Revelation 7:15b

Sermon preached on November 11, 2012 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2012. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

Don't you hate work? Isn't it nice to come home after a hard day at work and relax?

Part of the curse of sin was that our work would be hard. Adam was told that through painful toil he would eat of the of the produce of the ground. He was told that he would eat his food by the sweat of his brow and that the ground would produce thorns and thistles for him.

All the negative things about work come from sin. Some bosses can be very difficult. I admired the products that
Steve Jobs produced at Apple. But I've heard many stories about how sometimes he was terrible to work for. He would sometimes chew a subordinate out, throwing a temper tantrum and publicly demeaning and humiliating him. Sometimes employees really mess up and if they did Jobs would have no mercy on them. But the problem was that he didn't just do it with employees who messed up—he sometimes did it with employees who didn't deserve it. Not only that, he would sometimes steal ideas from his subordinates and put it forth as his own. An employee come up with a great idea and present it to Jobs. Jobs would dismiss it with derision. But then the next week he would present the same idea as something he just came up with. He would steal their idea.

Then at other times he would be downright mean. Andy Hertzfeld worked closely with Jobs in the early years at Apple. He was more than an employee. He was a close friend. He said,

"if you asked Steve for a favor, he might do the exact opposite. That was the perversity in his nature."

Working for Steve Jobs could sometimes be a very hard and discouraging.

Work can be like that. Bosses can be difficult. Work can be boring. I wouldn't ever want to work on an assembly line where you do the same thing every day. Other working conditions can be unhealthy and dangerous. Some people have to work outside in the cold or in the heat. Other people have co-workers who make their lives miserable. Sometimes people aren't paid properly for the work that they do. (James 5)

All of that has a caused a reaction among workers. We've all heard the expression,

"Thank God it's Friday!"

In Canada a financial institution advertises, "Freedom 55". It's the idea that if you plan correctly, you'll be able to retire and take life easy when you turn 55.

Many people view work as something to be avoided as much as possible. Weekends or retirement are what life is all about. I used to have a friend on Facebook that I had to hide her status updates. She lives in Canada and she works for the government and she was always bragging about her work schedule. In the summer I guess they work longer hours from Monday to Thursday and so they get to take every Friday off. So every week she would post things like,

"Thursday is my Friday!"

And on long weekends she would post stuff like,

"Four day weekend coming up!"


"We're getting off work early today!"

I had to hide her. I found her posts so annoying. I think I was jealous!

But there was more to it than that. I disagree with the idea that work is secondary to our pleasure. Work itself is not part of the curse of sin. Work is not something to be gotten rid of, to be tolerated. I'm not denying the horrible things that can be associated with work. But the point I'm making is that work in itself is good. Before Adam and Eve sinned they were given work to do. They were given dominion over creation. God put Adam in the Garden and told him to work it and care for it. (Genesis 2:15) So it's not 'work' that's part of the curse of sin—it's the difficulty of work and the other sinful things about work—the drudgery, the injustice, the poor working conditions—those things are part of the curse of sin.

So we shouldn't despise work like many people in our society do. Work itself is good. The Calvinistic work ethic comes from the teaching of the Bible. Retiring and taking like easy—that should not be the goal of our lives. For Christians, that will have to wait till we get to heaven—won't it?

Or will it? For one of the main things we see in our text about the blessedness of the saints before the throne is that

they serve God day and night.

At first glance this might not seem to be a great, blessed thing. Here on earth we usually consider people blessed if they have people to serve them. The ones that serve aren't so blessed. So someone might say,

"I thought that heaven was about rest. What's all this about serving, about work? Doesn't the Bible say in Revelation 14:13…"

"Then I heard a voice from heaven say,
'Write: Blessed are the dead
who die in the Lord from now on.'
'Yes,' says the Spirit, 'they will rest from their labor,
for their deeds will follow them.'"

And Hebrews 3 and 4 talks about God's people entering His 'rest'. As Hebrews 4:10 says,

"for anyone who enters God's rest
also rests from his own work, just as God did from his."

So what's all this about work, about service in heaven? Our text says that the saints will not only serve God—but that they will serve Him continually. We read,

"they are before the throne of God
and serve him day and night in his temple;"

Wow. It reminds me of the joke that is told about Bill Gates. I don't know if it's true or not, but I heard that one evening Bill Gates pulled was returning to Microsoft's headquarters after being away on a trip or something and he met an employee on his way home. So he said to the employee something like,

"Going home, are you?"

The employee answered something like,

"Yeah, I've been here since 8 this morning."

Thereby indicating that he had been at work 12 hours. Bill Gates supposedly replied,

"Oh, working half days now, are you?"

If you think that that was a bad joke, consider that our service in heaven will never end. But that's not going to be a bad thing—

it will be our life, our pleasure.

That's what our text tells us. Our service in heaven will be sanctuary service.

Last week we saw how wonderful it will be to be in God's presence, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord, to enjoy Him and delight in Him. The Greek word that is used here (
λατρεύω) sometimes means 'worship' and sometimes 'service'. It is a word that in the New Testament, with one exception, refers to the service or worship of the true God. It's not talking about working for men or 'serving' men—the thing that we normally refer to work. Service of men is usually handled by the Greek word δοῦλος. It refers to human slaves or servants and their service. The service that this is referring to service in a religious sense—it's God's service. As our text says, we 'serve Him'. There are two things we should note about this.

The first is that

this service will be an absolute delight.

In glory serving God will be the thing that we are most eager to do. Psalm 43:3–4 is a preview of this. The psalmist wrote,

"Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me;
let them bring me to your holy mountain,
to the place where you dwell. Then will I go to
the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight."

To serve God before His throne will not be burdensome. It will be your joy and delight. It is the thing that will give you satisfaction and contentment.

We read about this in Isaiah 65:17f, which describes the new Jerusalem and tells how rewarding God's service will be. It says, (verses 18–19, 21–23)

"But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create,
for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy.
I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people;
the sound of weeping and of crying
will be heard in it no more…
They will build houses and dwell in them;
they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
No longer will they build houses
and others live in them, or plant and others eat.
For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people;
my chosen ones will long enjoy the works of their hands.
They will not toil in vain or bear children doomed
to misfortune; for they will be a people blessed by the Lord…"

I once saw an interview with a NBA basketball star. I can't remember who he was, but I remember what he said. He said that when he was young his father said to him,

"If you find a job doing something you love doing and you'll never have to work a day in your life."

That's true. There would be no drudgery with that job.

I had a job like that one summer when I worked as a policeman for the railroad in Canada. Because I was working for the railroad, it didn't involve a lot of the danger that other policeman face. The most dangerous situation I faced that summer was taking a drunk off a passenger train. It was the kind of job where they gave you a car to drive around in, they gave you a gun, and if you went to Tim Horton's in uniform they gave you free coffee and doughnuts. Now for a young guy for a summer—was that a job or what?

Many of you knew Debbie Russell from Lisbon. When she was sick, near the end of her life, she told me about one of her bosses. She said he was the best boss she ever had—by far. I don't remember if she actually said so, but the impression I got was that when she worked for him, it was a joy to go to work every day. Service in heaven will be like that, only much better.

If you want to get a glimpse of what it will be like, you only need to listen to the words of the Queen of Sheba when she came and saw Solomon's wisdom. She said, (1 Kings 10:6–9)

"The report I heard in my own country about
your achievements and your wisdom is true.
But I did not believe these things
until I came and saw with my own eyes.
Indeed, not even half was told me;
in wisdom and wealth you have
far exceeded the report I heard.
How happy your men must be! How happy your officials,
who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom!
Praise be to the LORD your God, who has delighted
in you and placed you on the throne of Israel.
Because of the LORD'S eternal love for Israel,
he has made you king,
to maintain justice and righteousness."

Sometimes it is great and wonderful to serve. How blessed were those that served in Solomon's presence, to hear and be astonished at his wisdom.

But when we get to heaven, we will serve someone so much greater than Solomon. In Mark 12:37 we read that when Jesus was teaching,

"The large crowd listened to him with delight."

What a delight. But they were only getting a small, small, small glimpse into His glory. Think of what it will be like to be in His presence when He is on His throne. What a blessing it will be to serve Him. How delightful it will be.

Our service in glory will be thrilling. Donald Macleod writes, (A Faith to Live By, p. 330-331)

"The re-creation of the universe will involve a republication of the creation mandates to subdue and replenish the earth (Genesis 1:28)… Eden offered scope for art, science and technology as well as theology. The same will doubtless be true of the world to come. Bearing the image of the heavenly, we shall explore, colonize, serve, keep and enhance our magnificent environment. Not only the Creator, but the Creation, too, will be an object of wonder. It will challenge our intellects, fire our imaginations and stimulate our industry. The scenario is a thrilling one: brilliant minds in powerful bodies in a transformed universe. With energy, dexterity and athleticism here undreamed of, we shall explore horizons beyond our wildest imaginings."

There will be no drudgery or weariness to our service in glory. Isaiah 40:30–31 says,

"Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope 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."

In her book, Heaven, Your Real Home, Joni Eareckson Tada tells about a dream she had about heaven that may illustrate a truth about these verses from Isaiah. She said it was the most remarkable dream she ever had. It was about her swimming with a friend at a pool in heaven. She wrote,

"We swam together, stroke-for-stroke. And the longer we swam, the stronger we grew. Not weaker, but stronger."

Our service of God is heaven is going to be invigorating. It is going to fill us with joy, with delight, with satisfaction. There will be no pain, no sorrow, no sweat—but joy and satisfaction in the remarkable and tasks that God gives us.

The second thing we should note about this service before the throne is that

it will be such a privilege.

There is nothing like this. To be before the throne and serve the King. This is what we were made for. Not only will it be our delight—it will be the greatest honor.

In the Old Testament, it was a great privilege to serve at the Tabernacle or the Temple. How privileged the people were to have God dwell among them. But only the High Priest could go into the Most Holy Place. How privileged He was. What an honor. what a blessing. But only one person from the whole nation could go into God's presence. And he could only go in once a year on the day of Atonement. (Leviticus 16, Hebrews 9:7) And he had to enter with blood and he could only stay a short time.

But who could be a high priest? It was not open to all. You had to be a Levite to be a priest. Even as a Levite, you had to have certain qualifications. You had to be male. You could not have married a divorced woman. (Leviticus 21) The high priest was not even allowed to marry a widow. In order to serve before God the priests also had to be without physical defect. The blind, lame, disfigured, deformed, etc. etc. could not serve the offerings.

In the Old Testament it was a great privilege to serve before God at the sanctuary. Out of all Israel, very few were given that honor.

But now all that has changed. With the resurrection of Christ we are now all priests. and can serve God. (1 Peter 2:9) Our deeds are important. What a privilege it is to serve God and be useful to Him.

Yet it's going to be even better when we get to glory. Then we are going to be completely free from sin. We will be able to stand in God's presence and be able to serve Him perfectly and completely. How privileged we will be. How high we are going to be raised. One of the greatest privileges ever given to human beings will be for them to be before the throne and be able to serve God. It will be part of our glory. Jesus will say things like this to us, (see Revelation 3:21)

"Come up here, on my throne, and serve me by ruling with me."

Can you imagine? Will that be work? Yes, but not the way we think of work. Jesus will also say to His people, (1 Corinthians 6:2)

"Come, judge the world with me."

He will say to them, (1 Corinthians 6:3)

"Come, judge the angels."

He will say to His servants, (see Revelation 2:7)

"Eat from the tree of life."

He will say to His servants, (see Revelation 2:26-27)

"Have authority over the nations and judge them on my behalf."

He will say to us, (Revelation 3:5)

"Come. Let me introduce you to my Father and His angels. I want to acknowledge you before them."

To still others He will say, (Revelation 3:12)

"Come, I want you to be an administrator in the New Jerusalem."

To others He will say, (Revelation 21:6)

"Drink without cost from the spring of the water of life."

To us He will say about the new Jerusalem, (Revelation 21:7)

"Inherit all this, and be my son."

He will say to His servants, (Revelation 22:5)

"Reign forever and ever."

What grace. What mercy. What love. We will serve God in glory.

What does this mean for us?

For you who are Christians, you should be practicing for your heavenly service now.

I would suggest two things. First, your attitude. In glory it will be a delight to serve God, to obey Him. You should be cultivating that spirit in you now. In Romans 7:22 the apostle Paul said,

"For in my inner being I delight in God's law;"

And in 1 John 5:3 the apostle John wrote,

"This is love for God: to obey his commands.
And his commands are not burdensome,"

Christians, rejoice in your service of God. Yes, here our labor may be difficult and it may bring persecution—but we are to rejoice in it.

we are to be thinking what we can be doing for God's kingdom now. Jesus told us to seek first the kingdom of God and its righteousness.

What work should you be doing for Jesus now? The main reason you are on this earth is to serve God. We are to serve God in whatever we do. As Paul wrote in Colossians 3:17,

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed,
do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him."

This means that you can serve God in your job, in your hobby, in your marriage, etc. But many mistakenly think that that service is a secondary purpose in their job, or hobby. It's not. It's the main purpose. Serving Jesus is what your life is supposed to be all about.

Christians, this also means that

you are to be so thankful that your service in glory will be so delightful.

Whenever you have a bad day at work, you should thank God that your work in eternity will never be like that. Whenever you have dealings with a bad boss, you should remember that your boss in glory will never be uncaring, unreasonable, unjust. He will be perfect. How wonderful it will be.

Lastly, for those who are not Christians. The service of Christians in glory will be wonderful. Their service will be meaningful, pleasurable, and so fulfilling. No so with those who are not Christians. Your situation will be the opposite. The difficult things about work in this life are but a preview of the horrors of the lake of fire. How utterly horrible it will be. Whenever work is tedious, unfulfilling, unjust—it is telling you that you need Jesus. You need to serve the King, the only One it is a pleasure to serve. Go to Jesus today.