Beyond the Door of Death: The Bible on Heaven and Hell – Heaven part 3

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Beyond The Door Of Death: Heaven—Part 3

If you would, please, take out your Bibles and turn in them to the very last book of the Bible, which is the book of Revelation, and chapter number 4.  Revelation, chapter number 4.

Author Steven Lawson tells a story of taking his twin boys, on their tenth birthday, to a special trip to Chicago.  And the first stop on their trip was the basketball arena, where the greatest athlete in the world—Michael Jordan—was going to be performing that night.  And here’s Steven Lawson’s description of the scene: “For over an hour die-hard fanatics stood in line waiting for the gates to open, just to cheer on their beloved Bulls.  When the gates opened, over sixteen thousand people jammed into every square inch of the stadium; not to mention another three thousand die-hards who paid for the privilege to stand in the outer aisles of the ‘nose bleed’ section known as the upper balconies.  Everyone was upbeat, expectant, happy.  The place was alive.  As the Bulls were introduced, the arena got so loud I couldn’t even hear myself think.  I had goose bumps that were ‘high-fiving’ each other.  The place was alive, and the game hadn’t even started yet.  With multiplied millions watching coast-to-coast via television, Michael Jordan, the human highlight film, lit up the scoreboard with one of the greatest games of his storied career—52 points.  By the end of the game the crowd was really delirious; the place was bedlam.  They were stomping, and clapping, and yelling, and waving, and dancing, and screaming, and…and jumping.  And when the final buzzer sounded, nobody left.  Everyone just stayed, basking in the glory of the moment.  Why leave a happening, for pity’s sake?”  and then he writes, “That was Friday.  Sunday was another story.  On Sunday morning I took my boys to the worship service of a church in the greater Chicago area.  With the excitement of the Bulls’ game reverberating in our minds, we purposefully arrived at church fifteen minutes early just to make sure we could get a good seat.  Our taxi dropped us off at the sanctuary’s front door, and we hurried into the worship center, ready to fight the crowd.  As we bolted through the doors leading into the sanctuary, we were hit with a startling surprise.  Thousands of worshipers were not waiting for the front doors of the church to be opened.  People were not standing three-deep in the outer aisles; people were not jammed into every square inch of the sanctuary.  The place was virtually empty.  We easily got,” he writes, “three seats together, right smack-dab in the center of the front row.  We had the pick of any seat in the house—no problem.  You could have fired a cannon in the massive sanctuary and not hit a soul.  The service itself?  Well, the soloist droned on with the excitement level you feel when standing in line to get your car tags renewed.”  What a description that is!…(laughter)…Whoa!  “When the pastor pronounced the closing benediction, the place emptied faster than a bathtub with a severe leak.  Talk about a contrast!”  He writes, “What’s wrong with this picture?  The world is so backwards; upside down, inverted, flip-flopped.  Those two scenes should have been reversed.  Nineteen thousand die-hards should have been jammed in to worship the Lamb, not the Bulls.  There should have been a traffic jam to see Jehovah, not Jordan.”

You know, I believe that part of the problem in the church of Jesus Christ is that we have lost a sense of the reality of heaven.  In fact, it is interesting that in far too many churches the subject matter of heaven is not even addressed at all.  And, when you begin to look at the preachers of our land, there are far too many of them who do not even really believe in the heaven that appears in the Bible.  And yet, the Bible has got so much to say about heaven.  And from the vantage point of heaven, we have an opportunity—a very special opportunity—to see God for who He really is.

We have started a series of messages that we have entitled, “Beyond The Door Of Death: The Bible On Heaven And Hell,” and we’ve chosen to investigate, first, the subject matter of heaven.  And so today, we’re coming to the Bible On Heaven—Part number three.

The interesting thing about heaven is that we can only know about it if God chooses to tell us about it, because we can’t take a little tour—I can’t grab a bus, here, and…and drive over to heaven for a tour of it.  We can’t know about it unless He tells us, or unless God opens the door.  We have been noticing that the door of heaven has a…a knob on God’s side, and every once in a while He opens up the door and lets us have a view.

We have that very kind of an event happening in Revelation, chapter 4 and verse 1.  We have the apostle John, and he sees this door standing open in heaven.  God has thrown open the door, and God says to him, “I want you to come up here.”  And we believe that what happens with John is he not only goes up into heaven, but he goes ahead in time.  He goes up into heaven and ahead in time to the very time just before the final seven years of tribulation in God’s prophetic calendar for this world.  So, he’s hurdled, not only up into heaven, but way ahead in time to a time of yet future events for us.  And really what he gets is a tour of heaven.  So, we have begun our tour of heaven with the apostle John.

Now, the plan for what we want to look at, today, involves several things.  We want to look at two groups; we want to look at three attributes; and then we want to look at a mutual perspective—that’s what we’re going to be doing, today.  We’re going to look at two groups that are present at God’s throne; we’re going to look at three attributes that are the focus of praise for these two groups; and then, we’re going to look at a mutual perspective that invades these two groups of individuals.  So…two groups, three attributes, and a mutual perspective.

So, let’s begin, today, by looking at the two groups.  Now, actually, the first group we were introduced to last time we were together.  And we found them appearing in chapter 4 and verse 4, when it talks about how around the throne of God were twenty-four thrones, and upon the thrones, he said, “I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads.”  And so, the first group we see that is present in heaven would be the twenty-four elders.  And we pointed out, last time, although biblical scholars will disagree on the exact identity of these individuals, my personal preference is to see the twenty-four elders as a representation of the believers in heaven.  They represent the believers in heaven at the start of the tribulation period.  So, if we were to die today, we would be part of this group that is represented by the twenty-four elders. 

There is a second group, though, that appears at God’s throne, and that group is found in verse 6—second group would be the four living creatures…the four living creatures.  Notice them.  It says that there was, before the throne, “…a sea of glass like crystal; and in the center and around the throne, four living creatures…”—this gets a little bit strange; we have to hang in here to understand them—“…full of eyes in front and behind.  And the first creature was like a lion, and the second creature [was] like a calf, and the third creature had a face like that of a man, and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle.  And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within…”.  So, the second group, the four living creatures.  Who are these guys?  Who are these guys?  And, you know, you can pick up very quickly, having read the description, that again it’s difficult for John to describe these individuals.  He’s reaching in his language to try to describe them. 

Who are these guys?  Who are the four living creatures?  Well, in most probability, I believe the four living creatures represent one of the highest levels of angelic beings, a level often called the seraphim.  We know that there are a level of high angels called the cherubim; there’s also a high level of the angels called the seraphim.  And I believe the four living creatures are part of the seraphim, and if you hang around with me for a little while I think that will become pretty apparent to you.

So, we see these four living creatures—the high level order of the seraphim of the angels.  Now, I just want you to notice the contrast from the common picture that we have of angels.  I mean, these are not chubby, fat-cheeked, baby faced little angels who fly around with their little wings and they zap people with love darts.  You know, that’s not what we have here.  In fact, I believe what we have in these four living creatures are the guardians of the holiness of God. 

It’s interesting that there are four of them—four living creatures.  The number four seems to be a favorite number in God’s order of the universe.  I don’t know if you noticed that or not, but, you know, we have four directions.  We have North, and South, and East, and West.  We have four seasons of the year.  We have—in the book of Revelation you see it several times—four divisions of mankind.  It talks about nations, and tribes, and tongues, and peoples.  And we have four guardians of the holiness of God.

Now, let’s look at some details about these four angelic beings who are the special guardians of the holiness of God.  Notice, it says, in verse 6, it says they were, “…full of eyes…”—these four living creatures were—“…full of eyes in front and behind.”  Now that seems pretty weird, but there’s a picture involved here, and I believe it’s the picture of them having a constant alertness and a constant vigilance, as they are guardians of the holiness of God.

And then, he begins to describe each one of the four creatures, in verse 7, and this is one of those places where we have the word ‘like,’ and it occurs four times.  Again, we have that reach…we have that reach by John, as he’s trying to describe things in heaven for you and for me.  He says there was one that was like a lion—not a lion, but like a lion.  And then he says—not only that, but—there was a second one that was like a calf (or we might translate it ‘an ox’)—not a calf or an ox, but like that.  And then there was a third creature that had a face like that of a man; and then there was a fourth one that was like a flying eagle.  And…um…there’s obviously some symbolism behind all of this.  The lion would be the king of beasts; there’s a picture of nobility there.  These guardians of God’s holiness have some nobility to them.  Then the calf and an ox, those are animals that are really servant animals; they do the will of another.  And so, you have a picture here of the four guardians who are really servants to God to do God’s will.  It says that the third one had a face like a man; which would be a picture of the wisest creature among God’s creation.  So, a picture of wisdom; these guardians have great wisdom.  And then, it says one was like a flying eagle, which, if you look at a flying eagle, it’s a picture of swiftness and speed.  And so, when it comes to doing the will of God and carrying out God’s agenda, these guardians of His holiness do it with swiftness and speed.  And that seems to be the imagery there. 

There are some interpreters who take it even deeper than that.  Some say what we have here is a picture of the four gospels and the four pictures of Christ.  Some would say the guardian of His holiness that looks like a lion—you know a lion is the king of the beasts—the book of Matthew presents Jesus as the King.  And then, you have the calf and the ox, which is the servant; and in the gospel of Mark, you have Jesus portrayed as the servant.  And then, you have one who has a face like a man; and we know, in the gospel of Luke Jesus is presented as the perfect Man.  And then, you have one that is like a flying eagle; an eagle comes from a heavenly origin, and in the gospel of John you have Jesus portrayed with His heavenly origin as God.

Now, whether or not all that imagery is inherently here or not, we do have—four guardians who have nobility, and a servant heart, and wisdom, and speed in carrying out God’s agenda.

Now, I want you to notice something very interesting that occurs, regarding this second group of the four living creatures in verse 8.  Look at verse 8.  It says, “And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within…”—and then it says—“…and day and night they do not cease to say, ‘HOLY, HOLY, HOLY, is the LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, who was and who is and who is to come.’ ”  You know, when we read through that, if you’re a student of the Bible, right away your mind has to go to an Old Testament passage.

Keep your finger here, in Revelation, chapter 4, and turn with me to the book of Isaiah—the book of Isaiah—and Isaiah, chapter 6—Isaiah 6.  In Revelation 4 we have four living creatures; they have six wings, and they keep saying, “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY, is the LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY.”  In chapter 6 of Isaiah we have another time in which the door to heaven was opened up, and Isaiah had an opportunity to view God.  And notice what’s going on in Isaiah 6, verse 2.  “Seraphim…”—that higher level of angelic beings—“…stood above [the LORD]…”—and then notice what it says, regarding them—“…each having six wings; with two he covered his face…with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.  And one called out to another and said, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts…’ ”—this is only the second time in the Bible we have this phraseology used—“ ‘…The whole earth is full of His glory.’ ” 

And so, we have these living creatures with six wings.  And we learn something about their six wings in the book of Isaiah.  Two of them—you’ve got to take the picture here; the imagery here—two of them cover their face.  The picture is that they have to cover themselves due to the awe and the glory of God.  Even these high level angelic beings can’t look fully on the awe and the glory of God.  And then, with two of their wings they cover their feet; they cover the feet because they are–the picture is one of standing on holy ground.  And we’re not really worthy to share the same space of ground with God.  And then, it says with two of their wings they fly, which is a picture, I believe, of obedience because they are there to swiftly carry out God’s command.  Very interesting imagery used with this second group of people.

Now, go with me back to the book of Revelation, and I want you to notice what it says about what they say, when they say, “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD THE ALMIGHTY, who was and who is and who is to come.”  It says there, in the middle of verse 8; it says, “…day and night they do not cease to say, “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY, is THE LORD GOD THE ALMIGHTY…”.  Now, when you first look at that, you might get the idea that it’s communicating that this is a non-stop thing.  Now, remember we’re in heaven; we’re in eternity, here—in the realm of eternity.  You get the idea is…they are just going to keep saying this thing, like a broken record, over and over and over again?…“HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD THE ALMIGHTY, who was and is and is to come.”—over and over and over and over and over and over—is that what it’s really communicating?  Is that what is going to be said repetitively?  I don’t really think that’s the idea of the language here at all.  They’re not going to simply go around only saying this.  We do know, because they have the two wings, you know, to carry out the commands of God, they have the commands of God to carry out too.  These angelic beings have work to be done.

But you’ll notice something else—we haven’t really looked at the verse yet—but notice it says in verse 9, “…when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne…”, then the twenty-four elders, which are a picture of us—the believers in heaven—“…will fall down before Him…”.  So, when they do this, the twenty-four elders fall down.  And what we want to understand is, this doesn’t happen just this way in a constant non-stop fashion.  In fact, the word ‘when’ in verse 9 means ‘whenever.’  Whenever the living creatures do this—and say, “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD…”, then we have the twenty-four elders also falling down and worshiping the LORD.  That’s not something that they do constantly, or that we’re going to be doing constantly non-stop.  In fact, earlier on in the chapter we see the twenty-four elders seated on thrones because we’re going to be involved in ruling.  So, it doesn’t mean non-stop, here, at all. 

And just let me give you an illustration.  If you go, “Well, I don’t understand what you’re getting at, Bruce.”  Well, just because you use terminology like this doesn’t that it means non-stop.  For example, Paul, when he was with the Thessalonian believers—you can just jot down the references.  In 1 Thessalonians, chapter 2, verse 9 he says, when we were with you, we were working night and day not to be a burden to you, so we could proclaim to you the gospel.  Now, when he said to them: when we were with you, we were working night and day, so we could proclaim the gospel; he didn’t mean non-stop—we worked all day, and then we worked all night…and then we worked all day, and then we worked all night…and then we worked all day, and then we worked all night.  I mean, when were you going to get in the proclamation of the gospel?  That’s not what he’s saying.

In the second letter to the Thessalonians, chapter 3, verse 8, he says: when we were with you we kept working night and day so we wouldn’t be a burden to you.  It doesn’t mean he never slept; it doesn’t mean that he never taught them anything; it doesn’t mean that he didn’t take time to present the gospel to them.  What he meant was: at all different kinds of times—sometimes in the day; sometimes at night—we were working.  Whenever it was appropriate, we were working, so we wouldn’t be a burden to you.

And so, I believe, back in Revelation when it’s talking about how day and night they do not cease to say, the picture really is that they’re always on the verge of doing this.  You know, we’re instructed about—a little different terminology in the New Testament—we are to pray without ceasing.  That doesn’t mean that it’s non-stop, that we can’t even talk to anybody else because we have to be praying non-stop.  It means that we’re always on the verge; we’re always ready to do that.  We should always be ready to pray.  And that’s the picture here.  They are always on the verge of honoring God in this way.  At all different kinds of times; there’s never an era when they’re not ready to do this.  They’re always ready to go.

And so, we have very interesting groups, don’t we?  We have the twenty-four elders—a representative picture, I believe, of the believers in heaven—and then, we have the four living creatures that are present at God’s throne.

Now, here’s what I want you to see, and this gets a little more exciting.  We’re going to kick it up a notch or two, here.  We want to look at the three attributes that are the focus of praise, here.  And, you know, when I was working my way through this chapter, I said, “You know, there is so much to learn from here.”  We could be weeks in chapter 4…we could be weeks in this chapter.  There’s so much here, but I want to give to you a core life principle.  I want you to write this down and maybe put a little box around it, or little stars beside it.  It’s very important, as we look at these three attributes that are the focus of praise of these two groups.  Here’s the core life principle—it’s important to understand this; everyone ought to know this; here it is: what comes into your mind, when you think about God, is the most important thing about you.  I’m going to say it again.  A core life principle I want you to understand is that what comes into your mind, when you think about God, is the most important thing about you.  Because our attitude, you see, and our conduct is directly proportionate to our view of God.

So, with that in mind—what comes into your mind, when you think about God, is the most important thing about you—let’s look at the three attributes that are the focus of praise here.  The first attribute is the holiness of God…the holiness of God.  Notice it there, in verse 8: “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY, is THE LORD GOD THE ALMIGHTY…”—the exact same cry that we saw in Isaiah, chapter 6.  The interesting thing about this, and I don’t know if you know this or not, but this is the only attribute of God in all of the Bible that is repeated.  “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD ALMIGHTY.”  It’s interesting that that is the attribute that’s focused upon.  It’s not faithful, faithful, faithful is the Lord God Almighty; it’s not loving, loving, loving is the Lord God Almighty; it’s not righteous, righteous, righteous is the Lord God Almighty.  No, it’s HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD ALMIGHTY.  And I think when we see—look a little more closely—we’ll understand why this particular attribute we could call the centerpiece of the divine Being—the centerpiece of the divine Being.  “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD THE ALMIGHTY.” 

The word, in the Old Testament, that is translated ‘holy’ is the word ‘qadosh.’  It comes from a root that means—stick with me here, now—to cut apart or to separate.  We use a similar idea in our language when we talk about things being a ‘cut above.’  That’s the picture of holiness.  You see, God is…is a cut above.  He is above and beyond; He is set apart–in theology circles we call it, He is eminently transcendent.  He is a cut above.  Holy, Holy, Holy—a cut above, a cut above, a cut above.  He exceeds all comparisons.

And it’s interesting.  Isaiah, in chapter 40 and verse 18, he asks this question: to whom will you liken God?  And the answer is: there’s no comparison…there’s no comparison.  He is perfect in His character; He is perfect in His words; He is perfect in His deeds.  Holy, Holy, Holy.  He is a cut above.  We could almost translate it ‘holy, holier, holiest;’ the highest level, to the supreme degree of being a cut above.  And what’s interesting is, His holiness is so clear—He’s so much a cut above—it affects every other attribute of His.  You see, His faithfulness is a cut above; His love is a cut above; His righteousness is a cut above.  And what is interesting is that when individuals get an unshielded view of the supreme ‘other-ness’ of God—when they have an unshielded view, or at least a partially unshielded view—do you know what happens to them?  What happened to Isaiah, when he had at least a partially unshielded view of the other-ness of God, the holiness of God?  He’s devastated; he’s almost disintegrated; he says, in Isaiah 6, “Woe is me…I am ruined!”  I get some kind of an idea of the holiness—how far a cut above God really is.

You remember what happens to John in chapter 1.  He hears a voice that’s like a trumpet; he turns around to look at the voice and he has, at least, a partially unshielded view of Jesus Christ.  And what happens to John…what happens to him there?  He ends up flat on his face.  He says, I fell over like a dead man after I saw the holiness of God—how much a cut above He is.

And it’s very important that we have a grasp on the holiness of God, because if you don’t…if you’re not aware of the holiness of God—if you don’t have a sense of the other-ness of God—then we don’t really understand the depth of our own sinfulness.  If we don’t have a grasp on the holiness of God, we don’t understand the depth of our overwhelming shortcomings.

And so, the first attribute of praise, of these two groups, is the holiness of God.  I want you to see another one that’s here.  This gets pretty exciting.  “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD THE ALMIGHTY.”  The second attribute of praise is praise for God’s sovereignty—His sovereignty.  The Lord God Almighty.  His will is unrivaled anywhere!  Give you a couple of passages; you can jot them down.  Psalm 115, verse 3: “…our God is in the heavens…”—I like this; this is a pretty simple statement—“…our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.”  That’s sovereignty…that’s sovereignty.

I’ve always enjoyed the verse in 1 Chronicles 29, verse 11.  You see…there’s a reach here to try to describe God’s sovereignty.  Says, Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty.  See, he’s beginning to stack up all this terminology emphasizing the sovereignty of God.  Yours is the dominion, O LORD, You exalt Yourself as head over all.

When you talk about the sovereignty of God in the street vernacular of our day, this is how you would define ‘He is sovereign.’   He is large and He’s in charge.  That’s God’s sovereignty: He’s large and He’s in charge.  And think, again, about the common view of God that so many people have.  You know, like God really gets nervous, and God start pacing…He starts to pace around in heaven, and He’s wringing His hands, you know, and He’s going, “I don’t know what’s going on down there.  Things aren’t working out the way I had this thing planned at all, you know.  I don’t know what we’re going to do…I don’t know what we’re going to do.  You know, My plans are being frustrated by Satan, they’re being frustrated by men and women; they’re not doing what they’re supposed to do.  This is just…this is a catastrophe.”  You know, like God’s out there saying, “You know, I think we need to call an emergency meeting; bring in all the angels; maybe we can figure out what we’re going to do up here.”  No, He’s sovereign; He’s large, and He’s in charge.

Do you know what sovereignty really means?  If I was going to give a definition to it as simple as I could, here’s what sovereignty means.  Might want to write this down; it’s real important: God is God.  That’s what sovereignty means—God is God.  And what’s interesting is, that men come along and we have this proneness to raise objections, “Well, I…you know, God excuse me a second.  I’m not sure You’re really, do You really know what You’re doing?  I’d like to make a little suggestion, God.  I’d like You to change things around a little bit.  I’m not quite sure I like what You’re doing and the way that You’re doing it.  I really want to question your rule in this world.”  Oh, really?

I like Tony Evans, a pastor down in Dallas.   He has a real down-home way of communicating.  He uses an analogy like this; he says, “Suppose you came into my home and you said, ‘Evans, I don’t like your furniture.  I don’t particularly appreciate the art on your walls.  The way you’ve got your bedroom organized is really an eyesore to me.  You need to move your vanity over here, you need to move your bed over there, and your kitchen utensils and plates and saucers, they really don’t fit my taste.  I wish you would do something about it.’ ”  Tony says, “Well, I would only have one response to you. ‘When you start buying the furniture and paying the bills, then we can entertain your viewpoint.  But as long as I’m spending the money, your viewpoint carries no clout in my house.’  When you start making universes, creating planets, and giving life, perhaps then you can start dictating how God ought to run the universe.  But until and unless you get that divine clout, you cannot exercise that divine prerogative; the prerogative always belongs to God and never to us.”  He’s large and in charge.

And we see us in heaven giving Him praise for His sovereignty.

You know the classic illustration of this is found in the book of Daniel.  Turn with me in the Old Testament to the book of Daniel.  This is the classic illustration—Daniel, chapter 4.  It’s the illustration of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, and in Daniel, chapter 4 and verse 29.  Now, Nebuchadnezzar was a great king; he had accomplished a lot.  He had the Hanging Gardens—one of the wonders of the world—built in Babylon.  And notice it says, he’s walking on the roof—verse 29 of chapter 4—of the royal…palace of Babylon.  He’s up there, you know, just kind of walking around, looking at all this wonderful stuff that he had gotten done.  And notice, he says, in verse 30, “Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?”  What’s he saying?  “I’m large and in charge!”  And notice verse 31: “While the word was in

mouth, a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: sovereignty has been removed from you, and you will be driven from mankind, and your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field.  You will be given grass to eat like cattle…’ ”.  You are going to go down on all fours, and you’re going to graze with the cows.  And you’re going to be doing this for seven periods of time, “…until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whomever He wishes.”  And then, you have seven years of grazing with the cows; getting green stuff caught in your teeth.  And then, I want you to notice verse 34: “…at the end of that period I, Nebuchadnezzar…”—then you need to underline the next phrase—“…raised my eyes toward heaven, and my reason returned to me…”—you see, when you see God in His sovereignty, your reason comes back to you—“…and I blessed the Most High and [I] praised and honored Him who lives forever…”—notice what he says—“For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation.  And all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him…,” Uh, God, what are You doing?  No one can do that at all!

See, we see Him being praised for His sovereignty.  Now His sovereignty, we have to admit, is often mysterious, isn’t it?…it’s often mysterious.  We don’t often know why God does—or allows—some of the things that He allows.  In His sovereignty He causes some things; in His sovereignty He allows other things; but in His sovereignty He controls all things.  And as mysterious as His sovereignty may be, He always—let me restate that—He does always as He pleases, and He does only as He pleases, and He does all that He pleases. 

We see the attribute of His holiness being praised; we see the attribute of His sovereignty being praised; and then, back in Revelation 4, we see the attribute of His eternality being praised.  “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY, is THE LORD GOD THE ALMIGHTY, who was and who is and who is to come.”  Who was, who is, and who is to come.  It’s almost like—the picture is—that God stands with one foot in eternity past and He stands with one foot in eternity future, and He spans all of time.  The psalmist said, in Psalm 102, verse 27: You are the same; Your years will not come to an end—His eternality.  And, you know, that’s an important attribute to know about; because, you see, things in this world they change.  Fashion changes.  You know, you end up with ties that are too narrow or ties that are too wide.  Fashion changes.  You end up with dresses that are too long or too short.  The weather changes, especially if you live in Oklahoma.  Not only does fashion change and weather change, but technology changes.  It seems like every month there’s new technological advances.  People change.  But here’s what’s important: God is changeless in His character; that’s His eternality.  He can never become worse, and He couldn’t become better.  And what does that mean for you and for me?  That means that He can be counted on because of His eternality.

A. W. Pink words it this way; he says, “Human nature cannot be relied upon, but God can.  However unstable I may be, however fickle my friends may prove, God changes not!  If He varied as we do, if He willed one thing today and another tomorrow, if He were controlled by caprice, could we confide in Him?  But, all praise to His glorious name, He is ever the same, His purpose is fixed, His will is stable, His word is sure.  Here, then, is a rock on which we may fix our feet while the mighty torrent is sweeping away everything around us.  The permanence of God’s character guarantees the fulfillment of His promises.”

And so we see, in the book of Revelation, these two groups who are present at the throne; we see these three attributes that are the focus of praise; but I want you to see something very important, as we close, and that is a mutual perspective that exists with both the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders, which are really a representative picture of the believers in heaven.  Here’s the mutual perspective—it’s two words; I want you to write these down—humility plus what I want to call worth-ship.  This is the mutual perspective—humility and worth-ship.  Notice verse 9: “…when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne…”—and they say—“ ‘Worthy are You our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and they were created.’ ”  Mutual perspective, here…two elements: the first one is humility—humility.  Here we have the twenty-four elders—a representative picture of the believers in heaven—and what do they do when they are giving God praise; giving praise for His holiness, and giving praise for His sovereignty, and giving praise for His eternality? They fall down before the Lord.  And they worship.  The word ‘worship’ that’s translated here means, literally, ‘to bow in adoration.’  You see, here’s the idea; that when you have a true glimpse of God, it has a profound sense…or profound impact on our sense of unworthiness.  It has a profound impact on our sense of His awesomeness.  They—actually we could say we—are casting our crowns before the throne of God.

These crowns that are cast are victors’ crowns.  They represent victories that we have won, as believers in Jesus Christ.  But we take off the victor crowns, and we cast them before the throne of God.  Why?  Because the victories are not ours, right?  They’re His…they’re His!  You think about every kind of victory that you may have ever had in your spiritual life.  It’s really not your victory; it’s really His.  Think about it; He chose us, He redeemed us, He called us, He justified us, He indwelt us, empowered us, He planned good works for us to do.  Then He opened all the doors to make them happen.  He guided us, He picked us up when we fell, He forgave us, He patiently waited on us, He used us in spite of ourselves, you see.  And then, He crowned us.  And who do you think really deserves the crown?  It’s not me, and it’s not you.

Paul worded it this way: he said—the great apostle Paul—he says, it’s by the grace of God that I am what I am.  And it’s by the grace of God you are what you are. 

You see, our faithfulness is only possible because of His faithfulness.  And sometimes it’s good just to step back for a minute, you know, and think about some of the victories that you’ve had, you know.  And I might just step back and look at some of what we might call the ‘big’ spiritual victories—some of the big things, spiritually, in my life.  And I look around at the privilege of being at Wildwood Community Church.  I look around at the doors of opportunity that God opened to be involved in the Family Life Marriage Conferences.  I look around at the ministry that Wildwood has had—a relatively small church—in the nation in Europe by the name of Latvia.  All of those victories; and yet, when you look closer, they’re really God’s victories…every single one of them.

And so, you have—in this mutual perspective—you have humility, and then you have worth-ship…worth-ship.  The idea is we pass the praise on to Him.  Verse 11: “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and

were created.”  And that’s what God wants us to understand.  You see, whatever the victory is, there needs to be this perspective of humility, and then, there needs to be the perspective of worth-ship—turning around and giving Him the credit and the crown.

I don’t know if you noticed it or not, but these verses are the background for probably the most famous hymn that we have in the church, which is “Holy, Holy, Holy.”  It comes right out of this section of Scripture—“Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty…merciful and mighty…all the saints adore Thee; casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea…only You are holy; there is none beside Thee, perfect in power and love and purity.”  Incredible scene in heaven and much to be learned from it. 

I want, as we close, to give you two closing reflections…two closing reflections, as we leave this section of God’s word.  Number one is this: if then, why not now?   If this is what we’ll be doing in heaven, why not now?  Why not now…giving Him praise for His holiness, praise for His sovereignty, praise for His eternality?  Why not now…having in my life a perspective of humility and worth-ship?  Why should we not now, as a church, be cultivating worship on earth as it will be in heaven?  You see, if we’re going to be truly heavenly-minded, I believe we will be a fervent worshiper.  If then, why not now? 

Do you remember the Magi, who came to the Lord Jesus?  And when they came to the Lord Jesus, they came to Him, they fell down, and they gave gifts.  And, you see, that is what we are to do, when we come before Jesus; is we fall down and we give Him gifts.  And I believe we can be giving Him the gift of praise.  And I know some of us don’t have that great a voice; and when we come to times of worship, we think, “You know, I don’t want to sing very much, because I’m not very good.”  Do you think God really cares about that?…think God really cares?   We can give Him the gift of praise.  We can give Him the gift of our presence; coming here and assembling together, as we will be assembled in heaven.  And we can be here on time…or early.  We can give Him our gift of passion.  We can come here primed to honor God, pumped up to do that.  And I believe we can give Him our gift of our possessions.  Sometimes we forget that every single thing we have, on any level that you want to add it up; every single thing you have is because the sovereign Lord of the universe allowed you to have it.  And because it’s His anyway, we can invest our possessions for His kingdom.

And so, the first reflection is: if then, why not now?  A second one—real quickly—second reflection is that God can be counted on…God can be counted on.  I want you to know there is nothing that will ever appear on ABC; nothing that will ever appear on MSNBC; there’s nothing that will ever appear on CNN that is going to be a true concern to YHWH—that’s Yahweh God.  Nothing’s ever going to show up that’s ever going to be a concern to Him.  He can be counted on.

Paul put it this way, when he wrote Timothy; he said, “I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day”, when I’m face to face with Him.  God can be counted on.

Let’s pray together.  Father, we just thank You for this awesome section of Scripture that at times may be a little hard to understand.  But I would pray, Father—through the process of this series—that You would be, indeed, making us into men and women and young people who are heavenly-minded.  We’re awed at who You are and humbled at how You care and love us, in light of who we are.  We just thank You for all of that.  Thank You so much, in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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