************ Sermon on Revelation 7:15-17 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on June 8, 2008
"What Heaven is Like"
What is heaven like? What is it like to live there?
John gives us a glimpse into life in heaven in our Scripture reading. What is heaven like? It is a place where there is a huge gap between what God does and what God has promised. We are used to that on this earth: having a gap between performance and promises. We see that gap every election cycle; Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John McCain have all made extravagant promises to the electorate; only a fool would take them at their word. We see that gap at weddings; a groom and a bride promise to love each other until death but many today don't live up to that promise. We see that gap in advertisements; all sorts of promises are made or implied about a product but performance falls way short of expectation.
Heaven is a place where there is a gap between what God does and what God has promised. There is a gap because God's performance far outstrips His promises. I think here of what Paul wrote,
(1 Cor 2:9) "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him ..."Isn't this wonderful?!
What is heaven like? In our Scripture reading, John is looking at the souls of all Christians of all times and all places and all churches. John is telling us what heaven is like for Al Vedders and Alice La Bounty – to mention those members who have died this year.
I want you to notice what our text starts with. Our text starts with "therefore." The actual Greek says, "for this reason, on account of this, because of this." That word "therefore" ties verses 15-17 with verses 13-14. That word "therefore" explains the why and the how of life in heaven. Remember what we learned when we looked at verses 13-14? We learned that those in heaven are there because they have been washed clean by the blood of the Lamb and because they have been preserved by God through the great tribulation.
"Therefore." Because of this, on account of this, for this reason. "Therefore" what? "Therefore," they experience the joy and fullness of life with God. "Therefore," they experience that huge gap between what God does and what God promises. "Therefore" heaven is their home.
John tells us this evening three features of life in heaven. Three features that believers experience because they have been washed clean by the blood of the Lamb and because they have been preserved by God through the great tribulation.
I The Presence of God
A What is heaven like? In verse 15, John tells us the first feature of heaven experienced by the Redeemed:
(Rev 7:15) ... "they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them."
There are three very important words in this verse: throne, temple, tent (actually, the last word is "tabernacle"). What do the three words have in common? Who is on the throne? God! Whose presence is in the Temple? God! Whose presence is in the Tabernacle? God! The three words have God in common.
What is heaven like? In heaven, the Redeemed experience the presence of God. Yes, God is everywhere present – we cannot deny that. But in heaven His presence is experienced in a way that it cannot be experienced on this earth and in this life and in this flesh. In heaven, the Redeemed experience the immediate presence of God.
Think of the Tabernacle and Temple. The presence of God was in a special room – the Holy of Holies. Only the high priest was allowed in that room and he was allowed in only on the Day of Atonement. As for the rest of the people, they had to wait and watch from the outer courts. But in heaven there are no outer courts, there is no Holy of Holies, there is no high priest mediating the presence of God. The Redeemed in heaven experience the direct and awesome presence of God.
B What is this like – the direct and awesome presence of God? John has already given us a vision of the presence of God. Remember Revelation 4 & 5? There we saw God on the throne of heaven. He has the appearance of jasper and carnelian. And, remember what all surrounds the throne in a series of ever expanding circles? Surrounding the throne are an emerald rainbow, four living creatures, twenty-four elders, seven spirits, a sea of glass, thousands upon tens of thousands of angels, and every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth. This is the presence of God that the Redeemed in heaven experience.
What is this presence like? The angels tell us in their song before the throne:
(Rev 7:12) "Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever."It is an awesome and glorious presence.
C But we can say more. Remember the High Priestly prayer of Jesus in John 17? Jesus prayed
(Jn 17:24) "Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world."Do you hear what Jesus was praying for? Jesus was praying that we would be with Him in heaven. Notice how Jesus puts it: "I want ..." Not, "I wish, I hope, I desire, I dream." No, Jesus wants us in heaven with Him. We see the fulfilment of this divine and sovereign desire in Revelation 7. In Revelation 7, we see the Redeemed in heaven with Jesus.
What is this like – to be with Jesus in heaven? John has already given us a vision of the presence of Jesus. Remember Revelation 1? John sees the glorified Christ. Jesus is exalted – "like a son of man." Jesus is dignified – "dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest." Jesus is wise – "His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow." Jesus is perceptive in judgment – "his eyes were like blazing fire." Jesus is glorified and omnipotent – "His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace." Jesus is powerful and authoritative – "his voice was like the sound of rushing waters." Jesus is in complete control – "in his right hand he held seven stars." Jesus is the judge of all – "out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword." Jesus is glorious – "His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance." John sees that Jesus is one with God. John sees that Jesus is the fulfillment of all Old Testament longing and prophecy. Best of all, John sees Christ as being in the midst of the church on earth; Christ's presence is in the church and with the church and upholds the church and rules the church and protects the church.
Now, in Revelation 7, John sees this presence of Christ with the church in heaven.
What is this presence like? The angels tell us in their song before the throne:
(Rev 5:12) "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!"It, too, is an awesome and glorious presence.
D Revelation 7 is the ultimate fulfilment of God's promises to tabernacle with His people. Listen to God's promises:
(Lev 26:11-12) I will put my dwelling place (the Hebrew word here is "Tabernacle") among you, and I will not abhor you. (12) I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.
(Ezek 37:26-27) I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever. (27) My dwelling place (the Hebrew word here is "Tabernacle") will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people.
Revelation 7 is the ultimate fulfilment of God's promises to tabernacle with His people but it is not the only fulfilment. We know that God did tabernacle with His people in the wilderness and in the Promised Land – that's why there was the Tabernacle and the Temple. This promise was fulfilled even more when Jesus came to earth:
(Jn 1:14) The Word became flesh and made his dwelling (the Greek word is "Tent" or "Tabernacle") among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.On Christmas Day, the eternal Son of God tabernacled with us.
What is heaven like? The first thing John tells us: In heaven, the Redeemed experience the immediate presence of the almighty and glorious God.
II Freedom from the Curse
A What is heaven like? In verses 16 & 17 John tells us the second feature of heaven experienced by the Redeemed:
(Rev 7:16-17) Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. (17) For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd ..."
What is heaven like? All the negatives of this life are gone: In our text, John mentions hunger, thirst, heat. These were very real concerns for John's audience. Don't forget, the Christians of Asia Minor were persecuted, imprisoned, thrown out of the trade guilds, lost their homes and businesses. Hunger, thirst, and heat were their constant companions as witnesses for Christ. But in heaven, all these negatives are gone, they are no more: no hunger, no thirst, no heat. The opposite, of course, is experienced by those in hell.
You know where these negatives come from? They come from the Fall into sin. They are the curse of the Fall into sin. Which means that in heaven the Redeemed experience freedom from the curse of the Fall.
In Revelation 21, John mentions some more negatives that are gone in heaven:
(Rev 21:4) He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
What is heaven like? Everything that stains this life is gone. Whatever is bad about this life is gone. Whatever is part of the curse of the Fall in this life is gone.
B Why? How? Why is the curse gone? How is the curse removed? Notice the first word at the start of verse 17: "For." This is John's way of telling us that what follows tells us the why and the how. Why is the curse gone? How is the curse removed?
(Rev 7:17) For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd ...
In heaven, the Redeemed experience freedom from the curse of the Fall because the Lamb is their Shepherd.
What a mixed up image John gives us here. Our shepherd is a lamb. I say this is mixed up because shepherds look after lambs. But here the lamb is also the shepherd. The weakest member of the flock is the one in charge of the flock. Sounds contradictory, doesn't it?!
But remember Who this Lamb is? We are told three things about Him. First, we are told He is "the Lamb" (Rev 7:17). He is the Lamb Who was slain (Rev 5:6). He is the Lamb Who, with His blood, purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation (Rev 5:9). He is the Lamb in whose blood the Redeemed have washed their robes and made them white (Rev 7:14). He is the Lamb Who suffered the curse of the Fall in our place.
Second, we are told He is "the Lamb at the center of the throne" (Rev 7:17; cf Rev 5:6). What throne? The throne that lies at the center of the universe. The throne that controls the universe. The throne before which everything bows and worships. The throne that commands heat and drought and rain. His is all power and all might. Hunger and thirst and heat are nothing before Him.
Third, we are told He is the "shepherd" of His people. He is the Shepherd. This is the fulfilment of God's promise of a shepherd:
(Micah 5:2,4) "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times ... (4) He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God." (Cf Ezek 34:23)Jesus is the Shepherd of the Redeemed. The Shepherd provides for His sheep. The Shepherd guards and protects His sheep. The Shepherd comforts His sheep. Therefore, there is freedom from the curse of the Fall.
What is heaven like? The second thing John tells us: In heaven, the Redeemed experience freedom from the curse of the Fall because the Lamb at the center of the throne is their Shepherd.
III Full Provision
A What is heaven like? In the last part of verse 17 John tells us the third feature of heaven experienced by the Redeemed:
(Rev 7:17) ... "he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."Who will lead them? The Lamb Who is a Shepherd.
What is heaven like? In heaven all of our needs are fully provided for. That is what John is telling us. John tells us this in three ways.
First, the Lamb Who is a Shepherd "will lead them to springs of living water" (Rev 7:17). This is a quote from the prophecy of Isaiah, a promise made to the returning exiles:
(Is 49:10) They will neither hunger nor thirst, nor will the desert heat or the sun beat upon them. He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water.In a dry and desert land, the promise of springs of water means a lot.
Did you notice the word John adds to the quote? John adds the word "living." The Lamb Who is a Shepherd leads His people not just to "springs of water" but "to springs of living water." Let's do a more literal translation of the Greek here: The Lamb Who is a Shepherd leads His people to "springs of water of life." The emphasis in this phrase is not on the word "water" but on the word "life."
Did you know, that in the Bible, God is pictured as the spring of the water of life?
(Ps 36:8-9) They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. (9) For with you is the fountain of life ...Do you hear the common refrain? God is the fountain of life. God is the spring of water of life. God is the well of living water.
(Jer 2:13) "My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.
(Cf Is 55:1-3)
Quick tell me, what is our biggest and deepest need? Our biggest and deepest need – whether or not we know it or admit it – is God Himself. Listen to the Psalmist:
(Ps 42:1-2) As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. (2) My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? (Cf Ps 84:2)Jesus satisfies our biggest and deepest need. He brings us to the Father Who is the spring of water of life. In Him we find life and have life. In him we live forever.
B What is heaven like? In heaven all of our needs are fully provided for. The second thing John mentions: "God will wipe every tear from their eyes" (Rev 7:17).
What causes tears? The curse of the Fall. Hunger, thirst, heat. Tribulation. Fear, despair, disappointment, pain, death. Not only are the Redeemed set free from the curse of the Fall, but God wipes away all of the hurt, the pain, the agony that comes with it. And what is left? Only joy, only happiness, only peace, only life, only bliss.
C What is heaven like? In heaven all of our needs are fully provided for. The third thing we notice is the listing of seven promises:
1. They are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them.
2. Never again will they hunger.
3. Never again will they thirst.
4. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat.
5. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd.
6. He will lead them to springs of living water.
7. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
Seven promises. Seven. The number of fullness. The number of completeness. Seven promises. God is saying, "I am looking after all your needs. I will fill you full, to the brim, to overflowing."
What is heaven like? In heaven, we experience the presence of God. In heaven, we experience freedom from the curse of the Fall. In heaven, we experience the full provision of all our needs.
Everyone will either experience heaven or hell. If you are a Christian, if the Lamb is your Shepherd, then your experience is heaven. If you are not a Christian, I pray that by the grace of God you repent of your sin and believe in Jesus because it is too terrible to contemplate what you will experience.
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