Heaven Bound [4-3-22]



The seven letters to the seven churches have been completed. Of the seven churches, two have been praised and encouraged without any criticism or correction. One has been thoroughly condemned with nothing to praise. And the other four have received a mixed bag encouragement and condemnation.


In one way or another, all seven have been warned about a time of trial and tribulation for which they need to be prepared. To set that moment, John is now given a vision of a sovereign God in full command of the trajectory of history. While people of His church might, at times, be unable to resist earthly powers, which are hostile to Jesus Christ, the arc in history is not determined by sinful people but by God, enthroned and active in heaven.


And so, now, John is swept up in the Spirit to the very door of heaven.

Here is the vision he has been given:

After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal.

And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: he first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say,

“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”

And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

- Revelation 4


While this chapter is shorter than most, there's a lot going on, so you will have time between now and next week to do some study on your own, if you so choose. One thing to keep in mind, though. The imagery John uses is not meant to be taken literally, but is used to help us understand what is almost indescribable. In other words, don't get lost in the tall grass of attaching a literalness to many or most of these scenes.

Let's start with some general statements on visions of heaven and died-and-came-back experiences.


With the inclusion of The Book of Revelation as the last book of the New Testament {and fittingly so}, the time of these types of visions has ended. They happened in the Old Testament and also in other parts of the New, but now they are ended. God has revealed to His church the fullness and completeness of all He needs us to know and understand. God only communicates His Truth to us through His Word.


But, alas, people continue to profess otherwise.


There's the usual rogues gallery of people who claim to have died and gone to heaven. A decade or so ago one such claim was made by the parents of a child. They used their son to push a bestseller and fill speaking engagements. Others simply claim to have been given visions of heaven in one kind of ecstatic experience or another. It's all hooey.


Many years ago, a charismatic teacher and preacher revealed detailed

messages on heaven given him in a series of visions by God. He claimed to have been transported to heaven for almost six days. Jesus was supervising the building of mansions. The guy spoke face-to-face with the Holy Spirit. You can figure out what was wrong with that claim!


Among the things he saw and learned:

  • Everything God created on earth is in heaven…so, I guess that affirms that all dogs do go to heaven. Which means also cats, snakes, and lizards, which, in my mind, would not make it heaven.

  • Dogs don't bark, and you can feast all you want at God's banqueting table with no need for plumbing.

  • Disabled, mentally handicapped, and aborted babies go to a place where they get perfected before they can go before the throne of God.

  • There's also a garment room, where angel seamstresses are fashioning our robes of white, as well as a Holy Ghost elevator, whatever that means. I'm kind of hoping it's like the Tower of Terror ride at Disney World. That was a fun ride, and you can't spell heaven without f-u-n.

  • There's even a place where people who have died horrible deaths can watch their loved ones mourning at their funerals. That definitely would not put the f-u-n in funeral.


The most appropriate and spot-on comment I read about this guy was one skeptic who said:

"This does nothing for the credibility of the Assemblies of God. The guy's a nut."


All stories where people claim trips to heaven ought to be treated as fake, phony, emotionally manipulative means of selling books and filling the offering plates at revivals and worship services. As we'll see, they differ greatly from what God revealed to John. Nothing valid follows The Revelation to John.


Another huckster, this time more recent, has seen his own share of visions of heaven. The added wrinkle to his grift is that, while he had to temporarily step down from his California-based ministry for an "inappropriate sexual relationship," God told him after a 90-day period, it

was time to step back in.


Here's what he says is waiting us in heaven:

  • Storage houses containing all the parts to make humans.

  • Medicine cabinets with pill bottles labeled with things like "Peace" and "Overdose of the Holy Ghost."

  • He had a water fight with Jesus in the River of Life.

  • He says when he gets back to heaven, he's going to put up an historical sign marking the spot where he had a water fight with Jesus. If this stuff were made up, you would not believe it!

  • Also, while in heaven, Jesus ordained him to the ministry.


This dude is still around, selling books, taking up offerings. His visions of heaven are bizarre to the point of absurdity. In the end, all of these fanciful accounts are blasphemy. And they will always be with us, because there will always be gullible people for whom this stuff resonates within their misguided emotional needs. We need no such unbiblical claims.


Here, in chapter four, is the second of the great visions given to John.

These are the ways Jesus ministers to his church in times of tumult, turmoil, and persecution. He gives us a vision of heaven.


What is the focal point of this vision? Here's something you might want to write down:

NOTHING COMPARES TO THE THRONE OF GOD.


The vision begins with a door standing open. In other words, the door has been opened and left that way for John's arrival. When he then says, "All at once I was in the Spirit," it means he was in an ecstatic state. And while in that ecstatic state, he sees the heavenly throne of God. "Throne" is used symbolically over forty times in this book. Over forty times. And the important point to remember is, because of how many times throne is mentioned, heaven is not pictured as a temple or a synagogue but as the throne room of a great king.


Now, here's an important point to understand. Verse one begins with, "After this I looked." It can also be translated as "After these things."

Here's the flow that needs to be remembered. After these things or after

this, mean what has previously been shared. John is maintaining the unity with the first vision of the glory and majesty of Jesus Christ giving his seven letters to the seven churches. This is the continuation of Jesus ministering to a church and a people in crisis. God is showing John how, through the connecting of all these things, the purpose of God's sovereign will is unfolding in the lives of His people.


How beautiful it is to know that, while people on earth will close their hearts and minds to Jesus, the door in heaven is open to believers. The door is open. It is open to all who have responded to Jesus' claim upon their lives by believing in him and in his promises. Heaven's open door is how Jesus shows us the fulfillment of his promise back in chapter three, verse ten: "I will keep you from that hour of trial." The open door to heaven is the answer to that question, "How?"


Let's end today with a rainbow. John is careful not to describe in any sense of human form who it is that sits on the throne. As Paul says in 1 Timothy 6:15-16:

He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of

lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable

light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

Instead, God is described as the brilliance of light reflected from precious stones. It is majestic. God is clothed in unapproachable light. All John is left with is the impression of light and color…the color of the rainbow…perhaps reminding him of the promise to Noah, that as a sign of God's mercy, he will no long flood the earth with the fullness of His wrath. We should always think of God's promise to Noah when we see a rainbow.


Let's end here. The throne…the brilliant colors…the dazzling rainbow dominated by green…John is gazing upon the seat of God's universal sovereignty. This is the seat of God's rule. He is in charge and in control of every event unfolding in history. This is not a piece of furniture. It is a symbol of sovereign rule and sovereign authority. God controls your destiny. God controls your destiny.


SOLI DEO GLORIA…

To the Glory of God Alone!


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