Text: Isaiah 6:1-4; Ezekiel 1; Revelation 4; II Cor. 12:1-10
Today there is an abundance of material on the market concerning near-death experiences and supposed visits to heaven. There are at least three occurrences in Scripture of people being raised from the dead- the widow’s son in I Kings 17:17-24; Eutychus in Acts 20:9-12; and Lazarus in John 11. Curiously in each of these events, Scripture records nothing about what the person saw or experienced while dead. No descriptions of light, no details about heaven, no conversation with angels, no sounds of suffering, etc… Scripture remains quiet in this area.
What we do find in Scripture is four men who God allowed to see visions of heaven. These are supernatural occurrences where, for the lack of a better description, God ‘pulls back the curtain and gives these men a momentary glimpse of a heavenly scene’.
There are four men in Scripture who saw these visions: Isaiah, Ezekiel, the apostle John, and Paul. This morning let’s briefly consider the words of each of these men and at the end we will draw some conclusions.
I. Isaiah’s Vision Is. 6:1-4
A. Isa 6:1 In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. 2 Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. 3 And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. 4 And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.
B. What did Isaiah see?
* First- the throne of God. The first thing he sees in the vision is Almighty God upon his throne. It’s not streets of gold, gates of heaven, or angels, the first thing is the throne of God.
* Describes the throne. He describes the throne as ‘high and lifted up’. The train or ‘hem’ of his robe filling the temple.
* The seraphim at the throne. Isaiah describes these angels and calls them ‘seraphim’. The Hebrew word meaning – burning (burning ones). He says they each had six wings, for the purpose of covering their fee, faces, and to fly.
* The worship around the throne. Isaiah also tells us the activity these angels are engaged in at the moment of his vision. They are worshiping at the throne, their words being – Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.
II. Ezekiel’s Vision Ez. 1:1-13; 26-28
A. Eze 1:26 And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it. 27 And I saw as the colour of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of his loins even upward, and from the appearance of his loins even downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about. 28 As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake.
B. What does Ezekiel see?
* Description of the cherub. (v.1-13)
* God on the throne. (v.26)
* Struggle to describe the glory of God. Like other writers Ezekiel struggles to describe his limited view of Almighty God, he says it was like the color of amber and uses the term ‘fire’.
III. John’s Vision Rev. 4:1-11
A. Re 4:1 ¶ After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter. 2 And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. 3 And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.
B. What does John see?
* First- the throne of God. (v.2) The first thing John sees is the throne of God.
* Struggles to describe God’s glory. (v.3) And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.
* 24 elders around the throne. (v.4) And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.
* 4 Cherubs around the throne. (v.6-8)
* Worship at the throne. (v.8-11)
IV. Paul’s Vision II Cor. 12:1-10
A. II Cor. 12:3 And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) 4 How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
B. What does Paul see?
Paul says the things he saw and heard were not lawful to be uttered. For whatever reason the Holy Spirit did not give him freedom to write down the experience.
- God does not utilize those raised from the dead to convey truth concerning heaven, in his Word. Lazarus was dead for several days, but his experiences are not given to us in the Bible. Instead, God utilizes the visions he gave to Isaiah, Ezekiel, John, and Paul to educate us concerning heaven. If God chose to do it this way in His Word, then we really have no reason to search for it another way in the present day. Books about visits to heaven may be intriguing but there is no reason for us to give a lot of thought to them.
- The dominating characteristic we see in each vision of heaven, is the sheer magnificence and glory at the throne of God. You can sense in the text the absolute struggle by the writers to try and describe what they saw. They first saw the throne of God. Much of what we see today in these books is so detached from Scripture because they give relatively little time to talking about the glory of God, and much time to talking about loved ones, conversations in heaven, gifts in heaven, etc… It should concern us when there is a supposed ‘account of heaven’ that is not wholly consumed with the absolute glory and wonder that is Almighty God!
- The Holy Spirit inspired authors could not find appropriate words to describe the absolute glory of God and the beauty of heaven, why would we think that a writer today would more accurately describe it. John and the others did their best to provide descriptions that were familiar to them, while being led directly by the Holy Spirit. There will never be any descriptions that are more true or more accurate.
- When the authors struggled to describe what they saw they focused on the big picture of worship going on around the throne of God. We should be very hesitant about heavenly descriptions that relegate worship to a small corner. Worship is the overwhelming, constant event occurring around the throne of God. From more than one group of beings, worship is virtually unceasing at the throne- the cherubs, the 24 elders, etc… A picture of heaven, void of worship, is not a picture of heaven.
The concept of heaven is talked about a lot today, encouraged by some and ridiculed by others. Scripture does not go into exhaustive detail telling us about heaven. With that said the need before us is not to trust near death experiences, but rather to rest in what God has already said. When we do that, then we can live like heaven is real.