Pay attention now. I’m going to tell you up front what really needs to be heard today.
The door is open. The door remains open.
When John of Patmos looked through the door, what did he see? Well, God, of course. And despite seeing, he could not find words for what he saw. The best he could do was describe exotic items of our world—jasper, carnelian, emerald, crystal—and say they somehow look like God and what surrounds God in heaven.
John’s vision reminds me of Plato’s allegory of the cave, written 380 years before Christ. Plato compared unschooled people to people who have lived all their lives shackled in a cave, their backs to the opening, seeing nothing but shadows against the wall before them. The shadows would be their reality.
If one of these prisoners were to break his shackles and escape through the cave’s mouth, he would find reality incomprehensible. There would be no way initially to connect the movement of the beings and objects outside with the shadows that had seemed so real. And if the man were to go back to his shackled friends and try to explain, they would think him mad.
John of Patmos was like Plato’s escaped prisoner. Instead of a cave opening, he looked through the open door of heaven. And he found it very difficult to describe in words what he witnessed.
There are aspects of his vision that remain familiar, however, and we’re reminded we can get at least a glimpse through the open door. We have moments where we’re lifted just high enough to briefly peek over the threshold, particularly in worship and prayer.
In John’s view of heaven, God is the point of worship, as God should be here on earth. In heaven, beings both bizarre and familiar to us sing of God’s holiness and exist in a constant state of pure and perfect worship.
There also is evidence in John’s vision that our worship here lets us participate in worship there. As we read on into chapter 5, we see the prayers of the saints—those of us here on earth—used as incense, our smoky praises and petitions floating before God.
We also see Christ in the midst of this vision, described as the “Lion of Judah” but appearing as a slain lamb. He passed through the door and came our way to be with us and die for our sins, and then returned through it at the ascension, carrying our humanity with him. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, he has complete power over our fates and how history is to unfold.
Yes, the strangeness of the vision is surprising, but just as surprising is how we are connected to what goes on in heaven. That’s why it makes sense that we have those moments where we feel God’s presence in difficult-to-explain ways.
Whew—that’s a lot of ethereal thinking. But the point of this sermon series is to talk about what’s in it for us now, how we benefit from church involvement in an immediate, temporal way.
Well, a view of heaven changes everything, doesn’t it? At least for as long as we can remember the view, hold onto it, cherish it, and revisit it through worship and prayer.
A view of heaven should make everything look different. People who look lost suddenly have infinite potential. Situations that look hopeless are full of promise.
This shift in thinking happens because we see those people and situations against the backdrop of the open door. The light that shines through, twinkling as if it has passed through jasper and carnelian and crystal, makes us a people who live like we are infinitely hopeful.
God’s hope, embedded in your heart, will change for the better everything that shapes your life—your planning, your decisions big and small, your relationships. A view of heaven is a constant benefit of being in the body of Christ.