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—  Heaven

—  By

—  Randy Alcorn

—  08.10.08


—  "When I was a boy, the thought of Heaven used to frighten me more than the thought of Hell. I pictured Heaven as a place where time would be perpetual Sundays, with perpetual services from which there would be no escape."

We can learn a great deal about the intermediate Heaven from three key verses in Revelation: When [the Lamb] 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. 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? Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were "told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed” (6:9-11).

—  I offer here twenty­one brief observations concerning this passage:

1. When these people died on Earth, they relocated to Heaven (v. 9).

2. These people in Heaven were the same ones killed for Christ while on Earth (v. 9). This demonstrates direct continuity between our identity on Earth and our identity in Heaven. The martyrs’ personal history extends directly back to their lives on Earth. Those in the intermediate Heaven are not different people; they are the same people relocated—“righteous men made perfect”

3. People in Heaven will be remembered for their lives on Earth. These were known and identified as ones slain “because of . . . the testimony they had maintained”

4. “They called out” (v. 10) means they are able to express themselves audibly. This could suggest they exist in physical form, with vocal cords or other tangible means to express themselves.

5. People in the intermediate Heaven can raise their voices (v. 10). This indicates that they are rational, communicative, and emotional—even passionate—beings, like people on Earth.

6. They called out in “a loud voice,” not “loud voices.” Individuals speaking with one voice indicate that Heaven is a place of unity and shared perspective.

7. The martyrs are fully conscious, rational, and aware of each other, God, and the situation on Earth."

8. They ask God to intervene on Earth and to act on their behalf: “How long . . . until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?”(v. 10).

9. Those in Heaven are free to ask God questions, which means they have an audience with God. It also means they need to learn. In Heaven, people desire understanding and pursue it.

10. People in the intermediate Heaven know what's happening on Earth (v. 10). The martyrs know enough to realize that those who killed them have not yet been judged.

11. Heaven dwellers have a deep concern for justice and retribution (v. 10). When we go to Heaven, we won't adopt a passive disinterest in what happens on the earth. On the contrary, our concerns will be more passionate and our thirst for justice greater. Neither God nor we will be satisfied until his enemies are judged, our bodies raised, sin and Satan defeated, Earth restored, and Christ exalted over all.

12. The martyrs clearly remember their lives on Earth (v. 10). They even remember that they were murdered.

13. The martyrs in Heaven pray for judgment on their persecutors who are still at work hurting others. They are acting in solidarity with, and in effect interceding for, the suffering saints on Earth. This suggests that saints in Heaven are both seeing and praying for saints on Earth.

14. Those in Heaven see God's attributes (“Sovereign . . . holy and true”) in a way that makes his judgment of sin more understandable.

15. Those in Heaven are distinct individuals: “Then each of them was given a white robe” (v. 11). There isn't one merged identity that obliterates uniqueness, but a distinct “each of them.”

16. The martyrs’ wearing white robes suggests the possibility of actual physical forms, because disembodied spirits presumably don't wear robes. The robes may well have symbolic meaning, but it doesn't mean they couldn't also be physical. The martyrs appear to have physical forms that John could actually see."

17. God answers their question (v. 11), indicating communication and process in Heaven. It also demonstrates that we won't know everything in Heaven—if we did, we would have no questions. The martyrs knew more after God answered their question than before they asked it. There is learning in the present Heaven.

18. God promises to fulfill the martyrs’ requests, but says they will have to “wait a little longer” (v. 11). Those in the intermediate Heaven live in anticipation of the future fulfillment of God's promises. Unlike the eternal Heaven—where there will be no more sin, Curse, or suffering on the New Earth (Revelation 21:4)—the present Heaven coexists with and watches over an Earth under sin, the Curse, and suffering.

19. There is time in the intermediate Heaven (vv. 10-11). The white­robed martyrs ask God a time­dependent question: “How long, Sovereign Lord . . . until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” (v. 10). They are aware of time's passing and are eager for the coming day of the Lord's judgment. God answers that they must “wait a little longer” until certain events transpire on Earth. Waiting requires the passing of time.

20. The people of God in Heaven have a strong familial connection with those on Earth, who are called their “fellow servants and brothers” (v. 11). We share the same Father, “from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named” (Ephesians 3:15, ESV). There is not a wall of separation within the bride of Christ. We are one family with those who've gone to Heaven ahead of us. After we go to Heaven, we'll still be one family with those yet on Earth. These verses demonstrate a vital connection between the events and people in Heaven and the events and people on Earth.

21. Our sovereign God knows down to the last detail all that is happening and will happen on Earth (v. 11), including every drop of blood shed and every bit of suffering undergone by his children. Voice of the Martyrs estimates that more than 150,000 people die for Christ each year, an average of more than four hundred per day. God knows the name and story of each one. He knows exactly how many martyrs there will be, and he is prepared to return and set up his Kingdom when the final martyr dies.

Randy Alcorn made these observations on the intermediate Heaven based on only three verses. Unless there is some reason to believe that the realities of this passage apply only to one "group of martyrs and to no one else in Heaven—and I see no such indication—then we should assume that what is true of them is also true of our loved ones already there, and will be true of us when we die.


My life is in You Lord
My strength is in You Lord
My hope is in You Lord
In You it's in You (repeat)

I will praise You with all of my life
I will praise You with all of my strength
With all of my life,

With all of my strength
All of my hope is in You


Open the eyes of my heart Lord
Open the eyes of my heart
I want to see You, I want to see You

To see You high and lifted up
Shining in the light of Your glory
Pour out Your power and love
As we sing holy holy holy

Holy holy holy
Holy holy holy
Holy holy holy
I want to see You


And when I think

That God His Son not sparing, Sent Him to die
I scarce can take it in
That on the cross, My burden gladly bearing
He bled and died, To take away my sin


Then sings my soul
My Savior God to Thee
How great Thou art, How great Thou art

The splendor of the King, Clothed in majesty
Let all the earth rejoice, All the earth rejoice
He wraps Himself in light,

and darkness tries to hide

And trembles at His voice,

and trembles at His voice


How great is our God
Sing with me, How great is our God
And all will see how great, How great is our God


And age to age He stands,

and time is in His hands
Beginning and the End, Beginning and the End
The Godhead three in one, Father Spirit Son
The Lion and the Lamb, The Lion and the Lamb


How great is our God
Sing with me, How great is our God
And all will see how great,

How great is our God


Name above all names
Worthy of all praise
My heart will sing
How great is our God

I sing praises to Your name O Lord
Praises to Your name O Lord
For Your name is great
And greatly to be praised


I give glory to Your name O Lord
Glory to Your name O Lord
For Your name is great
And greatly to be praised


He became sin who knew no sin
That we might become His righteousness
He humbled Himself and carried the cross
Love so amazing love so amazing


Jesus Messiah Name above all names
Blessed Redeemer Emmanuel
The Rescue for sinners
The Ransom from heaven
Jesus Messiah Lord of all


His body the bread His blood the wine
Broken and poured out all for love
The whole earth trembled and the veil was torn
Love so amazing love so amazing


All our hope is in You, All our hope is in You
All the glory to You God, The Light of the world


Jesus Messiah, Lord of all
The Lord of all, The Lord of all




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