Today, my message is entitled “Diversity in Heaven.” Let’s begin by talking about heaven. Heaven is the spiritual dimension where God dwells, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Heaven is the place where believers go when they die. Jesus said to the dying thief on the cross who had stated his belief in Jesus …
Luke 23:43 (ESV) And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Paradise is simply another name for heaven. Notice that Jesus said that the thief would be with Him in paradise today. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord in heaven for every believer. However, heaven is not just about the future. Heaven should impact our lives and priorities today. Jesus taught His disciples, including you and me to pray …
Matthew 6:10 (ESV) Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
So, we must first understand how God’s will is being done in heaven and then pray and work to see that same will being done on earth where we now live. The will of God being done on earth as it is in heaven when only be complete when Jesus returns to this earth. When He returns, heaven will come down and merge with the earth in a new heavens and new earth. Jesus’ prayer will then be completely answered and we will have heaven on earth.
So today, we’re going to look at diversity in heaven as a model and example for the church on earth. The current dictionary definition of diversity is “the inclusion of individuals representing more than one national origin, color, religion, socioeconomic stratum, sexual orientation, etc.” There is an issue with that definition I’ll address in a moment. The Bible speaks of diversity in the church in
Galatians 3:28 (ESV) There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
So in the church, there are people of different national origins or colors, people of different socioeconomic levels and people of both genders, either male or female. Obviously, there are not people of different religions in the church, for everyone in the true church is a believer in Jesus Christ.
I’ll briefly comment on the issue of sexual orientation. Any sexual orientation other than heterosexual male or female is abnormal and when acted upon is sin. Heterosexual relationships are also sin outside of the covenant bond of marriage. The church is a place of healing for all kinds of sins, including sexual sins. So, today, we’re going to look at diversity in heaven as a model and example for the church here on earth.
Revelation 7:9 (ESV) After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,
In Revelation, God shows the apostle John, a vision of heaven. This is what heaven looks like right now and what it will look like forever. The people in heaven are described as a crowd so big that no one could count. And the people are people from every nation, all tribes and peoples and languages. That particular phrase “every nation, tribe, people and language” is used 7 times in Revelation. In other words, every people group will be represented in heaven and John could see all the different nationalities unified together. They were all standing together before the throne of God the Father and Jesus the Lamb. Each believer was dressed in white robes and held palm branches, symbolic of victory in their hands.
Revelation 7:10 (ESV) and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
Even though this vast multitude had spoken many languages on earth, in heaven, John heard them worshipping together with a single loud voice. Maybe in heaven we can all understand every language or maybe everyone will speak the language of heaven. God has it all figured out. This vast crowd was worshipping God together in a loud voice and no one was getting hoarse. As you read through Revelation, you will see that heaven is a very loud place. But the point is that every nationality was not worshipping in their own separate group. Every type of believer that had ever lived was worshipping God together with one voice. Even …
Revelation 7:11-12 (ESV) And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
Besides believers, there are other spiritual beings in heaven: the angels, the elders and the four living creatures. The four living creatures represent created animal life on earth and the 24 elders are an exalted angelic order representing both Old and New Testament believers. They joined in with the believers and worshipped God with them and everyone could understand what everyone else was saying. Their worship indicated that worship in heaven will go on forever and ever. Even now, the angels in heaven are worshipping God and rejoicing at every new believer that is saved. Our worship here on earth is meant to join with the angelic worship in heaven, every Sunday. If worship in heaven is loud and everyone is crying out with all that they have, that’s what our worship should be like on earth. But that’s a topic for another message.
The point of these verses is that every people group will be worshipping God in heaven. That is a model and example for churches here on this earth. Every God-honoring church should reflect the biblical diversity of the area in which they are located. The tendency of churches to consist of non-diverse congregations in a diverse area does not reflect this vision of heaven.
St. Louis is a very diverse area, as are most larger cities. That’s why our vision at Life Church is to reach out to people of different national origins, different colors, ages and socioeconomic statuses. Not only is biblical diversity following the model of heaven, biblical diversity shows the unity of the kingdom is not of people having a common background. Unity in the church is solely a result of having a common faith.
Revelation 7:13 (ESV) Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?”
The white robes represent the righteousness of the believers in heaven. The robes are a spotless brilliant white representing sinless perfection. The Bible is clear that there is absolutely no sin in heaven. Heaven is a perfect place. So, since every human being has sinned, how can anyone go to heaven? Entrance to heaven is not graded on a curve as many assume. It is pass/fail. Any sin and you fail. No sin, perfectly righteous and you can enter. We’ll answer the question of how anyone can go to heaven in a minute.
Revelation 7:14a (ESV) I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation.
Revelation is a complex book, dealing heavily with Old Testament prophecy and symbolism. In this message, I am giving my interpretation, after praying studying the best commentaries on the topic. As the great crowd we are describing represents believers of all times, every believer goes through tribulation or persecution in life. Towards the end of time before Jesus returns, the Bible gives indications that the tribulation of believers will intensify into the great tribulation. Not only will all believers face tribulation in life …
Revelation 7:14b (ESV) They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
So, here is the answer to the question of how sinful people, with robes stained with sin, can to heaven, a perfect place for sinless people. The blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ, can take sinful people and forgive them. The blood of the lamb can replace the soiled garments of our imperfect lives and make them white as snow. That does not happen automatically. Despite the vast multitude of believers in heaven, there will be many more unbelievers in hell without white robes. You receive a white robe of righteousness by repenting of your sin, asking Jesus to forgive you and submitting your life to Jesus as your Lord.
Therefore, unity in a church does not come from having the same external characteristics. Unity comes from having a common faith and experience with the Holy Spirit. Unity comes as a church family is united in being a witness to a lost world. Unity comes as a church family embraces biblical diversity, rather than looking to find a church where everyone is exactly like them. Unity comes as a church family experiences persecution together. Unity comes as we follow the example of diverse worship in heaven where …
Revelation 7:15 (ESV) “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
As there appears to be no need to sleep in heaven, believers will serve God continually, day and night. For those who think heaven will be boring, let me remind you that Revelation is just a quick peek into heaven. The same infinite God who created the amazing diversity of people, animals, plants, stars, planets and galaxies is the God who created heaven. There will be an infinite diversity of experiences, spiritual beings and people in heaven that will occupy to us forever. In fact, as I mentioned before, heaven will merge with earth, the spiritual with the physical, opening up infinite vistas we can not even imagine. In heaven …
Revelation 7:16 (ESV) They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat.
All the things that cause pain, discomfort, anxiety and grief will be removed in heaven. Heaven will be paradise restored, with the curse of sin completely removed. And best of all …
Revelation 7:17 (ESV) For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
The best thing about heaven is that Jesus will be there. He will be there as our shepherd, leading and guiding us to the springs of living water, eternal life. The tears of this life will be wiped away, the pains, the sorrows, the regrets will all be removed by the healing touch of our shepherd Jesus. The new heavens and the new earth will be the home that God created us for, forever. Whenever you get weary of life on this earth, lift up your gaze and think about heaven. Don’t just think about heaven, live in the light of heaven and it will make your life on this earth much better.
God wants His churches in this time to be representative of heaven. God wants Life Church to be representative of the diversity of people here in the St Louis area. Yes, that takes some patience, getting to know and love people from different countries, cultures or backgrounds. But the end result is a picture of heaven. Everyone, believer or unbeliever alike, knows in their heart of hearts, that love comes from God. As we demonstrate that love in our church family and to those we reaching out to, God will cause our church family to grow to be everything He desires.