- Sermon Notes
After These Things: The Hope of Heaven
June 20-21, 2020
Revelation 4 begins with the words, “After these things…” After what things? After Jesus spoke to the churches, preparing them for the events of the latter days, he describes the hope of heaven.
There will be many troubles that come upon the earth. The church will go through that period Jesus described as birth pangs. “There will be wars and rumors of wars, nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom and in various places there will be famines and plagues and earthquakes. But all these are merely the beginning of birth pangs,” Jesus said. In other words, troubles and trials will increase with greater intensity as the end draws near.
But ‘after these things’ comes the hope of heaven. Paul endured many trials and troubles in his life and ministry, but he endured all these things because he had the hope of heaven.
Romans 8:18, For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
When you are enduring or even suffering, you need something to hold onto that’s beyond the suffering. You need a future that has hope. This world is filled with troubles; life itself can be difficult, but there is a future glory. You can endure the troubles of this life when you have such a hope!
For the believer in Jesus Christ, that future glory, that future hope is heaven itself. If you don’t have that hope, if you don’t have that assurance, let this be the day you find it. God is pursuing you; he’s knocking on the door of your heart. He wants relationship to you.
But what is heaven like? Many would love a view into heaven. What is this future glory God has in store for those who believe in Jesus Christ? Is it a place of beautiful golf courses, or perfect fishing lakes or perhaps a place where you can eat the most incredible delectable food… and never gain weight!!
In chapter 4, John is taken up to heaven and instructed to write what he sees. There are no words, however, to adequately describe what his eyes see. It’s like comparing the colors a hummingbird can see to what we can see.
We are brought with John into this glimpse into heaven. If we could only see what his eyes saw, but we have this description of what he saw.
There is a phrase I have come to truly appreciate; “We are changed in the presence of a Holy God.” These verses draw us into God’s presence and gives a deeper understanding of His heart and character.
John describes the scene: there was a throne standing in heaven and One sitting on the throne, radiant in glory. Around the throne were 24 thrones and upon the thrones were 24 elders sitting, clothed in white with golden crowns on their heads.
There were also four living creatures before the throne who never cease to say, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty.”
What is holiness? Oftentimes, when I’m teaching a class, I will ask that question. The common answer is that holiness is the absence of sin. But holiness is much more than that. Holiness is the character of God.
God wants you to be changed to be like Him in holiness. It means that God wants you to have His heart and character.
The four living creatures before the great throne are angels like nothing we can imagine, but these four living creatures represent the nature of Jesus Christ and the holiness of God.
The prophet Ezekiel also had a view into heaven. He also described the four living creatures before the throne of God. Jewish Rabbis taught that the four faces of these creatures in Ezekiel’s vision represent God’s greatest creations. They were also the images on the ensign, the standard, used by each of the lead tribes when Israel camped in the desert:
East Judah Lion
West Ephraim Ox
South Reuben Man
North Dan Eagle
The early church fathers taught that these faces represent the qualities of Jesus Christ that God desires in each of us. Some have also suggested that they represent how Jesus is presented in each of the Gospels.
In Matthew, Jesus is seen as the King, the Lion of the tribe of Judah. In Mark, He is seen as the servant, represented by the ox. In Luke, He is seen as the Son of Man, represented by the face of a man in Revelation; and then John, He is seen as the Son of God, represented by the eagle.
I. Have the Heart of a Lion
- Jesus is called the Lion from the tribe of Judah, so the connection to the heart of Jesus is seen in the face of this living creature.
- The qualities of a lion are clear; power, authority, strength, boldness.
- These majestic symbols, representing the character and nature of Jesus, also represent God’s heart for our transformation.
- In other words, He wants to transform you so that you have the heart of a lion.
- He transforms you into His image, His character, and His nature.
A. Authority requires boldness
- In Scripture, authority is sometimes represented by a key. The one who holds the key has the authority to open the door.
Revelation 1:17-18, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of hell.”
- Jesus said to Peter, “On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”
- All authority has been given unto Jesus and He promised to be with us, with that authority, even to the end of the age…
Matthew 28:18-20, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
2 Corinthians 3: 12, Having therefore such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech.
- After the resurrection, a great revival broke out in Jerusalem. The Jewish leaders had Peter and the others arrested, but an angel opened the gates of the prison and the disciples went right back to teaching in the temple. So they had them arrested again and brought before the Council… But a certain Jewish leader named Gamaliel corrected them…
Acts 5:38-39, “If what these men are doing should be of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.”
Romans 8:31, What can we say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?
B. Godly authority requires full commitment
- There is a time to take a stand and not to compromise. Jesus repeatedly said to the churches, “He who overcomes…”
- To overcome means to hold fast to what you have, it means to keep His word until the end.
Illus- Before 8-track players and cassettes, in the days of LP albums, the cover of the LP was one of the best parts of the album and Keith Green’s album cover “No Compromise” stands as one of the most powerful. The scene is that of a crowd before Nebuchadnezzar. Everyone is bowing before him. But one meek, powerful man stands with no compromise.
- You must know when to take a godly stand because there are times when you must draw a line in the sand.
2 Samuel 23:11-12, Now after him was Shammah the son of Agee a Hararite. And the Philistines were gathered into a troop where there was a plot of ground full of lentils, and the people fled from the Philistines. But he took his stand in the midst of the plot, defended it and struck the Philistines; and the Lord brought about a great victory.
II. Serve with the Heart of an Ox
- The ox is the most powerful of the beasts of burden and represents the heart of the Lord in serving. It’s the character of God revealed.
- Jesus said, “He who desires to be first, let him be the last, and he who desires to the greatest, let him be the servant of all. In the same way, the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
A. Be steady and faithful
- The ox is steady and faithful in its purpose. Apply this to your faith. You need to be steady and faithful like an ox in the things which are good.
Galatians 6:9, Do not grow weary in doing good, for in due time we will reap if you do not grow weary.
Illus – If a farmer in those days had to plow difficult, hard ground, the animal of choice would be the ox. He is powerful, sure-footed and steady.
1 Corinthians 15:58, Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.
- One of the qualities of an ox is that he does the work without complaining. Unlike a donkey, he’ll work, but there’ll be a lot of drama. The Ox works without an attitude – no drama.
Illus – When Jesus visited the home of Martha and Mary, Martha complained because her sister Mary wasn’t helping with the preparations and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Tell her to help me.”
Instead of telling Mary to help, Jesus corrected Martha, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things…”
In other words, there was nothing wrong with serving, it was the attitude that went with it.
B. Do the difficult things
- In every house and in every ministry, there are jobs no one wants to do, but those with servant hearts are willing to do the difficult things that other people are unwilling to do.
- Don’t be afraid to do the difficult things.
Illus – I remember when we had our first baby. I knew there would be a few tasks that were, let’s just say, rather unpleasant, but I decided I would go for it. I’m in. That is, until Jordi decided to use cloth diapers… That had to be rinsed out before they could be washed. I thought to myself, “There’s a limit and we just hit it.” But, sure enough, it wasn’t long before…
- We are drawing near to the latter days and difficult days are ahead. Those who have the heart of a servant will be spiritually valuable.
- There is spiritual maturity in a servant heart and in the latter days this will stand in contrast to the world.
2 Timothy 3:1-2, But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy,
How do you know if you have the heart of a servant?
- By how you react when people treat you like one.
- And if you find true pleasure in the serving.
Illus – I was reading Farm and Ranch Magazine one time and I remember a story about a farmer that plowed with a team of two horses. One died so he decided to retire the other one and buy a tractor…
- In the last days, the Antichrist arises who will deceive many because it will appear as though he can provide answers to the world’s great problems; which strongly suggests that the world will encounter great turbulence leading up to the last days.
- Those will be days when servant-hearted people must arise to help others.
III. God Desires both Humility and Greatness
- These living creatures before the throne are those which are the closest to the presence of God and they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God, the Almighty…”
- The 24 elders sitting on thrones which represent authority, were dressed in white with golden crowns on their heads… But they fell down before Him who sits on the throne and cast their crowns before the throne.
There’s greatness, power, and authority in each of them, but there’s also humility.
A. The face of man is humility
- Each of these living creatures before the throne represent the nature and character of God.
- Is humility an aspect of God’s character? When Christ became a man, it was an act of greatest humility.
Philippians 2:7-8, He emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
- God gives glory and honor to those who understand the value of humility…
Matthew 23:11-12, “The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.”
B. The eagle is the majesty of God
- The fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. The symbol is power and majesty and victory.
Psalm 91:1, 4, He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.… He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may seek refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and the bulwark.
- The eagle is the only animal that can look directly at the sun and not damage its eyes; as Jesus is the One who can perceive the Father in all His glory.
Illus – The eagle is the majesty of soaring high by the lift of the wind. It knows the wind that lifts and it knows the wind that flows downward.
The Holy Spirit is “the wind” which is the power of God and we are in God’s majesty when we walk by and live by the Holy Spirit.
Isaiah 40:31, Those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.
Revelation 4 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
4 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 [a]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 [b]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 [c]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 [d]they do not cease to say,
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who [e]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 [f]existed, and were created.”