Yearning for Heaven: 3 Observations
In a heartfelt prayer, I find myself asking that each one of us surrenders, submits, repents, and simply believes that Jesus is who He says He is. And with that earnest plea, I embark on the final leg of our journey through the Book of Revelation, a path that has been new yet enlightening for me, and I thank each one of you for bearing with me.
Throughout this journey, I've noticed the beautiful symmetrical bookends in Revelation, phrases that echo from the beginning to the end. John starts off in Revelation 1:3, “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy. And blessed are those who hear and listen to this, who keep what is written.” This ‘keeping’ isn't just about remembering; it's about vigilance. It's about yearning. And as we approach the end of this divine revelation in Revelation 22:7, we hear it again, “Behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of this prophecy of this book.”
Imagine a Coast Guard station with its shining lighthouse. When the guards brave the violent storms, reminiscent of the tempests that shattered the Edmund Fitzgerald, their families ascend the lighthouse, keeping watch, eyes scanning the horizon, hearts yearning for the return of their loved ones. This vigil, this profound yearning in the most challenging circumstances, mirrors the Greek understanding of ‘keeping watch.’
Let me share with you a love letter from a World War II soldier penned right before D-Day. His words resonate with raw emotion, “How is my dream girl tonight? Fine, I hope. I can picture you now, darling, with your rust-colored hair predominating the smudge of dirt on the tip of your nose and you are submissive to your thoughts with a far away look in your eye.” This potent emotion, this yearning, this longing – that's what we're talking about. It's about our soul's deep desire for heaven and our passionate anticipation to spend eternity with Jesus.
As we delve into the concluding chapters of Revelation, I want to highlight three observations. These insights shed light on the culmination of all things and the dawn of a new heavenly beginning.
1. Yearning For: Glorious Adventure in Heaven:
In Revelation 21:24, we are told, "By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it." Imagine a rich tapestry of cultures and a mosaic of ethnicities converging in harmony. This isn't just an ordinary city; it's a place where every tribe, tongue, and nation find their space under the radiant glory of God.
The splendor intensifies when Revelation 21:22 proclaims, "And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb." There's an absence of temples, which are typically places to meet God, and instead, the entire city is His dwelling place. This city is illuminated not by the sun or moon but by the majestic aura of the Lord Himself.
Revelation 21:21-22 further paints this celestial city in breathtaking detail, where we see "a new heaven and a new Earth … and the Holy City, a new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God." One can only picture a city made of translucent gold, reflecting divine light in a mesmerizing dance, akin to the beautiful play of sunlight across water.
And finally, in Revelation 22:2, the angel reveals "a river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city." This isn't just a river but the very sustenance of eternal life, emanating directly from God's throne. Its banks flourish with the tree of life, which yields twelve kinds of fruit, symbolizing unparalleled abundance and variety.
These snapshots of heaven, though glorious, are just glimpses. And this is where faith steps in. Just as the Old Testament saints saw fragmented pieces of the Messiah's promise and yet believed, we too have been given visions of heaven's grandeur. Their stories, encapsulated in Hebrews 11:32 — mentioning Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and other prophets — showcases faith in action, a belief in what was not fully revealed.
In the same vein, the hope of this magnificent heaven, even if it's just a fragmentary understanding, can inspire and power our daily lives. It's this very hope, this tangible power called faith, that equips us to weather life's storms and challenges. Just like Paul, we too can draw upon this faith, eagerly anticipating the glorious adventure that awaits, even as we navigate the complexities of our present existence.
2. Yearning For: Adjudication of God
The Bible, particularly in Revelation, unfolds a scene of unparalleled intensity and gravity - the adjudication of God. Many misinterpret the concept of judgment, thinking it only pertains to a final verdict. However, a more holistic view presents the idea of adjudication, a complete legal process in which evidence is reviewed, arguments are assessed, and a final verdict is made.
Revelation 20 captures our attention with its portrayal of the Great White Throne Judgment. Two books stand out: The Book of Works and The Book of Life. Revelation 20:12 conveys, “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.” This comprehensive process where each action, each thought, and each intention is laid bare before the Creator.
This very scene pushes us into uncomfortable territory – the existence and realities of heaven and hell. It's a subject I often wrestle with, one that many may find challenging to grapple with or even communicate to others. But as a shepherd and teacher, bound to the scripture, I find it my responsibility, no matter the personal discomfort, to lay out these truths. The process of adjudication doesn't merely end in revealing our deeds but culminates in consequences that have eternal ramifications – heaven or hell. I must admit, the weight of this truth is something that deeply affects me. The thought of souls being cast into the eternal fire is almost unbearable, and if I could, I'd plead, like Abraham did, bargaining for the salvation of even a few.
Yet, what amazes me and perhaps what will astonish many is that after this grand display of adjudication, we will find ourselves in full agreement with God's decisions. Revelation 21:4 promises, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning.” Every atrocity, every lie, and every sin will be brought into the light. Even our own imperfections and failures will stand in stark clarity. But in that moment, covered in the redeeming blood of Jesus, we will find grace. Despite our human instinct to lament or protest, we will recognize and concur with God's perfect justice.
Understanding this divine adjudication leads to a greater realization of God's perfect holiness, His justice, and the profound grace He offers through Jesus Christ. It's not our deeds or our piety that saves but the sacrifice of the Lamb of God. This humbling realization calls us all to place our trust in Him alone.
3. Yearning for the Manifest Glory of God
Have you ever felt that deep, pressing desire in your heart, a thirst for more of God in your life? That’s precisely what Heaven is all about: an insatiable dose of God. We're not talking about a fleeting glance from afar but being right in the heart of His manifest glory. Picture standing directly under the sun, soaking in every ray, but this sun is God's radiance, warming our very souls.
Revelation 21 gives us a tantalizing glimpse into this. Let me lay it out for you: “And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.” – Revelation 21:22-23
Just imagine a city where God Himself, and the Lamb, Jesus, are the temple. No artificial lights, because the entire city is illuminated by the glory of God. This isn't some metaphorical light. It's the very presence of Jesus, shining brilliantly and lighting up our surroundings. This is how intimate and close our relationship with Him will be in Heaven.
My understanding of this profound truth isn't just an outcome of religious studies or interpretations. It's been forged in the furnace of real-life experiences. The military life of my 20s was a crucible of sorts, exposing me to harsh realities and experiences that made me yearn even more for God's sheltering presence. But as a pastor, the realization of this truth took a deeper, more profound turn.
Walking alongside people through their highs and lows, especially towards the end of their earthly journey, is not just about consolation. It's an honor. Such experiences resonate with the wisdom of Ecclesiastes:
“The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning.” – Ecclesiastes 7:4
This isn’t about indulging in sadness. It's a realization that in the moments of deepest pain and despair, we gain a clearer understanding of the eternal and hope becomes tangible.
Our saints, the seasoned folks who have treaded the Earth longer, are living testaments to this. I’ve learned how to YEARN FOR THE MANIFST GLORY OF HEAVEN from older folks in the congregation. As a Pastor, I walk through hospice, and the death of many elderly saints, I am often embedded in the ETERNAL WISDOM that resonates in the HOUSE OF MOURNING, and it is truly a gift and an honor that I am unworthy to share. Their stories, their unwavering faith amidst life's storms, and the way they grasp the hope of Heaven is a lesson for all of us. Their resilience, deep-rooted love for God, and the anticipation of being enveloped in His manifest glory are an embodiment of true faith.
And then, there's Peter’s reassuring message:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.” – 1 Peter 1:3-4
This isn't just a promise, it's our inheritance. One that remains untainted and vibrant, just waiting for us in heaven.
As we navigate life's labyrinth, let's nurture that deep-seated yearning. Let’s keep our hearts and souls aligned with the brilliant, enveloping light of God’s manifest glory.
CONCLUSION: Finding Assurance in God's Promise: A Personal Testimony
Brandy's story, recently shared on Facebook, speaks to the heart of many of us. It paints a beautiful picture of fear, transformation, and the endless grace of God.
Brandy candidly wrote about her fears:
"I used to be so afraid of the end times. Darkness would creep in, and I’d be gripped with this dread, wondering if tonight was the night it all ends. Many times, as Logan and I played with our daughter Emma, I'd be overwhelmed with tears, haunted by the fear of not being here anymore."
But then, a shift began to happen in her life, sparked by a simple Easter mailer from our community. Drawn to the church, Brandy delved into God's word and started to experience a transformation. She expressed,
"Welcoming Jesus into my life has brought about a change I couldn’t have anticipated. This newfound peace is beyond words. Whether the Lord returns or old age takes me, I’m assured that I'm headed to a place of unparalleled peace."
What's truly inspiring is how quickly Brandy embraced her faith, and now she’s using her platform to guide others. She writes:
"If you're teetering on the edge of belief, pick up a Bible, or explore an app, do your research. Can the wonders of the world be merely a made-up story? There's evil, but there's also God. And I choose God, every single day."
To me, Brandy's testimony is more than just a personal story. It's an invitation, a beacon of hope. She reminds us of the transformative power of faith and the incredible journey that awaits us when we allow the Word to guide our lives.
As you read Brandy's journey, let it resonate with your own experiences. Her story is a testament to the grace that awaits each one of us when we take that leap of faith. Let her words serve as a gentle reminder that even in the midst of our greatest fears, God's promise remains a source of unshakable peace and assurance.