Summary: Ever wonder how you get into heaven and what it will be like. Jesus helps keep our focus on it by reminding us of these things.
A Party to End All Parties!
When my Grandpa died, we shed some tears. But he had been sick off and on for so long that his passing was a bit of a relief. Besides that, his funeral was the first time that many of our family had been together for years. So, as soon as the funeral dinner began, things got pretty lively. I remember my Jackie Gleason-type cousin dancing around, chanting, “Woo-woo! They have Kielbasa!” For all of you non-Polish immigrants, that’s Polish Sausage. Even in death, there was a bit of a party.
Things were very different last Monday at the Methodist Church where they held the funeral of 15 year old Kade Tomeshek. As I dropped off Sam for Preschool, I saw many young people standing in the funeral dinner line with vacant, teary expressions. I heard a few say that they didn’t feel like eating at all. Just about every head was hung, every shoulder slumped. I thought how different it seemed from my Grandpa’s funeral.
But, you know, there is always reason for Christians to rejoice in death. You see, the missing person who has left an empty hole in our heart, is partying with the Lord! One author wrote, “God is planning a party…a party to end all parties. A feast. Not giggles and chitchat in the conference room, but wide-eyed wonder in the throne room of God.” This isn’t a party that begins at 6 and peters out at 9. This isn’t a brat party that ends with heartburn and endless cleanup. It’s an eternity of ceaseless celebration.
And Jesus wants you there more than anything—yes, you! That’s why he gave old Apostle John a glimpse of the heavenly party in Revelation. He wants us to know how to get there and what it’s going to be like so that we never lose focus of it.
Revelation 7:9-17 9 After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb (i.e., Jesus, the lamb of God). They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands…13 Then one of the elders asked me, "These in white robes-- who are they, and where did they come from?" 14 I answered, "Sir, you know." And he said, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 Therefore, "they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. 16 Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. 17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." (NIV)
How do you get to this party?
Getting ready for a party, the husband slaps on some old jeans and a sweater, throws on some shoes and he’s ready to go. He turns around to see ten different coordinated outfits carefully displayed on the bed. His wife begs him with strain in her voice, “Which one should I wear?” And he is not sure if this is another one of those trick questions like “Do you think these jeans make me look fat?” But she knows that if you are going to a party, you’ve got to have the right clothes.
How much more true that is when it comes to the party of Heaven. You must have to have the right clothes to be admitted into heaven. The Holy Maitre Di of heaven will not accept our shirts stained with sin and shame. He rejects our jeans splattered with the sticky jam of selfishness and lovelessness. He turns away the filthy ties of our tantrums, our lustful thoughts, our apathy.
But you will notice that all the people in heaven weren’t wearing filthy clothes. They were wearing white robes, stately, flowing robes of purity. It’s not that they never sinned, but their sins have been covered by Jesus.
That’s not any easy concept, so let me explain it this way. Maybe some of you saw the movie, “Glory” from a few years back. It’s a great movie about the first African-American Regiment in the Civil War. One of the soldiers, played by Denzel Washington, is unjustly caught stealing shoes, and he is sentenced to be whipped. As he takes off his white shirt, everyone sees that his back is crisscrossed with horrible scars from beatings in slavery. Nobody could see that he was so beaten, because his white shirt always covered the scars. So, Jesus’ blood covers your sins like a white robe. Because God cannot see them, and you will be allowed into heaven.