The Sounds of Heaven
Sound - the very idea of it - has always fascinated me. I grew up not knowing there were certain sounds, like the sound of birds, or machines, or the tick-tock of a clock. I heard only in part, because of deafness. Childhood nerve damage to my ears left me hearing only the loudest of noises, or those closest in proximity to me. I did not know that some sounds even existed until, in fourth grade, I was given hearing aids.
The shock of sound alarmed me beyond belief. The moment an audiologist turned up the volume for me, I screamed. Suddenly, there was sound, and a lot of it! An air conditioner outside the window, humming noisily, made me jump out of the chair I was sitting in. I remember thinking it was the hum of an aircraft invasion! Refrigerators make noise - did you know that? And birds, mice, all of God's creation has something to say - if you can hear it.
Heaven is like this, too. Not to alarm us, of course, but heaven is a noisy place! John gives us amazing descriptions of the sounds of heaven in Revelation. As one deeply intimate with the Lord, John was given access to sights and sounds that most humans will never see or hear. And it all started with sound.
Look at the first Pentecost. The disciples (including John) were gathered in an upper room, waiting for a promised encounter with God. Acts 2 says that "Suddenly, there came a SOUND from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting." (Acts 2:2). I am certain that the noise of this whirlwind made at least some of the disciples jump out of their seats, as I did when I could first hear! These believers were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak "as the Spirit gave them utterance." (Acts 2:4) What a powerful initiation to hearing the sounds of heaven!
Sound Begets Speech
From the moment the Holy Spirit opened the ears of the disciples, He also inspired them to speak the gospel. The Holy Spirit, whose job it is to amplify the sounds of heaven in our ears, filled the first believers with language, not just hearing, so that thousands of others heard about God in their own languages and became believers themselves. The amplification of the sounds of heaven brought the multiplication of men into the Kingdom of God.
And so it still is with us today. If you are listening, you will also be speaking. And speaking - telling others the Good News of the Gospel - is the primary call and commission of every believer. (See Matthew 28:18).
But the reverse is also true: if we are NOT listening, we will not be hearing either. If we do not hear the Words of God, we will not be saved. If believers do not listen daily for the sounds of heaven, those specific and personal instructions He wants to give us, we will not be led by the Spirit. And if we don't know where we are supposed to be or what He wants us to be doing, we will not be living and sharing the testimonies He wants to give us, which will lead others to hear more about Him.
How then shall they believe in Him of whom
What does heaven sound like? John's experience with the incredible sounds and sights of heaven began with the sound of a trumpet: "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying: I am the Alpha and the Omega...write what you see in a book and send it to the churches..." (Revelation 1:10-11) This would be the first of over 20 times John would hear loud voices, thunderings, earthquakes, music, loud cries of angels, harps, and worship.
In contrast, only once are we told (in Revelation 8) that "there was silence in heaven for about half an hour." (Revelation 8:1). This coincided with the opening of the seventh seal. (Seven is the number biblically connected with rest and sabbaths).
The noises and voices John hears take him successively higher in the heavenly realm, until at last he is able to see the Bride of Christ and the New Jerusalem, the final destiny of all believers. Yet even in his first glimpse of the throne of God, John writes that "...from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings and voices." (Rev 4:5) The seven Spirits of God were burning like lamps before the throne. He also sees living creatures and elders worshiping day and night, speaking of the holiness of God. Their praise never ceases; they do not rest.
What can we gain from this? The knowledge that the closer we get to the throne of God, the more constant our speaking will be. The Spirit of God mysteriously abides both within us and near to the throne. What He hears, He speaks to us. What we hear, we then speak, preach, prophesy, and sing. As we draw as near to God as we can, we will be compelled, as these elders are, to speak of Him constantly, to worship Him 24/7, and to yield to the inspiration of the Spirit within us.
Jesus cried aloud when He gave up His Spirit and when He summoned Lazarus from the tomb. Angels cry loudly and trumpet the proclamations of God. Man cries out in his prayers of distress or decree. All are normal responses to the pneuma, or the breath, of the Spirit of God in us. Hearing from God compels us to speak. Sharing what we hear will cause others to hear Him also.
Hearing and speech are intricately linked in both the natural and spiritual realms. Don't let a deaf and dumb spirit silence you. Listen for the loud sounds of heaven, and then speak in such a way that you'll compel others to hear heaven, too.
You who make mention of the Lord, do not keep silent,
and give Him no rest till He establishes and till He makes
Jerusalem a praise in the earth.
~ Isaiah 62:7
Rejoicing in Hope
My youngest son was invited to a "sleepover party" this week. One of his closest friends was turning 10 and wanted my little guy to celebrate with him. You might not think a sleepover is such a big deal at your age, but for a nine-year-old who has often been left behind while two older brothers go on sleepovers, this was like being given the world! Oh, the fun they would have! They would stay up until TEN O'CLOCK, he boasted to me! They would eat popcorn! Watch movies! Candy for dinner! And on and on he went.
The invitation arrived a week or so ahead of time. It was beautiful: a full-color, printed invitation complete with pictures, time and date. It promptly earned a coveted place on our fridge, where my son could visually savor its promised delights until the momentous day should arrive. We discussed it daily: what to bring, what to wear, how exciting that HE had been invited, along with one or two of his best friends! This was just THE BEST!
As you already know, the hard part of receiving a promise is waiting for its fulfillment. Ecclesiastes 3:1 says "To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven." Not knowing when your promise will happen is difficult, of course, but even knowing the appointed time can be a challenge - especially for children! But what actually happened surprised me.
The day of the party arrived, and my little guy had patiently made it through the week, occupied with school, chores, and other things important to nine-year-olds. His suitcase was packed, a gift was purchased and wrapped, and his sleeping bag rolled and ready. There were just a few more hours left to wait, and my son's energy was contagious. As he went bouncing (yes, bouncing!) up the stairs looking for something to do, I caught his expression momentarily.
He had a smile as wide as Texas on his face. His arms were wide open, swinging his body up the stairs as he bounced. His eyes were directed heavenward, as if in thoughtful anticipation of the night's incredible delights. Excitement and energy oozed from every pore of his being. And suddenly, it was as if the Lord stopped all of the motion and "froze" the image of my son into my spirit. "This," He said, "is what it looks like to wait in hope for My promises."
Honestly, I had never thought about waiting very much - or at least about how to wait. I knew the Bible mentioned that we should be patient in waiting, of course. Ugh! Mostly, it seemed to me that lengthy delays of God's promises made the heart sick, not joyful!
Like many people, I am impatient at heart and don't like waiting, especially when I know there's something really good coming! So I spent some time in the Word, and in the process, He transformed my thinking about waiting in hope.
My son instinctively knew something that I had forgotten: that the fulfillment of a promise depends on the character of the one who made it, and on your relationship with that same person. Nothing short of death would have cancelled my son's attendance at the party, because he was intimate - best friends - with the giver of the party. It was a done deal, even if the sacred day and hour had not yet arrived. He knew that hope does not disappoint, because of love (See Romans 5:5).
We have promises given to us from the Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Timothy 1:1 says the Lord IS our hope! This hope is firm and secure, an anchor for our souls (Hebrews 6:19). What does that mean? We can hold confidently to the hope we have, because the character of the One who promised us is faithful (Hebrews 10:23). If we remain in fellowship with our Savior and Friend, there is NOTHING that can separate us from His love and His promises! Just like my son, our reaction to all of his promises should be: "YES! AMEN! I'm there! I believe I'm gonna receive!"
Take springtime for example. God honors His appointed times and seasons for things, as creation testifies. No matter how long the winter seems or how deeply we ache for the flowers of springtime, the revelation of His promises will come to pass (see Habbakuk 2:3). Waiting makes hope's promises sweeter when they manifest.
After the party (which was unutterably awesome, according to my little one), this same child handed me the first sweet-smelling flower from our garden. I didn't see it at the time, but I now believe the Lord was renewing my hope as well. Springtime had arrived, in all its glory, and even "Snowmaggedon," New England's hardest winter of all time, hadn't stopped it. We waited longer, but our reward only became sweeter.
Biblical waiting does not look like drudgery and doubt. Fear and uncertainty arise only when the character of the giver comes into question. Believers have the amazing privilege of relying upon Someone whose character is flawless, and whose intentions are sure. Rather, patience looks like a little boy, dancing heavenward, celebrating in his heart the goodness of his very best friend, who can't wait to see his promise fulfilled and his friend at his side.
Deborah Perkins is passionate about helping people connect with God.
She writes about knowing God and hearing His voice at His Inscriptions.
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One of the reasons why I began writing His Inscriptions was to strengthen believers - especially Christian leaders - who are weary and exhausted for various reasons. You may be feeling that way today. It is not uncommon, in an increasingly hostile world, to feel tired or discouraged. Once we are weary, it becomes harder than ever to maintain the good habits we have of connecting with God. Self-discipline eludes us and our communication with God ebbs at the time we need it most.
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A severe hearing loss from childhood caused Deborah Perkins to develop what she now calls her secret weapon: tuning in to God's voice. A Wellesley College graduate and an award-winning writer, Deborah is now a wife and mother of 3 boys. Deborah has devoted over 25 years to professional and lay Christian ministry in New England and beyond. Her passion is inspiring people to cultivate greater intimacy with God.