Heaven is like...
Revelation 4 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
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. 3 And He who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance. 4 Around the throne were twenty-four thrones; and upon the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads.
5 Out from the throne come flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder. And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God; 6 and before the throne there was something like a sea of glass, like crystal; and in the center and around the throne, four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind. 7 The first creature was like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face like that of a man, and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle. 8 And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say,
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.”
9 And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
11 “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.”
In today’s text, John describes what he saw in his prophetic revelation of heaven. He says: 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.” Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne. One thing that is important to remember, when we have, read or hear God given visions or prophecy is that just as John says here, “I was in the Spirit” so too are visions and prophecy given to us given in the same Spirit. Revelation 19:10 says: The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. That these visions and prophecy, given to testify of Jesus, are given by the Spirit means that the carnal, human mind cannot fully comprehend them. They are given by the Spirit and so only by the Spirit can they be fully discerned. We see in today’s text and in other scriptural references of visions of heaven, that there is a difficulty in describing the things of heaven in earthly terms. John uses the word “like” frequently when describing the things he sees. The things of heaven are beyond the things of earth. John can only give us a limited world view and description of the splendor of the heavenly realm. We with our limited human, finite minds cannot fully comprehend the infinite God. We who are locked into finite time cannot fully comprehend eternity or the eternal God.
We risk error when we try to limit God and His heavenly kingdom to human terms and understanding. God says: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways, For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9) For us to limit God to the level of our own human knowledge and understanding would be “like” limiting a nuclear physicist to first grade math. Jesus taught us to pray: “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Yet so often we reverse that. We see God and heaven as being the same as what we know on earth. We judge our perfect heavenly Father by our imperfect earthly fathers. We try to understand the love of God in terms of what we know of human love. We limit God’s ability to heal, create and recreate to what we have seen and experienced. In Matthew 22 the Sadducees tried to catch Jesus with a scenario about heaven and the human relationships we will have there. Jesus responds to their question saying: “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” (Matthew 22:29-30) In a similar way, some today will question the existence of hell, reasoning that there could be no heaven, no eternal peace and happiness if there is a knowledge or awareness that some are not there. That type of thinking is a result of trying to comprehend the infinite God of heaven and the marvelous heaven of God, in human terms, from our own earthly perspective. We. Like the Sadducees are mistaken, not knowing the power of God.
In Isaiah 6, we read of the prophet Isaiah also having a vision of heaven. Verses 1-3 say: In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.” When we look at the earth from our own perspective, we would not probably describe it as all being full of His glory. Certainly we see places where the glory of God is evident, the beauty and majesty of nature reveals the glory of God. But what of the darkness of our cities racked with violence and despair, what of war torn countries ravaged by the disputes of men, what about places where hunger, famine and sickness abound; where is the glory of God in those places? The glory of God is there because people are there and each one was created in the image and likeness of God. We need to look beyond what we see with our natural physical eyes. We need to not limit God by what we see and know, but rather we need to see things from heaven’s perspective. We need to live and walk, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:7: by faith and not by sight, seeing and calling forth the glory of God in the people we meet.
If we though continue in our human nature, if we continue to hold an earthly, world view, we will never be able to comprehend the goodness, the greatness, the glory of God. To know as God knows cannot be done with our human minds. 2 Corinthians 2:11 says: For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. In John 4:24, Jesus says: "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." Our worship is more than something we say, our worship is more than bowing before God. Our worship to God, true worship is to live our lives for Him. We cannot live for Him, we cannot know Him, we cannot comprehend or describe to others the fullness of the glory of God in human terms or abilities. We must, like John, be “in the Spirit.”
Thank You heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ and precious Holy Spirit because of Your great love, because of the incomprehensible love and power of the cross, I am redeemed, reconciled to You, restored to Your image and likeness, full of Your glory. Thank You for the indwelling Holy Spirit by which I can know You. By that same Spirit may I live to reveal the glory of God so that others too may know You through the incomprehensible love and power of the cross. Amen