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Heavenly Memories: Reliving the Glorious Stories of the Church (Revelation Sermon 41 of 49)

Heavenly Memories: Reliving the Glorious Stories of the Church (Revelation Sermon 41 of 49)

March 25, 2018 | Andy Davis
Revelation 21:9-21
Church History, Heaven

Pastor Andy Davis preaches an expository sermon on Revelation 21:9-21. The main subject of the sermon is how believers will remember the great stories of God's work in the Church throughout history.

sermon transcript


Why did God make the universe? Scripture reveals the answer: for the display of his glory. And why did God create man in his own image, in his own likeness, male and female? Again, for the display of His glory. And why did God permit man to fall into sin? Ultimately, for the display of his glory. Why did God then work an unfolding story of redemption through the Jewish nation in the Old Covenant, and then through the church for the last 20 centuries? For the display of his glory. Why did God send His Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, into the world to live a sinless life and to die an atoning death on the cross? And why did God raise him from the dead on the third day and have him ascend to Heaven and seat him at the right hand in the heavenly realms? And why did he pour out his Holy Spirit on the church? For the ultimate display of his glory.

It is not easy to understand what the glory of God means, but it includes an aspect of light, of display, and of attributes. God’s glory is the radiant display of His attributes or perfections. His glory reveals what kind of God He is. It is put on radiant display so we might see how great and magnificent He is. In Revelation 21, we come to the final eternal display of the glory of God in the perfection of the church, the people of God.

A number of years ago, when my son Calvin and I were in Prague, we visited St. Vitus’ Cathedral. Construction began in the year 1344 and took over six centuries to finish. One of the most captivating things in medieval cathedrals such as St. Vitus are the stained glass windows, these radiant multi-colored displays. They were designed by the architects of the Middle Ages to be situated to take the morning sunlight in through one set of windows and the late evening sunlight through another set of windows. The vignettes depict individuals throughout history, intended to teach a lesson.

The little colored bits of glasswork together in an amazing artistic display. The cooperation between the sunlight and the colored pieces of glass yields an incredible picture. The stone structure would be a cold mausoleum if not for the light streaming in through these windows. The artistry of it gives a picture of the glory of God in the people of God throughout various eras of church history. I learned in my research on the history of cathedrals, and of stained glass windows in particular, about a monk in France who was meditating on the very text of Scripture that is in front of us now, Revelation 21. He thought that colored pieces of glass and windows and natural light would be a way to depict this marvelous passage. The whole thing started as a display, a foretaste of the new Jerusalem and the multi-colored glory that we will see when we get there.

This morning’s sermon is part two of last week’s sermon based on the concept of heavenly memories. Last week, we paid the price for the positivity of this morning’s concept. The idea that there will be perfect memory in Heaven might be a bit off-putting for some of us who do not want to think about our sufferings and our sins. But I do believe that our memory of our earthly life will be perfect in Heaven.

My thesis is that God will be in Heaven displaying, in amazing detail, his glory in putting the bride of Christ, the Church, together. This is the most glorious thing that God has ever done in history. It is far greater than the natural glory of creation. I believe that a great part of our heavenly celebration will be going back over history, but with the full understanding of the heavenly perspective of what God did by his sovereign power and in his sovereign grace, in his wisdom to put together the bride of Jesus Christ.

"My thesis is that God will be in Heaven displaying, in amazing detail, his glory in putting the bride of Christ, the Church, together. This is the most glorious thing that God has ever done in history. It is far greater than the natural glory of creation."

We will speculate together what that will be like, based on rock solid Scripture and exegesis, but with the sanctified use of imagination, staying as close to the text as possible. Being there in person will be better than holding giant history books on our laps to read starting with chapter one, page one. But I cannot say one way or another exactly how it will unfold. It is possible that we may be able to travel in visions of the Spirit backward and forward in time, as John did in this text. Or as the prophet Ezekiel did when he was in exile in Babylon. Ezekiel 40:1-2 says, “In the twenty-fifth year of our exile, at the beginning of the year, on the tenth of the month, in the fourteenth year after the fall of the city — on that very day the hand of the LORD was upon me and he took me there. In visions of God he took me to the land of Israel and set me on a very high mountain, on whose south side were some buildings that looked like a city.

We see the same thing in our text in Revelation. The Apostle John was in exile on the island of Patmos, a small rocky island off the coast of modern-day Turkey. He did not leave the island, but his mind was filled with light and vision through the power of the Holy Spirit. Revelation 21:9-11 says, “One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.’ And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, [thus my basic concept — the New Jerusalem, the bride of the Lamb, will be radiating with the glory of God in Christ] and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.” God is eternal. Past, present, and future are equally vividly before Him. He is not locked in to any moment in time. He is present to events that happened, from our perspective, a thousand years ago. In the same way, he is present to events that will happen, from our perspective, a thousand years from now, because he is an eternal God. He will be able to fill the inhabitants of the New Jerusalem with a visionary spirit, to take us back in time and see what God did to put the church of Jesus Christ together.

I have never used virtual reality goggles; it is likely that I never will. Whoever has them on may be having a great time with the things he is seeing, but people who are looking at the person do not see the same things. This is not that. Instead, we will partake of visions, which will fill our minds and hearts through the Spirit, of what God did to save each of us. We will study the vast, complex, intricate plans of God in leading all the elect to Christ. We will see and fully understand the price that was paid in Christ's blood, and also the blood of martyrs, and will be able to apply that message perfectly.

One subject that many of us do not enjoy that we will all thoroughly enjoy in the New Heaven, New Earth is science. We will explore what God has made in the New Heaven and New Earth. “The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” [Habakkuk 2:14] We will be immersed in the study of natural science. We will see what God has done in making the new world.

Scriptures that Prove the Heavenly Recounting of History

One: The New Jerusalem is People and History (Revelation 21:9-21)

Another subject that many do not enjoy now is history, but we will enjoy it and be immersed in it. Today, we will be focusing on our knowledge of history in the New Heaven and New Earth. A large part of God’s glory in Heaven will be going back over what he did throughout redemptive history to assemble the Church of Christ. I will root this idea in twelve passages of Scripture. 

According to Revelation 21:9-21, the New Jerusalem will be a radiantly glorious city, made up of the people of God redeemed from every tribe and language and people and nation on earth, and spread out over every era of church history. The gates of the new Jerusalem are listed by the names of the actual tribes of Israel. There is a history surrounding those names. The foundation stones of the new Jerusalem are the names of actual people as well, the twelve Apostles of the Lamb. Their histories are woven into the very structure and the gates of the place. Without the history, it will mean nothing.

Jesus, in Matthew 8:11, said, “…many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” Imagine if we had total amnesia, no history trails in our minds, all simply radiantly glorious beings with no memory. We would meet Abraham and he would just be another radiantly glorious being that we will share a meal with. Names do not matter if there is no history behind the name. It makes no sense. Abraham is Abraham because of his story. Isaac is Isaac because of his story. Jacob had his own story. And so on. These are real people who lived real lives. Real things happened, and God showed them real grace for their sins. He used their gifts in a real way to build His kingdom.

Think, for example, about the massive pearls that are the gates. Pearls come from the suffering of the oyster, from an irritation, like a grain of sand in the shell. The pearl builds layer upon layer of protection, and then it is radiant and glorious. There is a mingling of suffering and glory in those gates of pearl. Their stories contain layer upon layer, like the rings of a tree. They represent stories of brothers and sisters in Christ, not only Jesus, who suffered. Paul says in Colossians 1:24, “Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.” To apply the blood of Christ to each person, we need their stories of suffering. Each gate represents a massive amount of suffering, not only by Jesus, but by the people of God.

The architecture of the place is so often in Scripture woven together with the people. 1 Peter 2:5 calls us “living stones” that were quarried to some degree out of every tribe, language, people, and nation. We make up the place. Isaiah speaks of other structural members of the place. Isaiah 56:4-5 says, “For this is what the LORD says: "To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant — to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off.” The eunuchs who worship Jesus will be part of the walls of the place — a memorial, a name, a history that will never end.

Isaiah 60:7 says, “All Kedar's flocks will be gathered to you, the rams of Nebaioth will serve you; they will be accepted as offerings on my altar, and I will adorn my glorious temple.” Those are descendants of Ishmael, modern day Arabs, almost certainly all of them Muslims. Isaiah 60:13 says, “The glory of Lebanon will come to you, the pine, the fir and the cypress together, to adorn the place of my sanctuary; and I will glorify the place of my feet.” Again, the people adorn the structure; it is what makes it beautiful. Revelation 3:12 says, “To him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name.” The people are the pillars, the gates, the foundations, the walls — all translucent to shine, radiant glorious, with the glory of God. Every color of the spectrum is represented. And the gold, silver, and costly stones of 1 Corinthians 3, our rewards which survive the fire of judgment, will adorn the place and shine with the glory of God. To understand all this, there must be a history, a combination of all stories.

Two: The Vast Multitude (Revelation 7:9-14)

Revelation 7:9-10 says, “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” There is the redeemed from every tribe, language, people, and nation.

A few verses later, Revelation 7:13-17 says, “Then one of the elders asked me, ‘These in white robes — who are they, and where did they come from?’ [This important question supports my purpose — we want to know people’s history, their stories. How did they get here?] I answered, ‘Sir, you know.’ And he said, ‘These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, “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. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”’”

Woven into the answer of who this great multitude is (What are their names? What are their stories? Where did they come from?) is a sense of the suffering of this present world, the kinds of things that people endured, heat and thirst and hunger, and various forms of misery and deprivation. They will never experience those again. But they are remembered and they are part of the story of assembling this great multitude from every tribe, language, people, and nation.

Three: Beautiful by Her Deeds (Revelation 19:7-8)

The bride has made herself beautiful for the wedding. Revelation 19:6-8 says, “Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: ‘Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.’ (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)”

In other words, she got herself ready by doing righteous acts on earth, the good works that God prepared in advance for her to walk in. As she walked in those good works by the power of the Spirit, not for justification, not for the forgiveness of sins, but in service to God, in service to the Savior, she got herself ready for the wedding day. Much of her beauty and radiance comes from her own actions while she was serving Christ on earth. 

Four: Eternity Can Contain the Stories of Christ (John 21:25)

The Apostle John organized his Gospel around seven miraculous signs and seven extended teachings. At the end, in John 21:25, he says, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” There is not enough space — the memory stick is too small. We would overwhelm the system, have too much data if everything were written down. It is a powerful and provocative statement. This present world is not big enough for all the books that would be written.

I do not think books are the best way anyway. I have been reading books my entire Christian life, and I still read them. But it is better to see it with our own eyes than read about it on the text. 1 Corinthians 13:12 confirms this, saying, “Now we see through a glass darkly; then, we shall see face-to-face.” Someday faith, which is based on the Word, will become sight, and that is better. That is why I advocate for a visionary history, not just a book history. John was saying that even if we wrote all the books, the whole world could not contain them.

Matthew 4:23-25 says, “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.” He must have done tens of thousands of healings during his ministry.

John devotes a whole chapter to just one healing, the man born blind. Next week on Easter Sunday we will focus on the resurrection of Lazarus, which also takes a whole chapter in the book of John. If we slowed down and told everyone’s miracle story, every single thing Jesus did, the whole world could not tell all the stories. I am interested in those stories, aren’t you? Radio host Paul Harvey called this “the rest of the story.” He would unfold interesting stories from current events or history. You did not know what direction he was taking the story, until at the end, there would be a mic-drop moment and he would say, “And now you know… the rest of the story.”

Tell me the rest of the story of the Syrophoenician woman in Matthew 15:26-28 with the demon-possessed daughter in the region of Tyre and Sidon. At first, Jesus did not answer her at all. She begged, “Lord, son of David, have mercy.” He did not answer, nothing. Finally, I picture her throwing herself in front of Jesus. He could not take another step until he dealt with her. He said to her, “‘It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs.’ 'Yes, Lord,’ she said, ‘but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.’ Then Jesus answered, ‘Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.’ And her daughter was healed from that very hour.” End of story? No. What happened then? Did they hug? Were there tears coming down their faces? Were they eventually part of the church there in Tyre that Paul visited in the book of Acts? I want to know the rest of her story. I think you do too.

What about the demoniac of the Gadarenes? This guy was tearing off his clothes, breaking chains, howling at the moon. He had 5000 demons inside of him, a legion of demons. Jesus healed him with a word. Luke 8:38-39 says, “The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, ‘Return home and tell how much God has done for you.’ So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.” I want to know the story of that man’s life, how effective he was as an evangelist.

Acts 1:1-2 says, “In my former book [the Gospel of Luke], Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.” I love that word, began. We call it the Book of Acts, or the Acts of the Apostles, but it is the acts of Jesus through the Holy Spirit, through the Apostles and through the church. Jesus has more actions to do, more works done by the Spirit through his people.

Five: In the Coming Ages He Might Show... (Ephesians 2:7)

We were dead in our transgressions and sins. We were in Satan’s dark kingdom. We could not break through, but God showed us mercy in sending Christ. He made us alive with Christ, and he raised us up with Christ. He seated us with Christ in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus “in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” Is that for just some of the saved? No, it is for everybody. He wants to show the greatness of his grace in our lives. In the coming ages, he will show it. We will not only read about it, we will see it, how gracious God was to save sinners like you and me.

Six: “In Memory of Her” (Matthew 26:13)

Matthew 26 tells of a woman who anointed Jesus with very costly perfume. The aroma of the perfume filled the house. All the disciples, especially Judas, were offended by how much money was poured out on the ground — a year’s wages. They were indignant with her, and with Jesus for allowing it. Jesus said she was doing a beautiful thing, preparing him for his burial. Then he said something about her. Matthew 26:13 says, “I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” That is incredibly powerful. So we are done talking about her once we get to Heaven or can we keep talking about her? I want to meet her.

How about the widow who put in the two copper coins? Mark 12:43-44: “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything — all she had to live on.” You know what that tells you? Much of history is made up of obscure people whose actions are noted by nobody. Nobody knew what the coins did, nobody ever saw them, they will never make the pages of history. But Jesus sees and he says, “That person that day served me better than anybody else.” We would have no way of knowing if Jesus had not highlighted the poor widow and talked about it.

Seven: Proclaiming God’s Deeds in the Great Assembly (Psalm 22:25-31; 40:9-10)

In the Psalms, there are many exhortations or promises that the righteous make to declare in the great assembly what God has done for them. This is a very common feature in the Psalms. For example, Psalm 22 begins with the words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” and ends with a testimony of people from all over the world in the great assembly.

Psalm 22:25-29 says, “From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you will I fulfill my vows. The poor will eat and be satisfied; they who seek the LORD will praise him — may your hearts live forever! All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the LORD and he rules over the nations. All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him — those who cannot keep themselves alive.” All of those who were resurrected up out of the dust will be assembled, and in the great assembly, we will give our theme of praise to God for saving us.

Psalm 22:16 says, “They pierce my hands and feet.” The psalm is all about the crucifixion of Jesus, but from his crucifixion comes a multitude from all over the world who will assemble to tell how great was God’s mercy to save them.

We get the same thing in Psalm 40:9-10: “I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, as you know, O LORD. I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and salvation. I do not conceal your love and your truth from the great assembly.” In other words, I will stand in front of this multitude to tell my story of how good God is to me. You may think, “I do not like public speaking.” We will be so free of prideful self-concern that all we will care about is to tell our stories about what God did in our lives.

Psalm 107 tells of vignettes of four different sets of people in dire need: a group lost in the desert who cannot find their way out; a sick person drawing near to the gates of death because of a fatal illness; a group arrested, in chains in dungeons; and a group on the heaving deck of a ship in the midst of a terrible storm. In all four cases, it says, “Let them cry out to the Lord and he will deliver them and let them give thanks and praise to God in the great assembly.” Psalm 107:31-32 ends, “Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men. Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people and praise him in the council of the elders.” Amen. We will each get to get up and say, “God has been good to me. He has saved me, and relieved me, and healed me.”

Eight: A Royal Priesthood Declaring God’s Excellencies (1 Peter 2:9)

1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” When do we get to do that? It starts now and we can do it every day. But it will be even better when we get to Heaven as a royal priesthood, to declare the praises of the one who rescued us. That will be heavenly worship and heavenly praise.

Nine: Time Will Not Fail to Tell the Full Stories (Hebrews 11:32)

Hebrews 11 presents a great Hall of Faith. Many great stories of church history are told, great men and women of faith and all the things that they did. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the patriarchs, Sarah. At a certain point the author says, “I have much more to tell."

Hebrews 11:32-38 summarizes, “And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets —  who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated —  of whom the world was not worthy — wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.”

The author is saying, “I have a lot more to say about these people, but time will fail me.” We do not have enough time to go through the details. But in Heaven, time will not fail us. We will be able to tell these stories, and they will be radiant and glorious.

Ten: Genealogies and Mighty Men

What about the genealogies? How many of you would say 1 Chronicles is your favorite book in the Bible? I will never preach an expository sermon series through 1 Chronicles verse by verse. What would I say about the sons of Dan or the sons of Naphtali that has not been said already? I know nothing about them. In my study Bible cross-references, there is nothing there, because we do not know anything about these people. They are obscure, but they are in the Bible, and God is provocatively saying that even if we are obscure, like 99.99% of His people have been, He knows us, our names and our stories, and there will come a time when we will be able to tell our stories.

What about David’s mighty men, famous in their era? We get a little snapshot of how mighty they were. 1 Chronicles 11:22-24 says, “Benaiah son of Jehoiada was a valiant fighter from Kabzeel, who performed great exploits. He struck down two of Moab's best men. He also went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion. [I want a replay of that; I want to watch that battle.] And he struck down an Egyptian who was seven and a half feet tall. Although the Egyptian had a spear like a weaver’s rod in his hand, Benaiah went against him with a club. He snatched the spear from the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with his own spear. Such were the exploits of Benaiah son of Jehoiada; he too was as famous as the three mighty men.” That list in the Bible is provocative, saying there are many valiant acts, some of them not so famous, some of them humble cups of cold water given by a woman or a man to some servant to keep them going. They will never lose their reward and their stories will be told. 

Eleven: Rewards at the City Gates (Prov. 31:31)

Proverbs 31 says, “A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth is far more than rubies.” Then it unfolds all of the valor and honor in being a godly wife and a godly mother.

I have conducted many funerals of women whose families said she was a Proverbs 31 woman, and wanted that to be part of the funeral to honor their loved one. The last word on the godly wife, Proverbs 31:31, says, “Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gates.” The gates were the gates of Jerusalem where official business was transacted. Earlier in Proverbs 31, it says her husband takes the seat of honor at the gates. Because of her work in his life, he has become prominent in the community. But now it is her turn to be recognized at the gates. By far the most important rewards will be vertical rewards from God, infinitely more important than anything horizontal, but there will be a horizontal component to the rewards for this godly wife and mother, through all that she did to keep her family clothed and well-fed and prayed for, that nobody ever saw. She will get her chance to be rewarded and honored in Heaven.

Twelve: Show Plainly What God Has Done (John 3:21)

Finally, the new Jerusalem will be translucent. The light will go right through her. The glory of God will shine through her, and all of these righteous acts that we have done that we will go back over, we will show them because they display the glory of God in our lives. John 3:20-21 says, “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” We come into the spotlight, the time of focus, and we are able to take our works and put them on display so that God may be glorified through what we did. As Jesus said, “…let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” All of these good deeds, these works, this history, is for the glory of God. Those are twelve indications from the Bible that we will review history in Heaven.

The Radiant Family of God from All Tribes, Regions, and Eras

We will meet some incredible heroes and heroines in Heaven, and we will find some hidden moments in history that will be thrilling. We will get to know the great names, Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, John Bunyan, Adoniram and Nancy Judson, Jim and Elisabeth Elliot. They are our brothers and sisters. We are part of an incredible family, a royal lineage of men and women of God.

There will also be many obscure people as well. It will be great to meet all of the martyrs involved in spreading the Gospel throughout the Roman Empire before Constantine, to get to know these men and women who laid down their lives. Of them it was said, “The blood of martyrs is seed for the church.” We will find out how they were willing to lay down their lives. Imagine meeting a Roman procurator who condemned many of our brothers and sisters, but who little by little was worked on by their testimony and who himself crossed over and became a Christian, and was himself condemned to death. We could meet a person like that.

Or imagine a humble monk copying Scripture in an Irish monastery when the Vikings invaded. He was butchered, but one of the Vikings, part of that marauding band, himself later came to Christ through testimony and witness. Imagine the monk and the Viking sitting down at table in the kingdom of Heaven and feasting. Or imagine an unknown woman who cared for victims of the Black Death while they were dying in the 14th century in a city in Germany, when everybody else who was able had run for their lives, but she did not. She stayed, taking care of their loathsome clothing, caring for them and giving them broth until she finally caught the disease and died.

Or a prayer warrior, a woman in the 19th century, not known by anybody except that she went in and closed the door and prayed to her Father unseen, prayed for Hudson Taylor’s mission in China, that it would be successful, and God answered her prayers, but we know nothing about her. And then getting to know Hudson Taylor to find out how he spread the gospel to the inland regions of China. No one is too great or too small to get to know in Heaven.

One of the best World War II movies I have seen is Tora! Tora! Tora! about the Pearl Harbor attack. It is very well done, accurately researched, not sensational, told from both sides of the story, but mostly from the Japanese side. The words “Tora! Tora! Tora!” were the code words spoken by the first wave of attack at Pearl Harbor. The word “tora” means tiger in Japanese. It meant the way was open to attack; there were no American planes over the harbor. Recently, I read an account that blew me away of the pilot who gave that command, Mitsuo Fuchida, who later came to Christ. It is incredible that he survived the war. Japanese pilots did not survive that war. They were kamikazes by the end, flying bomb-laden planes into American ships and troops and dying, because they were not well-trained pilots at the end, but this man was a national hero to the Japanese.

After the war, Fuchida met his former flight engineer whom he thought had died at the Battle of Midway, Kazuo Kanegasaki. He was overjoyed to see him alive. It turned out that Kanegasaki had been a prisoner in an American POW camp. Fuchida asked him if he was tortured and abused. Kanegasaki answered no, that an American woman named Peggy Covell had cared for their needs and nursed them when they were sick. She was incredibly kind. Her parents, who were missionaries in the Philippines, were killed by the Imperial Japanese army when they invaded the Philippines. Fuchida was amazed, could scarcely believe it. In Japanese culture, the murderers of your parents were your sworn enemies for life. You were to seek vengeance, not love them. Kanegasaki replied that as part of her Christian religion, Jesus told her to love her enemies. Fuchida had never heard anything like that. He was intrigued.

A few weeks later, he was entering the train station in downtown Tokyo in the Shibuya district. Someone was passing out Gospel tracts written by an American pilot named Jacob DeShazer who had flown in the Doolittle raid, the first bombing raid by American planes over Japan after Pearl Harbor in early 1942. These raid missions required them to launch stripped-down long-range land-based bombers off of an aircraft carrier. The distance was so far that they did not have enough fuel to make it back, so they hoped to crash land in China. Some did. Some crashed in the ocean. Jacob crashed on mainland Japan and survived the crash but was captured, imprisoned, and tortured for the rest of the war. While in prison, Jacob came to faith in Christ. His imprisonment was essential to his salvation, and the tract was his story. Fuchida read this and desired to find out more about Christianity. He tracked down one of the missionaries, got a Bible, read it and came to faith in Christ. He eventually became a traveling evangelist in Japan and in America and wrote a book called From Pearl Harbor to Calvary, available on Amazon.

Freed from Constraints, We Will Be Enraptured in their Tales

No Boredom in Heaven, Only Love

How many stories like that are there? With a multitude greater than anyone could count, we will get to go over those stories. We will be free from the constraints that we are under now. The biggest constraint is within ourselves. We could not take a fraction of it all in now. We need breaks and endpoints. We have a vintage Webster dictionary from the 1840s. The word “boredom” is not in that edition. At that time, “bore” meant putting a hole in a board. People in 1830s America did not know the concept of boredom. They were fighting to survive. Boredom is a 20th century post-Industrial Revolution idea. Boredom is a weakness of body and mind and heart. Jesus said, “Consider the lilies of the field.” They are as beautiful now as they will be three years from now. Their beauty does not diminish, but we get weak as we consider it. We will be transformed from that. Also boredom is tied to selfishness and self-focus, self-love. If an area university had decided to honor you with its highest academic award, even though you do not go to that university, you would be interested in that story. I would be intrigued. I would think they had the wrong person, or perhaps “It’s about time they recognized me for my brilliance.” We are interested in our own stories. But if I tell you somebody you have never heard of will be honored, you would barely even raise an eyebrow because it is not you. In Heaven will be completely free from that. We will be God-focused and other-focused, and we will want to hear each other’s stories. 

Jonathan Edwards, in his classic sermon, Heaven is a World of Love, said, “There is undoubtedly an inconceivably pure, sweet, and fervent love between the saints in glory; and that love is in proportion to the perfection and amiableness of the objects beloved, and therefore it must necessarily cause delight in them when they see that the happiness and glory of others…” You will be free from yourself, over yourself by then and you will want to hear other people’s stories. 1 Corinthians 12:26 says, “…if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”  We will share each other’s honor.

The Invisible Spiritual Dimension of History Unveiled

The Lord will show not only what happened in the physical realm, but also what he did in the spiritual realm to make it all happen. Elisha and his servant were surrounded by the army of Arameans that came to capture him. When they went out to see the vast army, the servant was terrified, but Elisha was not alarmed. He said there were more on their own side than their enemies’. The servant was skeptical. Then Elisha prayed, “Lord, open his eyes” and the servant saw fiery chariots and an angelic army surrounding Elisha. Is it possible that there are moments like that throughout all of history in which Christ by his sovereign power pushed back the powers of darkness, like with the prince of the Persian kingdom, or to create an opening so that missionaries could go to a closed country? I want the whole story, to find out what God did in the spiritual realm as well as what we did in the physical realm.


Yearn for Heaven. Look forward to this heavenly world of light and joy that we are going to. The journey along the way has been orchestrated and ordained. It is a journey of suffering; therefore, rejoice in hope in the midst of your suffering. Realize it is part of the tapestry of grace that God is weaving. Do not complain or murmur against Him, or think He is being hard on you, but bear patiently the cross of grief and pain as you add your story to the glorious story of Heaven.

"Yearn for Heaven. Look forward to this heavenly world of light and joy that we are going to. The journey along the way has been orchestrated and ordained. It is a journey of suffering; therefore, rejoice in hope in the midst of your suffering."

Hate the very concept of wasting your life. Do not waste time. Let’s add to the glorious story that we will see in Heaven. Church history, especially good biographies, that tell the stories of what godly men and women have done, are incredibly encouraging to your faith, so read them. Share your faith. This is Easter week, a week that opens the door to talk about the resurrection. Invite people to church. Give the card inside your bulletin to a non-Christian and invite them to come with you to church next week to hear about the resurrection of Christ. If you are not a Christian, the most important thing you can do is not so much meditate on this incredible heavenly glory to which we are going, but have inside yourself a yearning to be there. If you want to be in Heaven, first understand that you are a sinner. The law stands against you. We all have violated our conscience and have no hope of surviving Judgment Day, except that God sent His son Jesus Christ as a Savior for sinners like you and me. All you need to do to know that you will go to Heaven is trust in Jesus as your Lord and Savior right now. Repent of your sins, turn away from wickedness, turn to Christ and say, “Lord, please save me from my sins!” He will save you, and then your story as a redeemed Christian will start to unfold at that point. And what incredible works God has for you to do only He knows.

Closing Prayer

Close with me in prayer. Lord, we thank you for the things we have been able to cover today. We thank you for the glory that there is in the word of God. We thank you, oh Lord, for the indications we have in these various texts that Heaven is going to be spent going back over glorious actions that you have done in redeeming such a vast multitude from everywhere in the world. Lord, help us to be courageous in the meantime, to put sin to death by the Spirit and to advance the Gospel. We pray in Jesus name. Amen.

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