- Who We Are
- Plan Your Visit
- News & Events
What do you think about when you think about heaven? A national magazine asked that question a while back to a group of seven year-olds, the age of our daughter, Avery. It was a simple three word question, "What is heaven?"
A little boy named David answered, "Heaven is sort of big and they sit around playing harps all day. I don't know how to play a harp, but I guess I better start learning that dumb thing pretty soon."
Susan said, "It's a place that don't look like here cause God don't have no schools up there and I'll be glad." Sounds like Susan doesn't like school very much.
Eric said, "It's a place where there's money laying around. You can pick it up and play with it and buy things. I'm going to buy a basketball and play basketball with my great-great-grandmother."
Daniel said, "It's like a big blue sky with clouds and it's really a fun place because you can play on the clouds. You have to stay away from the edges though or you'll fall off."
Scott said, "Heaven's up in the sky and you can look down and watch circuses for free if you want to. But God has to tell you it's okay first."
Tommy said, "I know what heaven is, but I don't want to go there right now. I want to go to North Carolina instead."
That's how a group of seven year-olds answered the question, "What is heaven?" How would you answer it? What comes to your mind? There's a lot of fuzzy thinking about what life is like on the other side of the grave. But there's also a lot the Bible has to say about heaven.
According to the Bible, it seems to me that believers in Jesus Christ will experience heaven in three stages. If we die now before Jesus returns at the rapture we'll go immediately to heaven. The apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:8 that to be absent from the body is to be at home with the Lord. At death our body stays here, but our soul goes immediately to heaven. That's a great comfort to those who lose loved ones, which is why we can say they're home with the Lord. That's the first stage of heaven, but there's more? There's a second and a third stage and we're going to look at them today.
This morning we continue are series called Apocalypse: The Revelation of Jesus Christ with a teaching I've called "Thy Kingdom Come." If you have a Bible turn with me to Revelation 20.
In Revelation 20 we have the second stage of heaven revealed, often called the millennial kingdom of Christ. And then in Revelation 21, the passage we'll look at next week, we'll visit the third stage of heaven called the new heaven and the new earth.
After the rapture of the church and the Tribulation believers will return with Jesus Christ to this earth where Jesus will set up an earthly kingdom that will last for a thousand years.
Last week we looked at the two great events that conclude the Tribulation, the wedding supper of the Lamb and the second coming of Jesus Christ. Now this week we want to look at the two great events that come after Christ's return, the millennial kingdom followed by the Great White Throne Judgment.
Look at Revelation 20:1-7, And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. 2He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. 3He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time. 4I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5(The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. 6Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years. 7When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison.
Six times in these seven verses we read the words a thousand years. That's how long this millennial kingdom will last. The word millennium comes from two Latin words. Mille means thousand and annum means year. So the millennium is the thousand-year reign of Christ on this earth. And during those thousand years the passage says, that old serpent, Satan, will be bound and unable to oppose God and deceive people anymore until the thousand years are over.
Now of the three stages of heaven, by far, the Bible has the most to say about this second stage, the millennium. In the New Testament it's also called the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of God, the kingdom of Christ, the regeneration, the times of refreshing, and the world to come. It's the kingdom that Jesus said we should pray for.
Even if you're not that familiar with the Bible, you may have heard the Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6. In that prayer Jesus says, "This, then, is how you should pray: 'Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Jesus wants us to pray that God's kingdom would come to this earth, so that his will would be done on earth as it is in heaven. We are to pray for the coming of that kingdom.
We are to seek God's kingdom. A little later on in Matthew 6, in the context of all the effort it takes to a make a living, Jesus says, But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. We are to seek God's kingdom and value it above anything else in our lives, living for the things that God values and pointing others to the king. We are to pray. We are to seek. We are live for the kingdom that God will one day bring to this earth.
But before we go any further, I think it's important to understand that not everybody who believes that the Bible is true interprets Revelation 20 the same way. There are four mains views of the millennium. Some scholars I deeply respect believe that the thousand years mentioned here are symbolic and not actual years. They call themselves amillennial and believe that the kingdom Jesus talked about was strictly a spiritual kingdom and not a physical one. At one point Jesus did say, The kingdom of God is within you. Which it certainly is, but I also believe that it will have a physical expression one day.
Some scholars call themselves post-millennial because they believe that Jesus will return after a thousand year reign of peace on the earth. That thinking was popular in the early 1900's when the world seemed to be getting better and better as a result of the industrial revolution and advances in science and technology. But then World I came and then the Great Depression hit and later World War II knocked the wind out of the view that the world was becoming a more peaceful place.
The view that I'm drawn to is the pre-millennial view that Jesus will come before the millennium begins. Then you have a whole bunch of people who call themselves pan-millennial. They believe that we just shouldn't worry about it, it's all going to pan out in the end.
But I get real excited when I think about Jesus bringing his kingdom to this world. It's going to be awesome! And the reason I believe it's coming is because of promises that God made a long time ago to Abraham and then to David and then to Daniel that said his kingdom is going to fill the whole earth. God promised large chunks of real estate to his people in passages like Genesis 15 and 2 Samuel 7 and Jeremiah 31 that have never been fulfilled and I believe that they will be fulfilled in the millennial kingdom when Jesus Christ rules and reigns over this earth.
As Revelation 20 says, Satan will be bound, Jesus will reign and that will usher in a thousand year golden age like this world has never seen. The prophet Isaiah who lived seven hundred years before Christ had more to say about this coming kingdom then anyone else.
Turn to Isaiah 2 and see how he describes it in Isaiah 2:1-4, This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem: 2In the last days the mountain of the Lord's temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. 3Many peoples will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He (that's Christ) will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths." The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 4He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.
The millennium will be a period of unprecedented worldwide peace. After all the conflict and war in the Tribulation, peace will finally come to this world. People will hunger for the Word of God like they've never hungered for it before. Jesus Christ will rule as King from Jerusalem, which will be elevated above all the other hills. David, Ezekiel 34 says, will be his prince and the twelve apostles will rule over the twelve tribes of Israel as Jesus said in Matthew 19. In addition to that Jesus says in Luke 19 that believers will be rewarded with positions of leadership in his kingdom based on how faithful we've been to Christ in this life. What we do now counts forever!
Isaiah 11:6-9 talks about peace in the animal kingdom. The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.7The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. 8The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest. 9They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
Talk about Animal Planet! We all can pick up crocodiles like Steve Irwin! And you won't have to worry about your kids anymore! "Go ahead and play with the lions for a while. Here Avery, I bought you a pet cobra, enjoy!"
After the horrible famines of the Tribulation the earth will be bursting with productivity. Isaiah 35:1-2 describes it this way, The desert and the parched land will be glad. The wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, 2it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God.
The Old Testament prophet Amos says in Amos 9:13-14, "The days are coming," declares the LORD, "when the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman and the planter by the one treading grapes. New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills.
These are all prophecies whose fulfillment I believe is yet to come when God's kingdom comes to this earth. And if you're a believer in Jesus Christ this morning, you'll be there. You'll be in that kingdom.
The millennium will be populated with believers like us who enter it with glorified bodies and also with believers who survive the Tribulation and enter the millennium in natural bodies. Those believers will bear children who will bear more children and the millennial kingdom will grow.
Life spans will be greatly increased. Isaiah 65:20 says, Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; he who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere youth; he who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed.
That's the kingdom that we're to seek after. That's the kingdom we're to pray for. That's the kingdom we're to live for. But if it's in the future, how do we live for it now? We live for it, by loving and serving and obeying the king, Jesus Christ, right now!
Jesus often used the kingdom as a motivator for obedience and service. In Luke 19, Jesus told a story about a man who went on a journey to be appointed a king and in his absence he left his servants in charge of his estate. When he came back he discovered that some of his servants had been faithful and invested his money well and others had not. And the one's who had made wise investments with his possessions were well rewarded. And in his kingdom, Jesus said, some will rule over five cities and others over ten cities depending on how faithful they were to the king.
Jesus has invested his life in each one of us. He wants us to make the most of it by living for him. This life, as permanent as it seems, is really only a warm-up for the life to come. It's boot camp for the believer. And God is using this life right now to prepare kings and queens to rule and reign with him when he comes in his kingdom. What you do today counts forever. Are you being a wise servant?
Pray for God's kingdom. Seek God's kingdom. And live for God's kingdom. It's coming and it may be here sooner than we think.
But at the end of the thousand years, something amazing happens look again at verse 7, When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison 8and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth-Gog and Magog-to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. 9They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God's people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them 10And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
When the thousand years are up, Satan is set free for a short time, verse 3 says, and makes one final assault on God's kingdom by gathering God and Magog to fight against God's people. Gog and Magog are age-old enemies of Israel described in Ezekiel 38 & 39. And they remind us that as long as Satan is on the loose there will always be people ready to follow him, even in a perfect world.
You see during the Tribulation the world is falling apart and people won't follow God because they blame him for it all. During the millennium the world is perfect and yet some people still won't follow God. They follow Satan as soon as he comes back, which shows us that ultimately our problem is not our environment, our problem is in our hearts. There will always be people who refuse to say, "Jesus is Lord" even to the very end.
But the good news is that Satan is quickly defeated and thrown into the lake of fire along with the beast and the false prophet to be tormented day and night forever and ever.
And that brings us to the fourth future event revealed in these two chapters, the Great White Throne Judgment. This is by far the most sobering event of all.
Look at verse 11, Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.13The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done.14Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.15If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, they were thrown into the lake of fire.
This event is so sobering that earth and sky run from God's presence as if they can't bear to watch what is about to happen. This is judgment day. This is the day God settles the books.
This is the day Jesus talked about in John 5:28 when he said, Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves (that's both believers and unbelievers) will hear his voice 29and come out-those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.
The Bible teaches that everyone will be resurrected at the end of time. There is a resurrection to life and a resurrection to judgment. Revelation 20:6 already told us that. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. You want to be at the first resurrection. That's the resurrection of believers into God's kingdom. And you'll be there if you believe that Jesus is the king.
The second resurrection is for those who refuse to believe and the judgment they experience will be determined by the deeds they had done. Someone has said that death is the great leveler of humankind. Actually, death is the great divider of humankind. In death there are some who rise to life and some who rise to judgment.
That's sobering news, but no one has to end up in judgment. You don't and I don't. In another passage Jesus said in John 5:24, I tell you the truth, those who hear my word and believe him who sent me have eternal life and will not be condemned. They have crossed over from death to life.
Right now you're hearing his word and if you believe what God has said about Jesus, that he is the son of the living God and that he died in your place on the cross, you have eternal life. You will not be condemned. You have crossed over from death to life.
As a believer you will not be standing in some long line waiting at the Great White Throne judgment worrying about what will happen to you. You're not even going to be in that line. That line is for those whose names are not written in the book of life. And your name is, the moment you trust in Christ.
We were never meant to live our lives afraid of what might happen to us someday. Instead, we were meant to live our lives out of gratitude for what Jesus has done for us. He's already given us eternal life. We will not be condemned. And because of that we are to pray for God's kingdom. Seek God's kingdom. And live for God's kingdom.
Four great future events that give meaning and perspective to our lives right now. At the wedding supper of the Lamb, Jesus is the groom. He's loves us enough to marry us. He died and gave his life for us. At the second coming, Jesus is the Lord. He is victorious. He is the one we can depend on who has all power for all eternity. In the millennium, Jesus is the King. He is in control. He rules over the whole earth and does it perfectly. And at the Great White Throne, Jesus is the Judge. He has the final word. The throne is a picture of his justice.
That's where history is headed. That's the God who loves us. That's the God we serve. Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be given to you as well.