Revelation 22 provides more evidence about the joy that is waiting for us when we to heaven. We hear about the river of life, and beautiful fruit trees that are going to heal the nations. There will be no more curse, and we are going to be serving God for all eternity. God will reign for ever and ever, and we will enjoy His presence forever.
Doesn’t that evoke something within you? Doesn’t that make you excited? It makes me feel like John as he closes out this book asking Jesus to return.
Rev 22:20 He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
Rev 22:21 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
CS Lewis wrote about this powerfully. He wrote about how remarkable it was that we have appetites and things that will satisfy those appetites. We’re hungry, and there is food. We’re thirsty, and there is liquid.
As you read about heaven here at the end of Revelation, I would hope that you felt the same kind of hunger I had for wanting to be in the presence of God. There is that appetite, and there is something that will satisfy. In fact, there’s only one thing that will satisfy.
You might think that heaven is just a fantasy. It is just a daydream of people who want to escape from the misery of reality. They want to hope that there is some ultimate justice, so they create a place of perfection where all of the good will make up for all the evil present in our world today.
In closing, let me then suggest this thought in response to this kind of hypothetical explanation. As we have learned, Christianity rises or falls on whether or not Jesus Christ was who He said He was. If Jesus was indeed the Son of God, we then have His word that He is preparing a place for us. There are many dwelling places in the house of God. If He is who He says He is, then heaven is real. That’s the bottom line.
If heaven is real, we’re going to find that satisfaction. As followers of Christ, that appetite for the presence of God is going to be satisfied. Someone once said that if you would be happy in heaven without God there, then you probably will not be in heaven in the first place. As Christians, that is where our desire is at. Sure, beautiful places and golden cities are excellent things, but being with God is what it is all about. We fellowship with God here on the earth, and we’re going to do it in person eternally.
Does it really get any better than that?
Revelation 10 presents us with an interesting scene. John hears seven thunders, but he does not receive permission to write down what he had heard. Rather, he is told to go and physically consume a scroll held by the angel who had called for the seven thunders to begin. Obviously there are a few questions about what this book is. Let’s take a look.
Rev 10:8 And the voice which I heard from heaven spake unto me again, and said, Go and take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel which standeth upon the sea and upon the earth.
Rev 10:9 And I went unto the angel, and said unto him, Give me the little book. And he said unto me, Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey.
Rev 10:10 And I took the little book out of the angel’s hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter.
Rev 10:11 And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings.
We don’t know very much about what the book is, but it is interesting that it tasted sweet but essentially made John sick. Also, we know that immediately after John ate the book, he was told that he would need to prophesy again.
It seems to me that these are connected. The additional prophecy that he was going to give would certainly have some sweet elements, but it would also be better. Although we haven’t gotten to the end of Revelation yet, think about the ultimate sweetness and the ultimate bitterness. Some people are going to be with God forever, and some people are going to be apart from God forever.
As a Christian then, it certainly is sweet that we are going to be with God. There is nothing that could be better than being in the presence of our Savior. However, as a Christian, it should also be disturbing that there are people who will not be able to experience that by their own free will. By not making the right decision, they are choosing a path that will lead to destruction. That should make us sick if we really think about it.
Maybe I am misinterpreting what the book actually is, but it seems to me that it is important for us as Christians to remember that while we are certainly full of joy and excitement, there is a sense in which we grieve for the world as well.
One thing that I think is going to be fascinating about being in heaven is the remarkable amount of diversity and commonality we are going to find with our fellow believers. In Revelation 7, we find another worship service, and believers are gathered in heaven from all around the world having died throughout the ages.
Rev 7:9 After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;
Rev 7:10 And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.
As John was witnessing this, he must have been blown away. He was imprisoned on Patmos because he was a Christian. I don’t know if he was imprisoned alongside other people who were Christians as well, but I would imagine that the effect of being imprisoned for your faith makes you feel isolated. Even if there are other Christians around, I am sure that the Roman prison guards were not thrilled if these people began talking about their love for Jesus Christ.
Therefore, from this environment that would seem to feel rather isolating, John was now able to witness a crowd of believers from around the earth who are able to praise God openly and stand in His presence. There will be so much diversity present as Christianity has essentially covered the entire world (although there are still unreached peoples).
I don’t know about you, but it makes me excited. It makes me think about how unique heaven is going to be. On earth, we find so many ways to divide ourselves, but in heaven, even though many of those things still exists, we will recognize that we are still brothers and sisters in Christ. That is what will matter.
Now we get to the fun parts of Revelation. Revelation 4 begins with John being told that these are things which must be. John is now having the chance to see the future, and he is told to write it down.
When he first sees is a worship service with 24 elders and four beasts. Although the identity of the elders is not entirely agreed upon, it seems to make quite a bit of sense that they are actual people from earth who have received crowns. That seems to be a reward for faithful humans as described throughout the New Testament. Therefore, it totally makes sense in context that the humans will be casting down there crowns and worshiping God.
The beasts are somewhat more interesting.
Rev 4:7 And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle.
Rev 4:8 And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.
Rev 4:9 And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever,
Rev 4:10 The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
Rev 4:11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
Why these particular beasts? As soon as the beasts began praising God, the elders began to worship as well. Therefore, it seems that there is something about the beasts that leads the people. This is what seems to lead most of my commentaries to conclude that these beasts are representative of the characteristics of the true church.
The church ideally has the strength of a lion, the steadiness and industriousness of what has often times been translated as an ox or calf, the wisdom of humans and the swiftness of the eagle. When the church praises God continually as described in verse nine, the elders who are already in heaven get excited and worship as well.
There is a worship service going on in heaven to begin the heavenly vision of John. Worship is central to existence in heaven.
Part of Hebrews 13 reminds me of being on vacation. Think about the last time you were on vacation. You are obviously still yourself, but you feel entirely different because your routine is thrown off. There is something almost uncomfortable about being on vacation because we are so conditioned to have a general routine. I know that when I am on vacation, there are some mornings I wake up and feel like I should be going to work because that is where I am supposed to be. I am so conditioned to be there.
I feel like this is somewhat similar to the way that we as Christians feel. If we are following Jesus Christ, we know where our eternal home is. We know what the routine is going to be. We know we are destined for heaven, but right now we are on “vacation” here on earth.
Heb 13:13 Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.
Heb 13:14 For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.
We’re still ourselves while we are here on earth, but we recognize that this is not our eternal home. Just like vacation from work does not last forever, our time on earth will not last forever. That ought to make us pretty excited. If we are followers of Jesus Christ, we are going to recognize the fulfillment of that desire for heaven, and we are going to spend an eternity with Him.
Heaven has stood out as an important theme for me lately, and I think it is one that we don’t talk about enough. There are plenty of good things to do here on earth, and Christians certainly should be doing good deeds and helping all of those around us. We want to bring glory to God while we are here on earth. Therefore, it is not like our time on earth is a waste or anything like that.
However, we want to make sure that our perspective involves heaven. It involves the recognition of the reality of an eternity spent in the presence of God. If that doesn’t give you hope, there is literally no hope for you.
The book of Philemon provides an interesting perspective on what is truly important. Onesimus had run away from his master Philemon, but he had met Paul and became a Christian. Paul was now sending him back to Philemon with this letter. Philemon was probably rather upset by this, but in this letter, it is clear that Paul is trying to show him what really should matter to him.
Phm 1:15 For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever;
Phm 1:16 Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord?
Philemon could have potentially been upset in this situation, so Paul seems to be trying to stop that concern right from the beginning. He understood that Onesimus had run away, but now that he had become a Christian, there was a transformed relationship.
As Christians, we are part of a family. Family members do hurt each other every now and then, but there is also forgiveness there. Even though perhaps Onesimus had hurt Philemon in some way when he ran away, that really was not important now. Later in the letter, Paul offered to personally offset any cost that had arisen out of the situation, and he was more concerned that Philemon would be willing to recognize the transformation of Onesimus.
I think about this in our lives. Think about someone who hurt you in the past. Perhaps later in life that person became a follower of Jesus Christ. The fact of the matter is that someday you are going to be standing side-by-side with that person in heaven praising our Lord. If you are both followers of Jesus Christ, then that is a reality. If you can’t live with them here on earth, then there is something wrong.
Paul did not want Philemon to throw out Onesimus he wanted him to think about the significance of his conversion to Christ. He was now a brother, and that type of situation has eternal consequences.
Welcome to yet another book! In Philippians 1, I think that Paul gives us some great perspective on related what it means to be with Christ.
Php 1:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Php 1:22 But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not.
Php 1:23 For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:
Php 1:24 Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.
Paul had no fear of dying. He did not need to worry about it because he understood that being with Christ was the best possible experience. At the same time, he did not want to leave Earth because he was helping the Philippian church among others.
I think this is a great perspective. On one hand, it is always positive. No matter what happens, there is something good we can be doing. As we live, we live for Jesus. If something happens along the way, we get to be with Him for all eternity. There is really no bad option.
I wonder if this is a message that might resonate particularly strongly with our world today. We have people who are obsessed with youth, and they are afraid of the fact that life might someday come to an end. For Christians, then there is no reason to be afraid of that. Actually, we should look forward to that event. It makes me think of the line at the end of The Last Battle by CS Lewis.
“All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”
Romans 8 starts to tell us all about the good news for those who believe in Jesus Christ. However, one thing stood out to me in particular.
Rom 8:17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
Rom 8:18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
I know that a lot of people experience a lot of bad things that happen in the world. Life is by no means easy for anyone, but for some people, it is particularly difficult. Verse 18 ought to be quite a bit of comfort. It certainly does not deny that difficult times exist. Paul himself had some type of physical issue that he had to deal with as well. Everywhere he went, he was persecuted, and he was ultimately killed for his faith. However, all of those sufferings put together and not even capable of being compared to the eventual glory that we are going to experience as children of God in heaven.
It is an interesting indicator that points to the existence of God. It is obvious that the quality of good is on a continuum. Some things are better than other things. Therefore, if there is a continuum, then there has to be the top of that continuum. In this case, the ultimate good is what we call God. God obviously has other attributes as well, but He is the ultimate good.
Thinking about this all together then in kind of a mathematical way, if God is infinitely good and our time in His presence will similarly be infinitely good, then any amount of suffering that we have in our lives were still mean that the net outcome is going to be infinitely good.
It can be hard for us in the midst of our suffering to recognize that in the long run, for those who trust in God, all of the good that we will experience will simply overwhelm all that we have experienced so far.
In Luke 10, Jesus appoints other disciples to go out and spread the gospel, and they get really excited because they can command demons to go in the name of Jesus. Jesus has a slight correction for them.
Luk 10:18 And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.
Luk 10:19 Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.
Luk 10:20 Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.
Jesus did not discount that power. However, it is more important for these people to have an eternity with God than it is for these people to cast out demons on earth.
I have often times thought about this kind of idea. An eternity with God is the ultimate good outcome. After all, think about being in a place forever with no pain, no suffering and the very presence of God surrounding you at all times. Since that would be the best, this passage makes a lot of sense. It is not a bad thing to be able to throw out demons, and Jesus affirms that He gave this power to these people. All good things come from God, so casting out demons would be a good thing by definition. However, the better reason for rejoicing is that they will be living with God forever.
It really makes me think about how great it must be to live in the presence of God. If that is the main reason for Christians to rejoice instead of being able to do awesome things like casting out demons, then living in the presence of God must be something incredibly special. It must be something that is beyond compare. I know we do not want to rush our lives here on earth, but it does make you kind of excited to see what it will be like to be in a perfect environment
In Luke 5, I want to focus on the calling of Peter.
Luk 5:5 And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.
Luk 5:6 And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake.
Luk 5:7 And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink.
Luk 5:8 When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.
Peter was clearly a practical man. If I had been fishing all night, and my shift was over, I would be ready to go home. They had worked through the night without catching anything, and Jesus told him to try one more time. If it were me, I might have said, “Whatever…” and gone home, but Peter was willing to try for whatever reason. Maybe he had some idea of who Jesus was at this point, or maybe there was some divine work being done on his conscience. Whatever the reason, he did it, and after catching a gigantic haul of fish, his immediate response was to call Jesus Lord and ask Him to depart.
I think this is significant. I kind of wonder if this will be kind of like our reaction when we get to heaven. We will see God, and we will realize that we are entirely unworthy on our own. We know that we don’t deserve heaven because of anything we have done, but we can also be confident that because of what Jesus Christ did, we will live forever with Him.
Maybe the unbelievers will finally recognize the errors of their ways and will say something like this as well. After all, I do believe that people make a choice. If they reject God, God is going to give them what they want and they will have eternal separation from Him. As a result, maybe at this point where they are finally seeing the God they rejected, they want to get away from Him because they realize they cannot be with Him on their own merits.
I find this really interesting, but I think that it is certainly possible that believers and nonbelievers have similar reactions to seeing God. We will all be blown away by His awesomeness and our inadequacy. However, the question is not whether we deserve heaven. The question is whether or not we trusted Jesus Christ to be the one and only way. We get in on His merit; our own works would be a problem.