This past Sunday, the above verse was part of what we studied in Sunday school (life group, small group, growth group, whatever – it will always be Sunday school to me).
Can I be honest with you? When I first read that, I started thinking about who I thought those 24 people might be. Billy Graham? Mother Teresa? William Wilberforce? Abraham? Daniel? Surely it’s some of those people with seemingly impeccable resumes, right?
Well, most scholars believe that those 24 people are the heads of the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 apostles (with Paul having been voted in after Judas’ betrayal). Now that makes perfect sense from a nice Biblical history perspective, but again let me be honest: I started thinking about who that list included. We’re talking about the brothers that sold Joseph into slavery. One of those brothers ends up conceiving a child with his daughter-in-law when he thinks she’s a prostitute. We’re talking about a former tax collector. We’re talking about someone who once made sure that as many Christians were killed as possible. We’re talking about a man with quite a temper who had a penchant for saying the very wrong thing at the very wrong time.
Who in the world decided these guys get to be the ones to sit around the throne? God.
Why in the world would He choose them? Well, who better to illustrate the power and beauty of God’s redemption than a bunch of guys who clearly didn’t deserve it?
I’ll be in heaven, too, and I’ve lied, cheated, hated, been gluttonous, coveted, and broken all 10 of the commandments either physically or at least spiritually. Who in the world would let me in? God. Why? I’m a result of His power and the beauty of His redemption.
Do you deserve to be let into Heaven? Before you answer that, let me remind you that the standard is absolute perfection. Just being better than other people is not sufficient. The “you must be this tall to ride this ride” for eternal life is the total lack of sin. Do you measure up? I’m guessing that the answer is “no.” In fact, the Bible says that no one measures up.
Heaven would have only 1 occupant plus a bunch of angels apart from the redemptive work of Christ on the cross. None of us will deserve to be there. Every eventual occupant of heaven will be a result of His power and the beauty of His redemption.
By the way, in case you’re wondering if being so near the throne gives those guys the “big head,” notice this a little later in the same chapter (verses 9 – 11):
And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who is seated on the throne, Who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who is seated on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, “Worthy are You, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things, and by Your will they existed and were created.”
They are fully aware that they don’t deserve to be there. And you and I will be fully aware that we don’t deserve to be there. “When we all get to heaven what a day of rejoicing that will be! When we all see Jesus we’ll sing and shout the victory!”