1 Samuel 11 "The Portrait Hall": The Prophet with the Caution Sign

God never designed His followers to feel fulfilled while allowing them to be mediocre about following Him. Yet, it seems a constant temptation of followers of God to commit only part of their lives to Him. It is easier to take our delight in the works of God than from God Himself, but it is not His design. The ancient warning sign is still very important to heed! You may be excited and hopeful with change, but it won’t work unless it is the RIGHT CHANGE!

Key Principle: Joy comes from following Him, not chasing after the trail of His benefits.

Cautions: Our text offers three cautions we must face in trying to solve our problems:

Caution #1) We jump too quickly! (12:1-2). Now you have what you want, but it comes with some issues (12:1). The new time has come, and my time as your leader has passed (12:2). Satisfaction Principle: Getting what you want brings a temporary satisfaction. It only lasts if it truly addresses the need.

Caution #2) We listen to the wrong voices! (12:3-5). I want you to publicly affirm that I have rules honestly in front of the new ruler (12:3). “You have dealt uprightly!” they affirmed (12:4). “Confirm aloud again, you have no cause against me before God!” Samuel cried out. “We have no cause!” the people confirmed. (12:5). Trust Principle: We should listen to those who know God and have consistently demonstrated obedience to His Word without self-interest motives.

Caution #3) We draw the wrong conclusions! (12:6-13). God redeemed you (not simply Moses and Aaron), and you are His! (12:6). Because of God’s redemption, remember what God has done for you. (12:7).

Look at the pattern: When you were lost in captivity and unable to escape, God sent leaders to pull you out of trouble (12:8). When they forsook God after their redemption, God brought pain and affliction (12:9). Through their pain they saw their sin and cried out in repentance, asking for deliverance anew (12:10). God’s response was to again send leaders to pull you out of the troubles (12:11). When the most recent troubles came, you expressed a need for a human ruler, though God was still at work before you (12:12). Here is the ruler God sent you (12:13). Misplaced Affection Principle: Real solutions are found in what God does, not simply the agents of His work.

Observe: The Word offers two principles concerning real choices

Principle #1) We are not victims in this world! (12:14-15). If you follow the Lord obediently and serve God, then you AND your king will walk obediently before God! (12:14). If you rebel against God’s Word, God will turn away from you as He did to those before you (12:15). Control Principle: When God’s people walk in profound obedience to Him, they take control of their history!

Principle #2) We must see the truth behind the obvious! (12:16-18). Step up and see what God has promised (12:16). Today is the harvest day. I will show you by calling for God to send a storm how powerful He is and how helpless you are. Do you truly think a king will solve a spiritual problem! (12:17). Samuel called on the Lord and the storms came heavily. The people feared Samuel (12:18). Misplaced Answer Principle: When we trust a physical solution to a spiritual problem, we deny the truth that God waits for us to acknowledge.

We must change –  not to earn His favor – but because of His love!

  • We must agree with the diagnosis of what is truly wrong! The people cried to Samuel, “Ask God to preserve us, we have sinned by looking for another answer to our spiritual condition!” (12:19). Repentance Principle: We don’t begin to solve a problem until we admit that we have one, and agree with God about what it is!
  • Repentance is a new beginning! Samuel called, “Stop being afraid! Yes, you are guilty. Yet, you can turn now to God and follow Him wholly!” (12:20). You must not chase after other solutions to your spiritual need, it won’t work! (12:21). Opportunity Principle: When we face the truth of our sin, we have an opportunity to begin a new and hopeful path!
  • God takes the first step! Remember, God will not abandon you because of His promise (12:22). Relationship Principle: God doesn’t expect you to do right to find Him; He finds you and calls you to do right!
  • God offers help! Beside, I will keep praying for you and keep instructing you in God’s ways (12:23). Remembrance Principle: God keeps His Word in front of His people when they really seek Him!

Face the warnings! Revere God, give Him your heart and hands, and recall what God has done for you (12:24). If you walk away in disobedience, you and all your solutions will be swept away (12:25). Warning Principle: God offers us opportunity to choose based on both warnings and experience.

Joy comes from following Him, not just chasing after the trail of His benefits!

1 Samuel 11 "The Portrait Hall": The Rejoicing King

We all want victory in our lives. We want rejoicing and happiness. We want unity and powerful impact on our world. We don’t want to be a relic, but rather one that is used of God. Saul had his moments of victory and they will become our model this morning. How is victory achieved in our lives? How do we see the victory over the adversaries that haunt us? If we CAN win, how DO we win?

Key Principle: If we seek to lead, we must grow to be what God desires.

Four Observations about the Times: (11:1-4)

  1. It was set in a time of compromise by some of God’s people to God’s principles (11:1).
  1. It was a time the people learned of the ruthlessness of their enemy (11:2).
  1. It was a time of uncertainty and leadership instability (11:3).
  1. It was a time of prayer-less focus on human limitations (11:4).

Seven Characteristics of the leader with God’s Heart: (11:5-15). What does the leader look like?

  1. Big Ears: The leader was sensitive to the cry of the people (11:5).
  1. Big Muscles: The leader was empowered to reflect God’s heart for unity and commitment (11:6-7).
  1. Focused Eyes: The leader organized the answer to the problem (11:8-9,11).
  1. A Warm Smile: The leader inspired confidence and trust (11:10).
  1. A Small Head: The leader accepted that victory belonged to the Lord, and took no credit for it (11:12-13).
  1. A Sharp Salute: The leader followed the direction of God’s Word (11:14).
  1. A Hearty Laugh: The leader joined in the rejoicing with the others, and celebrated God’s victory! (11:15)

Key Principle: If we seek to lead, we must grow to be what God desires.

1 Samuel 9:25-10:27 "The Portrait Hall": The Bell Boy with a Crown

Hiding from the public in a pile of luggage was the first king of Israel. Already chosen and anointed, coronation day highlighted a critical flaw in his life, poor self confidence. Yet even in this story, God highlights how His Divine call works in an ordinary life. What does God want from me, and how will I know when He tells me? What does the call look like? Are there key marks we should see in the story that are consistent methods of God in our lives?

Key Principle: God’s call is the most important experience of our Christian life. We must be able to recognize that call and know when and how to follow Him in that call.

God has a reason for YOU on this planet. He has something he wants YOU to do. Here are ten steps to find out what it is:

1. Listen to God’s voice! The call comes through the voice of those that know God and His Word (9:25-26).

2. Understand it is a personal call! The call is personal, and must connect with YOU before anyone around you (9:27).

3. Be patient! The call is not instantaneous; it will require a process to fulfill. When we hear His call, we must act on it by obeying a step by step process. Let’s look at the steps of this process as revealed in our text (10:1-8):

  • Clarity: The process begins when God makes it clear to us. Often it is found in a role we play, a job we have or a vision we must accomplish (10:1).
  • Confirmation: God confirms the call through a series of teaching situations. Our text offers five things we must learn to do:
  1. Integration: We will reconnect the vision to the place and roles that God has us in already (10:2).
  2. Provision: We learn about God’s ability to provide for us as we follow Him (10:3-4).
  3. Empowering: We must learn how to be empowered by God and His Spirit to do the work He assigns us (10:5-6).
  4. Application: We must use the wisdom and perspective God has given us to move us along in the vision (10:7).
  5. Timing: We must learn to wait on God’s timing to accomplish things. Faster is not better. Timing each move in accordance with God’s desires is a learned character trait! (10:8).

4. Be convinced inside! God confirms His call inside us if we are open to hearing Him (10:9).

5. Stand Out! When the call is engaged, people around us will see a change in us. We will be engaging God in a new way, and they will notice! (10:10-13).

6. Don’t shrink back! When we focus on our own ability to do well what God has called us to do, we miss the way God works. We become self-conscious and miss opportunities:

  • We are often reluctant to share the call with those closest to us, but this is a mistake! (10:14-16).
  • Because we grow increasingly unsure of our call, we hide from stepping out to do what God has told us we should do and have to be pushed to obedience (10:17-23).
  • When we are thrust into the light of completion of the call, we will often find people affirming (10:24).

 7. Learn limitations! We must learn the boundaries of our call, and how to govern what God told us to do. We will find that Godly people who went before us are very helpful with that! (10:25).

8. Find a team! We need a team of people to accomplish what God wants us to do. He will place them at our shoulders, as we should thank God for them! (10:26).

 9. Expect skeptics! Some people to see YOU and not believe that God can do what He chooses through you. Their problem is they see you, but not what God chooses to do within you! (10:27a).

 10. Be quiet! Don’t react to those who don’t see what God is doing in you! (10:27b).

God’s call is the most important experience of our Christian life. We must be able to recognize that call and know when and how to follow Him in that call!

1 Samuel 9 "The Portrait Hall": Portrait of the Wandering Cowboy

The story of the beginnings of the first King of Israel should be thrilling, as God brought Israel what they were asking for. Yet, the tale is one of a wandering man searching for his father’s donkeys. How prophetic! Saul was about to embark on a career with a people that would be as stubborn and wayward as the donkeys he set out to see. How did God launch Saul’s career as king? What does the story tell us about the way God brings together people and resources to make a vision become reality?

Key Principle: God knows how to draw us in and change us, even when we don’t know He is at work. He uses an array of tools!

Five Ways God Draws us into Change:

1. God works preparations for needs before those who will be used to care for the need are even aware of the need (9:1-3). Note three ways God was preparing the scene:

  • Generations of preparation: God may have you here for your great grandchild’s contribution to the Kingdom. Faithful transmission of the Word may be your greatest legacy! (9:1a).
  • Pedigree of training: His dad was a “Mighty man of valor” (ish gibbor / chayil: from a dance term to twist; i.e. adept at making adjustment – 9:1b).
  • Physical characteristics helpful to task: (“choice” man is “bawchur” – an outstandingly vigorous youth).

2. God orchestrates problems to bring people to the right place and time to meet His purposes (9:3).

 3. God uses a process that may well be a test to our character. The tests help us build stamina for the drudgery assignments of our coming position! (9:4-5)

 4. God plants people in our path to direct us to His Him when we are ready to fail (9:6-10). Note how this worked. People offered:

  • Encouragement: When Saul was ready to give up on the task that would lead him to his appointment with God’s purposes, the servant called him to seek God’s message (9:6).
  • Resources: God places us in a place of need to depend on others, and not our own abilities. (9:7-8).
  • Opportunities to stretch: Asking directions has never been a male strength, but God gives us opportunities to move beyond ego. (9:9-14)

 5. God give prophetic truth to light the path of our lives. We don’t have to know how everything is going to work out. We need to know how to hear God’s Word and obey it (9:15-24). Note how God prepared the scene by His Word. The Word:

  • Offered Forecasting: God gives us pictures of what will happen before it happens (9:15).
  • Required Participation: God allows us to participate in the deliverance of people if we obey His commands and share what He has told us to! (9:16-17).
  • Demonstrated Initiation: God doesn’t wait until the “lost one” sees what godliness looks like, but moves in while they are not aware of His love and promise for them (9:18-22).
  • Exposed Revelation: God reveals how prepared He is for each of us, as we follow Him (9:23-24).

1 Samuel 8 "The Portrait Hall": Portrait of a Weeping Prophet

We are a heartbeat away from making a terrible mistake. It will not come in a dramatic way – it will come by default. Slowly we will replace the steady and zealous pursuit of God with the quicker fixes offered by the world. We will cool in our relationship and slip away from the Word. If that happens, those who come behind us will slip into a pattern of defection from relationship.

Key Principle: God wants our relationship with Him through His Word to alter all our priorities, and set the pattern for our desires.

How Defection Happens among God’s People (8:1-5)

  1. The example of dynamic relationship fades in their midst (8:1).
  1. The next generation picks up FORM and TRADITION without real walk with God (8:2-3a).
  1. Without the relationship, they find it easy to turn from religious form to hypocrisy and sin (8:3b).
  1. Sensing a crisis of reality – people seek a solution. Their reaction is predictable because of their pattern – not seeking God, but finding a solution in the world’s pattern (8:4-5). That is the definition of defection: Answering our needs with solutions that God didn’t offer, following priorities that didn’t issue from our relationship with Him!

What the faithful do in the midst of defection (8:6-18)

  1. Watch them make the choice. People with a dynamic relationship with God will immediately see the problem with a solution from the world’s pattern – but they will watch unable to exert control (8:6).
  1. Rightly diagnose the problem. Be careful, they may sense that it is a PERSONAL rejection of the way it had been done before. In fact, the real problem is the departure from a walk with God as the solution (8:7).
  1. Remember their world. People with a walk with God often forget what it is like to walk without one and misunderstand the worldly solutions that are suggested (8:8).
  1. Check God’s Word for His answer, and recognize the problems He discloses for those who refuse His way. Warnings are given for a reason! (8:9-10).
  1. When given the opportunity, share graciously God’s warnings for defection. Tell them that following the world’s pattern will:
  1. Create ungodly division, the important from the lowly (8:11).
  2. Create a new set of priorities – serving ends God is not honored by (8:12).
  3. Disrupt your families to offer service to these other objectives (8:13).
  4. Redirect God’s property to other “important” functions (8:14-17).
  5. Create short term gain and long term regret (8:18).
  6. Distance us from God so that He withdraws His blessings (8:18b).

Two Outcomes of Defection (8:19-22)

  1. Blending with the World: In spite of warning signs, short term gains were of greater importance. The hunger to be what the world was overpowered God’s command that they be a distinct people (8:19-20).
  1. Prayerful bracing for impact: The godly will bow their head, slump their shoulders and watch them begin a walk on the wrong road! God will give them their desires, with all the fruits of them as well (8:21-22).

It doesn’t have to happen this way, but it so often does. One generation sees a move of God, but the next one sees only the form of their response. They look to add the self affirming elements of their “tradition” to a more wholistic view of their otherwise pagan philosophy, and keep God in a locked place on the schedule of their life. Without God’s answers, they seek other answers. The end is heartbreak! Is a vital and real relationship with God at the center of your life? Your schedule? Your decision making process?

God wants our relationship with Him through His Word to alter all our priorities, and set the pattern for our desires.

1 Samuel 7 "The Portrait Hall": Own a Piece of the Rock

The Prudential commercial holds a dim candle to the rock of Ebenezer, where God showed up and defeated an enemy. How does a believer stand when the walls around him or her crumble and fall? What does it take to stand in victory?

Key Principle: God’s people are strongest when they tremble before God’s throne, and not when they operate in self confident capability.

Is there a Biblical model for Setting Up for Victory? Our text offers us a ten step process that offers encouragement and hope for the defeated:

Remember, the children of Israel were defeated, demoralized and ashamed. The funny thing is they were perfectly ready for God to work among them!

  1. The Return of the Ark (7:1). The beginning of the return is the recognition of the value of that which was lost by those who lost it! When the people of God got back the memory box of a former time of God’s glory evident among them, they began to take seriously a relationship with God.
  1. The Cry (nawhaw: wail) of the Broken (7:2). After recognition, there was a sense of loss that gave rise to a hunger for God. Without hunger people do not miss what they had before.
  1. The Works of Repentance (7:3-4). It is not enough to cry about the past bitterly. There is a need to take the steps that show the real desire to change. In the model, there were three specific steps of work worthy of a truly repentant heart:

a) Return (shoob) to the Lord: Not the box, not the rewards, not the traditions – to the PERSON of the Lord.

b) Put away (soor: permanently abolish) idols: We can’t add God like an ingredient to our busy lives, we must reorder our priorities and realign our lives to allow God to revolutionize our whole way of thinking and living.

c) Direct (koon: build firm foundation) hearts to the Lord: Repentance begins a process of affirmatively building something solid to live on.

  1. Obedience to Godly leaders (7:5). One of the ways we show that we are the people of God is to develop respect for the Word and People of God that have gone before us!
  1. The Confession of God’s people (7:6). Recognizing what led to our defeat, and the hard heartedness of our self confident way is essential to being softened into a victory stance!
  1. Dependence on God’s preservation (7:7-8). Personal defeat that leads to softness toward God and a total dependence on His will and His power is the total opposite of all we are trained to do; yet, God honors that yielded weakness above all!
  1. The Intercession of Godly leaders (7:9). When God’s people called up Him to protect them, they did not presume, they prayed, worshipped and followed His Word!
  1. Confidence from God’s Intervention (7:10-11). When the people saw God at work, they gained confidence in God’s power, and His desire to care for THEM!
  1. Acknowledgement of God’s goodness by godly leaders (7:12-13). When God worked, the people rejoiced and did not try to receive credit for what God wanted to do. God resists the proud!
  1. Restoration of the former losses (7:14-17). God added back the blessings of the former losses, because He could entrust the people to understand they were always the gift of a good God!

God’s people are strongest when they tremble before God’s throne, and not when they operate in self confident capability.

1 Samuel 5-6 "The Portrait Hall": Travels of the Gold Box

One of the strangest stories of the Bible is that of the journey of the Ark of the Covenant, the marker of God’s agreement with His people, to the land of Philistine conquerors. It was not just a box, it was represented something more… The Ark was a representation of God’s rules that were to govern a people that HAD A RELATIONSHIP with Him It was a box that contained the power to please God IF its contents were observed obediently.

Key Principle: Apart from a relationship with God, His rules become a condemning, guilt producing curse.

The Process of Extraction:

  1. The worldly people got the rules by enveloping the people of God and overwhelming them. People with the relationship still existed, but their voice was muted in defeat (5:1).
  1. They tried to “incorporate” the rules into their pagan philosophies without the prerequisite of a relationship with God (5:2). They understood there was power in the rules, but had no idea what the power was.
  1. The power of God reflected in the rules shatter ever other system, and increasingly made them uncomfortable with even keeping the memory of them in their thinking (5:3,4).
  1. They turned power into superstition and that was retained in their culture for generations. It was not about God, nor the power retained in His Word, it was simply an old wives tale. (5:5).
  1. Without a relationship, the rules became a condemning influence. (5:6).

The Tragedy of Substitution:

  1. Because there was no relationship, and God’s people had been silent and unconvincing on the issue of relationship, the world sought every way to remove any vestige of the influence of the rules or their God (5:7).
  1. Leaders work hard to become popular by ridding the world of the influence of the rules and the God they represent (5:8).
  1. They will work harder and harder as their solutions don’t work, but make things worse! (5:9-10).
  1. As the solutions only make things worse, people of the world asked that they simply isolate the rules and the people of God, and get them out of the influence of the larger society (5:11).
  1. God sees the whole thing, but doesn’t answer! (5:12)
  1. The world tries to appease God with things He didn’t ask for, can’t use and doesn’t want! (6:1-5). Why? Because they have learned the POWER of God without the LOVE of God. Instead of a GOOD GOD that wants a relationship, they are left with a MAD GOD that wants to extract appeasement! Apart from a relationship with God, His rules become a condemning, guilt producing curse.

1 Samuel 4 "The Portrait Hall": Ichabod: The Saddest Baby Photo

Some babies are meant for the camera, while others, well… they have a face only their mother could love. The baby portrait we are going to look at today is not an ugly one…but a sad one! Let’s look at the portrait of the saddest baby ever entered into the portrait hall!

When does God finally decide to withdraw His blessing from a disobedient people? Note, these are people with a history of fathers that walked with God. They knew about God and His desire to have a relationship, but they didn’t build one of their own.

Key Principle: God wants us to heed His Words, and take Him seriously. He wants a relationship!

1. Verbal Warning: God offered a message of judgment before to those who listen to His Word (3:20-21).

2. God fires the starting gun: God’s speaker called on the people to do what God instructed (4:1).

3. Physical Warning: An initial defeat demoralized the people, leaving them asking questions (4:2)

4. Self Deception: Instead of calling on God and seeking Him – His people chose a solution that seemed religious and significant (4:3). They were led by those who did not know God, but knew religious practice and the history about God (4:4). People placed their hope and faith in the symbols of a relationship they did not try to have, even when the warning signs were there (4:5)

5. False Testimony: The pagan world saw the growth of confidence in God’s people and interpreted it just as God’s estranged people did – like the symbols and history could carry them through the new battle (4:6-8). They ordered hard battle and offered no choice (4:9).

6. Break Up and Defeat: A punishing defeat came to God’s estranged people – far worse than the earlier battle (4:10). Note that in the face of this defeat, each man isolated themselves and the cohesion broke apart in the ranks!

7. Plundered and Destroyed: The symbols of a relationship with God became mere relics, and were plundered (4:11). The dead in faith leaders were killed, as God had warned (4:12-18).

8. Lost Hope: As all hope slipped away, the sense that God had left the people became overwhelming (4:19-22).

Remember, the time between the warning and the execution of judgment is GRACE TIME, and the God of grace delights in seeing sinners repent! Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool. 19 ”  If you consent and obey, You will eat the best of the land; 20 “But if you refuse and rebel, You will be devoured by the sword.” Truly, the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Consent (‘awbaw: to be willing) and obey (sh’mah: listen and respond)

The End of the World: “We Shall Behold Him” – Revelation 4

Prop the door open to Heaven, and excitement spills out! Sometimes only a song writer can capture the truth in a way that stirs us deep within! Listen to the words:

The sky shall unfold, preparing His entrance. The stars shall applaud Him, with thunders of praise. The sweet light in His eyes, shall enhance those awaiting, and we shall behold Him, then face to face! The angel will sound, the shout of His coming, and the sleeping shall rise, from there slumbering place. Then those who remain, they shall be changed in a moment… and we shall behold Him, then face to face! O we shall behold Him, we shall behold Him, face to face in all of His glory! O we shall behold Him, yes we shall behold Him, face to face, our Savior and Lord! (written by Dottie Rambo, sung by virtually everybody!)

Another Gospel song writer wrote of his own experience in Heaven through the eyes of a dream:

I dreamed of a city called Glory. It was so bright and so fair! As I entered that gate, I cried “holy!” All the angels met with me there. They carried me from mansion to mansion, and oh, all the sights I saw… but I said “I want to see Jesus! He’s the One who died for all!” When I entered the gates of the city, my Loved ones all knew me well! They took me down the streets of heaven. All the saints… were too many to tell! I saw Abraham, Jacob and Isaac. I talked with Mark, sat down with Timothy… but then I said, “I want to see Jesus… for He’s the One who died for me!” I bowed on my knees and cried “Holy!” I clapped my hands and sang “Glory! Glory to the Son of God!” (Words and music by Jimmie Davis).

For the follower of Jesus –  there is a day coming soon, when the next great move in the Heavens will change things dramatically here on earth. It is not EARTH that forces HEAVEN – it is the other way around. We are NOT primarily physical beings… we are spiritual beings. The physical world is the illusory one… it will vanish one day like a mirage on a hot roadway. I am not making it up… the Bible made it plain long ago. It is the HOPE of every believer. It is our SUSTAINING TRUTH… we are not at home here on this earth, and we need not feel like we have missed a thing when we turn from things offered here that would not delight our Savior.

  • We have a home.
  • We have a future.
  • No amount of suffering can take that from you.
  • No word of cancer can remove that solemn promise.
  • No painful rejection by one that you have faithfully loved can mar that reality.
  • Because we have a SAVIOR, we have a HOME.

Key Principle: God told us what is next for us. We are headed HOME! No matter what the world does to us, no mater how hard life appears – it is temporary here.

John saw it. He walked there in his spirit. He revealed it by the permission of our Savior…. And God carefully preserved it since the first century when it was written down in a penal colony in the middle of the Aegean Sea. He recorded it in the fourth chapter of Revelation:

Revelation 4:1 After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things.”

Don’t skip the truths in the midst of the excitement of the passage. John looked UP. He heard a voice, but it was the sound like a TRUMPET. The believer that was here on the earth – the writer who informed us of the seven churches that were offering a testimony of Jesus Christ, spread in different cities of the world of his time, now saw what was to come after the church’s mission was over. He had been told what to write in Revelation 1:19. He was to write about the brilliant and unmatched vision of the Risen Savior. That is what the church of Jesus needs today – a clear view of the Risen, powerful, majestic ruler of our lives. He is not just JESUS – He is God the Son – Master of my heart. If the church can embrace that one truth now, we will live differently than the world about us, not because of a LIST, but because of a dynamic relationship with a LIVING. RISEN and EMPOWERING CHRIST.

Next, John was told to write to a cyclical letter God’s church. It included encouragement, but it included sharp warnings to walk with God. Chapters two and three are filled with God’s desires to reach lost people through the espoused bride of the Son, that awaits the trumpet call for her wedding. Now, finally… we enter the last part of the Book of Revelation, where John was commanded to write the things which come “meta tauta” (literally “after the things which are”) – the story of God’s next step after the church’s flawed but essential work was complete.

Don’t skip the timing of these things… it was after the church had run her course. Don’t skip the place of this… it was from Heaven above. Don’t skip the last words of the verse… WHAT WAS UNFOLDING MUST TAKE PLACE after the church did her work.

When you look carefully at Revelation 4:1, you recognize the passage tells us that a door opened in Heaven – initiated by the owner of the Celestial city –  a “trumpet sounding call” beckoned the believer who was recording the vision upward – and the room he entered was clearly the very throne room of the God of the Ages.

God is not aloof, and He is not unaware of our situation. God is not responsive to what man is doing, the plan is in His hand – not ours. The next great move, when the church has completed her work, is His to initiate. Heaven’s doors open when Heaven’s king opens them.

This vision of John wasn’t completely strange news to the believers of the first century. The Apostle Paul apparently had the experience of going to Heaven in his spirit (which, by the way, is the way we will all go!). In 2 Corinthians 12:2 he wrote “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a man was caught up to the third heaven.”

On first glance it looks like Paul was speaking of someone other than himself, but most students of Scripture accept that Paul is writing about his own experience either on the road to Damascus years before (Acts 9:1-9, 22:6-11) or subsequently. Paul asserted the claim that he had seen the risen Christ both in his conversion and in his training (1 Cor. 15:1-10, cf. Gal 1:12). Not to get off track, but… Why didn’t he just say it was HIM who went to Heaven? There is a simple explanation. Because the church at Corinth was being bombarded with questions concerning Paul’s real authority in his absence from them (1 Cor. 9:1-14, 2 Cor. 10-11) and the questions were being fired by those who claimed intimate spiritual revelation through ecstatic experiences (see 1 Cor. 3, 4 and 12). Paul was cautious about using his experience to assert authority, though he seems to admit he was this man (12:7 “Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself!).

Not only was the idea of glimpsing into Heaven not new, but the idea that Heaven would invite believers to the open door was also not new. Again, God used Paul to explain how believers were gathered into the throne room of God from the churches around the globe. Paul was writing his first Epistle that God put within the Christian Scriptures – the First Letter to the Thessalonians. Paul was in his mid-forties, and his writing career was a response to the problems he encountered in the second mission journey, recorded in Acts 15-18. Paul was forcibly removed from Thessaloniki and later dislodged from Berea by attackers, and he fled the believers before he was assured of their strong foundation in Christ.

To that church he offered what became the first three chapters of the letter – a short autobiographical note of what God was doing with him (1 Thess. 1-3). In the last section of the letter (1 Thess. 4-5), Paul offered a series of instruction on the difference between a believer and a non-believer in their actions and world view. Three important instructions were made plain:

  • Believers should be characterized by a life of sexual purity. In an Empire that was rife with sexual perversion, legal prostitution and public degradation – believers should stand out. They should stand out in their speech about sex, their loving and enduring marriages, their faithfulness to their covenants and their spouses. Real love is PURE love (1 Thess. 4:1-10), Paul argued.
  • In the same way, believers should be characterized by faithful and constant attentiveness to their work on their job. They were to work to care for their own needs, and not seek the benefits of the government or others in the society. They were to be GIVERS and not TAKERS (1 Thess. 4:11-12).
  • Finally, believers were to be characterized by a whole different view of DEATH. They were allowed to sorrow and mourn, but not like people in the world. They were to understand that those who died in Christ were not DISADVANTAGED. They were not “MISSING OUT” on life – they were living the BEST life. Here is what Paul shared:

1 Thessalonians 4:13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. …15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.”

Did you hear that? The VOICE of the Archangel sounds like what musical announcing instrument? That’s right – a TRUMPET. Paul recorded that a trumpet voice, an archangel voice will someday – maybe today – sound aloud. The bodies of those who have died having received Jesus as Savior while on earth will come up from the earth. The matter of the bodies will somehow Divinely be reformed and repatriated to the spirit that has dwelt with the Lord since they left the earth.

When a man or woman who has trusted the work of Jesus on the Cross for salvation dies he or she is “absent from the body” but his spirit is consciously in the present of Jesus (2 Cor. 5:8). They await the restoration of a body – but a resurrected body devoid of the ravages of the sin nature and its effects. They get the body that was theirs in the heart of God before the Fall in the Garden ever occurred. It is a perfect, new version of them. Same personality – different nature.

God back to John’s description in Revelation 4:1. He is called up to Heaven the way we will be called there. He is an “advance man” that tells us what will happen on our arrival.

Revelation, as a letter, was an experience out of its TIME. God allowed John to do what you and I will do, but to do it in the Spirit BEFORE, so that the future will be familiar if we take the time to study it, and be blessed by it (Rev. 1:3). Look at what John saw, and we will see ‘WHEN’ in the future he dropped into the scene:

Revelation 4:2 Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne. 3 And He who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance.

Before we move to far into the throne room, it is possible to know at what point in the story of God’s redemption of man we have locked on. John enters to worship already going on. John enters a program already in progress… First, One is sitting on the throne, seated above the colorful glass sea that surrounds it. He appeared as the blood red jasper stone or another stone like it called the sardius stone (used later as a symbol judgment, cp. Rev. 6:4). A bow of green (perhaps denoting life) surrounded His throne – or perhaps it is the full spectrum of color, but the SHAPE was of a tooled emerald (as in surrounding the throne). This is God the Father, the Judge of all, the Life giver to all, the complete circle of beginning and end! Though these words help us to anticipate our Father, they don’t help place the timing of the story.

For that, we must see the others who are in the room. Keep reading: Revelation 4:4 Around the throne were twenty-four thrones; and upon the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads.

Note that surrounding the throne of God are the TWENTY FOUR ELDERS SEATED ON THRONES. Look at what they are wearing. That is the clue we need to set their identity and the timing of this interruption in Heaven by John. They were twenty-four in number. had on white garments and were crowned with gold. If you kept reading in the scene, they were singing praises as redeemed ones from all over the earth in Rev. 5:8. They were enthroned.

Their description has left the door open to some debate about their identity. Let’s consider carefully the noted description:

Because they were Twenty-four in number, there are many who attempt to indicate this must be saved people of all ages – Jewish and Gentile. That does not fit the scene unless this event was contemporary to after the time of the Tribulation, for Daniel 12 was clear that Jewish believers who died prior to Jesus’ coming would not be resurrected with those IN CHRIST that we looked at in 1 Thessalonians. Rather, they would be raised AFTER the Tribulation:

Daniel 12:1 “Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued. 2 “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. 3 “Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. 4 “But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase.

Daniel was told that after a prolonged time of Gentile domination (described in Daniel 11) Michael, the angel characteristically associated with the Jewish people in the Heavens, will stand up to defend the beleaguered Jewish people. A time of TRIBULATION will pummel them, but those who are in the Book of Life will endure to the end. Zechariah and Paul both say that all the Jewish people “will be saved” that outlive the Tribulation, marked by God and in belief of Him “whom they have pieced”:

  • Romans 1:25 For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; 26 and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, “THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION, HE WILL REMOVE UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB.” 27 “THIS IS MY COVENANT WITH THEM, WHEN I TAKE AWAY THEIR SINS.
  • Zechariah 12:8 “In that day the LORD will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the one who is feeble among them in that day will be like David, and the house of David will be like God, like the angel of the LORD before them. 9 “And in that day I will set about to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. 10 “I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn. 11 “In that day there will be great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the plain of Megiddo.

The point of the Twenty-Four appears to relate to the PRIESTHOOD serving at that time in  Heaven.

Ezekiel, who also describes a vision into Heaven, in Ezekiel 8:16; Ezekiel 11:1, saw twenty-five men between the porch and the altar, with their backs toward the temple, and their faces toward the earth. Remember that the priesthood of the Temple was divided into twenty-four “courses” (1 Chronicles 24:3-19), and Ezekiel also saw the High Priest – making the total number 25. Remember that 1 Peter 2:9 specifically calls the church age believer a PRIEST. Remember that Hebrews 4:14 says “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession…”

We can see them doing the work of priest in Revelation 5:8ff.

By their praises, we can also tell something about their PAST. Revelation. 5:8 says: ”…the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. 10 “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.” They have been redeemed FROM MANY NATIONS of the earth. They are the priests of Heaven BEFORE the Lamb opened the book and brought on the Great Tribulation (Rev. 6:1).

The fact they are sitting on thrones must denote judgment. They are crowned with a STEPHANOS or “victor crown”, not a DIADEM or “ruler crown”.  Paul warned the church at Corinth that would be a future job of believers: 1 Corinthians 6:1 Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints? 2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts? 3 Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life?

They are clothed in White Robes: This is the garment of the priests. It is also the marker of those who have been judged as “righteous” (like in Rev. 19:14 “And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses.”)

After all is considered, it appears as though John has dropped in on the worship ministrations of the Redeemed of the Church Age, who have already been JUDGED, and now served as Priests and Ministers before the Holy One on the throne. They praise Him for His SAVING WORK on their behalf. They have OVERCOME in this life, and now LIVE BEFORE GOD!

What an exciting scene. John got beckoned to Heaven, but he missed how the believers were called there. He missed their trumpet sound. He missed their judgment…. But if you know Jesus as your Savior, YOU WON’T MISS IT!

God’s Word says that every man and every woman faces two kinds of judgment: one for SIN, and one for WORKS. The believers and the unbelievers will face BOTH. For the believer, SIN was judged at Calvary, and we will see experience the results of that in STAGES.

  • First, when you are saved, you are given the SEAL of the Holy Spirit and the INHERITANCE PROMISE of Heaven.
  • When you DIE, your spirit immediately goes to be with the Lord, while your body awaits your eventual redemption of the FLESH.
  • At the moment God decides to begin His work on the people of Israel, a trumpet will sound and call both living and dead believers in Christ to the marriage supper of the Son.
  • Believers in Christ will stand before the JUDGMENT SEAT of CHRIST, in order to have awards, recognitions, and judgment of our works (a good word of this is found in 1 Cor. 3 and 2 Cor. 5).
  • Believers like David, Moses and Daniel await the redemption of their bodies until after the celebration of the Son’s wedding in Heaven, (according to Daniel 12). Their resurrection and judgment marks the beginning of the Great Kingdom of Jesus in Revelation 20, when God literally fulfills all His Kingdom covenant contract with the Jewish people.

To close the scene, go back to Heaven and stand there with John. See the flashes of lightning and hears the peals of thunder. Gaze at the lamps, the seven Spirits of God (cp. Isa. 11). The Spirit of the LORD; The Spirit of wisdom; The Spirit of understanding; The Spirit of counsel; The Spirit of strength; The Spirit of knowledge; The Spirit of the fear of the LORD.

Watch your role as you praise the Lord for His redemption and cry out to Him WORTHY IS THE LAMB THAT WAS SLAIN. Listen to the voices that echo ‘YOU CREATED ALL THINGS’. No doubts about the beginning. No fears about the end.

Look hard at your white robe. Are their crowns in your hand to throw to your King? Have the works of YOUR LIFE been judged at the BEMA seat worthy of His love, His magnificence, His faithfulness. Are there TEARS in your eyes for you have “suffered loss” when the works of your life were burned and found selfish, deficient and worthless? ARE YOU READY FOR THE KING TO TAKE YOU HOME? My friend, the KING IS COMING, and YOU SHALL BEHOLD HIM!

THE KING IS COMING (Bill Gaither – Gloria Gaither – Charley Millhoff) © ’71 Gaither Music

The market place is empty – no more traffic in the streets… All the builders tools are silent …no more time to harvest wheat. Busy housewives cease their labors… in the courtroom –  no debate. Work on earth is all suspended… as the King comes through the gate!

Happy faces line the hallways – those whose lives have been redeemed. Broken homes He has mended… those from prison he has freed! Little children and the aged hand in hand stand all aglow! Those who were crippled, broken, ruined dressed in garments white as snow! I can hear the chariots rumble, I can see the marching throng! The flurry of God’s trumpets spells the end of sin and wrong! Regal robes are now unfolding! Heaven’s grandstand’s are all in place! Heaven’s choir is now assembled … they start to sing Amazing Grace!

Oh the King is coming! The King is coming! I just heard the trumpets sounding and now his face I see! Oh the King is coming! The King is coming! Praise God he’s coming for me!

You see, God told us what is next for us. Believer, we are headed HOME! No matter what the world does to us, no mater how hard life appears – it is temporary here.


1 Samuel 2:26-36 "The Portrait Hall": Eli and the Ignorance Excuse

Introduction: One of the saddest memories of the portrait hall of First Samuel is the priest Eli that ignored problems in hopes they would just fix themselves. It was a failed strategy, and this morning we will see the deception of convincing ourselves that “everything will work out fine”.

Eli Had a Great Deal Going for Him:

  • His position and heritage (1:1-3): He was clearly a priest of the Most High, from a family of priests. The family was led by God, chosen by God and equipped to serve by God (1 Sam 2:27).
  • His dedication to the work: He was on the job (1:9), attentive to the people (1:12-13), direct in dealing with the sin of people at the Tabernacle (1:14).
  • His personality: He was encouraging to Hannah (1:17) and later to Elkanah (1 Sam 2:20).
  • His example: He raised a godly young man in Samuel (1 Sam 1:25, 2:18-19, 26; 3:7).

A quick reading makes Eli look like a victim of wicked children:

  • He calls them in to correct them (2:22) and tells them what he heard they were doing (2:22b).
  • He asks them “Why?” (2:23) and tells them he heard the report circulating (2:24).
  • He warns them of the trouble it was causing for all Israel (2:25).

Yet, Eli was not a victim, he was a participant in a sin that we easily overlook even today! 1 Samuel 2:29 shares two key issues Eli did not truly deal with:

1)       Choosing to reverse God’s priorities with those that seem good to us (1 Sam. 2:29a).

2)       Over-indulging and under-disciplining our lives and hearts before God (1 Sam. 2:29b).

Eli’s children reflected in excess what Eli did in a more moderate way.

  • He was undisciplined at ate too much himself (1 Samuel 4:18).
  • He was embarrassed at the reputation the boys gained (1 Sam. 2:23-24) but still cared more for his sons than for God’s standard in all their lives.

Look at what God told Him would happen (1 Sam. 2:30-36):

1)       God will keep His promises and not reverse them, but makes effective another principle that becomes operative in Eli’s life- the Weight Principle: I will place more honor on those who value what I value. If you want God to use you more effectively, you must choose to place your choices and values in line with what He says is most important (2:30).

2)       A second penalty was issued in the Fulfillment Principle: If you place your trust in something other than what I say you should, you will live to regret that choice. Your riches will not satisfy, your children will not remember you, your spouse will fail you, the job will pass you by (1 Sam 2:31-34).

3)       A third penalty – in the form of a redeeming promise – was also levied in the Blessing Principle: Because you know me and I have promised to bless my children, I will not cut off all your blessing. You will wish you had changed your priorities in that day, but you will not be destroyed (1 Sam. 2:35-36).

Compare that to what Paul taught the Corinthian believers in 1 Corinthians 3:11-18.

Eli’s portrait should show us three lessons:

  • Place your life’s emphasis on what God’s Word teaches will please the Lord!
  • Decide to deliberately order the fulfillment of your life in what God’s Word teaches should be fulfilling.
  • Decide now to build on to your salvation experience a walk that is worthy of your calling!

Remember: Problems don’t fix themselves, they are opportunities God grants for US to work with HIM to fix things, and learn from the process.