Continuing his message series on the Book of Revelation, Pastor Greg Laurie of California's Harvest Fellowship Church explained in a sermon this week what heaven is like, answering common questions and breaking myths.
One day, we are going to be in heaven, but not everyone has that hope, Pastor Laurie said in his message entitled "What is Heaven Like," based on Revelation 4.
Christians have that hope, and "It's gonna be through death or through Rapture," Laurie said, adding, "I think the next event on the prophetic calendar is the Rapture of the Church, and following that would be the emergence of the anti-Christ, the rebuilding of the temple, the Great Tribulation and so on."
If we open the door of our life to Jesus on earth, one day He will open the door of heaven for us, the pastor said.
Laurie read Revelation 4:1-2, "After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, 'Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.' Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne."
Laurie explained that the Book of Revelation can be categorized into three parts: (1) the things you've seen, (2) the things which are, and (3) the things that will take place after these things. Or, the Lord's person, the Lord's people and the Lord's program.
Revelation 1 is about the glorified Christ, chapters 2 and 3 contain the Church history and chapters 4 and 5 talk about the Church taken up to heaven, he explained.
What exactly is the Rapture? "The Rapture of the Church is a future event in which Jesus Christ will descend from heaven to resurrect the bodies of departed believers and to transform and translate the bodies of living believers immediately into His glorious presence at a moment in time and then escort them to heaven to live with Him forever," Laurie said, quoting Mark Hitchcock.
The Bible mentions the Greek word "harpazo," which is popularly translated as "rapture" in English, several times, Laurie explained, giving examples of several characters in the Bible, who were "raptured." Even Jesus was "raptured," when He was taken away from the earth to heaven after His Resurrection, the pastor said.
When will Rapture take place? We can't have a date for the Rapture, Laurie clarified. "No one knows the day or the hour… Only God knows, and He will not reveal that to us. That's why we need to be constantly ready to meet Him."
The Rapture can happen anytime, the pastor stressed.
There will be bodily resurrection of those who have died in Christ, the pastor added. We have a prototype of the resurrection in Jesus' Resurrection, he explained.
The Rapture and the Second Coming are two separate events, Laurie said. In the Rapture, Jesus comes in the air in secret for His Church before Judgment, while in the Second Coming, He comes to the earth publicly with His Church and with Judgment.
Laurie then read Revelation 4:2-11, "Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads. And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: 'Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!' Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying: 'You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created.'"
"Heaven is a dwelling place of God," Laurie said, adding that the Bible talks about three heavens, as in 2 Corinthians 12, Paul talks about the third heaven.
The first heaven could be the sky, atmosphere, clouds, etc. The second heaven comprises the moon, the stars, the planets and the galaxies. But the third heaven is used to describe the very dwelling place of God.
While some believe that the third heaven could be beyond the galaxies, it could just be another dimension, Laurie said.
Now, what did John, who wrote the Book of Revelation, see in heaven?
One, he sees the Lord seated on His throne, the pastor said, referring to verse 2.
Two, he sees 24 elders, who could be the 12 Old Testament patriarchs and the 12 New Testament Apostles, Laurie said, adding though that we don't know for sure who they represent.
Three, John sees ominous storm warning. These are all symbols of judgment, Laurie said, referring to verse 5. So John sees a storm brewing on planet earth, which would bring about the Great Tribulation period, "but as believers, we are safe in God's arms in His presence."
Some people say when we are in heaven, we won't remember anything and we'll just worship God forever. But that's not true, Laurie told the congregation. In heaven, we can also be aware of injustices happening here on earth, he added. We will also have a sense of the passing of the time, he added. But we'll see things from the divine perspective.
Four, John also sees amazing angelic creatures, Laurie continued, referring to verse 8. They sing hymns to God forever, but these are angelic beings being described here, he pointed out.
So what will we do when we're in heaven?
Of course, we will be worshipping, Laurie said, referring to verse 10. One of the reasons for this is that we will know all things. Finally, our questions will be answered and pains will be gone, Laurie said.
But there will be more to do besides worshipping, he added. We will also be serving the Lord, the pastor said, referring to Revelation 22:3. "We will be productive in heaven," he said.
Many dreams that are unfulfilled on earth will be fulfilled in heaven, Laurie added. "God's gonna make it up to people."
We will be in a real body and in a real place, doing real things, Pastor Laurie underlined.
In the end of his message, Laurie repeated that the hope of heaven is for Christians only. But Christ's invitation for salvation is for all people, and anyone can become a Christian. Laurie then urged those interested in putting their faith in Jesus to pray to receive Him.