This sermon is number 6 in a series of 8
Glimpses Of Glory - Part 6
"What Will We Do In Heaven? - Part 1"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2007 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
Now we are considering tonight this question: 'What Will We Do In Heaven?'. I hope you've got a pen and notepad with you, because there's a lot of ground to cover this evening - so much ground, that I have to say to you again that I'm splitting this study over two weeks. I don't have an introductory Scripture reading tonight, simply because we'll be looking at so many Scriptures I didn't know which one to take out as pre-eminent, for there weren't any. So we are using our Bibles more than ever tonight, but we don't have an introductory reading this evening.
Cliff Barrows and Billy Graham were in conversation on one occasion concerning what they would do in heaven. Now if you don't know who Cliff Barrows is, he is the song leader for the Billy Graham Crusades. He said to Billy: 'I'll have a job in heaven, but what will you do?'. He was inferring that because Billy is an evangelist, and everyone will be a Christian in heaven, there will be no one to win for the Lord, but there'll be plenty of praising of God to get on with through the aeons of eternity. But even that little story raises a number of questions for us concerning how we imagine what we will do in heaven. I wonder will we feel like singing all the time, as the song says? That's sometimes what people think we will be doing: sitting on a cloud with a harp, singing praise to God constantly throughout all eternity. Or, will we be resting all the time? We'll find out in the next two studies, at least, that rest is a part of what heaven will be - but is that what we will be constantly doing throughout eternity? Will we be lying prostrate before God's throne all the time: 'Worthy, worthy is the Lamb!', crying in praise and adoration of our Lord Jesus?
Now all these things are wonderful, and I don't mean to belittle them at all, but I do not doubt either that if we were to do them all the time for an eternity they would lose much of their attraction for us. Now, again, the problem with our deficient understanding concerning what we will do in heaven is simply due to a general ignorance concerning the scripture's teaching on the subject of heaven. We have pinpointed the fact, I think, adequately over recent weeks that it is ignorance of what the Bible teaches about heaven that has eaten away and hindered our anticipation of what heaven will be like, and our looking forward to it. The very same problem concerns the subject of what we will do in heaven: often we have such a limited, or even ludicrous concept of what we will be doing in heaven, that we are naturally led to the conclusion that there seems to be little of interest to do in heaven.
If popular understanding of heaven is anything to go on, one would be forgiven in thinking that heaven must be a pretty boring place. We'd be left wondering how we're ever going to put the time in or, if you like, the eternity in. Can I say to you this evening, whatever your understanding of what we will do in heaven is or is not, one thing is sure: no one will be bored in heaven, according to the Bible, as I'll show you tonight and over two weeks - there is plenty to do! I don't know who coined the idiom: 'Variety is the spice of life', but they didn't realise the extent of the wisdom and truth in that statement because, from heaven's perspective, if I could re-coin the idiom: 'Variety is the spice of eternal life'. Though the Bible does not specify what individual responsibilities will be in heaven, it does provide general descriptions of roles that we will be engaged in. I have for you, over these next two weeks, eight different occupations that we will engage in throughout eternity. Now I don't suggest to any extent that these are exhaustive, but they'll give us an idea of what we will do in heaven - and I've only four to give you this evening.
Before I give you the first four, let me first of all deal with very quickly what we won't do in heaven. The words of the hymn are very true:
'Our pain shall then be over,
We'll sin and sigh no more;
Behind us all of sorrow
And naught but joy before'.
Now turn with me to our first portion of Scripture, and we'll spend a lot of time in Revelation, and we want to look first of all at Revelation 21 as we consider what we won't do in heaven. In Revelation 21 and verse 27 we read these words, speaking of the eternal state and the holy city of New Jerusalem: 'And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life'. Now there is the first thing that won't be there: sin will not be found in heaven. Now just think for a moment, and we could spend all night contemplating this and taking the implications out of it, but imagine for a moment what it would be like never ever to have temptation before you again. Never to struggle with the flesh, the world, the devil. Never to fall into sin, to be taken unawares. Never to have that sense of guilt, having committed sin. Never having ever again to confess our sins to God. No need to have a conscience!
It's hard to imagine, but it is a fact that there will be no more sin in heaven. As far as we relate not only to God but one another, there will be no more apologies. Now that mightn't be any different than for some of you down here on earth - it's hard to get people to apologise these days, even believers! There will be no need for apologies in glory, for there'll not be any offence taken, no more misunderstandings. You'll not need to repair anything or replace anything, because there'll be no brokenness - literally, in a physical sense, or in a mental, emotional, or spiritual capacity. There'll be no more persecution of the child of God, because there'll be no more devil or demons, no more sin! Can you muster a 'Hallelujah' at that?
Secondly, there'll be no more sighing, as the hymn writer says. In Revelation 21 and verse 4 we read: 'And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away' - no more sighing. I'm sure you sighed today at some time - if not in actuality, maybe mentally or in your heart. Listen: there will never be the sigh of loneliness in heaven, there will never be the sigh of sadness, there will be no more hurt, no more illness. You'll not need to be cured of anything because you won't have anything. There'll be no more need of counselling. You'll not need to be protected, because God there will be your shield and your reward.
Now we could spend, as I've said, even a couple of nights on what won't be in heaven - but our consideration tonight is: what will we do in heaven? The first thing that I want to bring to your attention that I believe is very clear from Scripture is: we will be engaged in service in heaven. That's the first thing, at least in the order that I have here, that we will do in heaven. One of the most significant testimonies regarding the activity of the redeemed in heaven is a short but meaningful statement that is found in Revelation 22 verse 3, look at it, it says: 'His servants shall serve him'. Now, isn't that interesting? Those who lovingly serve the Lord Jesus on the earth, they will be the ones who will feel at home in heaven, as in heaven we will serve the Lord forever.
Now, right away I have a concern: I'm concerned because many who call themselves Christians, even in our own church here, don't do anything in the service of the Lord. Now I know we all do our bit day by day in our own testimony, but I'm talking about in the life of the church. Now, we will see in our next study, next week, that heaven is a place of rest, and that will be part of our eternal reward - but we never should make the conclusion that heaven will be an existence of exclusive rest. Heaven is not an eternity free from work. If you're wanting to be free from work forever, don't be going to heaven! This comes from a misunderstanding: some people think that work is something that came from the fall and the curse after man fell into sin - that is not the case at all. Toil in work, the sweat of their brow and the indignity of work came from the fall - but God created work as something good in His original creation. We will be engaged in it - all the more reason why you should be engaged in it down here as a believer, because it could be and would be part of your preparation for your existence of service in heaven.
Now, what type of work will we be engaged in in heaven? Well, I'm sure there will be many types, even practical types, but the imagery that is given to us here, particularly in the book of the Revelation, is an imagery of priestly service. We will be engaged in the service of a heavenly priesthood. In chapter 1 of Revelation and verse 5 we read: '[Jesus Christ is the one who] loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen'. We all, now, are priests; we all, now, through the Mediator, the one and only Jesus Christ, can come to God - but it will be the same in heaven when we are in God's immediate presence. The defining characteristic of the Old Testament priesthood was intimacy of service with God. The Old Testament priests had a unique relationship to God - no common, ordinary Israelite could go near anything that symbolised the presence of God, and it was only the priest who could enter into that presence. You remember that because of Calvary, and our Saviour's glorious atonement and redemption, that we read in Matthew chapter 27:51 that the veil of the Temple was rent in two from the top to the bottom, showing that we now could come and be priests ourselves, through the Lord Jesus Christ, into the very holiest of all, the immediate presence of God Himself.
It will be such in heaven. First Peter 2 and verse 9 says: 'Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light'. Hebrews 4 encourages us to come boldly, and we do that in spirit now, but we will do it in reality when we get to heaven around the throne of God. Look at Revelation 21 verse 3: 'I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God'. We will serve in God's immediate presence - that's the first thing that we will do in heaven.
The Rev Kenneth MacRae was the minister of the Free Church of Scotland in Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis from 1931 to 1964. He had a long ministry in what was one of the largest Presbyterian churches in the world. He saw great power through his preaching and great fruit borne in that land of revival. About five months before his death in early May 1964 he dictated the following testimony, listen to what he said: 'I have been long in His service here, but I have never tired of it. All my grief was that it was so poor, so listless, so forgetful and so lacking in holiness - but soon I shall serve Him with a perfect service, without failure or flaw'. Isn't that wonderful? 'Soon I shall serve Him with a perfect service, without failure or flaw'. I can only speak for myself, but I imagine that all those who serve the Lord have this constant burden of failure, sense of inadequacy in meeting the mark - but one day, when we get to heaven, that's all going to go for ever! We will have the eternal joy of serving the Lord, knowing that we are serving Him doing a job well done. One of the greatest experiences, even in this life, is the satisfaction of a job well done - but imagine the pleasure in heaven of smiling in the presence of God, being able to look into Christ's eyes knowing that you have done a job perfectly for Him.
Other people, sadly, tragically have been disqualified from some forms of public service due to misdemeanours in their life, backsliding, sins that are of such a public nature that they have been prohibited perhaps in public testimony as they once were. Isn't it wonderful to know that one day, if those people are repentant of their sins, one day service will be perfectly restored for them publicly in the presence of God. It's wonderful, isn't it? Perfect service. Imagine a service in which you will never grow weary. There are many exhortations in the New Testament for us now not to grow weary, Galatians 6:9, not to be weary in well doing; Hebrews 12:12, 'Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees' - but it's hard! But imagine that, even if in heaven we do expend our energies serving the Lord - and that's debatable even in itself - those energies will be perfectly replaced. As soon as we do something for the Lord, it will not be long until we have that energy that we expended replaced to do more to the glory of His name. No wonder Cooper could write:
'Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood,
Shall never lose its power,
'Till all the ransomed church of God
Be saved to sin no more'.
There we will serve the Master in a sinless perfection of service, untiringly and with no blemish. It's wonderful, isn't it? That's the first thing we do in heaven: we will serve. Here's the second thing, and this might surprise you: we will be served. Now I want you to turn with me to Luke chapter 12, and here we have a parable of the Lord Jesus. In verse 35 we read: 'Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them'. Now the imagery that the Lord Jesus gives us here is of a great lord returning to his palace where his slaves are waiting for him, and because they have been faithful to their lord, when he arrives he calls them altogether - and rather than resting from his long journey, or retiring for the night, the lord tells the slaves to sit down. He makes the slaves kings, and he prepares for them a feast - and then, astoundingly, he doesn't order other servants to serve them, but he serves them himself!
Now friends this evening, grasp the import of this truth. Christ is saying: 'When I come again, and if you're watching, I will come and serve you for all eternity'. To Peter it seemed strange that the Lord should wash his feet, didn't it? Maybe the suggestion that the Lord should serve you is equally difficult to take in, but let's face it: where would any of us be tonight if the Lord had not washed our feet, if the Lord had not washed us all in regeneration? Where would we be now if He wasn't serving us at this very moment at the right hand of God as our Great High Priest and Mediator? The Bible teaches in this parable in particular that Jesus is going to go on serving us in heaven. What a reward it will be for us to be served by the Lord forever!
John Nelson Darby once gave an address on Luke 12:35-41 that we read, and somebody kindly lent it to me recently, and it's entitled: 'The Lord Jesus, A Servant Forever' - very true. This is what Darby says: 'He comes', that is Christ, 'in His second advent, and brings us to heaven to His Father's house; that where He is, there we may be also. 'While you were in that wicked world', He says to us, 'I was obliged to keep you on the watch, in a state of tension, with diligent earnestness to keep the heart waiting, but I bring you to a place where you are to sit down, and it will be My delight to minister to you''. Isn't that precious? That the Lord Jesus, as He has served us on this earth coming in His incarnation, through His crucifixion, His resurrection, through His ascension, His intercession at the right hand of God, His coming again and glory - He is going to, when He gets us home to the Father's house, serve us forever and ever and ever. That is grace, is it not?
What will we do in heaven? We will serve and we will be served. Thirdly, and quite substantially for our consideration tonight, we will worship. We will worship in heaven. Now the most informative insights concerning heaven's worship are unveiled for us in the book of the Revelation. The first magnificent heavenly scene that is described for us is found in chapter 4, and if you turn to it you will see at a casual glance, without reading any of it just at the moment, that it involves a combined worship of 24 elders and four living creatures. Then, as you move through the account in Revelation, you see that the scene is extended when the Lamb, who is also the Lion of Judah, steps out into the centre of the apocalyptic prophetic stage. We read then in Revelation 7 and verse 9 a great scene of worship: 'After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen'. This is the great multitude coming out of tribulation and joining in praise to God.
Then, when we turn to chapter 14, we see a heavenly orchestra, if you like, and 144,000 saints taking up a great song of praise again to God, striking up what is described as a new triumphant anthem. Verse 1: 'And I looked', John says, 'and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth'. Then we find in chapter 15 and verses 1-4 another song is found, and this time the song is extolling Moses and the Lamb for redemption's story, and in verse 1 we read that the worship is like this: 'And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvellous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God. And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest'.
Then finally in Revelation 19, we'll not read it, verses 1-10, all of heaven appears to pick up the song of triumph. But this whole weight of evidence concerning worship in heaven, in the book of Revelation in particular, shows us that there is this constant atmosphere of worship there. Now, like the New Testament, worship in heaven is not related to a time or to a place. In other words, there is not a prescribed moment to worship, or a vicinity in which to worship - rather, just as we are to worship now in heaven in the spirit, in heaven our worship will be our constant disposition at all times and in all places. One reason why you'll not need a particular place to worship in heaven is because heaven is described as a temple. Wherever we are in it we'll be able to worship the Lord. We will worship in heaven, and we have to remember that God's original plan in redemption was to purchase, by the blood of Christ, an eternal people, a priesthood who would worship Him forever - a group of eternal worshippers.
That is why Jesus said in John 4:23: 'But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him'. Isn't it thrilling that when we get to heaven we will worship the Lord forever in a constant disposition of adoration to our God - but this is the magnificent thing to my heart, and I hope to yours: our worship will be perfect, and our worship will be eternally unhindered! I imagine you're no different than I am, and when you try to worship, whether it's in prayer, in praise, or whatever way you can describe worship in its different features, you struggle with distractions of all sorts. Some people, in a pastoral way, have confided in me some of the awful thoughts that spring to mind at times when they're trying to have holy thoughts and meditations upon God and His person, His character, and His work. These thoughts come, and interests that are apart from interests of spiritual things, sins even are committed in the moments when we are trying to worship God - we can be enthralled with temptation! But the day is coming when we will worship perfectly without any distractions.
John Newton's hymns are wonderful, and in one of them he describes this great stress between worship down here, how pitiful it is even in its best form, and what it will be in glory when he says:
'Weak is the effort of my heart,
And cold my warmest thought,
But when I see Thee as Thou art,
I'll praise Thee as I ought'.
What a thrill that in heaven our worship will always be pure, from pure hearts, with pure motives, and with no distractions at all. That's how we'll worship. Some people ask: 'Well, will there be singing in heaven?'. Well, I think I've covered enough ground tonight to show you that there will be. In Revelation 15, just to remind you, and verse 3 we read: 'And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb', and there it's envisaged for us, 'Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints'. Now Revelation, incidentally, contains more songs than any other book in the Bible with the exception of the Psalter. There are 14 of these sung by groups appearing in heaven in the book of Revelation, and what they are actually saying in chapter 15, if you look at it, verses 3 and 4: 'Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest' - those are portions out of the book of Psalms that have distinctly been given here a Christian interpretation for praise of the Lamb in heaven. That should encourage us to still sing the Psalms, and I would that we sang more of them in the New Testament age. There will be singing in heaven, and we'll be singing psalms! The Presbyterians should be shouting 'Amen'!
Not only will we be singing in heaven, but there will be music in heaven - you mightn't get any 'Amen' out of the Brethren there! - but nevertheless, music has been called by many 'the universal language' of this existence of creation. If you think about it, music is in every culture. Whilst it has been perverted and depraved of course, misused and abused, music will clearly have a prominent place in heaven. Now I know some of you can sing without music - and I don't mean without accompaniment, but without melody - but there will be music melody in heaven, it is given a place as it was given in the Tabernacle of the Old Testament and in the Temple. It was more than just melody, it was instrumentalism. I would encourage you to count, there are at least 288 musicians engaged in services in Solomon's Temple found in 1 Chronicles 25:1-7. In that Old Testament scene of the Temple there was vocal, choral and instrumental music that was there to add to the congregational worship. We saw in past weeks that the Tabernacle and the Temple were given a blueprint in plans from what was seen on the Mount by Moses and what was the Temple of God in heaven.
I believe that the Bible indicates that heaven is the birthplace of music. The devil didn't create music. I believe there will be music in heaven, and I know this causes a problem for some of you - because I know of people who wouldn't even come into a meeting...we once had an elder from another church who came to this church and saw someone strumming a stringed instrument. He was over on a visit from London, and he left because he was appalled at this piece of wood with strings on it! Well, he's going to have to leave heaven, because Revelation says that there are harps and the sound of harps - whether it's imagery or not, it's instrumental music. There will be music in heaven. J. Oswald Saunders comments: 'What glorious music will enhance the felicity of heaven! No one will be tone deaf or lacking musical appreciation. If choirs and orchestras can elevate us to such heights of aesthetic enjoyment here on earth, what will it be when we hear the celestial choirs accompanied by heaven-trained orchestras? The apostle John had a foretaste of heaven's majestic music, and he actually struggles to convey the impression it made on him'.
Now look at Revelation 14 verse 2 till we see what Saunders is talking about. He says: 'I heard a voice', now that word 'voice' there could be translated 'sound', 'I heard a sound from heaven, as the sound of many waters, and as the sound of a great thunder: and I heard the sound of harpers harping with their harps'. This was a musical sound that was so wonderful that it could not be described with words, so much so that John says it was like many waters, like great thunder! The poet W. M. Semanski:
'There was music in the heavens
At the dawning of the days,
When the morning stars together
Sang their great Redeemer's praise;
But the music that surpasses
All this earth has heard and known
Will ring out when all ransomed
Gather round the Saviour's throne'.
There was music in the beginning, and there will be surpassing music in the end. John MacArthur speaks of our worship and praise well in summary, and says: 'Perfect praise will be the highest, noblest expression of our perfected being. We will recognize the splendour of God, we will see clearly His Majesty, we will see His glory and perfection; and gazing on God's perfectness eternally, we will be compelled to offer uninterrupted, unrestrained, adoring, loving worship. It will be our delight!'. I love F. W. Faber's poetry. One of his verses of a poem, which is also a hymn, goes like this:
'Only to sit and think of God,
Oh what a joy it is!
To think the thought,
To breathe the Name
Earth has no higher bliss' - nor does heaven!
In heaven we will worship. Now, here's the big challenge: have you, have I learned to worship down here? Do we know what it is to worship, because worship down here is preparation for worship in glory - and if we have no desire to worship on the earth, what makes you think that you'll want to worship in eternity, and spend all eternity doing it? Can I remind you of the statement that the great puritan theologian John Owen made, that I quoted in our beginning introductory message, week one? He said this in his book 'The Glory of Christ': 'No man shall ever behold the glory of Christ by sight in heaven, who does not in some measure behold it by faith in this world'. In other words, if you have no desire for Christ here, to commune with Christ, to be in the presence of Christ, to gaze upon God in the image of Christ here; my friend, you need to make your calling and election sure, because in all likelihood you don't have the adoption of the Spirit which cries out from the heart: 'Abba, Father'.
When we consider the prospect, as Faber put it, of gazing on God's perfections; well, there naturally arises a question, and it's one I have been asked in recent weeks, and it is: will we see God? What will we do in heaven? Well, we've said we will serve, we'll be involved in service; we will be served; we will worship; but out of this reality of worshipping and gazing on the perfections and glories of God that inspire us to adoration and praise - will we see God? Fourthly, I want to say to you tonight: we will see God. That is something we will do in heaven. Now, right away, I know, springing to your mind are some objections to that statement that we will see God - such as John 1 and verse 18. Jesus is incarnated in flesh, tabernacling among us, and John writes: 'No man has seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him'. So it seems clear that no one has seen God at any time. John, the same author, in 1 John 4:12 says: 'No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us'. Remember that this is the same John who writes to us in the Apocalypse, the book of the Revelation. But Paul also says, writing to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:16, speaking of God, the One: 'Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen'.
Those three verses alone seem to be against the idea that we will ever see God - but there are other Scriptures that indicate that we will see God. Those that are for this proposal - first of all there are many, but I'll give you quite a few tonight - Genesis 32:30 from the experience of Jacob. He called the place where he met God 'Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved'. In Judges 13:22 we read that Samson's father, 'Manoah said unto his wife, We shall surely die, because we have seen God'. In Job 19:26-27 Job says, after all his sufferings that were eating at his flesh: 'And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another'. In Isaiah 6, Isaiah says that he saw the Lord high and lifted up in the Temple, that is heaven, His train filling it. In verse 5 he said: 'Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts' - Jehovah of hosts.
Then we come to the New Testament, and we find the same idea of seeing the Lord in the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 5:8: 'Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God'. Hebrews 12:14: 'Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord' - the implication is, with holiness and the purity spoken of in the Beatitude, we will see the Lord. Then in Revelation 22, if you turn to it with me, and verse 4 John categorically says that in this new eternal state, verse 3: 'There shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads'.
Now I believe the explanation to this seeming conundrum and, as some would say, contradiction is that whenever we see the Lord Jesus Christ in heaven we will see God. We will see everything that God is because Jesus was, is, and always shall be the permanent manifestation of Divinity. He was the Word, declaring God; He was the Christ incarnate, tabernacling, God in our midst, the express image, the brightness of His character and person. As He said to Philip in John 14:9: 'Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?'. I believe the principle way that we will see God in heaven is through the Son. Let me say this: there might be other ways that God will manifest His glory. We might see a Shekinah, as those who, in the Old Testament, viewed God's light and glory in the cloud - but here's the point: in heaven, seeing Christ will be seeing God, and seeing Christ will be all-in-all.
What will we do in heaven? We will see God manifest in Christ! Have you ever imagined what that will be like? Sometimes we are too busy, and we need to take some time, even after a meeting like this, and sit down and imagine: what will it be like to see Jesus? What will be in His eyes when you look at Him? In all the studies that we are engaged in about heaven, we must ensure that our greatest and most joyous anticipation of heaven is seeing God in Christ, and our longing for heaven should be a longing for Jesus! Though there are many gifts and many prospects, and matters that would cause us to anticipate the new heaven and the new earth, and being absent from the body and present with the Lord now, we must always remember to focus on the Giver - the Tabernacle of God will be with men, and He will be their God, and they shall be His people. What will it be like to see Jesus? I can't describe it!
The saints of God down through the years have tried, let me give you a sample of what some of them say. Randy Alcorn, who has written a book on heaven that I have been richly blessed with, says this: 'When John saw Jesus in heaven he fell at His feet as though dead. We will see Christ in His glory - the most exhilarating experiences on earth such as white-water rafting, skydiving, or extreme sports will seem tame compared to the thrill of seeing Jesus, being with Him, gazing at Him, talking with Him, worshipping Him, embracing Him, eating with Him, walking with Him, laughing with Him! Imagine it! Not only will we see His face and live, but we will likely wonder if we ever lived before we saw His face. To see God will be our greatest joy, the joy by which all others will be measured'.
John Dunne, that Christian poet said: 'No man ever saw God and lived, and yet I shall not live till I see God - and when I have seen Him, I shall never die'. Sam Stornes, the theologian, says: 'We will constantly be more amazed with God, more in love, and thus evermore relishing His presence and our relationship with Him. Our experience of God will never reach its consummation, we will never finally arrive as if, upon reaching a peak, we discover there is nothing beyond that - no! Our experience of God will never become stale, it will deepen and develop, intensify, amplify, unfold and increase, broaden and balloon'. Renee Pachet (sp?), the Bible teacher and theologian, says: 'Here on earth we know what it is not to be able to take our eyes off a lovely sight. A wonderful flower, a magnificent panorama, or an unusual work of art can make us quite beside ourselves - what will it be when we shall see, face-to-face, the Author of all that is beautiful and perfect?'.
What will it be to see God? It was denied Moses, and yet Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4: 'For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ'. Second Corinthians 3:18: 'But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord'. What will it be to see Him? What will it be, as John says, to see Him and to be like Him? We can identify with Thomas Binney when he said:
'O how shall I, whose native sphere
Is dark, whose mind is dim,
Before the Ineffable appear,
And on my naked spirit bear
That uncreated beam?'.
But he answers in another verse, and we too can rejoice that:
'There is a way for man to rise
To that sublime abode:
An offering and a sacrifice,
A Holy Spirit’s energies,
An Advocate with God'.
We will see God in the face of Jesus Christ. What will we do in heaven? We will engage in service, we will be served, we will worship, and we will see God. Next time we study I want us to consider whether or not we shall reign, we shall have fellowship, we shall learn, and we shall rest.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the sixth recording in his 'Glimpses Of Glory' series, entitled "What Will We Do In Heaven? - Part 1" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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