“…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…'”
Imagine the scene in heaven when all of heaven’s hosts gather to proclaim the glory, honor, and power that belongs to God the Father and the Lamb (Rev. 5:13). All the mighty heroes of the faith, known and unknown, all the angels of heaven, and every creature in existence gather in humble adoration of God the Creator (Rev. 4:10-11) and Christ the Savior (Rev. 5:9-12). In heaven all glory is reserved for the Triune God alone, which is right and good (Ps. 92:1).
In the wake of the death of Billy Graham (maybe the most famous evangelist in the modern era) has been a host of reactions, typically good, from people Christian and non-Christian alike. There is no doubt that Billy Graham has a had an incredible global impact spanning decades and, as a result, has affected countless millions. He was a preacher, a writer, an example, a counselor, a humble servant, and a faithful minister of the Gospel, and he should be commended by the saints as such.
For the servant of God there is no greater commendation. When God’s servants, entrusted with the Gospel, reach home they look forward to be regarded by the Master as good and faithful (Matt. 25:21). Even Paul, when writing his farewell letter to Timothy, provided his own eulogy, which described his life as one of faithfulness; he fought the good fight, he finished the race, and he kept the faith (2 Tim 4:6-7). Likewise, when Paul speaks of those who are saved in Colossians, he indicates that the truly redeemed are marked by faithfulness (Col. 1:21-23), and when Paul speaks of Epaphras (in the same chapter), he commends him as a faithful minister (Col. 1:7). It is faithfulness to Christ and His Gospel, in ALL things, that solidifies the validity of a Christian’s profession.
Although we receive commendation from God and men due to our faithfulness to Christ and His Gospel, it must be understood that our faithfulness is not something that can ever be achieved by any Christian on their own. Our faithfulness is dependent on His own faithfulness to us (Phil. 1:6; 1 Thess. 5:24). In other words, anything we might claim for ourselves, anything we might be able to boast in, is mute because we really have no essential role in anything we accomplish for Christ. Thinking otherwise is comparable to a hammer boasting in the planning and execution of building a beautiful house, which would be absurd. The tool can never take the credit that only belongs to the architect and builder. Likewise, it is Christ, the founder and perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:2), who saves, who calls, who empowers, and who keeps us faithful. Christ, therefore, and only Christ, deserves the glory, and only He will ever get the glory.
Paul, in his personal eulogy, mentions that Christ, the Righteous Judge, will award him the crown of righteousness on the day he goes home (2 Tim. 4:8), which would seem to indicate that Christ would give Paul a degree of glory for what he accomplished on earth in His Name. But, as Revelation reveals, the crowns that even the greatest will receive (the 24 elders) will be cast at the feet of the Father and the Lamb in humble adoration, and for this reason: they know that anything given to them is only made possible by God alone, the Creator and the Savior of the world. They recognize their inherent nothingness before Him and act appropriately. The crowns He bestows upon them are but trinkets at the feet of the Sovereign Lord.
This would seem like common sense for anyone that has an accurate knowledge of God, but, truthfully, it isn’t for many. After Billy Graham died, a public figure posted on Facebook about how Billy Graham would be welcomed into heaven with a red carpet, as if Billy Graham were someone to be given any prestige or glory in the kingdom of heaven. I know the author’s intentions were good and were intended to honor the late evangelist, but what they were, in reality, was blasphemous. Billy Graham did not get propped up on some pedestal upon his arrival and he certainly did not receive a red carpet welcome into heaven. Billy Graham, I assure you, fell on his face before the glorious Christ in humble adoration, as we all will. Why? Because anyone who has walked this battle of faith with Christ knows that if not for Christ’s grace, mercy, love, power, and faithfulness, they would never have known Him, much less served Him faithfully. As Paul, after expounding on God’s otherworldly election process, reiterates, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Cor. 1:31).
I dare say, as a matter of truth, that the charismatic movement and its strong affiliation with Arminianism and its works-based theology have given way to the idea that Christian accomplishment is attained by human will and effort and is, thus, worthy of some measure of glory. Many in these circles would never admit that humans deserve any glory belonging to God, but indirectly they do convey this when they teach, what I would call, bootstrap theology.
In other words, if we’re going to accomplish anything for God we have to get up and will ourselves to do it, because God will never force us to in violation of our free will. What they are teaching, in reality, is that good works, or God’s “plan” for your life, is dependent on human effort and not God’s providence (Eph. 2:10), and what this creates is a culture of competition, jealousy, and man-praising. It is this kind of bootstrap theology that causes people to pray, as I have heard with my own ears, “Thank You God that I chose You.” This is blasphemy.
Billy Graham was a servant, nothing more and nothing less, and no matter what anyone does for Christ, whether “big” or “small,” or seen or unseen, they are only servants doing what they were supposed to do (Lk. 17:10). Anything any of us accomplish for Christ is the direct result of His mercy, grace, and power; therefore, we should never glorify the man or woman of God for anything they do because in reality they didn’t do it. This is what the 24 elders understand in the heavenly vision, that they are nothing without Him and could do nothing without Him (Jn. 15:5), and they responded rightly. And we, when we finally see Him face to face, will joyfully do the same.
Grace unending all my days
You’ll give me strength to run this race
And when my years on earth are through
The praise will all belong to You