Thursday, January 12, 2017
Considering the Bible's teaching on Heaven
Revelation 4:1-2 After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things.” 2 Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne.
The story of a King who was fascinated by heaven on earth
The story is told of how the King of Russia, Vladimir the Great, brought Christianity to his Russian homeland in the year 988 A.D. With a mixture of truth and fable, historians recount how this immoral, pagan prince was looking for a way to unite the empire over which he ruled. Vladimir felt the best way to achieve his goal was to select a singular religion.
Vladimir dispatched ambassadors to investigate major world religions at that time. Upon their return, each of Vladimir's ambassadors relayed their findings. Some noted that they saw laws and prohibitions on what to eat and what not to eat. Another said that the religion he witnessed did not seem to convey any real benefit to the people one way or another. However there was one ambassador who is recorded saying these words to King Vladimir: “We knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth, for surely there is no such splendor or beauty anywhere upon earth. We cannot describe it to you. Only we know that God dwells there among men, and that their service surpasses the worship of all other places. We cannot forget that beauty.”
In our 21st century post-Christian culture, I wonder sometimes that whenever people visit our churches, should they not come away with a similar response: "We knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth". How often have you heard it said: "That person is so heavenly minded they're no earthly good." The only response I can give to that is this thought: "Unless a Christian becomes more heavenly minded they cannot accomplish God's earthly good" (Matthew 5:16; Colossians 3:1-3). Why is Heaven and immortality so central to understand life in general and Christianity in particular? Today we will explore what the Book of Revelation and other scriptures have to teach us about Heaven.
Seeing Heaven unfold in the Book of Revelation
We could nickname the Apostle John as the man who saw heaven by virtue of the fact that no less than eleven heavenly visions are recorded through the book of Revelation.1 Out of all the 66 books of the Bible (with the exception of Matthew), the book of Revelation exceeds all other Biblical books, accounting for roughly 10% of the total times we find heaven mentioned in the Bible. The Apostle John is transported in vision by the Holy Spirit to behold the court of heaven. In that vision, we see God the Father on His throne in Revelation 4. In Revelation 5 we then behold the Lamb of God is seated in equal glory with the Father in Revelation 5.
If we were to characterize Revelation 1-3 as being about Christ and His church, we could assign Revelation 4-5 as referring to Christ and His Heavenly Throne. John's particular vision of heaven here in Revelation 4-5 is the second heavenly vision of the book. Before diving into the vision that will follow in Revelation 4-5, we will explore the Bible's overall teaching on Heaven in the next post.
1. Revelation 1; 4:8-11; 5:9-14; 7:10-13; 11:15-17; 12:10-12; 14:2-3; 15:3-4; 19:1-10; 21:1-9 and 22:16-21.