Tuesday, June 12, 2007



9 After this I looked, and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were robed in white with palm branches in their hands.
10 And they cried out in a loud voice: Salvation belongs to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!
11 All the angels stood around the throne, the elders, and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God,
12 saying: • Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.
13 Then one of the elders asked me, “Who are these people robed in white, and where did they come from?”
14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” Then he told me: These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
15 For this reason they are before the throne of God, and they serve Him day and night in His sanctuary. The One seated on the throne will shelter them:
16 no longer will they hunger; no longer will they thirst; no longer will the sun strike them, or any heat.
17 Because the Lamb who is at the center of the throne will shepherd them;He will guide them to springs of living waters,and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

With elections looming and electioneering filling the news recently, its good to remember we are citizens.
“For our citizenship is in Heaven, whence also we wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20 R.V.). When Paul wrote this Epistle, Philippi was a Greek city but a colony of Rome, her citizens possessing Roman citizenship. The commonwealth of which the saints in Philippi were citizens had its fixed location in Rome. The Apostle Paul used this fact to illustrate to the believers their heavenly citizenship with its privileges and responsibilities. They were a heavenly people with a heavenly citizenship. Though they dwelt on earth, the commonwealth and the Sovereign of which the saints were citizens and subjects had its fixed location in Heaven. What was true of the saints at Philippi then is true of all believers. We were born from above. Ours is a heavenly destiny, and we are to live heavenly lives while we sojourn in a foreign land. As a heavenly people it is our privilege and responsibility to live a heavenly life on earth.
The Apostle Peter wrote: “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11). As strangers and pilgrims we are living in a temporary dwelling beside natives of a foreign land. Jesus Christ is our Sovereign. One day He will come back for us and take us to our native Home, changing our bodies of humiliation like to the body of His glory.
Some years ago, radio evangelist, Charles E. Fuller, announced that he would speak the following Sunday on "Heaven." It was to be broadcast on radio. During that week he received a letter from an elderly gentleman who was very ill. Here is part of that letter:
"Next Sunday you are to talk about 'Heaven.' I am interested in that land because I have held a clear title to a bit of property there for over 55 years. I did not buy it. It was given to me without money and without price. But the donor purchased it for me at a tremendous sacrifice. I am not holding it for speculation since the title is non-transferable. It is not a vacant lot. For more than a half-century I have been sending material out of which the greatest architect and builder of the universe has been building a home for me, which will never need to be repaired because it will suit me perfectly, individually, and will never grow old. Termites can never undermine its foundation for it rests upon the Rock of Ages. Fire cannot destroy it. Floods cannot wash it away. No locks or bolts will ever be placed upon its doors, for no vicious person can ever enter that land where my dwelling stands, now almost completed and ready for me to enter it and abide in peace eternally without fear of being ejected. There is a valley of deep shadow between the place where I live in California and that to which I shall journey in a very short time. I cannot reach my home in the City of God without passing through the dark valley of shadows. But I am not afraid, because the best friend that I have ever had went through the same valley alone, a long, long, time ago and drove away all the gloom. He has stuck by me through thick and thin since we first met and became acquainted 55 years ago, and I hold . His promise in printed form, never to forsake nor to leave me alone. He will be with me as I walk through the valley of shadows, and I shall not lose my way when He is with me. I hope to hear your sermon on "Heaven" next Sunday from my home, but I have no assurance that I shall be able to do so. My ticket to heaven has no date marked for the journey...no return coupon...and no permit for baggage. Yes, I am ready to go and may not be here while you are talking next Sunday, but I shall meet you there some day."
I. THE GLORIOUS POPULATION IN PARADISE“After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.” Vs. 9a Who Is Going To Populate Paradise?
This passage gives us a great deal of helpful information about heaven. First, note the number of the redeemed. There is a vast crowd before the throne, so huge that it is beyond human calculation. Second, note the variety of the redeemed. There are saints from every nation, tribe, people and language group. Third, note the posture of the redeemed. They are before the throne of God, standing like an army before its Commander in Chief. Fourth, note the appearance of the redeemed. They wear white robes, a symbol of purity, and they hold palm branches, a sign of victory. Fifth, note the song of the redeemed. They sing about salvation that comes from God and from the Lamb. What a picture this is. The saints are redeemed and rejoicing. As Tony Campolo says, if you want to get ready for heaven, go to choir practice!
I think the Apostle John was struck by the immense size of the throng. What do we learn by pondering that unnumbered multitude? Certainly it teaches us that God will not be defeated. There will be no empty thrones in heaven. God will not be satisfied with a handful in heaven while the devil gets the majority. What kind of salvation would that be? Many will be saved. Many from every nation! God has a quota and the quota will be met. This ought to teach us something about the power of the gospel, about the greatness of God’s heart, and the universality of the church. In this scene we have the end to all sectarianism, the end to all pessimism, and the end to evangelistic discouragement. It’s easy for us to say "Us four and no more" as if somehow sinners are so evil they can’t be saved nowadays. Away with all such poor-meism and unbelief! I realize that as we look around at the cultural decline, it’s tempting to conclude that the bad guys are winning. They aren’t. God keeps score in his own way. And even when it looks like he’s losing, he’s not. He only appears to be trailing. But in the end, God wins. And he wins big. He "covers the spread" and then some. There will be more people in heaven than we have dreamed possible because our God is greater than our limited imagination.

This picture of a vast multitude also teaches us that in the end every geographic barrier that separates us will be swept away. Every prejudice will be gone. Every bit of human strife will be left behind and partisan bickering will simply be forgotten. What a good day that will be when all God’s children will meet together around the throne.
· Heaven’s Owner, Landlord, Architect, and King – God
· Heaven’s Created Servants – Host of Angels “Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousands times ten thousand. They encircled the throne….” Rev. 5:11
· Redeemed Old Testament Saints “Abram believed the LORD, and He credited it to him as righteousness.” Gen. 15:6
· Redeemed New Testament Christians “He (God) redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.” Gal. 3:14 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has come and has redeemed His people.” Lk. 1:68
Do you realise what that means? It means that those whom we love and have died in Christ we shall meet again. The frustration death brings as we long to go back in time to meet with that father or husband, child or wife, just to see them again and talk with them for a few moments, all of that will be overcome in this city.
I Corinthians 13, Verse 12: For now we see through a glass darkly. But then face to face. Now, I know in part. But then shall I know even as also I am known. Now, we see through a looking glass. Except they didn't have any looking glasses then. They were polished metallic mirrors. And he uses that as a description with the Greek word enigma. That we pull bodily and spelled exactly into our English language. For, now we see in a metallic mirror. Enigmatically. The Greek word enigma refers to a dark saying. One that lacked full understanding. Until we came to know its full meaning. That's the way we look and we understand now. Just dimly, inconclusively, partly, partially. But then face to face, as we might see an image in a metallic mirror, obscured, imperfect. Someday it will be actually face to face. Now, I epiganoseo, epiganoseo means to know clearly, to know experientially. Now, I know experientially, clearly, just in part. But then shall I epiganoseo. Shall I know even as -- and he changes the tense of the verb. He puts it in the past tense. Then shall I epiganoseo: Even as also God hath in the past. Epiganoseo me. Resurrection means recognition. . If I am to have any identity beyond the grave, in the days of my purported resurrection, then it must be I who am raised from the grave. You have to be you. We have to be we. I have to be I. Otherwise, resurrection has no pertinence, no meaning. If I am to have an identity beyond the grave, it has to be I. Whatever personality I have, whatever being I am, it must be I, recognizable I. Raised from the dead. As Paul said in II Thessalonians, Chapter 2 Verse 1: We beseech you Brethren, by the coming of our Lord and by the coming of our Lord and by our gathering unto him. It will be we who are gathered unto him. In the Old Testament scriptures, there is a descriptive word that identifies death, that speaks of the death of those old patriarchs who lived so long ago. And the descriptive word is this. That he was gathered to his Father's or he was gathered to his people. If Abraham and Isaac and Jacob were living by name and recognizable, then in the resurrection, in the life to come, we are we. You're you. I am I. Abraham is Abraham. Isaac is Isaac. Jacob is Jacob. And those that were gathered to their Father's, each one is he or she as you are going to be you.
In the New Testament When we have the story of the rich man and Lazarus, the rich man recognizes Lazarus. In the story of the death of the brother of Mary and Martha, also named Lazarus, our Lord says to those two sisters: Your brother shall rise again. And when Lazarus was raised from the dead, it was he. It was their brother. It was Lazarus raised from the dead. And in the death of our Lord, the man on his right hand repenting said: Master, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.
And the Lord turns to him and says: This very day. This very day, thou shalt be with me in paradise. That presupposes that they could recognize one another in heaven, in paradise.
There is a holy and beautiful city Whose builder and maker is God.
John saw it descending from heaven When Patmos, in exile, he trod.
Its high massive walls are of jasper, The city itself is pure gold.
And when my frail tenure here is folded, Mine eyes shall its beauty behold.
In that bright city, pearly white city, I have a mansion, a robe, and a crown.
Now I am watching, waiting, and longing For the bright city that is soon coming down.
II. THE GLORIOUS OCCUPATION IN PARADISE· Service “They are before the throne of God and serve Him day and night in His temple.” Vs. 15a
Here is the final picture of heaven. The believers are seen gathered in the place of honor before the throne of God. There they serve him day and night. This is continual service yet because we are in heaven we never grow weary. The longer we serve him, the stronger we become. We mount up with wings as eagles, we run and are not weary, and we walk and do not faint. In this life we must rest sooner or later. Age and sickness come to us eventually and we cannot do what we would like. Even the strongest gives way eventually. But in heaven we will go from strength to strength and from joy to joy. We will serve him in his temple, which means that we will be in his immediate presence. There will be no "second-class" saints in that day. And over us he will spread the tent of his protection. Thus we will not hunger, will not thirst, and will never be sunburned again.
Why are the saints so happy in heaven? Think of their position. They stand before the throne, they serve God day and night, and they follow the Lamb wherever he goes. In this life we follow Jesus by faith but then face to face. Whatever we need, he will supply it. In heaven Psalm 23:1 will come true in a new and deeper way: "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want."
· Singing “And they sang a new song: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.’” Rev. 5:9
What do the saints do in heaven? They stand, they sing, and they serve. They celebrate a great victory, they serve in God’s temple, they see God on his throne, and they follow the Lamb everywhere. On one level I am sure we will never grow bored doing that. After all, we will never come to the end of God. And we’ll never come to the end of the universe. And we will never run out of things to learn.
I find it helpful to think of it this way. In heaven all our gifts and talents will finally be used. Here on earth so many things hold us back. Sometimes circumstances keep us from doing what we know deep inside we could do if only someone would give us the chance. The expectations of others keep us hemmed in. The demands of daily life keep us from being all that we could be. Physical limitations hamper us. There are those among us who want to sing and love to sing but there is no one to listen. Others want to paint, to cook, to write, to design, and to lead. Think of your dreams and hopes and aspirations and ponder how few have been fully realized. In heaven you will have ample time to develop them all—and in ways that would startle you if you knew about it now. We will take all our gifts and talents and put them at the disposal of the Lord, and for all eternity we will find ourselves growing and learning and all the while celebrating the amazing grace of our Sovereign God. Seen from this standpoint death for the believer becomes the Great Adventure, the doorway to glory, the entrance to an unending journey beyond our wildest imagination. Next to heaven traveling to the stars pales by comparison.
· Shouting “They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’” Vs. 10 “They took palm branches and went out to meet Him, shouting, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel!’” Jn. 12:13
“Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music; make music to the LORD with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing, with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn – shout for joy before the LORD, the King.” Psa. 98:4-6
· Silence “When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” Rev. 8:1
I dreamed death came the other night, And heaven's gate swung wide.
With kindly grace an angel Ushered me inside.
And there, to my astonishment, Stood folks I'd known on earth.
Some I judged unfit And of very little worth.
Indignant words rose to my lips But never were set free.
For every face showed surprise, No one expected me.

III. THE GLORIOUS CAPTIVATION IN PARADISE· Captivated by our Performance for God! “They are before the throne of God and serve Him day and night in His temple.” Vs. 15a
· Captivated by the Protection of God! “And He who sits on the throne will spread His tent over them.” Vs. 15b
· Captivated by the Provision of God! “Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat.” Vs. 16
Pause for a moment over that phrase: "the great tribulation." I am aware that its most immediate application lies in those terrible end time events just preceding the coming of Christ to the earth when the seals are opened, the trumpets blown, and the bowls of judgment poured out on the earth. But in a larger sense those words apply to all believers. This world is sometimes called a "vale of tears," and so it is. Every person in heaven will have a story. One was persecuted, one was sick, one was forgotten, one was abandoned, one was mistreated, one was bereaved of lost children, one lived through a divorce, and another suffered physically for many years. Every saint comes out of a different kind of "great tribulation" but all come to heaven by way of the cross. Where once on earth there was a dark cloud of suffering, it is now replaced by the bright light of heaven. The road was steep, the journey hard, and the waters of death cold and deep, but all God’s sheep one by one made it safely to the other side. And not one of them blames God—Salvation is their only cry!
Who are these who populate heaven? Who comprises such a vast multitude? Not the rich, not the poor, not the black or the white or the Asian or the Hispanic. Not the men or the women, not the old or the young. There are distinctions in heaven but only one group: Those who have been washed in the blood of the Lamb. This is the only entrance qualification for the City of God. Think about that picture for a moment. You begin with the soiled garments stained and ruined by sin. Plunge them into the blood of Christ. When they come out, they are not crimson but are instead as white as snow. From this we learn a great Bible truth. The road to heaven is paved with the blood of Christ. Only those who walk that road by faith in the crucified Lamb will ever enter the celestial city.
· Captivated by the Presence of God! “For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; He will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Vs. 17
“After He had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” Vs. 3b
- perfect intimacy - v3 ‘And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. "’ Do you remember the promise of Jesus: ‘Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in their midst’? That is a reality whenever God’s people meet together on earth as church. But that is also the ultimate reality we shall all experience in heaven. We shall be the dwelling place of God. God will be with his people - that was his original purpose when he created the universe. It was God who walked with Adam in the garden of Eden, talking with him, sharing with him - but on that great day the intimacy we shall experience will be much deeper than anything Adam could ever have dreamt of. ‘They will be his people, he will be their God’ That is your future if you are a believer. And just look at what God will do: ‘Wipe away every tear from our eyes.' So let me tell you about a 22 year old girl called Perpetua who lived in North Africa in 203 A. D. With a baby at her breast she was martyred in the city of Carthage. Before her death she managed to write down her impressions. Her father had tried everything to make her renounce her faith. First he was rough with her. Then he appealed to his grey hairs, her mother, her baby who would not be able to survive without her. Nothing would cause her to flinch. Then she was killed. What was the first experience of Perpetua as she was ushered into the presence of God her true Father? Tender comfort - hearing the words ‘Its all right Perpetua. You are safe now. You are home - home with your family, home with God.' Even in heaven, as on the cross, God still stoops down to care for the needs of his children.
¨ The King Is Reigning “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign for ever and ever.” Rev. 11:15b
¨ The King Is Coming “Men of Galilee,” they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.’” Acts 1:11
"Some day you will read in the papers that D. L. Moody, of East Northfield, is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it! At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now. I shall have gone up higher, that is all; out of this old clay tenement into a house that is immortal—a body that death cannot touch; that sin cannot taint; a body fashioned like unto his glorious body. I was born of the flesh in 1837. I was born of the Spirit in 1856. That which is born of the flesh may die. That which is born of the Spirit will live forever." During his many evangelistic campaigns in the late 1800s, D. L. Moody loved to quote the first two sentences as a way of shocking his audiences with the truth that death would not be the end of his life but only the beginning.His words came true on Friday, December 22, 1899. After decades of non-stop preaching, writing, speaking, evangelizing and traveling, his heart finally began to fail. With his family gathered round, he cried out, "Earth recedes; heaven opens before me." His family thought that perhaps he was dreaming. Then he spoke to one of his sons: "No, this is no dream, Will. It is beautiful. It is like a trance. If this is death, it is sweet. There is no valley here. God is calling me, and I must go." Then it seemed as if he saw heaven opened before his eyes. "This is my triumph, this is my coronation day! I have been looking forward to it for years." His face lit up. "Dwight, Irene—I see the children’s faces." He was speaking of the two grandchildren who had died the previous year. A few minutes later he took his last breath. Thus did D. L. Moody enter heaven. The man who had taken America in one hand and Great Britain in the other and brought both of them to God died as he had lived, full of faith and ready to meet the Lord (From The Life of D. L. Moody by William Moody).
¨ The King Is Calling “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” Rev. 3:20

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