AGCC Sun. a.m. 7/26/98



TEXT: Rev. 4:1-11; 22:12-17

INTRO: One of the great truths of the Bible is hardly spoken about today, and yet it is the great door of victory awaiting us! This great theme of the Bible and the great hope of all Christians is the rapture of the Church and the second coming of Christ!

Ironically, while the Church ignores this great truth today, more and more people are interested in spiritual realities and the future of their souls, consider the following fact:

ILLUS: If you want to write a best seller, be sure to put the word soul in the title. It started with Thomas Moore's 1994 Care of the Soul, which enjoyed a 150-week run on The New York Times best-seller list. Since then, almost 800 books with soul in the title or subtitle have been published, by authors as diverse as M. Scott Peck, the Dalai Lama, and Robert Bly. -- Newsweek, January 13, 1997.

We are so afraid to speak about the future lest we are accused of being too "heavenly minded that we are no earthly good", but the Bible states that just the opposite is true. Those who have a deep desire for heaven and are looking forward to going there tend to live in the present in the best possible way! Consider this verse: "He who has this hope in him (of Christ's coming and heaven) purifies himself just as he is pure!" 1 John 3:3

This promise of heaven will inspire our hearts to victory if we belong to Christ and will have tremendous positive affects on our life today. The future is a door of victory for the believer both now and then!

PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us that Christ's promise to come again for us is a door of victory that will inspire us to live for Him today, hence it is called the "blessed hope"!

I. OPEN DOOR 4:1-11

A. Rapture! 4:1

1. Mention this word today and most people want to avoid discussing it!

a. Why?

(1. because of the various views on when it will happen

(2. thought to be an "escapist" mentality

(3. too much present realities to deal with to worry about some future event that nobody quite understands fully.

b. It is hard to interest people in the rapture, yet it is one of the greatest events in the Bible for the Church, it is our translation into God's realm for ever!

2. It is tragic that even Christians aren't interested in this great truth, it is our hope and victory!

ILLUS: Chester Carlson worked diligently for years to interest various companies in his invention. Kodak turned it down. Twice the IBM Corporation studied the invention and twice rejected it, once on the advice of the Arthur D. Little Market Analysis Company. The Haloid Corporation, a nearly bankrupt company, finally decided to risk putting money into the invention to see if it could reverse company prospects. It did. Carlson is the inventor of xerography, and the Haloid Corporation is today the Xerox Corporation. IBM, although doing very nicely with computers, has never been able to equal Xerox's dominance of the office copier field. -- M. Hirsh Goldberg, The Blunder Book, (Quill, 1984), pp. 151-152.

3. IBM and Kodak didn't realize what this man Carlson had come up with for the future, they were stuck thinking only of the present and so they missed out on a great future benefit!

a. We can miss out too if we think that talking about, and hoping for the coming of Christ for His Church is too much of a silly thing to emphasis for the present!

b. The truth is that every great man or woman of God in the past that had a deep desire to see the coming of Christ proved to be the greatest servants of God to encourage change for the present!

4. Rather than cause escapism, a deep passion for the coming of Christ will inspire us to live more real today than we would without this hope!

5. John is "caught up" from earth to heaven in this verse, a clear reference to the Church's rapture one day.

a. The term "caught up" is used in several places to refer to the believer's translation into glory.

b. John's translation here prior to viewing the events of the tribulation which follow and are explained from John's vantage point in heaven gives us hope that the rapture will be at the start of the tribulation.

c. This is a blessed hope for believers!

B. Ruler 4:2-6a

1. As John looks around him in heaven his attention is immediately drawn to the great throne of God.

a. This will be the greatest thing about heaven, being in God's very presence!

b. Here John finally sees the great Sovereign of the universe!

2. John attempts to give us a description of God, but is unable to tell us what He looks like, and only something about the majesty which surrounds Him!

a. Color and precious gems are the only thing John can describe for us about God, the stuff of Kings!

b. Also John notices 24 elders who sit around the throne of God.

3. This picture represents the God who rules over all, the 24 elders represent the Church of all ages:

a. Possibly the 12 patriarchs of the Old Testament and the 12 apostles of the New.

b. At any rate, the 24 elders had crowns on them, something never said about angels, so these are probably redeemed man who are seated around God's throne in recognition of God's sovereign rulership!

4. With our knowledge of God as supreme ruler we do not need to fear either the present or the future (or for that matter even the past if we are in Christ!).

ILLUS: One of America's greatest wartime heroes was a Confederate general by the name of Thomas Jonathan Jackson. General "Stonewall" Jackson. He got his nickname because he was a devastating fighter, impenetrable as a stone wall. He was completely fearless, far too deep and masterful to be showy like the other generals. He felt not a tickle of fear, even in the chaos and terror of war.

His oblivion to danger drew the attention of many. Shortly after the Battle of Manassas a newspaperman asked about the source of his unusual bravery. He replied this way: "My religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as I feel in bed. God knows the time for my death; I do not concern myself about that but to always be ready no matter where it should overtake me. That is the way all men and women should live, then all would be equally brave." -- William Beasay II, The People Skills of Jesus, Thomas Nelson, 1997, p. 28-29.

5. The door of victory is paved with the knowledge that God is in absolute control of everything!

C. Responsive 4:6b-11

1. The 4 living creatures with eyes everywhere constantly respond to God by crying, "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come."

a. The eyes being everywhere on them allow them to look Godward at all times as well as toward man at the same time. Probably a special or unique Seraphim (Angels with 6 wings, Cherubim had only 4).

b. Whatever the 4 living creatures represent, whenever they cried out in worship of God, the elders followed in being responsive also!

2. Responding to God in worship is a central theme here!

a. Notice too the Trinitarian cry of their worship "HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is the Lord God Almighty"

b. The elders fall before God to worship, and throw their crowns at His feet to demonstrate that they are mere servants of His Lordship.

3. The heart of those who look to the future cry out in worship!

4. It has always been those most passionate about Christ's coming that tend to be fervent in worship and in hope.

a. This was so much a part of the early Christians.

b. It is at the heart of all those who look for God!

ILLUS: May it be Thy will that the Temple be speedily rebuilt in our days.

That plea to God, recited three times a day in Jewish prayers, expresses a yearning that makes Jerusalem's Temple Mount potentially the most volatile 35 acres on earth.

Two Talmudic schools located near the Western (Wailing) Wall are teaching nearly 200 students the elaborate details of Temple service. Other groups are researching the family lines of Jewish priests who alone may conduct sacrifices. In 1990 an organizing convention was held for those who believe themselves to be of priestly descent. Former Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren, who heads another Temple Mount organization, believes his research has fixed the location of the ancient Holy of Holies so that Jews can enter the Mount without sacrilege. He insists, "I cannot leave this world without assuring that Jews will once again pray on the Mount." -- Time, October 16, 1989, p. 64-65.

5. If we are to worship Him in the future, why not start in the present!


A. Reward 22:12-16

1. Jesus now speaks to John and to the Church at the end of all things planned for this planet, and it is a promise of His soon return and to give a reward to all those who have received Him as Lord.

a. This is not the reward of salvation, but the reward of service!

b. It is the reward of faithful service to our Lord during our lifetime.

2. The Bible teaches that there will be varying degrees of rewards to those who go to heaven, we need to know this now so our service can bring us rewards later.

ILLUS: Sigmund Freud's favorite story was about the sailor shipwrecked on one of the South Sea islands. He was seized by the natives, hoisted to their shoulders, carried to the village, and set on a rude throne. Little by little, he learned that it was their custom once each year to make some man a king, king for a year. He liked it until he began to wonder what happened to all the former kings. Soon he discovered that every year when his kingship was ended, the king was banished to an island, where he starved to death. The sailor did not like that, but he was smart and he was king, king for a year. So he put his carpenters to work making boats, his farmers to work transplanting fruit trees to the island, farmers growing crops, masons building houses. So when his kingship was over, he was banished, not to a barren island, but to an island of abundance.

It is a good parable of life: We're all kings here, kings for a little while, able to choose what we shall do with the stuff of life.

"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal" (Matt. 6:19-20). --James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988), p. 339.

3. We are not just living for the present, we are people of the future too!

4. Why miss out on an opportunity to lay up treasures in heaven?

B. Repentance 22:17

1. The Spirit and the bride have one voice here, in the closing verses of the Bible together they say to a fallen world: "COME!"

a. This is an invitation to those without hope to find Christ and join in on the blessed hope!

b. Even in the final verses of the Bible there is an appeal to the lost to find Christ before it is too late.

2. Our world does not want to face the fact that there are two future realities, and the choice we make now will count in eternity.

a. So many people today are willing to believe in heaven, but not hell!

b. There are two destinies for mankind, but really only one choice!

ILLUS: The March 1985 issue of Omni magazine reported a study by Dr. Maurice Rawlings, cardiologist and professor of medicine at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine in Chattanooga. He and his emergency room colleagues are constantly treating such cases. It is now standard that those who have near death experiences later speak of having experiences of light, lush green meadows, rows of smiling relatives and tremendous peace.

However, in his study, also reported in his book Beyond Death's Door, Dr. Rawlings obtained new information by interviewing patients immediately after resuscitation while they are still too shaken to deny where they have been. Nearly 50 percent of the group of 300 interviewed reported lakes of fire and brimstone, devil-like figures and other sights hailing from the darkness of hell.

He says they later change their story because most people are simply ashamed to admit they have been to hell; they won't even admit it to their families. Concludes Dr. Rawlings, "Just listening to these patients has changed my whole life. There's a life after death, and if I don't know where I'm going, it's not safe to die." --James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 151.

3. We know the Spirit of Christ is saying "COME", but is the bride too?

a. Are we offering the opportunity for salvation to the lost?

b. Are we inviting those destined for Hell a way to get to Heaven through Christ?

4. Whoever is thirsty, let them come and drink freely … this was the Spirit's and the bride's invitation.

5. The door of victory is just a prayer away, why not join the winning side?

CONCLUSION: God has opened a door that no man can shut, a door of victory! This victory can be ours now, but will also be ours in an even greater way in the future! When we live for Christ we live victoriously, even when the world throws its worst at us. The door of victory can be yours today and tomorrow - step right through it!