A Picture of Heaven
Many of our ideas and songs about heaven have more to do with Victorian-era Christianity and views of the universe based on the teaching of the Greek philosopher Plato than they do with a rigorous, thoughtful consideration of what God has revealed in His word. We will not spend our eternity just sitting on clouds and playing harps, as heaven is often depicted in art. We will do something far better. Scripture shows us that we will sing God’s praises and worship the Lamb.
The book of Revelation calls us to notice the ever-expanding circles of praise that surround the Lamb. In the first circle, we see four living creatures and twenty-four elders offering incense and singing a new song of praise (Revelation 5:8-9). The second circle, in verses 11-13, then consists of tens of thousands of angels giving Him honor, joined by every creature in all creation. Next, Revelation highlights those who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb (7:4, 9). They are described both as 144,000 in number and as a company beyond counting. They are portrayed both as the twelve tribes of Israel and as people from every nation and language. These descriptions may seem mutually contradictory, but this makes perfect sense from God’s perspective. The exact number represents perfection and completion; but from a human perspective, the crowd is so vast that you can’t count it when you see it before you. In God’s eyes, the people that are redeemed are His chosen sons and daughters, representatives of every tribe. He knows every single individual. Yet His people are drawn from all peoples. Here is a picture of God’s absolute, total triumph—and of God’s people exalting Him and exulting over His triumph.
So, while this scene opens with the four creatures and the twenty-four elders, it progresses to these thousands upon thousands, reflecting Paul’s declaration that, eventually, “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (Philippians 2:10, emphasis added). Our praise will join that of the countless multitudes, and we will all declare that Christ is the Lamb that was slain, that by His blood our sins have been cleansed, that with His righteousness we are clothed, and that in His company we will live for all of eternity.
One day we will get to join the ever-expanding circle of praise around Christ, who will step forward as the conquering Lion and the humble Lamb, our beloved Bridegroom. But we do not need to wait until then, for we can, even now, join the song of worship with our eyes fastened on Him. One day you will stand before Him and see Him! And day by day, you walk toward that day.
The 144,000 of Israel Sealed
1After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree. 2Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, 3saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants1 of our God on their foreheads.” 4And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel:
512,000 from the tribe of Judah were sealed,
12,000 from the tribe of Reuben,
12,000 from the tribe of Gad,
612,000 from the tribe of Asher,
12,000 from the tribe of Naphtali,
12,000 from the tribe of Manasseh,
712,000 from the tribe of Simeon,
12,000 from the tribe of Levi,
12,000 from the tribe of Issachar,
812,000 from the tribe of Zebulun,
12,000 from the tribe of Joseph,
12,000 from the tribe of Benjamin were sealed.
A Great Multitude from Every Nation
9After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
13Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
15“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 shelter them with his presence.
16They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
the sun shall not strike them,
nor any scorching heat.
17For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
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