitter and the gold we see around us.
There’s more to life than the endless race to acquire more
things. The gold John speaks about reflects something deeper---joyful
worship, a home with God, face-to-face communion. Don’t get
buried in the demands of making ends meet, or getting ahead. Keep
your heart open to the call of heaven. Keep your eyes out for the
glimpses of heaven that God gives us here and there. And keep your
faith firmly placed in the One who gives us these glorious revelations.
thank You for giving us wonderful glimpses of heaven. Please clarify
our values in the light of eternity. Please help us to set our priorities
with a heavenly perspective. Don’t let Your voice be drowned
out by the here and now. Keep us open to Your call to the then and
there! Help us to invest ourselves, to invest our treasures, in
Your everlasting kingdom. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
hope you’ve been digging into the Word along with us each
week. It’s so important for each of us to make our own discoveries
in the Bible. And to help you do that we’ve got a homework
assignment for next week.
topic relates to the timing of Christ’s return, the signs
that precede His return. And we’d like you to look at Matthew
that chapter and try to focus on what trends in history Jesus is
talking about. What direction does he say history will take just
before He returns?
Matthew 24, Christ’s great discourse on His second coming.
And be sure and join us next week.
Until next week,
God bless you and yours. And remember, never stop exploring the