An airline magazine carried an advertisement for a hotel in Seattle to capture the attention of busy executives. It said, "Great views. Great location. Great rates." I thought, Let's apply that to our eternal home—heaven. It has a great location: you can't beat the new heaven and new earth. There's a great view: the throne of God, the Tree of Life, and the river that flows from the throne of God is pure as crystal. And there are great rates: it's free to those who follow Jesus Christ, the only Son of our heavenly Father.
Heaven Is Real
In the book of Revelation, John got a glimpse into the portals of heaven. He said, "I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven" (Revelation 4:1). John was taken to heaven, where he saw some wild but very real things. This tells us that heaven is a real place. It's not a figment of someone's imagination…it's not a fantasyland. The writer of Hebrews said heaven is "the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God" (Hebrews 11:10). Heaven is real; it's stable; it's permanent; it has furniture. John didn't notice angels playing harps on clouds or Peter standing at a gate with a checklist or streets of gold. The first thing he did notice was a throne: "Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne" (Revelation 4:2).
Heaven is absolutely huge. Not only will you be there, but there will be millions of other believers who have followed Christ throughout history. There will be "twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes" (Revelation 4:4) and "four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back" (Revelation 4:6). In the Old Testament, there were twenty-four courses of the temple in Jerusalem. Those twenty-four courses of priests represented the nation before God. I think the twenty-four elders are the representatives of the church before God. And there will be "many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands" (Revelation 5:11). Heaven will be a habitation for many, many believers.
Do you believe that you've been made clean? Or are you still trying to earn your way to God?
Heaven may be a place with many cities in it. Jesus said, "In My Father's house are many mansions [abiding places]" (John 14:2). In Revelation 21:2, John saw "the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God." New Jerusalem is a tangible, measurable, corporate city that descends from heaven toward the earth. It is measured as a cube. Its dimensions are "twelve thousand furlongs" (Revelation 21:16), which is 1,500 miles wide, 1,500 miles long, and 1,500 miles high. That makes the base of this city 2,250,000 square miles. The city will rise 1,500 miles or 780,000 stories. New Jerusalem is large enough to comfortably accommodate more than all the people who have ever lived in history on planet earth. The Bible often speaks of heaven as being up. A little girl was looking up at the stars up and said, "Oh daddy, if heaven looks this good from the wrong side, imagine what it must look like on the right side!" It will be truly awesome.
The throne is the main attraction in heaven because God sits on it. What makes heaven heaven is not that there are angels or streets of gold. It's not that we are reunited with loved ones— though we will be. What really makes heaven heaven is that the God you love and serve will be there. You'll see Him in person. It's not what—it's whom that makes heaven so attractive. John looked at God on the throne and described Him in terms of brilliant gemstones: "He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald" (Revelation 4:3). Jasper is a clear, brilliant, diamond-like stone. But any diamond you own would pale in comparison to His dazzling beauty. Not only is He seen as brilliant jasper, but as a sardius stone. This is like a ruby, with a reddish hue. Perhaps this is to remind the inhabitants of heaven of the blood that was shed on the cross—the crimson stain offered by the Savior to purchase your salvation. Around the throne there is a rainbow. We first saw the rainbow with Noah, when God judged the earth. God placed a rainbow in the sky to remind Noah of His covenant to never again send a flood to destroy the earth (see Genesis 9:14-15). Now a rainbow is seen before the storm of judgment, as a reminder that God keeps His promises. You can rest assured that even after the judgment, the rainbow of promise will be there for eternity to come. You've received the promises of God. You ought to see every experience of your life with a rainbow around it. A Chinese Christian named Lo got awfully excited when he read Jesus' promise in Matthew 28:20: "Lo, I am with you always" (emphasis added). He took it personally: "He's writing about me!" In the same way, we ought to look at the promises of Jesus with our name on it. Fill in the blank: "And_____________, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
John saw and heard dramatic outpourings coming from the heavenly throne: "From the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices" (Revelation 4:5). The first time we read about lightning, thundering, and voices was on Mount Sinai in the book of Exodus. God's throne has been a throne of grace for many years. But there will come a time when God prepares His throne for judgment, as if to say, I love the earth. I've given My Son. I've sent Christian witnesses throughout the earth, but now I'm fed up. And you know what? Judgment is a divine necessity. Think of all the wars, famines, murders, and rapes that have happened in your lifetime. Multiply that by the years and years God has endured sin. He's been patient. But God will finally judge. The storms emanating from the throne in heaven are symbolic of His judgment.
Model of Heaven
Before the throne, John saw "seven lamps of fire" (Revelation 4:5) and "a sea of glass, like crystal" (Revelation 4:6). The writer of Hebrews said that the tabernacle was a model of heaven—an indication of the setup of heaven. The tabernacle contained a seven-branched candlestick. In heaven, we see seven lamps of fire. In the tabernacle, there was a laver with water where the priest dipped his hands and ceremonially washed before the sacrifice. Here we view a huge sea of crystal glass that's solid—because there's no longer need for cleansing. Jesus died on the cross and paid the price for our cleansing. We stand on the finished work of Jesus Christ. The question is: Do you believe that you've been made clean? Or are you still trying to earn your own way to God? A man came to evangelist Alexander Wooten and said, "I need to get salvation." Wooten said, "It's too late." The man asked, "What do you mean it's too late? I need to get salvation." Wooten said, "It's too late, it's already been done." You can't get salvation on your own—it's a finished work. You must trust in the merits of Christ.
Worship in Heaven
Finally, we see that there's worship unto the throne of God. The song "You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created" (Revelation 4:11) is sung as the elders cast down their crowns in heaven. Notice that there is a lot of worship in heaven. The throne room of God is filled with praise and worship. And not one of those songs is solo—it's all corporate. Everyone sings the anthems of eternity. Since heaven will be filled with worship, why not practice now? A tombstone in a cemetery in England has a clever little poem engraved on it: "Pause, stranger, as you pass me by. As you are now, so once was I. As I am now, so you will be. So prepare for death and follow me." Someone saw that tombstone and wrote these words in chalk: "To follow you, I'm not content, until I know which way you went." Consider the path you are following. And consider that the door to heaven is open: He's Jesus. He will lead you to a place of a great location, great views, and great rates.
Skip continues the series Heart & Soul. What are the benefits of living with a committed faith in Jesus? In the message "Our Benefits Package," Skip talks about the purpose you have in the present and the incredible promise you have for the future.All Sermons by Skip Heitzig