Present Heaven (Rev. 6:9-11)

I want to share a story with you to set up why Heaven matters. As I share this I realize some of you have faced similar situations. This comes from Paul Enns’ book on Heaven.

[may summarize in my words]

After I had parked the car, Helen and I walked to the sanctuary, holding hands as we always did when we walked together. We had been husband and wife for forty-five years, yet I still felt like a newly engaged young man, smitten with love and thrilled by holding hands with the one he loves. Our pastor, Ken Whitten, became emotional and teary-eyed that Sunday evening as he spoke during the sermon of being with his father just before he died.

 Pastor Ken recalled how he told his father, “I’ll meet you at the tree of life.” I leaned over to Helen and told her, “I’ll meet you at the Eastern Gate.” She smiled and responded in agreement. After the service we visited with numerous people (as Helen loved to do) and finally walked to the car, hand in hand. I opened the car door for her, and soon we were on our way home. I was unusually tired that evening and headed for bed ahead of Helen.

 When she came to bed I was almost asleep, so I missed our nightly ritual. Before turning out the light we would clasp hands, and Helen would say, “Gutte nacht, mein schatz!” (“Good night, my treasure!”) I would respond, “Gutte nacht, mein schatze!” (“Good night, my little treasure!”)

 The next morning, as I was leaving the house to drive to Idlewild Baptist Church to teach an extension seminary class, Helen walked to the car with me—as she always did. She carried my mug of coffee, took a few sips (she wasn’t supposed to drink coffee since it made her heart act up), and then handed me the cup. She was wearing walking shorts.

“Go inside, it’s too cold,” I suggested. But I knew she wouldn’t go in. Whenever I drove away, she would always wave me off. I backed out of the driveway, and as I drove away she blew me some kisses and then waved to me.

 She was now in the street, and continued to wave until I turned the corner at the far end of the street. Our love was simple and sincere. We never got over the thrill and joy of the love we had for each other. That morning, as I taught about the bodily resurrection of Christ, I became emotional and began to cry. I couldn’t explain it. At two o’clock I finished teaching the class but stayed for another half-hour talking to the students. I arrived home about 2:45 p.m. to find the door was locked. That was unusual, since Helen would always unlock the door when she knew I was coming home. I unlocked the door and entered the house. “Helen,” I called. No answer. I called louder, “HELEN!” Still no answer. She must be working outside, I told myself. I put down my briefcase and walked into the kitchen.

 I screamed as I saw Helen lying face down on the kitchen floor. I ran to her, turned her over, but there was no movement.“HELEN, HELEN!” I shouted. I ran to the kitchen phone and quickly dialed 911, crying and screaming at the same time. The lady admonished me to calm down, so I could help Helen. I followed her instruction and gave Helen mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, pumping her chest as I was told to do. In a short time the ambulance arrived, and the men took over.

 For over an hour they sought to revive Helen. Finally, they came to me and said, “We could take her to the hospital, but the line is flat. She’s gone.” Words are incapable of describing my emotion at that moment. My beloved Helen was gone! I couldn’t begin to fathom that it had actually happened. Helen gone! I couldn’t fathom it. It’s not true! It can’t be!

 I had never gotten over the thrill of Helen. From the moment I laid my eyes on her smiling face and happy eyes, I was captivated by her. I have told people I was on a forty-five-year honeymoon. Now she was gone.

 Death is a harsh reality, one we don’t like to relate to ourselves. Helen and I had recently talked, and she had mentioned that we both have longevity in our blood, and we planned what we would do when we hit our eighties. But Helen was only sixty-five, and now she was gone from me. But death encompasses everyone. As someone has said, “Death is all-inclusive; it’s one out of one.”

 THOUGHTS OF HEAVEN That singular event has changed my life and my thinking. My thoughts are constantly focused on heaven. I’m absorbed with the thought of heaven. The thought of reunion with my beloved Helen! But that raises many questions.

What is heaven like…[1]

 That is the subject that we are going to continue. What is Heaven like?

Today, I want to talk about the present Heaven versus the eternal Heaven.

Jonathan Edwards, the great Puritan preacher, often spoke of Heaven. He said, “It becomes us to spend this life only as a journey toward heaven . .  . to which we should subordinate all other concerns of life. Why should we labor for or set our hearts on anything else, but that which is our proper end and true happiness?”[2]

So, let’s look at Heaven.

It is really difficult to talk about Heaven without looking up a lot of passages, but for flow I only want you to have to turn to one passage. I will have other passages in my notes which are in your bulletin. In Revelation 6:9-11 we see a scene of martyrs interceding in Heaven. This is a scene in Heaven and we can draw some conclusions from it.

Let’s read Revelation 6:9-11:

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained.10 They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” 11 Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.

  1. Let’s start by differentiating between the two Heavens.
    1. We find in Scripture that the future Heaven is not on eternal the end of the Bible. In Revelation 21 we find the reference to the future Heaven and that is the new Jerusalem. We find other references throughout the Bible to the New Jerusalem and that is the eternal Heaven.
    2. We also find through the Bible references to the millennial reign. We find this in Rev. 20:2-6 as well as Old Testament passages. This is not the New Jerusalem, nor is it the current Heaven.
    3. When we think of passages concerning the resurrection of the body, that will be for the new Jerusalem and maybe the millennial reign. When we think of passages about Jesus wiping every tear from our eyes and no more crying, etc. (Rev. 21) that is the New Jerusalem. A lot of what we talk about for the coming weeks will concern the New Jerusalem and eternal Heaven, so today I want to talk more specifically about the current Heaven.
    4. For the rest of the message I want to draw on 5 encouraging applications about the current Heaven. I will substantiate these applications from the Rev. 6:9-11 passage and a few others.
      1. We can be encouraged that we go straight to Heaven when we die. (Luke 23:43; 2 Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:23)
        1. Heaven is where God resides and we will go straight to Heaven. We can know that we go to be with God because those saints are with God and they are interceding for others.
        2. We also know in Luke 23:43 Jesus told the thief that that very day he would join Jesus in paradise.
        3. In 2 Cor. 5:8 Paul wrote about being absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.
        4. In Phil. 1:23 Paul also wrote about departing and joining Jesus.
        5. We go to be with God in Heaven when we die.
        6. Now, where is Heaven? Scientists at Yale, Princeton, and Stanford, among others, postulate that there are ten unobservable dimensions and likely an infinite number of imperceptible universes.[3]
        7. I find that fascinating. Heaven is in a realm that we are imperceptible to, but God is there.
        8. We see it happen in Scripture, such as 2 Kings 6:17 when Elisha’s servant’s eyes are opened in order to see God’s angels all around him.
      2. We can be encouraged that we will have consciousness in the immediate Heaven. (1 Samuel 28:16-19; Luke 9:31; 16:19-31; Rev. 6:9-11)
        1. We see in Scripture that we will be conscious. If we simply think about this passage in Revelation, they are conscious and they are actually interceding for the persecuted church.
        2. We also see consciousness in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31.
      3. We can be encouraged that we will have contact with those who have gone before us. (Luke 16:19-31; Rev. 6:9-11: they worship, not one merged identity)
        1. In the Rev. 6:9-11 passage they are worshipping together. We see the people together again in Rev. 7:9-10:

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 before the Lamb. 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.” [4]

  1. We see a group of people together.
  2. There is no reason to think that our when people die they are not reunited with their loved ones as well.
  3. By the way, these Scriptural examples are specific cases, it seems that Heaven is far greater than anything we can think or imagine.
  4. Worshipping Jesus is exciting, standing before His throne, but Heaven will be more than worship.
  5. Heaven will be fellowship, we see that indicated in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31.
  6. Paul desired Heaven more than earth so it must be greater than we can think of.
  7. In 2 Cor. 12 Paul wrote of some type of near death experience and said that he saw things that he was not permitted to speak of. He also did not know whether he was in the body or out of the body.
  8. Now, is a good time for me to also say that it seems that the immediate Heaven is physical, not purely spiritual.
  9. Listen, the physical body is not bad, it is good. It is Christoplatonism to think that it is bad. Remember I shared that last Sunday. Greek philosophy, Platonism, impacted Christianity to think the physical is bad, but it isn’t.
  10. These descriptions in Rev. 6:9-11 and in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus give physical descriptions. They had voices to cry out. They were wearing white robes.
  11. “The rich man and Lazarus are depicted as having physical forms. The rich man had a tongue and a thirst that he wished to satisfy with water. Lazarus had a finger, and there was water available to him in Paradise, into which he might dip his finger. Of course, these references may be entirely figurative. But they might also suggest the possession of transitional physical forms, existing in a physical Paradise, to sustain and manifest human identity between death and resurrection.”[5]
  12. These bodies and this physical realm is still different than the New Jerusalem and the bodies are not our resurrected bodies, they may be temporary bodies, but it does seem physical.
  13. The physical can go in and out of the spiritual. We see that all throughout the Bible when God interacts with humanity. Of course God is spiritual. (John 4:24), but the angels are physical and the interact with our realm. (Hebrews 13:2; Genesis 18: The Lord’s appearance to Abraham; Genesis 19 the angels visiting Lot)
  14. We also know that God is unchanging, that does not mean that Heaven is unchanging. God can change Heaven as He sees fit. This means Heaven can be a certain way now, but then transition when the New Jerusalem comes down from earth.
  1. We can be encouraged that in Heaven we will have a memory of life on earth, otherwise we would be a different person. (Luke 16:19-31)
    1. In the passage in Luke 16:19-31 the rich man and Lazarus had memories of their life on earth.
    2. I like how Randy Alcorn points out that without our memories we would be different people.
    3. Also, in 1 Samuel 28:16-19 Saul wrongfully tries to bring up the spirit of the dead prophet Samuel and Samuel remembered Saul and really was alert to what was going on.
  2. We can be encouraged that it is likely our past family members and friends are interceding for us now. (Rev. 6:9-11)
    1. We see this in Rev. 6:9-11. They are interceding for the Christians on earth.
    2. Actually their intercession is more valuable than our prayers because they are with Jesus and so they are righteous. James tells us that the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective and they are righteous or they wouldn’t be in Heaven. (James 5:16)
    3. This means they ae interceding for us, but that does not mean we should pray to them. We can pray straight to Jesus, why pray to anyone other than Jesus Who is Lord and God. (Hebrews 4:14-16)
    4. Just imagine that your friends and family are up on Heaven interceding for you, isn’t that amazing?

Conclusion:

So, we go straight to Heaven and then eventually to the New Jerusalem.

To illustrate, imagine you lived in a homeless shelter in Miami. One day you inherit a beautiful house overlooking Santa Barbara, California, and are given a wonderful job doing something you’ve always wanted to do. Many friends and family will live nearby.

As you fly toward Santa Barbara, you stop at the Dallas airport for a layover. Other family members you haven’t seen in years meet you. They will board the plane with you to Santa Barbara. Naturally you look forward to seeing them in Dallas, your first stop.

But if someone asks where you’re going, would you say “Dallas”? No. You would say Santa Barbara, because that’s your final destination. Dallas is just a temporary stop. At most you might say “I’m going to Santa Barbara, with a brief stop in Dallas.”[6] Similarly, the Heaven we will go to when we die, the present Heaven, is a temporary dwelling place, a stop along the way to our final destination: the New Earth. Another analogy is more precise but difficult to imagine, because for most of us it’s outside our experience. Imagine leaving the homeless shelter in Miami and flying to the intermediate location, Dallas, and then turning around and going back home to your place of origin, which has been completely renovated— a New Miami. In this New Miami, you would no longer live in a homeless shelter, but in a beautiful house in a glorious pollution-free, crime-free, sin-free city. So you would end up living not in a different home, but in a radically improved version of your old home. This is what the Bible promises us— we will live with Christ and each other forever, not in the intermediate, or present, Heaven, but on the New Earth, where God will be at home with his people.

On December 21, 1899, D. L. Moody awoke from sleep early in the morning and began to speak: “Earth recedes; heaven opens before me.” His son was at his bedside and thought he was dreaming and attempted to rouse him. “No, this is no dream, Will,” Mr. Moody replied. “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.” Mr. Moody continued to talk as if from another world. “Then it seemed as though he saw beyond the veil, for he exclaimed, ‘This is my triumph; this is my Coronation Day! I have been looking forward to it for years.’ Then his face lit up, and he said, in a voice of joyful rapture, ‘Dwight! Irene! I see the children’s faces!’”—referring to the two little grandchildren God had taken from his life in the past year. Moments later Moody was gone. He had entered heaven.[8]

Paul Enns writes:

IN HEAVEN

Our existence continues.

We shall never die.

We are in our new home.

Angels will escort us.

Christ will welcome us.

We will be with Christ.

We will be reunited with loved ones.

We will be home.

We will be where Jesus wants us to be.[9]

Do you know Christ?

Luke 9:23

God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)

 

[1] Enns, Paul P. (2011-03-01). Heaven Revealed: What Is It Like? What Will We Do?… And 11 Other Things You’ve Wondered About (pp. 10-11). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.

[2] Alcorn, Randy (2011-12-08). Heaven (Alcorn, Randy) (Kindle Locations 352-354). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

[3] Alcorn, Randy (2011-12-08). Heaven (Alcorn, Randy) (Kindle Locations 997-1005). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

[4] The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Re 7:9–10.

[5] Alcorn, Randy (2011-12-08). Heaven (Alcorn, Randy) (Kindle Locations 1443-1447). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

[6] http://www.epm.org/blog/2015/Apr/22/present-heaven-future-heaven

[7] Alcorn, Randy (2011-12-08). Heaven (Alcorn, Randy) (Kindle Locations 978-981). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

[8] Enns, Paul P. (2011-03-01). Heaven Revealed: What Is It Like? What Will We Do?… And 11 Other Things You’ve Wondered About (p. 43). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.

[9] Enns, Paul P. (2011-03-01). Heaven Revealed: What Is It Like? What Will We Do?… And 11 Other Things You’ve Wondered About (p. 39). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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