Originally included in Part 1 – this post has been split over two.
HOW IS IT IN HEAVEN THEN?
I am now back to where I began having mentioned the Book of the Revelation and my ‘daisy picking’ there. Again let me say that there is nothing light and airy, nothing superfluous or superficial in that book. It truly is a revelation of heavenly things as well as of the powers of evil and their ultimate defeat. There is plenty of worshipfulness there. Do we want it to be “as it is in heaven, so on earth?” Especially in God’s House, His church in the last days? It is wonderful to look into heaven. John is taken there. A door is opened to him, Revelation 4:1. He is called in and up. How tremendous, “Come up here…” Thus the Lord calls us also. Away from the earthbound, up to the heavenly places, to be there, to look, to hear, to see, to know God enthroned and in complete control. I have always loved this, the kingdom of God. I have been privileged to love that place of seeing. Isaiah in his chapter six experience. When the earthly was so unstable, the long reigning monarch King Uzziah dying and there was political upheaval and much carnality among the people of God, Isaiah 6:1. Against such a background Isaiah is taken in vision right into the presence of God and the living creatures, the seraphim. He hears the, “Holy, holy, holy.” There is nothing like that! What a sound! What a word! Those who have heard that are spoilt forever! They are not interested in the, “Jesus, my boyfriend songs” that have been popular in the churches this last few decades, nor the upbeat triumphalist ones either come to that. They who have heard the heavenly sound have a tone in their voice when they speak and pray. I have been privileged to be around such people.
One man comes to mind, his name Geoff Bingham of Adelaide, Australia. He had seen an outpouring of God’s Spirit in Pakistan. Once I heard him preach from Isaiah 6 and when he said the cry, “Holy, Holy, Holy” you knew he had been there, indeed, that he was a man of the Spirit who knew the heavenly places. Others I have known and shared with. That same heavenly sound in their voices. Isaiah heard God in soliloquy, his lips had been touched by a coal from the altar fire, his ears attuned to the sounds of heaven and thus he discerned God speaking to God and responded without a call, Isaiah 6:1-9. How the churches of today need those who dwell there in the heavenly places in reality. It will show in their voices too. They speak with an authority that some in the churches resent. For we live in a foolishly egalitarian age and everyone is allowed to, ’have their say!’ This spirit must be rejected in the church.
LESSONS FROM THE HEAVENLIES
If we just look a little into the things John heard and saw and described in the last book of the Bible, concentrating on the matter of worship, of praise and thanksgiving, we should be rebuked if we truly want it to be, “as in heaven, so on earth.” Have you ever noticed who is at the forefront, who ‘leads’ the worship there? Four living creatures and elders are near and in the lead. They are first responders. God upon the throne and twenty-four thrones around His throne and on them elders at rest, seated in the presence of God. They are not rushing hither and thither, they belong there, familiar with their surroundings. They are clothed in white raiment and crowned. Three words, describing their states of heart no doubt. What is their posture? Sitting. With what are they clothed? White raiment. What have they on their heads? Crowns. They are not novices, they have experience of victory, are they not crowned? They are pure, their clothing is white. They have a calmness and restfulness of spirit, for they are sitting. Who are they? Some say a representative number, twelve from the Old Testament and Twelve from the New, but perhaps we can say that all are a symbol of those mature ones who have grown up in God through the ages and have been key ones for the continuance of the churches. They are so ‘at home’ there with God, with the seven Spirits of God . They feature throughout the unfolding events portrayed in the visions that are shown to the Apostle John. I mentioned that they are first responders in the worship, leading the whole, or so it seems for when the four living creatures give glory to God upon the throne they immediately prostrate themselves before Him and cast their crowns before Him saying, “You are worthy, O Lord,” Revelation 4:9-11. First worshippers? The elders. Leading the singing? The elders. Dare we say, “not the youngers.” “Oh Lord, as in heaven, so on earth,” let us pray. I use the word ‘responders’. That is important, first they are hearers. They hear the heavenly, “Holy, holy, holy.” Those words, that sound takes them onto their faces.
The first time the word ‘worship’ is found in the Bible it is not actually translated ‘worship’. It is Abraham’s response when God in an amazing way passes his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham runs to the manifestation of the Holy Three and it says, “He bowed himself to the ground,” Genesis 18:2. It is the Hebrew word for worship. Interestingly enough it is linked with the Hebrew word for ‘swim,’ and we do not swim except in a horizontal position! Apparently, first, worship is not singing, it is prostration before the Holy God. It is the Hebrew word for worship. Yet in these days we are exhorted to enter into the ‘worship time’ at the beginning of the meeting which may last forty or fifty minutes and is solely made up of music and singing. So, it would seem a misnomer. That is praise, not worship, though hopefully it is worshipful praise.
Again, I am not picking at points, but, much of this will be pruned away in the churches of the last days. It will be replaced by that which is more simple, more pure and almost certainly led by the more mature who may or may not be able to play an instrument.
THE NEED FOR ELDERS
At this point let me digress and refer to the lack of elders, especially men, both in the world and so often, in the churches. I regret having to mention these things, but some explanation of the ‘whys’ things are as they are, especially among the men in the world and churches is necessary. There are few true elders in the Western Nations leading the governments. In fact when people turn from God He gives them boys to rule over them, Isaiah 3:4. Some serious repenting and change is needed in the deep attitudes both of the older and the younger. Something happened in the Western Nations after the second world war. People were tired, war weary, but quite quickly comfort and materialism began to grip the hearts of multitudes. To gain possessions, and have a job that supplied such things occupied the attention of many parents. The children learned that value was not so much in gaining character qualities but in having ‘things’. Parents laboured to provide those things. Neglect of the processes vital to growing up was the outcome. Along with this the subtle indoctrinations, at base, antichrist thinking began infecting the educational establishments, that, with the both the Cold War and the Vietnam Conflict released a spirit of revolt among the young. Having subtly lost respect for the older, their parents included they were no longer participators in what we could call, initiation pathways along with their elders but were more and more initiated with and by their peers. Of course, this rebellion has brought about an incipient disrespect in society. In the main, boys remain boys well into the thirties and forties. They have had no serious initiation in their lives maturing them through pain, through submission to that which they cannot control or manipulate or evade. They have not been discipled to serious responsibility to anyone other than themselves. All this and more must be discovered much later in life if they are to mature in any way at all and be of true value to society. Thus we have a satisfaction with the superficial in just about everything and an incredible resistance to waiting, silence and stillness. Everything must be now, immediate satisfaction, or else! The parents have swallowed the lie that to keep the love of their offspring, they must indulge their every whim. There are many aspects to this but it has ramifications for the churches too. Many of the ‘olders’ have never become elders. Young men, in particular need older men who will help them in their initiation into maturity. Discipleship indeed, a coming under the discipline and spiritual leadership of those who have trod the path for years in advance of them. If the younger do not have this they will be a bane in society and in the churches also. Nothing will change much unless there is some serious reflection on these things and much more. The ‘olders’ should repent before God and apologise to the ‘youngers’ for abdicating their responsibilities. But, the “youngers’ should repent before God and apologise to the ‘olders.’ They have embibed the spirit of the age, jettisoning anything ‘old’. The abysmal ignorance of what has gone before in the history of the church coupled with the arrogance that feels that everything new is better must be profoundly turned from. All this said because we must submit ourselves to God’s ways. All of us, older and younger and this will begin to be forced upon us in the church in the last days. Mutual respect, mutual care, mutual love must abound. The older must become true ‘elders’ no matter how late in years they may be. The ‘youngers’ must begin to turn and drink deeply at the springs of living water among those who are older in spiritual life and experience. The humble and thirsty heart will seek out where that living water is and those who seek shall find.
THE PRECIOUS REVELATION
To me it is such a delight to reflect afresh in the Book of the Revelation. Just focusing on those elders around the throne, worshipping, crying out in perfect unity with the Creation in praise of God. It was one of those who comforted the weeping apostle John. The elder knew and understood. John sees the sealed scroll in the hand of the One Who sits on the throne and an angel loudly proclaiming, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and loose its seals?” No one was able, anywhere, to open that book. John was heartbroken but into his heart was poured the counsel and comfort that the Lion of the Tribe of Judah had prevailed, Revelation 5:1-14. The elder knew Who the victor was! It is a tremendous thing to have lived through many things and learned Who is faithful and true, Who has overcome, Who has the keys to what is presently locked up. What a ministry that elder had! John then sees what the elder knew. The Little Lamb as though it had been slain. it was a living sacrifice. It is the Lord as we have read. But the elder knew, he did not just believe, he knew. This is part of the process of believing unto knowing. Knowing, as far as the scriptural use of that word is concerned means ‘being intimate with.’ The elder was intimate with the Lamb, knowing His Person and His Victory. This is part of the pathway to maturity, to elder hood. The passing through difficulties and defeats that are personal and discovering through faith the triumphant love of the Lamb and the power of His victory at Calvary. This is why initiation is so vital on journey of spiritual growth. For Jesus in His earthly walk, the disciplines of Nazareth, the waiting and responsibilities to His mother Mary and siblings, the carpenters work in a dusty town. Then, the initiation taken farther in the desert at thirty years old and so into His manhood service. These things we slowly come to understand. No wonder the elders in Revelation had such worshipful hearts, such reverential spirits, such comforting words. When the Lamb takes the scroll who is it that is leading the worship! Yes, they have instruments too, whether they played them we do not know because they also had golden bowls full of incense which are the prayers of the saints. Somehow, all was fragrant with prayer, the atmosphere filled with prayerfulness. Take a moment to ponder this. How often I have been in a Christian meeting and a true elder has prayed, forgetful of everyone else, or so it seems, conscious only of the Father and the Lamb and that man’s prayers seemed to be my own. By the Holy Spirit, such a oneness of adoration and glorification of God, the whole atmosphere filled with mystic communion. I well remember an elder in Cameroon. It was a large gathering of many hundreds. The singing was progressing with various ones coming to the front and leading in a chorus African style and then, the atmosphere changed and there was a sense of evil entering, another spirit, perhaps through whoever was leading that particular song, the rhythm and the happy movement of the congregation in some places became something like the sinuous movement of a snake. Quietly the old leader took the microphone from the lady singer and began to pray. As he did so the atmosphere calmed and changed and the sinuous movement ceased the peace of God entered, the leader brought heaven in and peace came. How precious these things are! Those who have been in those heavenly places in their personal lives shall have that holy fragrance about them.
I love those elders of the Revelation, I have learned a lot from seeing them and considering their part in heavenly worship and have rejoiced often in seeing something of that in meetings of God’s people upon earth. Yes, days of heaven on earth are possible, especially when the saints of God gather and dwell together in love.
The churches will be purged. Make no mistake about it. There will be a refining and she shall come forth as that golden city called the bride of Christ. All comes down from heaven, from nowhere else does such a glorious bride come. It has been happening for two thousand years, here and there, among the nations. And at the end of time, in the last days, she shall shine, perhaps everywhere. The sons of the kingdom, the bride of Christ, the church of God indeed, and then taken home for ever to be with Him.