May 22, 2022
Rev Michael J Zehnder, Ascension Lutheran Church, Littleton, CO
Today’s Epistle, like last week’s, is also from Revelation chapter 21. It gives us additional insight into this place we are going to someday called heaven. We have many questions about what it’s like, but the Bible does not supply a list of endless details probably because it is beyond human imagination and understanding. But that doesn’t stop us from milking the Word for details and trying to know more about the wonders of heaven.
Illus: When it comes to dying and going to this great place called Heaven, sometimes we are like the two fellows who loved baseball. To them baseball was one of the greatest things that God allowed to be placed on earth. They were talking with each other one day, and one said to the other, “DO YOU RECKON THE LORD WILL ALLOW US TO PLAY BASEBALL WHEN WE GET THERE?” They agreed that the one that went to this marvelous place first, would make every effort to return to earth and tell the other one if they had baseball in heaven. To make a long story short, one of them died, and true to his agreement he returned to earth and said, “Henry, this is Charlie, I’ve come back to tell you whether or not there is baseball in heaven. I have some good news and some bad news for you. The good news is that there IS baseball in heaven. The bad news is that you are the STARTING PITCHER in tomorrow night’s game.”
One of the great things about Heaven will be the kind of people who will be there. Our text says that “the glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful.”
Heaven will be a place where all lying, stealing, mass shootings and evil of every kind will be excluded.
Heaven is a RALLYING PLACE where godly people gather and the ungodly will be excluded! Not that people in heaven will never have done bad things like this on earth. Jesus promised heaven to a guy on a cross next to him who was a known thief and Jesus said to him, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” By the forgiveness of God and the blood of Jesus; he was made clean. To get into heaven Revelation says the inhabitants are those who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb and made them white. In other words, they were sinners like you and me but they’ve been forgiven and washed clean. The impure is made pure. And in Jeremiah God promised to remember our sins no more. God will open the ledger of good and evil you have done and under the category “sins committed” it will be blank. The judge will say “What sins? I see no sins!” and that’s on account of the blood of the Lamb! Welcome to your heavenly home!”
Heaven is not only going to be great because of the godly, washed clean people that will be there. Heaven will be Heaven because the godly have rallied together around THE LORD JESUS.
Today, people RALLY AROUND:
• Actors and Actresses
• Popular Singers and Rock Stars
They will wait in long lines to just get a glimpse of these heroes that they practically worship.
You can’t help but feel sorry for those who only rally around such people, because some of them are against everything Jesus stands for. But some RALLY around these celebrities they serve, in such numbers that they fill the largest stadiums and coliseums in this country. How foolish they are going to feel when they see the Lord Jesus in all His glory, and they have settled for these pathetic superstars they have practically worshipped! When I see a piece of pig-skin fly through the air at a football game and the way people scream and cheer, I sometimes feel jealous for God who deserves our fervent praise but sometimes doesn’t get so much as one enthusiastic “alleluia” at church or in private prayer. Now there’s nothing wrong with cheering on a team but it’s sad to me that people will shout and scream for an athletic or rock star celebrity but barely whisper their praise of Jesus in church. They barely raise their voice beyond medium loud when it comes time to sing a hymn of praise in a worship service. In heaven, however, the Bible describes the worship as being at high volume. In Rev 7 it says that a great multitude from every nation, tribe, people and language cried out in a LOUD voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb.” Folks, this is a description of CHEERING in heaven.
In contrast to some of our lukewarm worship on earth, Heaven is going to be filled with people who RALLY around and cheer for the SON OF GOD. People often talk of the joy of Heaven in terms of wanting to see our LOVED ONES again, but the real joy and rallying will be around the LORD JESUS who dwells in inaccessible light and is the Lamp of heaven – no sun or moon needed – according to our text because the glory of God supplies the splendor and Light of heaven.
In heaven there is no temple, no church building because “the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are it’s temple.” The city itself is the temple and God will be IN and WITH His people. This underscores once again that the church is not a building but the people of God and He lives IN his people by the Holy Spirit. John says that the names of heaven’s inhabitants are recorded in the Lamb’s book of life. This is more than a book of the dead or a book of remembrance. It is a book of life. The names in the book are people who have been delivered from the death of sin, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb and adopted as God’s children. They are people from all nations, of every tribe and race from every time and place from the Garden of Gethsemane until now. Not only is there a book of Life but the Names of God’s chosen people are already inscribed on the city gates. God knows we’re coming before we get there and there are nameplates on the doors of heaven with your name on it If God had a refrigerator your picture would be on it with a magnet, that’s how much you are individually cherished.
Notice that the gates of heaven are never shut because no one wants to get out and nothing impure can ever enter it whereas the gates of hell are locked and everyone wants to get out.
There’s quite a description of heaven’s walls with twelve gates, 12 angels at the gates, the names of the 12 tribes of Israel on them and the names of the 12 apostles on the 12 foundations. Suffice is to say that the continuity of the Old and New Testaments are represented by the number 12 – 12 tribes of Israel in the OT; 12 apostles in the NT. The way to the Holy City of eternal life is not hard to find. The Yellow Brick Road of both Old and New Testaments is Jesus, suffering servant and victorious Lord, who was, and is, and is to come. God has given us His Holy Word in both Old and New Testaments by inspiration and in it we find the true Gospel, which is the power of God for salvation to the Jew first and then to the Gentiles. Through this Word we have access to repentance, to faith, to forgiveness and ultimately, inclusion into the splendors of heaven.
Heaven is a real and wonderful place. But it knocks us out just to read the description of all the jewels it’s made of – some can’t even be identified with certainty – the idea is to dazzle the mind with wonder and anticipation. Heaven’s dimensions of a perfect cube like the holy of holies in Solomon’s temple is almost too wonderful to understand and too deep to comprehend. Heavenly Jerusalem will be a giant holy of holies in which God’s people reside. Remember the OT holy of holies? Only the high priest could enter it and only once a year with the blood of a spotless Lamb. But now through Christ, that veil and that restriction has been removed, Christ has supplied His own blood as a once for all sacrifice for sin and now we all will LIVE in that Holy of Holies. It’s a picture of HOW CLOSE we will all be to the Lord. No separation because of sin. Christ has removed the barrier between us and God – scripture calls it the dividing wall of hostility between us and God. Gone! And the elegance and grandeur of this city goes beyond human words.
Illus: Suppose the Lord appeared to you and said, “I want you to take six months, even a year, and I want you to draw up a set of plans, and put everything in Heaven that you believe should be there. That is, everything you think it would take to make Heaven a great place.”
Six months go by, and the Lord returns. He asks, “Did you do what I asked you to do?” You say, “Lord, I did the best that I could do.”
But the Lord says, “Before I look at your plans, I want you to first look at what I have planned.”
I am convinced beyond doubt, that if that were to take place, every one of us, seeing this wonderful place He has prepared for those who have received Him as Savior, would immediately take the plans they had, tear them up and say, “Lord, I’d rather go with your plans.”
• The God who made our beautiful sunsets has created Heaven
• The God who has made the deepest oceans teaming with fish of glorious shapes and colors has created Heaven
• The God who has made the mighty waterfalls and breathtaking mountains has created Heaven
• The God who has made the jungles, the deserts and the deep rain forests has created Heaven
• The God who has made all the ingredients for tacos, deep dish pizza, cheesy lasagna, bar-b-cued baby back pork ribs and Heineken on draft has created heaven
Heaven is the most glorious place that a person can ever go to. Do you really want a heaven that can be perfectly described or do you want a place beyond description? So don’t fret that it is beyond human understanding or that what we know about it is almost too wonderful for words. Just be glad that it exists and that the road to get there is clearly marked out in God’s Word as believing in the blood of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. If you have faith in Jesus be aware and happy that means God’s Holy Spirit is at work in you. This is just as we saw in our first Acts 16 reading where Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth heard Paul preach and it states, “The Lord opened her heart to respond to Pauls’ message.” If you believe it’s not because you are so clever as to ascertain the truth. It’s not because some spiritual speaker like the apostle Paul or a gifted pastor was so clever or manipulated you into believing. It’s because the Lord God Himself has opened the door of your heart to believe the message and, according to Eph 1, the same power that God used to raise Jesus from the dead is at work in you (Eph 1:19-20). You got resurrection power flowing through you if you believe! Hallelujah.
You see, there are two kinds of people living on this earth.
• We have the homesteaders. This earth is the only Heaven they will ever have and this is as good as it gets.
• Then we have the sojourners. They are the ones who recognize that this world is not our home. Our home is in that glorious place called Heaven.
Illus: Max Lucado tells a story about flying home to San Antonio one evening, and as the wheels of the plane hit the runway, he said all through the plane you could hear the unfastening of seatbelts. As the voice came over the intercom saying, “Please remain seated with your seatbelt fastened until the plane comes to a complete stop,” he said, “No one was paying attention.” People were already out of their seats, opening the overhead compartments, and getting their stuff out. Why? Because they were home. Their final destination was not that plane. They wanted to get off that plane, and get out, and get home with those they love. He said he didn’t see any of the stewardesses having to struggle to pull people out of their seats, or people saying, “Wait a minute. I want to stay on the plane for a few more hours. These seats are so comfy, I want to stay.” No. They were home. They wanted to get off of that plane.
So it is with us. Earth is a wonderful place and has many joys but it is also a place of grief and sorrow and is not our final destination. C.S. Lewis said, “The fact that our heart yearns for something Earth can’t supply is proof that Heaven must be our home.”
In that famous Psalm 23 we say, “And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Where will you live forever? In the house of the Lord. If HIS house is your forever house then what does that make THIS earthly house and earthly body? You got it! Short-term housing. This is not our home because “Our homeland is in heaven” (Phil 3:20). Eccl. 3:11 says “God has set eternity in the hearts of men.” Deep down you know you are not home yet. So be careful not to act like you are. Would you hang pictures on the walls of a Greyhound bus? Do you set up a bedroom at the roadside rest stop? Do you load your king size bed on a commercial flight? Don’t treat or act like this world is our home. It isn’t. Don’t quench your longing for heaven, but stir it up. Be a realist about the temporary nature of your flesh. Paul calls our bodies (Phil 3:21) our “weak and mortal bodies” (NLT). You could add your own adjectives, couldn’t you? Which words describes your body? My cancerous body? My arthritic body? My crippled body? My addicted body? My broken body? My hurting body? My ever-expanding body? The words may vary but the message is the same. These bodies are weak and lowly. They began decaying the minute we began breathing. And that’s part of God’s plan. Every wrinkle and every drop of medicine we swallow takes us one step closer to the last step when Jesus will change our temporary bodies into forever bodies. Our mortal bodies into immortal bodies. We speak this truth in the CREED every week, “And I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” Celebrate that like you mean it. Jesus Christ will meet you at the end of life’s journey, wipe every tear from your eye and say, “Your Name is in My Book of Life and I’m glad you’re here where we can spend all our time together at last! Welcome home to the world without sorrow, the world without end, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting!” Amen.