A few years ago, Lou Engel led a 50-day prayer meeting, and JoAnn and I were led to attend. Young people, age 16-30, were the main participants, but an email went out asking for people my age to come and serve as moms and dads. We went. And just before the 50 days began, a 19-year-old girl gave a testimony that rocked me.
She said she had been sitting at the piano, pouring her heart out to God in worship. Suddenly she looked down and saw herself sitting at the piano and worshipping. What did this mean? She looked up, and there was the throne room, and Jesus saw her looking in and beckoned and said, “Come on in.”
By now, she was weeping as she shared. “He told me a lot of personal things about my own future, and I don’t need to share it now because it wouldn’t mean anything to anyone but me. But when He was finished, He said, ‘Go tell My people they can come here whenever they want.’”
Could it be that easy? In the next fifty days, I started reaching for the heavens. Whenever the anointing was especially intense as we worshipped, I would reach. But I never quite connected. Maybe I wasn’t spiritual enough to step into the heavens. Maybe her testimony was wrong? I soon realized her testimony had to be right. Compare it to Hebrews 4:16:
Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace,that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
It took a 19-year-old girl to make me realize a scripture I had encountered many times is literal reality, not just a figure of speech.
Within a few days of hearing this testimony, some of the young people started getting caught up to heaven. Two saw each other there and started a conversation, which they finished when they were back down to earth. Then one night Lou Engel was leading a meeting and said, “I keep hearing stories that some of you are being caught up to heaven. How many have been caught up?”
Ten hands went up.
“I envy you,” Lou said with a grin. “I’ve never been caught up to heaven.” Here was a man with an international voice, yet humble enough to rejoice as God was doing a new thing with a younger generation.
My first experience happened on the 51sst day of the prayer meeting, and I’ve been having them off and on ever since.
Since that 50-day prayer meeting, I’ve been hearing more and more fresh testimonies of people having open heaven or glory encounters. I used to hear them only from veteran missionaries who were incredibly saintly. In the last few years I hear them from young people, or from people whose walk with God sometimes falters. I count my own experiences as evidence not that I’m a saintly old missionary – I count myself one of the poor and needy ones who enter by grace.
But I’ve heard enough testimonies that I’m starting to believe that God is doing a new thing in the church with glory encounters and open heaven experiences. That’s what I believe, but what does the Bible say?
I have a prophetic ministry, and there is something of a protocol for how prophets give a word. Admittedly, there is a variety of styles. Do we use King James English or modern speech? I’ve heard prophecy flow both ways. Are we loud and thundering, or are we soft-spoken? I’ve heard good prophecies given both ways. Should we prophesy with eyes open or closed? It doesn’t seem to matter. The style seems more important to us than it is to God.
But we give a word to an individual, or to a church, or to a region. There may be an element of predicting the future; there may be something about the past that the hearer knows is true and that the prophet had no way to know except by hearing from God. This prophetic flow can work without our having to have visions of stepping into the heavens. So how important is it to enter in to the throne room and to behold Jesus? After all, we can prophesy without these experiences.
One day the Lord challenged me to go through the book of Acts, listing the prophetic happenings that sound like the kind of prophetic ministry we are all used to; then I was to list the open heaven encounters. It took an hour or so. The open heaven encounters outnumbered the prophetic experiences that looked like the kind of prophetic ministry we all know and love. I realized that night that we’re missing something.
Behold the wisdom and grace of our God! For I’ve gotten to attend meetings and sometimes to have conversation with some of the premier prophets in the land. But God used a teenage girl to open my eyes to what I’d been missing. It was time to start seeking.
I challenge you to read the book of Acts and list the prophetic moments in one column and the open heaven moments in another. See it for yourself.
It took a while to see how scriptural these open heaven experiences really are. Many of us are familiar with the “Roman road to salvation”, which uses a few texts from Romans to guide us into personal salvation. One day I was convicted to reread the book of Romans, jotting down the texts that reveal the Roman road to glory. It’s there, and it’s as conspicuous as the Roman road to salvation.
Romans 3:23 says all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory. We’ve sinned already, but we’re still falling short of His glory. As I pondered this, a question popped up in my mind. Could it be that the same blood of Jesus that sets us free from sin and guilt also paves the way for us to connect with God’s glory?
It would take too many words to go through Romans here, but look at Romans 8:29-30:
For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
We all have our convictions about foreknowledge, and I’m not going to focus on that. But the Bible then says God has justified us – in our parlance, we call it “getting saved”. Are you saved? The next line says that if you are saved, God has glorified you. It’s not just for the future or for the afterlife; He has done it already. You can experience it now.
Another challenge: go through Romans, and watch what God says about glory. We may have sold the gospel short, thinking it was only about getting us into heaven when we die. But classic gospel truth includes God’s desire to get heaven into us while we are alive on earth.
There are too many scriptures to list in this short article. But as I looked to see what Hebrews says about the link between heaven and earth, I noticed in the beginning of chapter 3 that God calls us partakers of the heavenly calling. What is the heavenly calling? When Paul received the Macedonian calling, he saw a vision of a man in Macedonia calling him into Macedonia. Likewise, the heavenly calling means that God in heaven is calling us into heaven. He is eager for us to come in.
As I worked through the chapters, I realized that God feels so strongly about making a way to connect His heaven to our earth that nothing less than the blood of Jesus effects the connection. Then I landed in the beloved chapter 11, where Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place he would receive as an inheritance. He didn’t know how to get there and then he arrived and didn’t know how to live there – there was a famine in the land – and he moved on to Egypt. That didn’t work out, and he had to return to the land of promise and find God’s provision there.
Our generation is facing the same issues. As never before, God seems to be sounding the heavenly calling to the rank and file of His people. We don’t know how to enter in, just as Abraham didn’t know. But at least we can reach towards the heavens, and trust God to get us there. Our reaching is not so much an act of zeal as an act of devotion, for we must be careful not to disregard the voice of Him who loves us.
We will need fathers and mothers in the faith who will help the church find her bearings as we press further into the reality of heaven on earth. It’s what Jesus preached. It’s new to us, but it isn’t new to Him. It’s been in the Bible for 2000 years. For some reason, we’ve imagined that the scripture was simply being poetic about heaven when in fact God was extending promises to us.
In every generation, a small remnant has stepped into these things. But in our generation, it appears God is taking pains to make sure more and more of us enter in. Why now? Why not before?
I don’t know, but two thoughts have occurred to me. The first is that the church has needed 100 years of Pentecostalism, with churches crying out to God so they can have the flavor of the church in Acts. Another factor may be the accumulated impact of 2000 years of Jesus’ intercession in the heavens. These are just guesses.
But I’m sure of this. A few years ago, I heard a teenage girl testify that Jesus told her we can enter into the throne room whenever we want to. It seemed hard to believe at the time, but as I’ve searched the scripture I’ve found that what she heard was solidly biblical – far more biblical than the traditions I grew up with.