THE CHURCH OF HEAVEN
July 29, 1998 Summer Conference
Wednesday evening service
Sermon by Rev. Abraham Park
Through the seven churches in the Asia Minor, Revelation 2-3 reveal the state of all the earth’s churches in their entirety. The churches in this world have many flaws; they are imperfect. Do they evangelize as they should? Do they serve and devote themselves? “Blessed is he who reads,” but do they read the Bible? Do they bear fruit by living according to the Word? Nothing is perfect. Which one of the seven churches is our church? Simply put, you each are a temple of God in which He dwells; which one of the seven churches are you? We must consider this carefully.
In contrast, heaven’s church (i.e. church in the kingdom of heaven) is perfect. Following the account of the churches on earth in Rev 2-3, chapter 4 records John’s eyewitness account of heaven, that is, the spiritual world opening and his subsequent ascension in the Spirit.
Revelation 4:1 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.”
Apostle Paul also saw the first, second, and third heaven after being taken there in a trance. However, he did not speak of it for thirteen years because people did not understand the spiritual world. It was only after fourteen years had passed that he revealed that he himself had been there.
2 Corinthians 12:2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a man was caught up to the third heaven.
Apostle John wrote a detailed account of what he had seen in heaven. Through the perfect and complete state of heaven’s church shown to us today, you and I must realize what we as imperfect churches in this world should do and how we are to go before God.
The Glory of God and His Throne
Apostle John saw the glory of God and His throne.
Revelation 4:2-3 Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne. 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.
A. Jasper stone: signifies God who is holy. It is a white, transparent stone. God cannot tolerate sin and unrighteousness. He demands, “Be holy for I am holy.”
B. Sardius: signifies God who is righteous. It is a red stone. There is no forgiveness from God of righteousness when sin is committed but stern judgement ensues.
C. Rainbow: signifies God’s “covenant of love.”
D. Emerald: signifies God of eternal life. Green symbolizes life. When a traffic light turns green, it means “go.” Life is comparable to running, death to stopping.
If we live according to the Word of God and believe in the Bible, we will come to sit with God on His throne, just like Jesus. But if we do not live as God wills, then we must go to the bottom. Should our faith descend to the dim depths at the bottom while rays of light shine and sparkle in the faith of others? The Bible writes that those who overcome themselves, the world, their lusts, sin, and the devil can be seated on the throne of God. Overcoming is reading the Bible even when we don’t want to. Overcoming is drawing near to God with thanksgiving even when we don’t feel motivated to attend church because nothing seems to be going well in our family, business, and workplace.
Those who live according to the Word and overcome sin will sit with God on His throne.
Revelation 3:21-22 He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”
If this promise is a lie, then so is the entire Bible. Not once have I forgotten this Word. We, too, must sit with God on His throne and not be left out. Those who struggle to keep themselves from sin can confidently request in heaven to be seated with God on His throne.
Throne of the Twenty-four Elders
Apostle John beheld the thrones of the twenty-four elders.
Revelation 4:4 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.
A. Twenty-four elders: signify the twelves tribes of the Old Testament and the twelve apostles of the New Testament. They represent everyone in the Old and New Testaments. Abraham, the forefather of faith, and Abel,who was martyred, are also elders.
B. White garments: signify righteousness and holiness. The first requirement to serve God is holiness. One must be blameless with a clean heart and faith.
C. Golden crowns on their heads: signify ①unchanging faith ②faithfulness until death ③sacrifice ④reward for prevailing in all aspects of life (Rev 2:10).
Flashes of Lightning, Voices, and Peals of Thunder Coming Out from the Throne
Apostle John heard flashes of lightning, voices, and peals of thunder coming out from the throne.
Revelation 4:5 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;
A. Flashes of lightning, voices, and peals of thunder are expressions of God’s majesty, supreme and bold.
B. God of love is absolutely sincere and quiet as a still lake, but He is also a God of righteousness who sends forth His burning anger with lightning flashes, thunderings, and storms (Exod 19:16-20; Ps 18:13).
Exodus 19:16 So it came about on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain and a very loud trumpet sound, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled.
A Sea of Glass Like Crystal
Apostle John saw a sea of glass like crystal.
Revelation 4:6 and before the throne there was something like a sea of glass, like crystal;
Your heart should not be like rolling billows but like a sea of glass that is tranquil, calm, and smooth. Our life must not be like a sea of glass toward one person, yet like a storm toward another. A sea of glass like crystal symbolizes God’s holiness and righteousness. Just as a sea of glass is pure and clear and completely free of contaminants, God’s holiness and righteousness have no tolerance for even a speck of sin. The immobile nature of the crystalline sea of glass also speaks of an unwavering faith. Our faith must be as unshakable as that of Joseph of Arimathea.
Seven Lamps of Fire Before the Throne
Apostle John witnessed the seven lamps of fire before the throne.
Revelation 4:5 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;
The seven lamps of fire before the throne refer to the Holy Spirit, the Helper (also translated as “Advocate” [NIV], “Comforter” [KJV]), the seven Spirits of God (Rev 1:4). Seven is the perfect number, the sum of heaven and earth, and manifests the perfect knowledge of God. Like the seven lamps that shines upon all creation, the Spirit of God searches all things (1 Cor 2:10).
When we understand the immensity of heaven, blessings will abide perpetually in us.
What is the ministry of the Holy Spirit who is the Helper (John 14:16-17, 26; 15:26; 16:7), Advocate (1 John 2:1) and the Spirit of truth (1 John 5:6)?
1. He is with us forever (“Immanuel”- John 14:16; Matt 28:20).
2. He teaches us all things and brings them to remembrance (Spirit of remembrance – John 14:26)
3. He reproves (Spirit of character – John 16:8). He does not forgive letting ourselves go.
4. He guides us into all truth (Spirit of truth – John 16:13; 15:26; 14:6). Because we live in this world, we often fall away from God, but He shepherds us again. He guides us saying, “I can’t leave you in this state. Stay here, hold onto this.”
5. He speaks as God wills (Spirit of absolute obedience – John 16:13; 5:30; 7:16-17; 8:26, 28; 12:49). He only speaks at God’s command. Even paths that were previously traveled are avoided if they’re not in accordance to His will.
6. He will disclose what is to come (Spirit of prophecy – Gen 2:17-18; John 16:13). He forewarns, “This is what will happen to you and to the world.” How blessed we are! We would be grateful to receive just one spirit but are given six spirits. There is no need to worry how we will manage them all. Please believe that the Holy Spirit will distribute them in a way that brings us to full knowledge.
7. He makes His glory known (Spirit of glory – John 16:14; 17:4-5). The seventh and last Spirit keeps watch to ensure that the first through sixth Spirits glorify only God; thus, He is the “Spirit of glory.” While it can be distressing to be kept under the world’s surveillance, the seventh Spirit is the “Spirit of freedom” because it keeps guard so that the glory of God can not seep out. The seventh Spirit brings the first to sixth Spirits into perfect harmony. It maintains unity by keeping out the devil of darkness. When the seventh Spirit — the seventh lamp — executes its work, they all move as one. They are reconciled (Job 22:21; Ps 139:3; Prov 3:2; 2 Cor 5:18-21; Rom 5:11). They all please God (Col 1:10; Eph 5:10; Heb 11:6). If the seventh Spirit is received, all prayers become upright (Prov 15:8; Ps 48:11).The seventh Spirit is vigilant so that all remains well with the first through sixth Spirits and, having made peace, it reconciles all things to God in the end (Col 1:20).
Colossians 1:20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.
This Word concerning peace is also spoken of in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:9, 24). Peace is the fragrant sacrifice that is well-pleasing to God (Phil 4:18). The thanksgiving of saints delights God and glorifies Him. Saints who offer thanksgiving are shown the salvation of God (Ps 50:14, 23; 69:30).
God cannot be deceived. The fallen angel Lucifer was living in splendor in the garden of Eden. In the glory of God, he wanted for nothing (Ezek 28:14-15). However, he fell the moment his heart became prideful and thought, “Why do I have to be ruled by God? I can live without Him.” Consequently, God placed the seven lamps, the seven Spirits of God, before His throne (Rev 4:5; Zech 4:2; Rev 1:4). Under the scrutiny of the seventh Spirit, only God is glorified and all are reconciled to Him. The fall occurs when there is no reconciliation with God. What an utter fall it is!
Four Living Beings
Apostle John saw the four living creatures.
Revelation 4:6 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.
The four living beings (also translated as “creature” [NIV] and “living creature” [KJV]) had human form. Each of them had four faces and four wings. Their legs were straight and their feet were like a calf’s hoof, and they gleamed like burnished bronze. Under their wings on their four sides were human hands. As for the form of their faces, each had the face of a man; all four had the face of a lion on the right and the face of a calf on the left, and all four had the face of an eagle. The sound of their wings was heard from the outer court and was like the voice of the Almighty. I hope you will read Ezekiel 1:4-28 to understand the four living beings. The “four living beings” are written in Ezekiel chapter one and today’s text, Revelation chapter four.
After the fall of Adam, God placed the “cherubim” to guard the way to the tree of life so that man would not take from the tree of life in the garden of Eden in his sinful state and live eternally (Gen 3:22-24). Had man lived eternally without first being forgiven, the kingdom of heaven would have been destroyed.
But God revealed the “living beings” to Ezekiel who was praying for his nation and people in Babylonian captivity and made known to him the mystery of the “living beings.” “Living beings” are the “cherubim” guarding the garden of Eden.
Ezekiel 10:15 Then the cherubim rose up. They are the living beings that I saw by the river Chebar.
The “living beings” had feet swift as lightning, wings that sounded like the voice of God, and an abundance of eyes under their wings so that there was nothing unseen to them; with these “cherubim” guarding the way to the tree of life, who would be able to go before it? What an awesome realm it is that, according to today’s text, the twenty-four elders representing believers are now together with the cherubim, the living creatures. How glorious are the twenty-four elders of heaven’s church! Without knowing this, the significance of “entering heaven” is not fully realized. If God has taught us this much, we should return to the garden of Eden and realize what task remains before us. Then our heart will always abide in blessings. We will not have a mind to blame others over trivial misunderstandings and to sever ties with certain people.
We must also bear in mind that the glory of the Lord dwelled above the cherubim. In Ezekiel’s vision, the glory of the Lord went up from the cherub to the threshold of the temple and, after completing its task, departed to stand over the cherubim.
Ezekiel 10:4 Then the glory of the Lord went up from the cherub to the threshold of the temple, and the temple was filled with the cloud and the court was filled with the brightness of the glory of the Lord.
Ezekiel 10:18 Then the glory of the Lord departed from the threshold of the temple and stood over the cherubim.
The “original station” of the glory of the Lord is above the cherubim. Therefore, the cherubim guarding the way to the tree of life possess the glory of the Lord. When we think about this, we shiver in fear and everything of interest pales by comparison. We come to understand, “Ah! That’s why no one could go before and covet the tree of life in the garden of Eden. The only way to partake from the tree of life is to believe in Jesus.” There is no other way.
Revelation 2:7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.’
No matter what tribulations and persecutions may come, we must not let our God-given crowns be taken away.
Just as the glory of the Lord dwells above the cherubim, the glory of the Lord must always dwell in you. Apostle Paul stated it was a glory to be called as a minister of the gospel. Even in the world, we consider it an honor when we’re acknowledged by our superiors and we bend over backwards to repay them.
A. The first face of the four living beings is that of a lion. Lions are the king of beasts. They signify ①strength ②courage ③ruthlessness.
B. The second face is that of a calf. It is the head of livestock and signifies ①sacrifice ②service ③endurance.
C. The third face is that of a man. He is the representative of humankind, the image of God, and signifies ①wisdom ②knowledge ③understanding ④sovereignty
D. The fourth face is that of an eagle. It is the head of the avian kingdom and signifies ①speediness ②discernment ③vigorous strength.
Apostle John observed the twenty-four elders falling down before Him who sits on the throne and casting their crowns before the throne.
Revelation 4:10 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,
We must be aware that the four living beings and the twenty-four elders praised God alone presenting before Him glory, honor, and thanksgiving (Rev 4:8-11). Though the twenty-four elders had brilliant crowns atop their heads, they all laid them down before His throne. Through these actions, they are declaring, “Only the Lord is worthy to receive glory! We are already so grateful to give glory, honor, and thanksgiving to You, who are we to wear our crowns before You!”
The saint’s crown is the:
A. Unfading crown of glory: we must not be lazy and postpone work by saying, “There’s always tomorrow, let’s do it then.” All such idlers will fade away. What happens when vegetables are left outside because it’s too bothersome to wash them? Though fresh in the morning, they will become extremely limp by the time we return home from work in the evening. A day’s work is meant to be done on that day. He tells us to be diligent, not idle, for those who are diligent will receive the enduring crown of glory. It’s not just a crown, but a “crown of glory,” so how can we be lazy knowing this?
1 Peter 5:4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
Apostle Paul likened our life of faith to a race. While all may run in a race, only one receives the prize (1 Cor 9:24; Heb 12:1-4). He also said our life of faith was analogous to soldiers in battle(Eph 6:10-17).
B. Crown of righteousness (2 Tim 4:7-8; Rev 22:12; 2 Tim 2:5): given to those who have kept the faith.
C. Crown of joy (Phil 4:1; 1 Thess 2:19): given to those who evangelize to many.
D. Glorious crown (Prov 4:9; Isa 28:5): given to those who exalt Jesus alone. Those who pretentiously say “It was all me” will not receive this crown. We must be able to confess like Paul, “I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.“ That grace is Jesus Himself (John 1:14). The glorious crown will be bestowed on those who, by grace, exalt the name of only Jesus. May you all be recipients of it.
E.Golden crown (Rev 4:4; 14:14; Ps 21:3; 132:18; Esth 8:15; Zech 6:11; 9:16): given to those who keep their life of faith free of sin, wear the white garment, and triumph.
F. Crown of exultation (1 Thess 2:19): given to those who make sacrifices in serving.
G. Crown of life (Jas 1:12; Rev 2:10): given to those who persevere under trials, conquer by believing, and are faithful until death.
H. Crown of glory (1 Pet 5:3-4; Jer 13:18): given to those who are examples to the flock, namely, leaders such as ministers, cell group leaders, and district leaders. The heads of the men’s and women’s ministries must be role models for their respective ministries.
I. Crown of beauty (Isa 62:3): given only to those who receive a new name.
J. Crown that illuminates the land of the Lord (Zech 9:16): it is a sparkling crown of jewels given to those who light up the land of the Lord. A land becomes holy when allies capture it in battle, but it becomes one of darkness without freedom when taken by foes. Land refers to a person. We must seek others out with the Word of life, Jesus, and we must let them shine. Bearing a child does not make one a parent. Parents have the responsibility of raising the child. By looking after those we’ve evangelized to, we enable that land or person to shine.
K. Crown of knowledge (Prov 14:18; Song 3:11): given to those who are knowledgeable about the Bible and church life. Truly, they will be honored and esteemed. How wonderful!
There are both big and small rewards for those who believe in Jesus. Some say, “Rewards aren’t necessary; I’d be extremely thankful just to avoid the fires of hell and make it to the heavenly gates.” Let us not entertain such thoughts that disappoint God by failing to comprehend His will (Heb 11:6). No matter what tribulations, persecutions, or hardships may come our way, we must not let our crowns be taken away.
Revelation 3:11 I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown.
You and I must surely enter into that kingdom. It is God’s law that we live once and die once and after this comes judgment, the verdict of good or evil. If this is so, shouldn’t we be transfigured like Enoch and Elijah? During his time here on earth, Nathanael was judged by Jesus to be “an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit.” May we all receive our new name and be approved to enter into the kingdom of God.
Let us pray.
Lord, thank you. We thank you for sending your precious people to the Osaek Jehovah Jireh Retreat Center by Your sovereign grace and for granting us understanding of the Word that you send at every time and season, even if it may be just one message. Please bless us, so that understanding may be with us for all time, until the day we enter into the kingdom of heaven. Tonight is also Your night. We pray that there will not be a single person tonight who is hurt or left behind, but may all may abide and commune in Your Word, not in futility. If there are any among us whose lives are darkened by a suffering business or overwhelming debt, and are at the tipping point of committing suicide, I pray that, through this assembly, the clouds would lift so that the sun would shine brightly upon them, their families, and their businesses. Fully assured that Your grace will remain upon us until we depart from this place, we pray all things in the holy name of our Lord Jesus with thanksgiving. Amen.
*This post can also be read in 'Champyungan'. (http://champyungan.com/en/)