Have you ever thought about heaven, specifically trying to imagine God’s throne? I have! We generally envision God with a throne high up on a heavenly mountain of some type way up in an unapproachable location. Most of us have heard various stories of people who have either had after-death experiences or possibly had the supernatural experience of having been transported into one part of heaven or another, but they still feel like “stories” to us. Yet, I believe many of them are real experiences.
In the book of Revelation, chapter 4:2-8 we find this:
“At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. Before the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: ‘Holy, holy holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.”
I suspect if I had had a vision like that, my boat would be rocking! There is much about heaven and God’s throne and His heavenly domain that we don’t know very much about. The Bible only tells us so much–probably because we wouldn’t be able to handle the information if we knew it! We just need to accept who God is and the fact that He loves us more than we can imagine. The reason I printed the eight verses out above is just to give us a sliver of a hint to the great majesty, power, glory of Almighty God. He is not just a king, not just a ruler, He is the all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-present GOD. There is only one.
Even though I readily accept it, I find it almost beyond my ability to understand God’s intense love for humankind. When you look at man’s debauched history, why would He love us so? Yet He does. In the creation account in Genesis we find that God came down specifically to walk and talk with Adam and Eve. They must have walked for hours at a time, discussing everything from creation, to the future, to their own relationship with Him. They also understood the great gift they had with their intimate walk with their Creator…and what He had given them. There was no sickness or disease, no conflict, no fear, no stress, nothing out of order, and no death. Actually they knew nothing of any of these. Everything in creation was absolutely beautiful and perfect. Man had complete dominion over everything God had created for him. God had presented the whole creation to Adam and had him categorize everything and give it its name. Adam had 100% use of his brain. There had been no fall yet and so Adam was the most intelligent and perfect man ever created. Then came the fall and everything changed–from that very day to the day I am writing this article. God does promise however that He will bring all things back into order and He will once again live in complete fellowship with man. Here is what Revelation 21:3 has to say:
“Now the dwelling of God is with men and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.”
This speaks of God’s great desire to commune with people. God’s desire for this communion is a common theme from one cover of the Bible to the other. Unfortunately the fellowship which had begun in the Garden of Eden was broken by sin. This was the scenario in Genesis 3:8. God came down to walk in the garden as He had been accustomed to doing, but this time He knew that His beloved couple was in deep trouble. They had disobeyed His one and only restriction and thereby sinned, breaking the communion they had with Him.
Sin breaks our communion with God today as well, even as believers. In Psalms 51:1-2, we read:
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.”
Verse 6 reads:
“Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.”
A familiar passage is found in verses 10-12:
“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me. “
In verse 17 we find:
“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
There are those who teach that once a person has accepted Christ as Savior, there is never a need for a repentance prayer again. I have to disagree. We live in a fallen world and there are things that we do, either in word or deed, that are not a good reflection of the life of a Christ-follower. Often it is a hidden sin we have allowed ourselves to indulge in. These things need to be cleared up because God requires us to be straight with Him. Sins, hidden or not will clog up the communication lines between God and us. None of us can afford this, especially in the day we live in. Philippians 2:12-15 addresses this very thing:
“…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life…”
Staying close and keeping those lines of communication open between us and the Lord takes a conscious effort on our part. I love reading the Old Testament stories because God has left us an array of characters, from righteous to quite evil. We were given historical accounts of real people. I would like to draw from those characters who chose walk with God. One of these characters was the prophet Enoch. The modern day church mostly ignores this prophet, but it is a misplaced dismissive attitude. The early church not only accepted Enoch as a prophet of importance, but also included Enoch’s writings in their canon of Scripture.
Enoch was Noah’s great-grandfather, and grandfather to the godly Methuselah. Enoch prophesied the coming flood for about three hundred years or so. This prophet of God had such a close relationship with God that the Lord took him from the earth when he was still in his prime. The Genesis account tells us that:
“Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.”
Enoch was 365 years old when he was raptured off the earth. He didn’t die! That, by the way, in those days was still an age that was not yet middle age! Methuselah was 969 when he died. He died just before the flood was unleashed.
The subject of Enoch and the validity of his writings is a subject for another study but I would like to add another comment before moving on.
Enoch apparently had one of the closest walks with God of any Biblical character, if not the most intimate of all. We know that God took him for that reason, but what is hardly known in our modern era are the things that Enoch was supernaturally shown during his 365 journey on this planet. God allowed him to see earth somewhere from out where the space station now orbits. His writings described the earth as it looks from space. He also was shown the opening to the bottomless pit. In his “space travels”, he was shown the Solar System and many of the star systems. Enoch was given considerable information about the fallen Lucifer and the angels that fell with him. This ancient prophet was also brought into God’s throne room, seeing things that no other human has ever seen, at least before death. His extensive experiences with angels during his earthly walk was also beyond anything anyone else has ever experienced.
Why was it that Enoch had such a close walk with God? I know that most will say that God just picked Enoch for His own sovereign purposes, and I won’t disagree. Yet, as we learn from all the other examples in Scripture, Enoch had to respond to God’s summons, if he was going to enjoy what God had available for him. He also had to continue in that walk. Any walk with God will either get deeper, or it will slip backward. It is never stationary. It is always our choice what we do with the call of God on our lives.
Those that decide that their most important goal in life is to get close to God will find that God is more than willing to respond to them! Leviticus 26:11-12 says:
“I will put my dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.”
I Samuel 12:22 reads this way:
“For the sake of his great Name, the Lord will not reject His people, because the Lord was pleased to make you His own.”
The life of intimacy with the Father is not just a one-sided experience. How often believers are in such a hurry! God promises that He will respond. One example is found in James 4;8 when it says God will draw near to us when we draw near to Him, but we need to keep a scripture like Psalms 27:14 in mind. It tells us:
“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”
Psalms 130:5-6 adds this:
“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His Word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning…”
Isaiah 40:13 says:
“but those who hope (wait) in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint.”
I used several scriptures to make this point because most people are too impatient–or claim they’re too busy to take the time to “commune” with the Father. Here in western society, we live at such a fast pace. We have drive-in restaurants, drive-in banking, drive-in oil changes, drive-in car washes, drive-in coffee stands, and now we even have drive-in churches in some cities!
We are so busy, anything we want, we want it NOW! It has actually made people more rude. That rudeness (or impatience) is carried into our relationship with God. How many of us that do try and give God a few minutes, expect Him to speak in our time-slot? If God does not speak to us in short order, we shut our Bibles, grab our coats and head out the door–or quickly grab the TV remote so that we don’t miss the coin-toss at the beginning of the football game coming up, or the jump-shot to determine who gets possession of the basketball for the first play of the next basketball game. No one is going to get into the “Holy of holies” that way. It just won’t happen!
In the Old Testament, God “tabernacled” with the people. In those days He occupied the “Holy of Holies”. People were able to come close but only the high priest could access the Holy of Holies, and that was only one time each year. It was a rare person who managed to cross that “line in the sand” that God had drawn during Old Testament times, and develop an intimate walk with Him. A person didn’t have to get into the Holy of Holies in order to walk closely with God, nor did they have to go through the high priest to do it. Few however went to the trouble of doing so. King David happened to be one of these people.
We have used many psalms as references for this study on intimacy with God. Most of the Psalms were written by King David. As we pointed out earlier, God considered David a man after His own heart. David had committed terrible sins. Yet, he managed to grab the attention of the Almighty. David wanted nothing more than to be a worshipper of God. He wrote and sang about it throughout his whole life. When David sinned, he broke the communication between himself and His beloved God, but he did something about it. After being confronted by Nathan the prophet, David literally ran to God, prostrated himself before Him, and committed himself to whatever God wanted to do. David did suffer consequences, but God wanted nothing more than to forgive him and restore him to the place where he belonged. Because of David’s intense longing to be close to his God and serve Him in whatever capacity he could, this “great sinner” became Israel’s greatest king. David’s son Solomon, who was born as a result of the wrongful relationship with Bathsheba, was chosen by God to take the throne after David’s death. Jesus, 1,000 years later was called the “Son of David”!
How did David get to this place with God? David pursued Him! How is your pursuit going?
Abraham was another Old Testament example of a man who went after a deeper relationship with God than the typical person. Abraham of course lived before Moses and the law Moses received from God, but yet there was something about Abraham that caused God to call him “friend” at least three times in scripture. Isaiah 41:8 says:
“But you, O Israel, my servant Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham, my friend.”
2 Chronicles 20:7 reads:
“O, our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend?”
Then we find this reference in James 2:23:
“And the Scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness, and he was called God’s friend.”
Over the years I’ve preached and taught many times using examples of people in the Bible who had made disastrous mistakes in life but because of God’s grace and forgiveness were restored and fulfilling God’s purposes. One of the most prominent prophets in the Old Testament doesn’t fit the typical mold. This was the prophet Daniel. There is no record of this man having ever fallen from his lifelong commitment to serving his God. He ended up becoming a top statesman for four kings. He served Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar who were Babylonian kings. After the fall of Babylon, Daniel then was a top official in the kingdom of the Medes and Persians. Cyrus was king of the Persians and Darius was king of the Medes.
My reason for using Daniel as an example is because of what I find in Daniel 10:19. In several versions, he was called “highly esteemed” by God. In older versions like the old King James version and the older version yet, the “Geneva Bible”, Daniel was said to be “greatly beloved” of God! I would like to be thought of like that by God, wouldn’t you?
What would cause God to make such a statement about a mortal man? When I read about Daniel I find a humble servant of God that was very committed in his walk with God. He was so committed that he was willing to give his life for it. He had no idea he was going to have to prove his commitment until he was thrown into the lion’s den. God met him there and Daniel slept using one of the lion’s manes as a pillow!
The judge-prophet Samuel was another man who determined not to settle for a mediocre walk with his God. Samuel grew up at a time of great apostasy in the priesthood. Eli, his mentor, was nearly 100 years old. Eli’s two sons, whom he had appointed as judges, were abusive of the people and had totally thrown away their moral compass. Part of the problem was that Eli, their father, had not stepped in and forcefully corrected the situation as God required him to. God did intervene and in a short time Eli and both of his sons were dead.
Samuel then took the lead, functioning both as prophet of God and judge of the people. The sum of Samuel’s life was to serve God in every way he was asked to. Even after Israel in rebellion demanded a king, Samuel continued serving, being at King Saul’s beck and call. 1 Samuel 8:1-5 gives us some interesting insight into Samuel’s family. This is how it reads:
“When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as judges for Israel. The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of the second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba. But his sons did not walk in his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice. So the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, ‘you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways, now appoint a king to lead us…”
This story has a sad commentary to it. It is a story that is repeated again and again in the Bible. We can hear the same story repeated many times in our day as well. It all has to do with the choices people make. Samuel had made a commitment early in life that he followed through on. His sons however, for one reason or another, didn’t see the gravity of the position of authority they had been appointed to. What was more serious yet, because of the eternal consequences, was their choice to walk in total disregard of the laws and requirements of God. Because of Samuel’s commitment to his God, he was able to finish well. In contrast, Samuel’s sons did just the opposite, and so lost out. They lived for themselves, and apparently would not change. What a tragedy.
We’ve now looked at several examples of Old Testament people who chose to go beyond the norm in their relationship with God. Each was rewarded with great intimacy by the God who had called them. In Psalms 8:4 it says:
“What is man that you are mindful of him? The son of man, that you visit him?”
That is a good question!
Since Jesus opened the door wide open in the New Testament through His sacrificial death and resurrection, as well as the sending of the Holy Spirit, there is no limit to how deep we can go in our relationship with God. What was rare in the Old Testament is not rare anymore! Scripture tells us how the great veil hanging directly in front of the Holy of Holies in the Jewish temple was torn in two from the top to bottom, the very moment Jesus cried out the last time and died. The tearing of this great curtain was also accompanied by a great earthquake.
I did some research to see if I could confirm some details of this veil. After reading from the Jewish historian Josephus’ writings, as well as Talmudic works, I found that this veil was twenty feet wide and sixty feet high. The most amazing thing was that it was about the same thickness as a man’s hand is wide–or about four inches thick! History says it normally took 300 priests to manhandle this curtain because of its great weight and stiffness! This curtain was not torn by an earthquake! It was torn by the Hand of God, and for a very good reason. God was telling man that the sacrifice of the Lamb of God had just opened the Holy of Holies to everyone! The Jewish priests of course did not accept this, but the Son of God, Jesus Himself will soon confirm this in front of the entire world as He takes the throne as Judge-Priest-King-GOD! Hallelujah!
The tearing of this veil helps us to understand the offer for us to come boldly to God’s Throne of Grace. The only intermediary needed is Jesus Himself, no one else! It is so very important for us not to ignore God’s call to us. He is offering us a relationship of intimacy. In John 15:4-6 we find these words by Jesus:
“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.”
The whole emphasis in that passage is on “abiding”. “Abide in me, and I will abide in you.” A Christian life cannot be successful without it. We can go through all the motions. We can be really busy “for the Lord,” yet be missing the mark. “Abiding” provides direction. Without it, we’re “flying solo”. Many churches and many pastors are flying solo today. Some whole religious organizations are doing their own thing, while they think they are doing great things for God!
I urge you, whomever you are, to make sure that you are well connected to the Vine. None of us if we’re serious about our Christian walk can afford to live our “Christian” life without receiving the nourishment of the Vine. If you are in any position of leadership, it’s so very important to have God’s current leading through the Holy Spirit. We live in an age like none other. God is urging His people to prepare themselves, not only for the imminent coming of the Lord, but to also be prepared for a rocky road just prior to this great event. Most in the church today are half asleep, living each day as if it will never be any different than it has been. Wrong! This is why Jesus commanded us to watch the signs. What signs you say? The signs in portions of His Word usually ignored, yet provided at great sacrifice, many times through the brutal torture and death of Biblical prophets. These signs were put in place mainly for this generation to recognize. Do you recognize these signs? We dare not ignore them. It is God’s Word!
It is time for us to take God up on His generous offer of an intimate walk with Him–the walk He created us for…
Continued in Part 3