The Tiers of Heaven

The genealogies from Adam to Jesus as recorded in Matthew and Luke add up to 77. Assuming the creation took place in about 5000 BC, this would mean a generation in the Old Testament averaged out to about 65 years. (Overlooking the very long life spans from Adam to Noah. In the first epoch of history the first sons appear to have been born when the father was about 100 years old.) Using 65 years as the average length of a generation from Jesus until now, gives 108 generations total history of our race from Adam. During this time it is possible that the total number of persons born could have numbered 100 billion. (World Population)

Suppose 5% of the population in each generation have come to know God personally and so ended up in “heaven” (New Jerusalem). God has been available to us since the beginning. New Jerusalem could resemble an inverted pyramid having ~100 floors, one floor per generation. That is, the City evidently has tiers, one for each generation of the redeemed!

The total number of city residents (all believers) could be between five and fifty billion people. Population growth on earth down through history has been very steep, so the City might look like an inverted pyramid with Adam and family on the first floor at the bottom. We in the 21st Century seem to be living on the top floor, as it were. Of course history can not be not quantized into floors since the transition from one generation to the next has been seamless. No matter, Jesus is at the VERY top of the whole "pyramid." There is no hierarchy in New Jerusalem, in one sense, since our relationship with Jesus the Head of the Body is based on servant authority. And time in heaven will be multidimensional and have a new quality to it as well.

“But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:8-9)

Each generation has seen “reality” differently and no one but God sees the big picture. Nor can any one person in a given generation give us perfect continuity in connecting the past with the present. We are each connected to one or more earlier generations in some way and we know something about the culture and infrastructure that preceded us. In school we may have gained some idea of history. But we weren’t actually there at the Fall of Adam or witnesses at the fall of the Alamo. Furthermore, our whole learning experience has probably been mono-cultural, or very limited, even if we traveled a lot. During the whole time from Adam till now, each generation of believers has discovered Jesus under different circumstances. Even if we could time travel back to the Civil War, for instance, it would not be easy to find common ground there with soldiers and families and their cultural setting. The environment in which we live out our lives now is unique and different since the culture and mindsets back then were different. We can learn from the past hopefully, but we can't imitate it.

Younger people today can scarcely imagine covered wagon days in the American Wild West 150 years ago. What is it like to starve to death or to freeze to death in a blizzard? Yet, “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) Jesus alone has all the facts! Thank God, Jesus is running the whole show.

Psalm 110

A Psalm of David.

The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at My right hand,
Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”
The Lord shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion.

Your people shall be volunteers
In the day of Your power;
In the beauties of holiness, from the womb of the morning,
You have the dew of Your youth.
The Lord has sworn
And will not relent,
“You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek.”

The Lord is at Your right hand;
He shall execute kings in the day of His wrath.
He shall judge among the nations,
He shall fill the places with dead bodies,
He shall execute the heads of many countries.
He shall drink of the brook by the wayside;
Therefore He shall lift up the head.

“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine long-suffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. There is also an anti-type which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him.” (1 Peter 3:18-22)

If I could be a time-traveling evangelist visiting other periods of history than my own, my core announcement of the gospel might be the same in every generation where I was privileged to preach. But knowing and identifying the mindset of my audience back then would be quite another matter. To start with, I might not know their language or their popular colloquial expressions! The communication gap could scarcely be closed by a good translator. My audience would probably see me as a side-show freak or man from Mars. My cultural disconnect would probably be orders of magnitude greater than that of Rip Van Winkle.

Consider now the state of affairs in New Jerusalem after the Rapture. The total population in heaven’s tiers is very great, say 1-10 billion people. That alone will require getting used to. It will be Body Life on a grand scale! During the Tribulation period for seven years, I believe God will now use us to communicate the universal, timeless message of Jesus into the fallen world. We may even be advisors to the 144,000 evangelists who are called at that time to announce the soon return of Jesus as King. Those most knowledgeable about the world today are people who have “been there, done that.” If Jesus has a staff meeting working with Him and the 144,000 during the Tribulation period, His swat team may well be small with the rest of us “watching from the Mezzanine.” (Bert Hartmann my friend and I discussed these possibilities recently in reconsidering Psalm 45).

Jesus gave His disciples “in service training” by sending them out alone to villages and towns in Israel. After the Twelve had gained experience He recruited a team of seventy. (Matthew 10, Luke 10). Matthew 10:23 has a cryptic phrase, “For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”

Ray Stedman describes the great campaign of Jesus and His 144,000 end-of-the-age evangelists:

There is a statement of Jesus in the 24th chapter of Matthew, which relates to these 144,000 Jews, and is often misunderstood and misapplied, in my judgment. In unfolding the events of the future, Jesus had said, "This gospel of the kingdom will be preached to the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come," (Matthew 24:14 NIV). The gospel is always the same in every age. It is the story of God sending a Savior to die for the sins of men. Whether it is told by means of symbol, such as the sacrifice of animals, or by the ritual of the tabernacle, or whether it is the historic announcement of the Lord himself and the disciples in the early days of the church, the gospel is always the same. It is the death of a Savior on behalf of sinners. That is the good news. There is no other.

But when one adds the phrase "of the kingdom," then it is a reference to that gospel applied in a specific relationship. John the Baptist and Jesus both preached "the gospel of the kingdom" to Israel. They announced that the messianic kingdom, long predicted by the prophets, was at hand because the King was in their midst. Jesus announces that he is a King, not the kind the Jews expected -- a conqueror who would deliver them from the Romans -- but that his kingdom would deal with sin and the terrible evil of man. It must begin on that note. But he was their long-expected King. He deliberately fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah, "Behold, your king comes unto you, meek and lowly and riding upon an ass and upon a colt, the foal of an ass," (Zechariah 9:9 KJV). That was fulfilled on the day we call "the triumphal entry," when Jesus rode a donkey down the side of the Mount of Olives and was greeted by the people as the promised King of the Jews.

This group of 144,000 select men from Israel, will fulfill the word of Jesus that this "gospel of the kingdom" will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the final judgments of God will come. This group proclaims the gospel during that seven-year period that we call "the last days" of this age. It is a band of Spirit-filled Jews, converted after the church has been taken out of the world. Like 144,000 Apostle Pauls, they preach the gospel throughout the earth during the judgments of the end times. There is a most extraordinary passage in the 10th chapter of Matthew which confirms this concept. It describes the Lord sending out his disciples to preach the gospel to Israel in the days of his flesh.

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions, "Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.' Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give." (Matthew 10:5-8 NIV)

Then Jesus goes on to give further instructions in that ministry of the twelve, and warns them that they will not be welcome in every place. But when we come to Verse 21 he apparently skips over the centuries to these last days when the gospel will be preached to Israel again:

"Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes." (Matthew 10:21-23 NIV)

There is no record of Jesus coming to the twelve when he sent them out to minister to Israel. Rather they came back to him and reported on what they had been doing. Our Lord seems to leap over the whole of the present age to the day when a group of Jews (not twelve but twelve squared, times the cube of ten -- 144,000), will be sent out into all the world. He says to them, "You will not even have finished preaching through all of Israel until the Son of Man comes." It seems to be clearly his prediction of this ministry of the 144,000. We will meet them again in Revelation 14, ministering under the direction of the Lamb himself, but on earth, and beginning with Israel. What is the result of their preaching? We are told in Revelation 7:9-14:

After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:

"Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb."

All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying:

Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honor
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.

Then one of the elders asked me, "These in white robes -- who are they, and where did they come from?"

I answered, "Sir, you know," [By now John has learned that these elders are party to the mind of God; they know what God is planning.] And he said, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." (Revelation 7:9-14 NIV)

Because John is in heaven he sees these things from an eternal point of view, and, as we have seen before, there is no sequence or time limitations, no past or future in heaven. From our standpoint of time, John sees things that are happening at the close of the seven-year week. He sees ahead, as it were, to the end of the seven years, and sees this great multitude that have come out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, and they have palm branches in their hands.

When did we last find a crowd of people with palm branches in their hands, welcoming Jesus as a King? It was, of course, when he rode down the mountainside into Jerusalem. The prophet is linking that event with this. Then, Israel had the opportunity to receive their King, but the leaders of the nation rejected him. At this event, in the end times, they are welcoming and worshiping their King, still with palm branches in their hands. So this great multitude of Jews and Gentiles is particularly associated with the restoration of Israel. These are all martyrs. They have died for the sake of Christ during the tribulation, and they now appear before the throne of God as victors over death and hell, and join the worship of angels around the throne. Is it not wonderful to think that, in earth's darkest hour, yet to come, the greatest harvest the world has ever seen will take place? Millions of those who have never heard the gospel today will be saved. I do not think there is any possibility that those today who hear and reject the gospel will be any part of this number. It is a harvest of those who have never heard.

During these terrible days of judgment, when the witches of war ride their nuclear brooms across the darkening skies of the world's last night, thousands who have never heard before will hear the gospel of the coming kingdom of God announced, and will turn to Christ. It will cost them their lives. As we read on in Revelation we will see that the anti-Christian powers of that day, powerful and tyrannical, will massacre anyone who does not bear "the mark of the beast." These believers must give up their lives because of their testimony for God. We will meet them again when we come to Chapter 20. There we are told that those "who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God" (Revelation 20:1 NIV) will be raised from the dead to serve the Lord throughout the thousand-year reign of Christ. It is the same multitude as here. John sees them in heaven at this point, but they are given a spiritual ministry on earth during the thousand-year reign of Christ. That is suggested in the closing description of their ministry, beginning with Verse 15:

"they are before the throne of God
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them.
Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat upon them,
nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd;
he will lead them to springs of living water.
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." (Revelation 7:15-17 NIV)

Notice the throne and the temple. In fact, there are two thrones in this passage. There is, first, the "throne of God," which is the throne of the Father, reigning over all the universe, as we have seen throughout this book thus far. But the second mention of the throne, "He who sits on the throne," is a reference to the throne of Jesus on earth. Remember that in 3:21, in the letter to the Laodicean church, Jesus said, "He who overcomes I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne." This is "the throne of his father, David," which was promised in the annunciation to Mary, recorded in Luke 1:32.

The fact that a temple is mentioned here, is, I believe, a reference to the millennial temple which is yet to be built in Jerusalem; the one which Ezekiel describes in the closing chapters of his great prophecy. It will be the place where the nations come to worship in the days when Christ rules over the earth. There is a beautiful description of it in the prophecy of Micah 4:1-6: There the prophet describes the government of God as centered in Jerusalem; justice will flow out from there to all the earth; the nations will bring their tribute; and men shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks and will make war no more. Peace will come at last over all the earth.

Here we are told that "they serve the Lord day and night." There is no day or night in heaven. This is clearly an earthly scene. He who sits on the throne (the throne of David), will spread his "tabernacle" (literally), over them and never again will they hunger or thirst, etc. It is a beautiful description of the blessings of that millennial day. Many other passages in the prophets also describe it.

This is the fulfillment of the dream of the prophets of the past. Israel shall blossom as the rose and shall fill the earth with blessing. The nation will be like a beautiful, fruitful, vine that runs its branches throughout the earth and blesses the nations, just as Abraham had been promised, "All nations shall be blessed because of you," (Genesis 22:18). Associated with them will be thousands of Gentiles who likewise serve the Lord day and night in relationship to the temple, ministering throughout the whole earth. You can read of that in the prophecy of Isaiah, Chapter 66, Verses 20-21.

All alike, Jews and Gentiles, are under the care of the Great Shepherd of the sheep. Christians are grateful for the shepherd care of Jesus to us now. He is the Great Shepherd of the sheep, but he has more than one flock. On one occasion he said to his disciples, "Other sheep have I that are not of this fold. Them also must I bring that there will be one flock and one Shepherd," (John 10:16 KJV). That is what we see here. He is bringing another group, saved by his blood -- "they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" -- but with an earthly ministry, yet he leads them also to refreshment and blessing, with every tear of sorrow wiped away. (To Jew and Gentile)

The interaction of Jesus together with His Bride (us) empowered by the Holy Spirit with earth’s billions of people in the final generation will surely draw many millions on earth to come to Jesus and be saved. The wife of the Lamb will be made up of the sum total of all saints till now. She will be extraordinarily multi-cultural and multi-ethnic.

“After these things I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, ‘Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God... Praise our God, all you His servants and those who fear Him, both small and great!’ And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, ‘Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.’ And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.” Then he said to me, “Write: Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’ ” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.” (Revelation 19:1-9)

Followers of Jesus who have obeyed Him day by day for their whole lives as believers will probably find themselves transitioning smoothly into communal living in New Jerusalem with Jesus very much among us. Will there be schools in the City for those who need to catch up? God knows. In the very presence of Jesus living in New Jerusalem no one will be lacking in fulfillment.

Psalms 45

The Glories of the Messiah and His Bride
To the Chief Musician. Set to “The Lilies.”
A Contemplation of the sons of Korah. A Song of Love.

My heart is overflowing with a good theme;
I recite my composition concerning the King;
My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.
You are fairer than the sons of men;
Grace is poured upon Your lips;
Therefore God has blessed You forever.
Gird Your sword upon Your thigh, O Mighty One,
With Your glory and Your majesty.
And in Your majesty ride prosperously because of truth, humility, and righteousness;
And Your right hand shall teach You awesome things.
Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the King’s enemies;
The peoples fall under You.
Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;
A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.
You love righteousness and hate wickedness;
Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You
With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.
All Your garments are scented with myrrh and aloes and cassia,
Out of the ivory palaces, by which they have made You glad.
Kings’ daughters are among Your honorable women;
At Your right hand stands the queen in gold from Ophir.
Listen, O daughter,
Consider and incline your ear;
Forget your own people also, and your father’s house;
So the King will greatly desire your beauty;
Because He is your Lord, worship Him.
And the daughter of Tyre will come with a gift;
The rich among the people will seek your favor.
The royal daughter is all glorious within the palace;
Her clothing is woven with gold.
She shall be brought to the King in robes of many colors;
The virgins, her companions who follow her, shall be brought to You.
With gladness and rejoicing they shall be brought;
They shall enter the King’s palace.
Instead of Your fathers shall be Your sons,
Whom You shall make princes in all the earth.
I will make Your name to be remembered in all generations;
Therefore the people shall praise You forever and ever.”

Recommended: Who's Minding the Store by Ray Stedman.

Lambert Dolphin

December 27, 2018