The Heavenly City of God
July 28th, 1963 @ 10:50 AM
THE HEAVENLY CITY OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-28-63 10:50 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the eleven o’clock morning message entitled The Holy, The Heavenly City of God. In our preaching through the Bible after these many, many years, we have come to the Revelation. In our preaching through the Revelation after these several years, we have come to chapters 21 and 22. I am preparing three more sermons, unless they break up and become multiplied as sometimes they do, but I am preparing three more sermons, which will conclude about eighteen years of preaching through the Word of God. Next Sunday morning, the sermon will be on the deity and humanity of Christ. In the twenty-second chapter:
I am the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last, I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and the Morning Star.
[Revelation 22:13, 16]
The deity and humanity of our Lord, that will be next Sunday morning; that is from Revelation 22:13 and 16. Then the second sermon I am preparing is on Revelation 22:17, God’s last invitation:
And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.
That shall be the second sermon beyond. Then, the third sermon, the last that shall close this long, long series will be [Revelation 22:20]: "He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus." And the book closes with a benediction.
Now the sermon today is on the holy, heavenly city of God. Revelation 21, verse 9 through Revelation 22, verse 5. The first five verses of the twenty-second chapter of Revelation should have been with the twenty-first chapter. Beginning at verse 6 in chapter 22, you have the epilogue. The revelation closes at the fifth verse of chapter 22; the visions close, and the last verses are an epilogue out of which I am preparing the last two messages.
Now, if you wish, you can turn in your Bible, this will be an exposition of this passage from Revelation 21:9 through 22:5. In this vision, John sees the holy city, the New Jerusalem, and he describes it first from the outside as he saw it descend out of heaven. Then he describes the inside as though he entered within the gates of the city. Now, this is the description of the outside from verses 9 to the first half of verse 21:
And there came unto me one of the angels,and talked with me, saying: Come hither, I will show thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife. And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, coming, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a iaspis stone,
I think it is a diamond; all of these stones that are named here in the Bible; they have just taken the Greek word and put it in the English language. We just suppose that they are this and this is this. But I think that the iaspis stone – when you get in English, it is pronounced "jasper" – I think it is a diamond. Every description I find of it in the Revelation is like that. This holy city, having the glory of God, with a light likened unto a stone most precious, "even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal." What you call jasper is not clear as crystal, but a diamond is, and it has the glory of the fire of God in its heart.
,and had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof. And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal. And he measured the wall thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, used by the angel. The angel used the measure of a man, a hundred and forty-four cubits. And the building of the wall of it was – of diamond – of that jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass. And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation,
Now, each one of these twelve jewels are going to be named. Each one of them is a Greek name. They have just taken the Greek word and spelled it out in the alphabet and pronunciation of our English language.
The first foundation was of jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald; the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; and the twelfth, an amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl.
And now we’re going inside the city. He’s described it as it descended from God out of heaven. And he looked at it, saw it measured, and described its glory and light and beauty and wonder. Now he comes to the gate and enters into the city, and he describes what’s inside.
And the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass. And I saw no temple therein; for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them who are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honor into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. And they shall bring the honor and glory of the nations into it. And there shall in no wise enter anything that defileth, only they who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
And he showed me a [pure] river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and His servants shall serve Him: And they shall see His face; and His name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign forever and ever.
And the vision ends. Then we have an epilogue, a benediction, an affirmation, an authentication, and God’s Holy Word is closed.
The beautiful, heavenly, and holy city of God – oh, what a delightful, glad, glorious prospect! And what a precious revelation this vision here John saw when he looked upon the city descending out of heaven from God, "And there came unto me one of the angels, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, come here, I will show thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife" [Revelation 21:9].
And when he looked upon her, he saw a city, great and holy, a new Jerusalem in contrast to the old, descending out of heaven from God. So it is a city, real and actual, and it is called the bride, the Lamb’s wife because of those who inhabit it, its occupants, its dwellers. The Lamb’s wife, the bride, living in a great and a beautiful and a golden city, whose builder and maker is God.
That bride is the church, the bride of Christ, the Lamb’s wife. But in the city is not only the saved in the fellowship of Christ’s church, but in that city are her attendants and her friends, and those who were invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.
Do you remember your pastor’s sermon on the nineteenth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, verses 7 through 9? "Be glad and rejoice: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready": that is the church, the bride of the blessed Lord Jesus. But not only is she there – the church taken out of the side of our Lord, born out of the suffering and the crimson of our Savior – not only is she there, but in the verse that follows: "And blessed are they who are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb."
Not only is there a wedding, when the bride of Christ is presented to Jesus, but there is also a marriage supper! And to that marriage supper there is a special benediction for the guests who are invited. Some of those friends of the Bridegroom are men like John the Baptist, who never lived to be a part of His church; who are in no sense a part of the bride of Christ. They died in the old dispensation. But lest someone think they might be less blessed, there is a special beatitude for them: "Blessed are they also" – beside the bride who has been married to the Lamb – "blessed are they also who are called to the wedding supper, the marriage supper of the Lamb" [Revelation 19:7,9].
So in that beautiful city, there is not only the bride of Christ, but there are her attendants and her friends. And there are these who are called to the marriage feast, all of the saints of the old dispensation and the old covenant. Even our Lord said, "There shall be many from the east and the west, who shall sit down in the kingdom of heaven with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob" [Matthew 8:11]. So when we come to live in that beautiful city of God, we shall see not only these who have been saved in this age and dispensation, the bride of the Lamb, but we shall see also those who have been converted and saved, from the days of Abel to the last martyr slain by the Antichrist. All of God’s redeemed saints shall live in that beautiful and holy city. I would think that also from the names that are written on it, ",had a wall, great and high, and twelve gates," and the names of the twelve tribes of Israel on those gates [Revelation 21:12]. As Jesus said, "Salvation is of the Jews" [John 4:22]. God gave to them the oracles of the Lord. And their names – those twelve tribes representing all of the saved of the old covenant – their names are on the twelve gates of the beautiful and heavenly city:
"And the walls of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb" [Revelation 21:14]. And in that city are those who are saved in this day and in this age and in this dispensation. That’s the reason I think the elders so frequently referred to in the Apocalypse are numbered twenty-four – twenty-four elders, twice twelve. They represent the twelve patriarchs of the old covenant; they represent the twelve apostles of the new covenant. And the twenty-four elders represent all of God’s redeemed of all of the ages, carried into heaven, resurrected from the dead or raptured and changed at the Lord’s coming, and all of them living in the beautiful and heavenly city of God [Revelation 4:4; 19:4-5].
Someone who listened to the sermon last Sunday morning, as I described the new heaven and the new earth [Revelation 21:1], that God’s going to remake it, regenerate it, redeem it, refurbish it, and re-establish it in holiness and glory as He did in the beginning, before sin cursed and destroyed it – listening to me preach last Sunday as I described the new heaven and the new earth and spoke of our dwelling here in this earth, that one said, "Well, I thought we were going to heaven when we die. I did not know we were going to stay down here in this earth."
Well, we do go to heaven when we die. Our home is in heaven. Our house, our mansion, our dwelling place, our abiding place is in heaven. It is in this beautiful city, this heavenly, holy, New Jerusalem. But in God’s day and in God’s time, the purpose of God’s redemption is to make a new heaven and a new earth that His new city might come down and dwell and be placed on this very and same terrestrial globe.
I think that is the meaning of these revelations: a new heaven above us, and a new earth beneath us, and a new heavenly city, our home, coming down out of heaven "from God" [Revelation 21:2]. Those little Greek prepositions mean so much. He saw that city, coming "from God," apo tou theou, "from God," but ek tou ouranou, "out of heaven." It’s not coming "from" heaven as though it might be nearby or close, but it is coming "out of" heaven.
When we go to heaven, our heavenly home is that beautiful city. And it comes out of heaven from God. That’s where we go when we die, and we shall come from heaven. That’s where the marriage supper of the Lamb is going to be, in heaven [Revelation 19:6-9]. That’s where the wedding feast is going to be, is in heaven. And in God’s providence, at the end of these great and climactic and heavenly days, out of heaven, out of heaven shall descend this incomparable and beautiful city!
Then John describes it as he saw it. And he measures it and tells us what it looks like. He said it is a perfect cube: it’s foursquare [Revelation 21:16]. And then he described its size, and speaks of its color and then of its symmetry and proportion, its sides.
Oh, how tremendous and how great God is preparing that, our Lord Jesus is preparing that for us now! When our Savior went away, He went away to do two things: one, to pray for us, to intercede for us. Our great holy High Priest who entered into the veil, there to make intercession for us: "Wherefore He is able to keep to the uttermost them who come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for us" [Hebrews 7:25]. We are not equal to Satan and the devil, the diabolos, who controls and runs this world. Quicker than the eye could recognize, quicker than a man could take a breath, would Satan destroy us were it not for the keeping intercession of our great Advocate and Mediator in glory.
But Jesus not only went inside the veil to intercede for us, but He went to heaven to prepare a place for us [John 14:3]. And these years and now these centuries, the hand of our Savior is fashioning what no architect in this life could ever dream or think of. He is building – He is building a city and a home for us in glory, and its size is tremendous. "And the angel measured it, and it measured twelve thousand stadia," the English, "furlongs"; in American, one thousand five hundred miles. It is a city as though it began in Maine and went all the way down to Florida. It is so vast in its length and its breadth and its height, it is so vast that the city of God would cover all of Ireland, all of England, and all of Great Britain, all of France, all of Spain, all of Germany, all of Austria, all of Italy, all of Europe and Turkey and half of great Russia. Fifteen hundred miles one way, fifteen hundred miles the other way, and fifteen hundred miles upward – street upon street and story upon story – the beautiful golden city of the glory and presence of God: our home in heaven, its size. And the angel measured with the measure of a man. He measured the walls at one hundred forty-four cubits high, about two hundred and fifty feet high, and it sits upon a great, solid foundation [Revelation 21:17]. As the city descends out of heaven from God and is set down upon this earth, there is that tremendous wall and the vast cube of a foundation on which the great, mighty, holy city rests.
And that leads me to say a second thing about the outside of the city. Will you notice its variegated, multiplied, glorious colors? God must like color. For example, do you ever see the sun set in the evening, and the clouds are burning with fire and there’s gold, and there’s red, and there’s crimson, and there’s orange, and there’s blue, and there’s the riot of the rainbow in the sunset? Is there a man who ever lived who could tell us any earthly, utilitarian use for a sunset? Do you eat them? Do you buy them? Do you trade them? Can you plow them? Can you water with them? What good is a sunset? Just this: that God loves glorious color and things beautiful. So it is with His holy city. I cannot conceive of the riot of color in that incomparable city of God. All of these that are named here, the diamond and the sapphire, the chalcedony, and the emerald, the sardonyx and the sardius, the chrysolite and the beryl, the topaz, and the chrysoprasus, the jacinth, and the amethyst [Revelation 21:19-21]; God took the azure blue of the chalice of His sky, God took the surf of the raging sea, God took the emerald of the verdant meadows, He took the glory of the autumnal fall, He took the fire of an August sunset, and He crystallized it into emerald and sapphire and diamond and jasper. Oh, what color, what beauty – God and His holy city!
And its symmetry: God loves form, and God loves beauty, and God loves proportion. And you do, too; you don’t realize it. Could you imagine a man making a crooked column, a column that leaned this way or leaned that way, or screwed around that way? Could you imagine that? Wouldn’t it violate something on the inside of you, if you were to see a column looking like that, or screwed around like that? A column has to be symmetrical and proportionate and straight!
Well, where did you get that? That’s God! That’s just a little piece of the Lord’s image in you. God loves things beautiful and symmetrical and proportionate. That’s why the life of our Lord is so incomparably precious. He was symmetrical and proportionate, without flaw in all of His life and His personality, His mind and His heart, His soul, His affection, His will, His desires, the physical manhood, the house in which He lived. Our home in heaven is like that: beautiful and proportionate and symmetrical. And our lives are just the same.
The holy city of God – oh, where do these moments fly? Now we enter the city, we go inside of it – and we must hasten – we go inside of the beautiful city through one of the gates made out of solid pearl [Revelation 21:21]. You could preach a sermon on pearl. Enter through sufferings and through travail, through redemption, through blood and agony, through the cross; a pearl is a jewel made by a little animal that is wounded, and without the wound, the pearl is never formed. We enter heaven through gates of pearl. And the streets of the city are pure – no defilement, pure like gold – but look like transparent glass.
"And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it" [Revelation 21:22], no need for a temple in heaven, for the city itself is a sanctuary. God’s presence is there. No temple – no need of veils, and curtains, and ceremonies, and rites, and altars, and expiation, and atonement, and covenants, and arks, and intermediators – no need for those things, for we shall live in the presence of God and shall worship immediately and directly. It shall be Jehovah Shammah, the Lord’s presence itself. No need for a temple, for God is there as He was in the garden of Eden, and this is paradise restored and regained. And the Lord God is there, and we don’t need a temple. We shall see Him face to face.
"And the city had no need of the sun, nor of the moon, for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof" [Revelation 21:23], the glory of God is His – the glory of God is His garments. It is the iridescent, it is the incomparable fusion of beauty, and color, and splendor, and life that stream from His presence. When Moses talked to God, came down from the mountainside, he wist not that his face shone. He had been with God [Exodus 34:33-35].
On the Mount of Transfiguration, the face of our Lord became bright, above the glory of the sun [Matthew 17:1-2]. And when Paul on the road to Damascus met the Lord, above the light of that sidereal orb that shines in the sky did he see the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ! [Acts 22:6-7].
There is an inherent beauty and wondering life and glory in the city because Jesus is there, "and the Lamb is the light thereof" [Revelation 21:23]. Oh, light and glory and hope and blessed strength from His blessed face! From the beginning in Genesis to the last benediction in the Revelation, it is Jesus as He was then, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. Amen!
And these who walk on its streets and live in the city are those written in the Lamb’s Book of Life [Luke 10:20; Revelation 20:12, 15]. And now he has a remarkable, a remarkable parallel here between what he sees in the paradise of God, in the beautiful city, and what is described in the first and the second chapter of the Book of Genesis:
And he showed me a pure river of the water of life, clear as crystal,and in the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits.
The water of life and the manna of God, a pure river of the water of life: in Eden there was a beautiful river that had four branches, and it watered the garden. And here is the river of life. As the psalmist said, "There is a river, the streams whereof make glad the city of God" [Psalm 46:4].
There is nothing so refreshing as cool, clear water – that beautiful stream in the city of God. And a man drinks thereof and lives forever. And by the side of the stream flowing through the midst of the streets of the city is the tree of life in numerous specimens. You are not to think that there is just one tree of life, but the picture is that the streets are lining the river with the trees of life. It’s the same kind of a thing as Longfellow speaks of in the first verse of his poem of "Evangeline": "This is the forest primeval, the murmuring pine and the hemlock." Longfellow does not mean to say just one pine and one hemlock – the forest primeval, the murmuring pine and hemlock, its specimen throughout the great forest. So the tree of life, in numerous specimens lining the river, and the manna thereof and the food and fruit thereof are for the nourishment of God’s immortal saints. It means you’re going to eat in heaven; you’re going to eat in heaven. We’ve spoken of that with delight and anticipation. Going to eat in heaven – nothing about that I object to. Going to eat in heaven: the angels ate when they were entertained by Abraham. Our Lord Jesus ate when He was raised from the dead [Luke 24:41-43]. He said, "I will not eat henceforth of this fruit of the vine, or break bread, until I eat it new, and drink it new with you in the kingdom of our Father" [Matthew 26:29]. We’re going to be at the marriage supper of the Lamb [Revelation 19:6-9]. We’re going to eat! There are twelve manner of fruit that come every month on those trees. I wonder what it will taste like, the ambrosia of God. Oh, the fellowship and the gladness of such a thing as God hath prepared for us!
But we hasten. The throne of God and the Lamb shall be in it; and His servants shall serve Him [Revelation 22:3]. How many times do you hear people, as someone said to me last week, "I can’t imagine heaven being interesting – just sit and sit and do nothing and nothing and nothing"? There is no intimation that heaven is such a thing as that.
In the garden of Eden, before the man was made, God said He needed somebody to till the ground, and when He made the man, He placed him in the garden that he might dress it and keep it. And he was to have dominion over things above and things around him and things below it. There was a tremendous assignment and responsibility for the first man in the garden of Eden [Genesis 1:28; 2:16].
And every indication you have of what it is like over there in the glory that is yet to come is of that same thing. For example, in the parable of the pounds, when He blessed that man who had made ten pounds, He said: "Now, you shall have authority over ten cities." And when this man had made five pounds, He said: "You shall have authority over five cities" [Luke 19:17-19].
There is a great administration over there in the future kingdom of God in heaven. There are nations here that are mentioned. There is government. There are assignments. There are responsibilities. And we shall all live in that beautiful and incomparably precious civilization. And each man shall have his place according to his faithfulness and reward in this world and in this life.
"And His servants shall serve Him." And in the most climactic and meaningful of all, "And they shall see His face; and His name shall be in their foreheads" [Revelation 22:3-4]. This is what it is to be in heaven: to look upon the face of God, our Lord, and to be with one another and live. That is heaven! Incidentally, gates of pearl; incidentally, streets of gold; incidentally, a wall of jasper – mostly and foremost, our Lord and one another.
I can hear the Lord as He would say to you: "On what street would you like to live in glory, and what mansion would you like to call your home?"And I can hear a true saint reply: "Dear Lord, any street, any mansion, just so the windows open on the palace of the great King, that I might see Him come and go." Isn’t that a sentiment that strikes a chord in your heart? "Any street, Lord, any house, Lord, just so I might see Thy blessed and precious face and that we might be together in heaven."
Blind Fanny Crosby wrote a song like that that’s in your hymnbook. She entitled it: "My Savior, First of All." We rarely ever sing it any more, but when I was a boy, we just sang it all of the time.
When my life work is ended,
And I cross the swelling tide,
When the bright and glorious morning I shall see;
I shall know my Redeemer
When I reach the other side,
And His smile will be the first to welcome me.
Through the gates of the city
In a robe of spotless white,
He will lead me where no tears will ever fall;
In the glad song of the ages
I shall mingle with delight,
But I long to see my Savior first of all.
"And they shall see His face; His name shall be in their foreheads, and they shall reign and live forever and ever, amen [Revelation 22:5]. Amen! This is our home in glory.
Now, while we sing our appeal, somebody you to give his heart to Jesus, somebody you to come into the fellowship of the church, while we sing this song and while me make this appeal, would you come now? The throng in the balcony round, somebody you, there’s a stairway at the back, at the front, on either side, you come; and in the press of people on this lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the front: "Here I am, pastor, I give you my hand in trust and in faith; I give my heart to God," or "We’re coming into the fellowship of the church; this is my wife, these are our children; all of us are coming," or one somebody you, as the Spirit of God shall make appeal, shall press the invitation to your heart, make it now. Make it now, while we stand and while we sing.