Heaven is the expected conclusion to the life of faith. The path to heaven is fragranced with the presence and provision of the God of heaven. As pilgrims heavenward, the one to whom we go is the one who goes with us. We drink of the well of the living waters of Christ, as he promised to the Samaritan woman in John chapter 4. We hear His word of revelation and enjoy an ongoing relationship with the Saviour day by day. When heaven finally comes the summit is to the believer no surprise. With every step upward we feel the strain in our muscles, the tension in our tendons, the cool dew condensing on our hair, the air becoming thinner and the sun a little brighter. Heaven is the conclusion to a life of faith. We know the way because we know the person.
From a series of messages on the theme of "Tell me There's a Heaven" given at Faskally Families Week in 2022 by Dr J Stewart Gillespie
For the martyred multitude of Revelation chapter 7, heaven was worth it and heaven came as no surprise. With every strain of the sinews, every stretch of their muscle fibres and with each tensing of the tendons, this great multitude of God's people felt they were stepping upwards, higher and higher to the heavens. Reaching the summit came as no surprise. The clouds seemed closer with every step, the atmosphere of earth thinning and the sun a little brighter. Their journey had been one of progressing a little higher day by day. Along that upward path they had known the:
The Taste of the Place
The Touch of a Person
Heaven was reached by a palm tree paved path from the:
Palms of the oasis of Elim bringing refreshment from the wells of God's provision for His people on their earthly journey
Palms of reflection as His people dwelt annually under the booths of palm leaves, reminding them of their pilgrim character on earth
Palms of revelation under the palm tree of Deborah
Palms of relationship adorning the temple
Each step of the pilgrim journey home had a taste of the place, a fragrance of heaven.
That journey to the dwelling place of the Lamb was likewise assured by the presence and provision of the Shepherd along the path. The one who had lead them by the still waters and who had made them lie down in green pastures was the same one who had lead them to the source of that supply. Psalm 23 with its closing promise of dwelling in the House of the Lord forever, is the doorway into the eternal vista of Revelation chapter 7. Still waters in the valley of Psalm 23 find the eternal and abundant source in the "living fountains of water" of Revelation chapter 7. In this eternal abode hearts are fully satisfied (verse 16) with Christ.
It is at the conclusion of the journey for God's people, faithful martyrs for Jesus Christ, men and women who have come through persecution, suffering and death that we are finally able to weigh up the worth and value of all that has transpired before the eternal. Has earth been worth it? Has life been fare? Have the means been worth the end? Can we make sense of life now in the light of forever? The reflection and response of those martyred for Jesus is a resounding volley of praise and worship (verse 12); an emphatic 'yes'. Perhaps like them it would be wise for us to reserve judgment and assessment on our own trials and difficulties until finally we see life in the light of the Lamb, time from the perspective of forever.
A message preached in our systematic series of studies in the book of Revelation at the Bridgend Gospel Hall, New Cumnock by Dr J Stewart Gillespie.
Revelation chapter 7 verse 12 is a high point of praise and worship in the book of Revelation. It is perhaps all the more surprising that this praise comes from the lips of and in the presence of those who have come through the most extreme of experiences of persecution, death and martyrdom. From the embers of suffering comes a choir of praise and worship. Such praise is not naïve nor short sighted but rather founded on an appreciation of the power and wisdom of their God.
Part of our ongoing series in the book of Revelation, a practical and devotional exposition of John's Apocalypse.
Revelation chapter 7 is a play of two halves. From the events on earth in verses 1 to 8 we move upward and heavenward to the innumerable multitude of martyrs before the throne of the Lamb in verses 9 to 17. We leave the gloom of God's Grace withheld from a fallen and falling world in the first half of Revelation chapter 8 to the Glory of God's grace revealed and all sufficient in the later half of chapter 7. The Lamb is indeed all the Glory in Emmanuel's land!
This "great multitude which no man could number" stands distinct from the 144,000 of the the first half of Revelation chapter 7. This is an international and cosmopolitan company, innumerable in quantity and present in heaven. The 144,000 are numbered, of the 12 tribes of Israel and resident on earth. This vast company have emerged en masse, martyred from the persecution of tribulation days (Revelation 7:14). Undaunted and undiscouraged by the prospect of and reality of martyrdom, they pass through the fire and the flame to gain heaven and home. What motivated this drive? What fed this tenacity? As was asked of Samson in the book of Judges; what was the secret of their strength? Perhaps we have a clue here in verse 9. These martyrs of the tribulation period stand, having grasped finally in their hands the final mention of the biblical 'palm' tree.
The path to their final destination in heaven, was a path paved with palm tress, right the way to the throne of the Lamb. Heaven was no surprise. Heaven was no vague hope. Heaven is home. The fragrance of that place, scented the entire route to glory. The one to whom they went was the one with whom they went. It is the same Lamb, the same Lord who gave them strength for the way, who waited for them at their destination.
Israel redeemed from Egypt needed REFRESHMENT in their wilderness journeys. That refreshment from the 12 wells of Elim was enjoyed in the shade of 70 palm trees (Exodus chapter 15).
Each year the collective consciousness of the nation of Israel would be impressed by the reflection and REMINDER that there presence passing and transient. God had called them out of Egypt for Himself. The character of the nation ought to be that of pilgrims and strangers and so between the two Sabbaths of rest they would rest in booths, under the shade of the palm trees.
The place of REVELATION, a word from the Lord, to guide, direct and inform, came in the days of the Judges from Deborah, under the shadow of the palm tree.
Their RELATIONSHIP with God, centred around the temple of Solomon in 1 Kings 6:29, was surrounded by the image of palm trees.
Finally the REALITY of the presence of Jesus amongst them was marked by the raising of the palm tree (John 12:13).
It is from that constant lifelong taste of heaven, that daily drinking of the living waters of heaven, that feeding in the bread of heaven that strength is given to face whatever persecution and pain and trial this world will throw at them to gain heaven. Heaven for these martyrs is the final step of faith and not the only step of faith.
An excerpt from the audio and video recording of our exposition of Revelation chapter 7. Part of our bible teaching series as we study systematically through the book of Revelation.
The prophecies of Revelation chapter 7 transport us into the future days of tribulation. During this period of intense persecution 12 000 people from each of the 12 tribes of Israel will be sealed and set apart as servant for God. Herein lies the first of 2 great problems. For over 2000 years 10 out of the 12 tribes of Israel have been regarded as 'lost tribes', peoples and tribes who never returned to their ancient homeland of Israel following their exile into the empire of Assyria. Over the past 70 years however interest has been rekindled in tracing these 10 lost tribes. Since the reestablishment of the nation state of Israel and the Messianic aspirations of Jewish scholars, the search has been on to find the 10 Northern tribes. Following the ancient silk route out of Assyria and investigating the traditions and practices of the tribes and peoples along that route has yielded fascinating results! Jewish practices, Mosiac law, the practice of the Passover and the preparation of Kosher food as well as ancient traditions of an Exodus story has been found amongst the Pashtun tribes of Afghanistan, the BenIsrael of Bombay, the Manasseh of Tibet and the Ischarof of Uzbekistan, Some leading Rabbinical scholars are convinced that all 12 of the tribes have now been identified amongst nation states and groups. Amongst these groups some are already returning to Israel!
The tribal list of Revelation chapter 7 contains a further bombshell. Included in the list of the 12 tribes is Manasseh. Manasseh was not a son of Jacob at all, but rather a grandson. As included in the list of 12 tribes he has displaced one of the original tribes, that of Dan. The tribe of Dan was no insignificant player in the OT narrative. It was Dan who was:
Instrumental in constructing the tabernacle under the direction of Aholiab (Exodus chapter 31, 35, 36)
Crucial in the design of the temple by the hands of Hiram (2 Chronicles 2:14)
Dan who proclaimed the law of the Lord and the warnings against idolatry from Mount Gerizim in Deuteronomy 27.
And yet tragically it was also in Dan we see a sustained and collective loss of identity and distinctiveness:
Marital compromise and unequal yoke (Leviticus 24)
The first man to be stoned for blasphemy (Leviticus 24)
Moral compromise in the days of Samson
Spiritual compromise and idolatry in the days of Micah in Judges 17 and 18.
It was seem that by the time we reach Revelation chapter 7 this sustained loss of identity and distinctiveness has removed them from the Divine plan, replaced now by Manasseh, the meaning of whose name is that of 'caused to forget'. God has forgotten those who forgot Him!
The New Testament warning of Paul seems apt here; let us beware that lest having preached to others we ourselves should become shipwreck!
A message preached at the Bridgend Gospel Hall, New Cumnock, from our systematic bible teaching series on the book of Revelation. Audio and video recordings of these bible studies are free to download or view online.
Hot on the heels of the catastrophic events of the opening of the first 6 seals of Revelation chapter 6 comes the introduction to the opening of the 7th seal, here in Revelation chapter 7. By all accounts the introduction to this series of events seems pretty benign, even innocuous. What is the problem with with holding the winds that blow upon the earth (Revelation 7:1)? Is this not a good thing? This would have been welcome relief to the disciples in the storm tossed boat of John chapter 6. This could have provided reprieve for Jonah on the ship heading to Tarsus. The restraining of the winds could have averted the terrifying disaster of Paul's ship wreck at Malta! So what if God holds back the winds!
On many occasions God's winds have blown through the scripture. Often times those winds have blown with blessing and grace!
In Genesis chapter 1, it is the Spirit of God; the same Hebrew word for wind, who moves on the face of the waters with:
After the flood waters covered the earth, it is the wind that blows, pushing back those waters of judgment and permitting the release of Noah and the occupants of the ark. God's wind blows in:
By Passover lamb and by the power of shed blood, God purchases and releases His people from bondage in Egypt. The final hurdle is that of the Red Sea. The waters will be blown back by the wind. God blows in:
To meet the needs of His people and sustain them in the wilderness, it is the wind of God that will carry the quail into the camp of the wilderness people. God blows in:
The needs of Israel and Elijah will be met in draught conditions by the rains carried by the wind. God blows in:
Refreshing and living Power
It may appear a trivial judgment for God to hold back the winds (Revelation 7:1) but such a with holding of Divine Grace belies catastrophe; a catastrophe which can be anticipated in the physical realm as well as the spiritual. This world will feel the effects of the absence of the winds upon the earth. Temperatures will rise at the equator. Temperatures will fall at the poles. This earth will become a place of polar extremes. The earth will dessicate. Precipitation will stagnate. Bareness and dryness will dominate a world turned to desert. Spiritual conditions of course will likewise be reflected in a world which has rejected the Lamb of redemption. This world will become a place of spiritual extremes, bareness and dryness. It is perhaps worth pausing and contemplating the condition of our own life and heart. Would we notice in the microcosm of our own personal existence if God's gracious winds ceased to blow? Are we spiritual enough to detect the dryness, the bareness, the extremeness of our souls, in the presence of no open vision?
There is in Revelation chapter 7 an infinitely more glorious purpose behind this action of God to hold back the winds. It was the winds of God who scattered the tribes of Israel in Zechariah 7:14. This wind will cease and the people of God will be regathered, sealed and set apart as witnesses for Christ. We see today the scene being set for this very event.
A message from our systematic Bible study series in the book of Revelation
Yours by God's Grace in Christ
Dr J Stewart Gillespie
GraceinChrist.org where bible teaching never sleeps.