Faithlife Sermons

A Preview of Heaven

To the Ends of the Earth  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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There are 2 types of people when the anticipation of a big movie coming out in theaters.
The first wants to block out everything about that movie (not even watch trailers). They want to be totally surprised.
The second goes on the internet and researches every little detail about the movie. They want to read leaked scripts and entertain every bit of gossip. They want to essentially know what’s going to happen.
(I recognize that there is another group of people who actually don’t care about the movie at all....but we’ll ignore them for now).
For me a few years ago, before Avengers: Endgame game out, there was a leak that this would be Captain America’s last movie. Now Captain America has long been my favorite comic books character long before the MCU so I was actually curious how you send him off. And my biggest fear was that He would die. But still I didn’t dig deeper because I didn’t really want to know. I was ok being surprised.
I have to be honest, I trust God, but I don’t want to be surprised how His plan turns out. And the good news is, that when it comes to God and His overall plan, He has not left us in the dark as to how it will all turn out. In fact, He doesn’t expect us to wait in anxious anticipation.
He gives us the ending to His story to comfort us in our present reality.
Transition to the Text: Turn with me in your Bibles to Revelation 7:9-12
Revelation is a book about God’s revealing of His overall plan. In many ways, it’s like a giant spoiler to give us comfort. Many of us want to know that everything works out in the end. Revelation shows us that it will.
But it’s apocalyptic in genre and has to be interpreted in light of that. There is a lot of imagery and figurative language that while they represent a literal future reality, John is forced to describe in His words, what He may not have words to describe. So we can’t exactly interpret it literally....and we’ll see why. In a sense, the passage we are going to read is a preview of the future. It doesn’t answer all the questions, but it does answer some important ones.
As we read this passage, let’s keep this big idea in mind.

Introduce Big Idea: We’re given a picture of our heavenly future to help us make it a present reality.

Revelation 7:9–12 ESV
9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

Repeat Big Idea: We’re given a picture of a heavenly future to help us make it a present reality.

Transition: Now when it comes to the book of Revelation, you might have some questions. This book deals with our heavenly future and doesn’t always clearly articulate what that future will be like. So the way that we are going to tackle this passage, is ask some questions out loud and let the Bible answer them.

Question #1: Who will be in heaven? (Revelation 7:9a)

The events depicted in Revelation 7 immediately follow the great Tribulation.
Some believe that the great tribulation is a future event, while others believe we are currently living it. But the point of this passage isn’t dependent on our interpretation of the tribulation. It’s clear that this event is taking place in the heavenly realm.
The point is that those who come out of the great tribulation will immediately be ushered into the presence of God.
The people are before the throne. Now, as we’ll see, the point of this passage isn’t necessarily the people. The point is what they are doing. The focal point in this scene is God and the worship that is due Him. And it also shows what God has accomplished in bringing salvation to His people.
So the first answer to the question is that God will be in heaven. The Lamb will be in heaven. And then there are angels and these 4 creatures (that are likely a different type of angel) elders and people. But what is clear is that this great multitude are made up of human beings.
So with that being said, we turn our attention to the scene that is happening in heaven at this time.
2 important pieces of information are told to us about the people.
This a great multitude that no one can number. Why is this important? For whatever reason, Christians have been made to feel like we are losing the cultural war and that Christianity and religion are old fashioned and completely out of touch with the contemporary thought and opinion. But in the end, God’s people will be a great multitude that no one can number and who stand true for His name and His glory. God wins!
This multitude is not homogenous. It’s not one group of people. It’s not one nation, denomination or even skin color. The great multitude is from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages. Not to belabor the point over and over and over again, but there is no favoritism of races and nationalities. Christianity is not a white religion and not a black religion. It is a religion that transcends race, nationality, and language. Now I’ve always wondered why the Bible does belabor the point that God’s plan is for all people. And even in passages like this, they don’t lose their cultural, national or racial identity. Those distinctions seem to still be present and observable in this event.
How do I know? Just remember that John is seeing a vision of the future. And in Revelation He is describing what He sees in words that he understands. So in seeing this vision, he is describing the cultural distinctions of appearances present in the Great Multitude.
And how does he know that they speak different languages? Probably because he is hearing what they are saying and they praise and worship the king in their heart language.
Who will be in Heaven? Anyone who calls on the name of Jesus will be saved.
Illustration: No one can dispute that through history, intermingling of races has been difficult, to say the least. And even in our churches, we find it difficult to worship together. I’ve heard it said that the most segregated day of the week is Sunday as we gather together in our different groups to worship.
But there are a few activities that have been able to transcend culture. 1. The Military and 2. Sports Teams. How have they achieved what even the church has had difficulty? The Military and sports teams have an overarching goal that does not necessitate a shared cultural identity in order to accomplish that goal.
For the Military, the mission is “to fight and win our Nation's wars." Anyone can get behind that mission regardless of race.
For sports is “to win.” And in order to win, we’ll let anyone on our team.
Application: Does the church have a transcendent mission that doesn’t require a shared cultural experience? You betcha. Our mission is the take the Gospel to the nations so that the name of Jesus and the good news of Salvation is proclaimed to all nations.
And it doesn’t matter what nation, tribe, people or language a person is, if they can help us spread the name of Jesus, they can serve on the team. In fact the more diverse our churches are now, the better we will be at making that heavenly future a present reality.
But this is going to require some of us to get out of our comfort zones. This is going to require some of us actively seek to bring that preview of heaven to be a present reality. And we’re going to need to have multi-cultural friendships.
A we may even need to combat some our of own prejudices against other races. Try to see things from someone else’s perspective.
Because we’re not saved by our nationality or parents, or nation.
Next question.

Questions #2: Why will anyone go to heaven? (Revelation 7:9b-10)

Explanation: The second part of vs. 9 should be a familiar scene to anyone. Not too long ago we celebrated Paul Sunday which commemorates when Jesus entered Jersualem on a donkey and the people waved palm branches to honor Him as King of the Jews.
But there is one big difference here. In the story of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:28-40; John 12:12-19) it was only the jewish nation that was welcoming Jesus as their king.
But this heavenly picture shows the same scene with people from all nations honoring Jesus as King. The Triumphal Entry was exclusive and ended with Jesus on the cross a few days later. In Revelation 7, Jesus has already Triumphed over sin and death.
But something else is happening here. They are answering the question of how anyone will go to heaven? We know it’s not the family you were born into. But is it works? Nope. It’s by faith in the Lamb who was slain.
Salvation belongs to God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb. When ever Jesus is spoken of as a Lamb it always speaks to His atoning sacrifice on the cross. The means by which our salvation was purchased.
And we know from the rest of Scripture, we know that salvation was made possible because what Jesus did on the cross.
Acts 20:28 ESV
28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.
1 John 2:1–2 ESV
1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
No one gets to go to heaven on the coattails of their family or national identity. We’re not even saved by our own good works. We are saved solely by what Jesus did on the cross. And we will join in with the great Multitude in clothed in white (white represents our purified natures, having been cleansed of all sin) and waving palm branches honoring Jesus as king. Because He is the only reason that we are there.
And tying in to our message last week, if we go a little further, we see in vs. 17, that the Lamb will be their shepherd.
Revelation 7:17 ESV
17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Illustration: There are a few moments in life that stick with me. My wedding day, the birth of my children. The night that I finally surrendered my life to Jesus after straddling the fence for so long.
But to a lesser extent their is another moment that sticks with me. In April of the year 2000, I walked to the mailbox and found the big envelope. I had been accepted to college and would be attending that fall. It’s a profound feeling when you realize that a lot of hard work, (or perhaps in spite of your lack of hard work) you are accepted.
I felt like I earned it. I was entitled to it. And I mean they don’t just accept anyone.
This is not the case with Jesus. We are accepted by Jesus not because we’ve earned it or are entitled to it. We are accepted because He earned it and as Acts 20:28 says, we are a people purchased with His blood.
If you want to get to heaven, there is only one way. Through Jesus.
John 14:6 ESV
6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Let me repeat myself at the risk of being redundant.
You don’t get to heaven by being good enough.
No one is born a Christian. It is a call we answer during our lives.
And our acceptance to heaven is based only on our faith in Jesus’ finished work on the cross.
But at the same time we must remember that because no one can earn it or be born into it, no one can be excluded based on those things either.
But perhaps more than anything the question people will want to know is....

Question #3: What will we do in heaven? (Revelation 7:11-12)

Explanation: The simple answer is worship. But not necessarily worship like we do now.
You know there are times when we don’t feel like worshipping. Or felt like you got nothing out of it.
But this worship will be amazing because it will be rightly directed at God with no concern for ourselves. All of creation will be right again. As angels, Elders, the Four Living Creatures and the great multitude are in harmonious unity.
No one is above the appropriate worship due our God.
They fall on their faces before the throne and they worship. And what do they say?
Revelation 7:12 ESV
12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
Amen means....True. God is the truest truth.
But what follows is perhaps the most powerful description of God in all of the Bible.
True worship speaks truth of God. Speaks of God as He is and not who who think or hope Him to be.
Illustration: Now worship is not for us and what we get out of it. But everyone once in a while you get to join in on something truly amazing.
When I was a youth pastor, one of my favorite things to do was take youth to Christian music festivals. Several thousand youth, adults of different races lifting their voices in praise to the king of the universe. I always thought it was a preview of heaven.
I still love Christian concerts. But there is also something about the gathered church family, in person, lifting our voices in praise to God.
Application: By getting a preview of heaven, our hope and prayer as that our heavenly future would become a present reality.
Our worship should speak truth about who God is. in the songs that we sing, in the prayers that we pray and in the sermons that we preach. Truth is the most important thing.
Can we say “Amen” to all things that we do in our worship? Does our worship magnify the name of Jesus above all names? Does our worship shine the light of our praise on God or is it us that is magnified?
Let’s begin living out this by joining in the heavenly worship with people from every tongue tribe and nation.
Summation: Let’s work to make our heavenly future a present reality. We can do this by rightly and truthfully answering these questions.
Who will be in heaven? People from all over the world.
How will they get to heaven? By putting their faith in the finished work of Jesus on the cross.
What will they do for eternity? Worship!

Response: How can you make our future heavenly worship a present reality?

In High School, a public school mind you, before our football games, we would recite the Lord’s Prayer.
To be honest it never made much sense, but particularly in the south, it is a tradition.
Matthew 6:9–13 KJV 1900
9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
I think that we have gotten so used to this prayer that perhaps it’s lost its meaning.
And particularly that the second part of the prayer,
Matthew 6:10 ESV
10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
We are instructed to pray that our heavenly future would be a present reality.
And it starts with making sure that we are going to be there.
Let me ask as question, if you were to die today, do you know that you would go to heaven?
Why? Why do you think you’d go to heaven?
Because of your family? Because of good works? Because you’re a good person?
Sorry, but none of those things will matter when we stand before God.
The only thing that will matter is have we placed our faith in Jesus as our Lord and Savior and do we believe that He died on the cross for our sins. That’s the only way to get to heaven.
And you become a Christian, by admiting that you are a sinner in need of a savior and then believing in your heart that Jesus died for those sins on the cross and 3 days later rising from the dead showing that His work is finished.
Then we confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord.
And we remember that we a part of a great big worship family.
In 2014, I had the opportunity to lead a mission trip to Bruhl, Germany and I was able to worship with people from another nation. Last year, I joined David Quitevis as he led a team of us to go to the Philippines.
In both cases, in our worship with people from our around the world, we were modeling our future heavenly worship.
And even today, as we are still gathered around our TVsand devices, we are celebrating the ubiquity of Christianity of those who are watching around the world.
We are seeing a great multitude. And may God use this time to bring about a great revival of the Christian faith here and around the world.....all saying,
Revelation 7:12 ESV
12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
Let’s pray!
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