As we come to the final study in our series on the church, consider how Jesus taught us to pray,
“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, may your kingdom come, and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’” (Matthew 6:9–10)
- May the nations come to regard your name as holy,
- May our hearts align with yours in establishing your Kingdom here on earth, and
- May your perfect will, which exists in heaven, be made a reality here by those who know it.
Now let’s run that logic backward to see more clearly the role of the church in the plans and purposes of God:
- May your people who know your heavenly will live in a way that reflects it,
- So that you’d establish your Kingdom on earth through us, and
- The nations come to regard your name as holy as they see you in us.
That should be our prayer, our ambition, and the direction every Christian aims their life and resources toward. God said,
‘…the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.’ (Habakkuk 2:14)
And as we’ve looked at repeatedly this term, Jesus said that would happen as his church displayed his glorious character, united as one, under his Word. This is our calling, and make no mistake, as we looked at in Study 3, ‘As a disciple, God has called us into the most significant work in the world – the work that God is doing to gather people into his Kingdom through the prayerful proclamation of the gospel of his Son.’ (C Marshall: The Trellis and the Vine, Matthias Media, pg. 120)
This Study is about the church in glory, and while seeing a picture of us in heaven will fuel us with hope and joy as it reminds us what our end will be, that future reality also helps to shape our understanding of what our present calling is.
The Book of Revelation is the last of the 66 books that make up the bible. It was given as a vision to the Apostle John, and given directly to him from Jesus who had died and risen from the dead about 60 years earlier. Our Lord Jesus showed John many things, but the overwhelming message it communicates is that Jesus reigns, Jesus wins, Jesus is God Almighty, and Jesus is bringing his plans and purposes to fulfilment, for the sake of his church … so come! And don’t stop coming.
In this vision in chapter 7, Jesus gives us a picture of the church in glory, which helps us to see why he wanted us united, around him, by his Spirit, under his Word.
‘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 before 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.”’(Revelation 7:9–10)
What we see here is a gathering of people from all nations, standing before Jesus and his throne. To understand the connection between God and the Lamb here, we must remember Jesus’ own words,
‘I and the Father are one.’ (John 10:30)
‘Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time?
Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.’ (John 14:9)
God is the one who sits on his throne, and so we wouldn’t miss the point, when John first saw the throne of God itself, he told us,
‘… I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the centre of the throne…’ (Revelation 5:6)
Jesus is God. God made himself known to the world through Jesus. Jesus makes himself known to his people through his Spirit. God, by his Spirit, makes himself known to the world through his church as they proclaim and obey his Word. If we lived in Israel between 1 A.D. and 33 A.D., we might have seen God in the flesh. Until he returns, we see him live through his people. Which is why it matters a lot how we relate to one another in the church. God makes himself known through us.
And so we must think, from Revelation 7 itself:
If in heaven, all who belong to Jesus are perfectly united, am I working toward that end?
If in heaven the chorus being sung is ‘All glory to God!’, is that the chorus of my heart?
If those present in heaven have come out of the great tribulation triumphant, are we suffering here in the light of that victory?
If in heaven we’re all wearing white, the symbol of holiness, do we live now as people who’ve been set apart by God?
If in heaven we serve God day and night in his temple, do we reflect that service among his people now?
If the Lamb is our shepherd, do we follow him?
If the Lamb will lead us to springs of living water and wipe away all our tears, are we allowing that future to shape the way we grieve and process our pain now?
These are the questions we need to think about as we apply Jesus’ prayer that God’s will be done here on earth as it is in heaven. If God hadn’t revealed what is happening in heaven, that would be an easy prayer to pray! But in Revelation 7 (and in many other places) God has revealed what is happening in heaven, and so we pray that prayer knowing that by the strength and wisdom he promises to provide, we can make heaven a reality here on earth. Not perfectly, but truly, knowing this is his will for us as we patiently wait for Jesus to return.
Dear church, as we seek this end, we can be confident that all God’s purposes for us as his church will be achieved. God will establish us; God will reign for us; God will be made known through us as God suffers with us; God will discipline us; God will pour out his gifts abundantly to us; and God will raise up shepherds for us as God is glorified in us.
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