When God Wipes Away Our Tears
July 21st, 1963 @ 8:15 AM
WHEN GOD SHALL WIPE AWAY OUR TEARS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-21-63 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the early morning service of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled When God Shall Wipe Away Our Tears. In our preaching through the Bible we have come, after these many years, to the Revelation. In our preaching through the Revelation, we have come to chapter 21. And if you would like to turn to the passage, you can easily follow the message this morning. We shall read the first seven verses of Revelation chapter 21:
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
And I John saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God.
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
And He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And He said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
And He said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.
He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be My son.
Just to read the passage is a holy benediction.
As I address myself to the subject, I have found an opposite thing of what first I had supposed. In preaching through this book, I had thought that when I came to these chapters on heaven, that they would be the easiest and the simplest of all of the sermons to prepare. I have found it just the opposite. For example, in my reading this week, a very able and learned expositor said, “To speak on the subject of heaven is to choose the most difficult of all the subjects in the Bible.” That is so opposite of what you would suppose. Yet when you look at it carefully and study it meticulously, you will find that the observation of that expositor is so very true. To speak of heaven is a difficult subject.
You can illustrate that from what we find in the experience of the men of God who have written, under the wisdom of the Lord, who have written this Bible. In the twelfth chapter of the second Corinthian letter, Paul says that he was taken up into Paradise, into the third heaven, where God is, this heaven of heavens. And Paul says that there he heard “unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter” [2 Corinthians 12:4].
He said nothing else about what he saw or what he experienced except to say that he heard “unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.” Take again, when Moses asked to see God and the glory of the Lord, the Lord said to Moses:
Now you come over here by Me, and stand on this great rock; and I will hide you in a cleft in the rock, and cover you there with My hand until My glory passes by. Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back parts: for no man can see My face, and live.
As John said, the author of this Apocalypse, in the first chapter of his Gospel, “No man has seen God.” At no time, in no place, has any man seen God; “For no man shall see My face,” said the Lord, “and live” [John 1:18; Exodus 33:20].
Or, take again, in the second chapter of the first Corinthian letter: “As it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things God hath prepared for those who love Him” [1 Corinthians 2:9]. It is unimaginable to us. Our poor language cannot bear the burden of the description of what God is in reality, and the glory of what He has prepared for those who place their trust in Him.
The next verse in the first Corinthian letter I’ve just quoted is this: “But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit” [1 Corinthians 2:10]. There is a language of the soul that can enter into the glory of heaven. But our nomenclature, our grammar, our feeble vocabulary cannot describe the wonders of the miraculous creative workmanship of God as He builds for us our home in heaven.
So as we speak of these things, in nowise are they commensurate with their reality. There’s not sentence to say it. There’s not the word to pronounce it. It’s a language of the soul. It’s a revelation of God that one sees with the eye of faith.
Now as we look at these things that language is sought to bear to us about heaven, every syllable is sweet and precious beyond compare. Look at it:
And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, look, look, the skēnē of God is with men, and He will skēnoō with them. . .and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God. Behold, the tabernacle, skēnē.
The translation here “tabernacle” is the exact word. “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will tabernacle with them.” God shall cast His tent, shall spread His pavilion with us who are human and mortal. No wonder the apostle here introduces it with an exclamation, “Behold, look, what an unbelievable, indescribable reality! The pavilion of God, the dwelling place of God, the tabernacle of God is with men” [Revelation 21:3].
God tabernacled, dwelt with our first parents, and talked to them, and visited with them, and walked by their sides in the garden, in the cool of the day [Genesis 3:8]. The Lord tabernacled with the patriarchs. He spoke to them face to face, as a man would his friend [Exodus 33:11, Numbers 14:14]. The Lord cast His tabernacle in the midst of Israel, in the journey through the wilderness; the sign of His presence, the shekinah above it; the fire, a column by night, the cloud, a column by day [Exodus 13:21].
God tabernacled in the temple in the cube of the Holy of Holies, dwelling in darkness [Leviticus 16:2]. God tabernacled in the body, the physical frame, of Jesus. John 1:14 says, “And the Word was made flesh, and skēnoō,” the same word here, “and tabernacled among us. And we saw His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father in heaven.” And the Lord dwells with us today in the Holy Spirit, in His church [1 Corinthians 3:16], and in our souls [1 Corinthians 6:19-20].
But this is beyond anything and over anything that we’ve ever known or read: “Behold, the dwelling place, the pavilion of God, is cast with men” [Revelation 21:3]. The Lord Himself shall be in our midst. His house will be there. His home will be there. His dwelling place will be there. His capital will be there; the seat of administration of all God’s handiwork will be in our midst. “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with men” [Revelation 21:3]. My mind cannot enter into it. How shall it be? What will it look like? I can, I can just sense in the faith of the soul; but beyond it, I cannot speak. As Paul, “I saw things unutterable. I heard things it is not lawful for a man to say” [2 Corinthians 12:4]. It is beyond this poor human frame to understand. So we leave it in God’s good time and in the Lord’s great day.
All right, a second thing: “And there was no more sea. I saw a new heaven and a new earth; the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea” [Revelation 21:1]. What does he mean by that, and why would God say that in the Book?
Well, the best I can find there are four different ways that you can interpret that, the meaning, “And there is no more sea” [Revelation 21:1]. One: a spiritualizer will say this––and this will be very typical––when the Book says of heaven “there is no more sea,” that refers to the fact that all social barriers have been cast down and all the nations of the world are one great brotherhood. Well, that’s all right, and very typical of a spiritualizer. To him the Word doesn’t mean any particular thing. So he just makes it mean anything that he wants it to mean. That’s all right for a spiritualizer. He might as well speak out of Shakespeare, or Milton, or Plato, or Xenophon, or Socrates, or Thucydides as to speak out of the Bible; wouldn’t make any difference to him at all. As long as you’re spiritualizing, why, what is said before you doesn’t matter. So you just read into it anything you want to say. So it just might as well speak out of one as the other, and they do. Like one of these fellows in Louisville. They went to, some of our group went to hear him preach, and he was preaching out of Shakespeare, and they said, “What are you doing? We thought you ought to preach out of the Bible.” Well, he said, “I finished the Bible last year. Now I’m preaching out of Shakespeare.” That’s just as good for a spiritualizer. You would gain from my little word here that I don’t like spiritualizing. Sorriest way in the world to preach or to teach is to spiritualize. The best way and the only way in my humble persuasion is to say what God says. Just let it say it, whatever it is; just say it, what God says.
Now this one has a little more meaning. A symbolizer—that is, seeing here in the Revelation, symbols of things, and he has a basis upon which to do that. For example, that’s all through the Revelation. When you see the Lamb, why, that’s Jesus, a symbol of the Lord Jesus [Revelation 5:6]. When He says, “I am Alpha and Omega,” those are symbols; the First, the Last [Revelation 1:11]. Now a symbolizer will have a reason for his interpretation, and this is a beautiful one. A symbolizer would say, “And there was no more sea” [Revelation 21:1], John meant by that, that there’ll be no separation in glory. A cold sea rolled between him and his dear church in Ephesus. He was exiled out on a lonely, barren, rocky island to die of exposure, or starvation, or neglect [Revelation 1:9].
And there shut out, and shut apart, and alone, when he saw the vision of heaven, there’s no separation. There’s no sea that rolls in between. There is a sea between us and our loved ones who’ve gone before. There is a great dark sea between time and eternity. So a symbolizer would say, “And there was no more sea.” John is saying to us there’s no more separation in heaven, no loneliness, no exile. But God shall be with us and gather us to Himself in glory.
Well, there’s a reason for that. I think that could be a beautiful and meaningful explanation. However, when I read these things, to me it is far more plausible to take the thing just as it is. So taking it as it is, there’d be two things that are possible. One is that the sea is annihilated. In the new creation, in the regeneration, in the redemption of this universe, that there is no sea at all. The great body of water is gone and just the beautiful re-created paradise of God in this earth. Or, this is a thing that appeals to me: when God renovates this earth, rejuvenates it, remakes it, redeems it, reestablishes it, when the curse is gone, there’s going to be a beautiful and glorious earth. When the city comes down out of heaven [Revelation 21:2], and our home is in this beautiful remade place [Revelation 21:3], the curse, which extended even to the sea, is going to be taken away [Revelation 21:1].
Now the sea to an ancient was a horrible, and a fearful, and a monstrous thing. They had no compasses, and when it was cloudy a ship out on the sea had no idea where it was. They were subject in their frail crafts to any winds that blew and to the storms that so suddenly could arise. So the sea in that ancient time was a fearful and a terrible thing. And what John means here in that description is that no longer is it the old sea with its fearsomeness, and its awesomeness, and its terrible and hurtful power to destroy. But it’s a part of the new creation of God. It will be a sea pacific, a sea beautiful and without hurt, uncursed, rejuvenated, redeemed, like all the rest of the Lord’s creation. However the meaning, it is precious and beautiful for us to contemplate.
Now he finally says: “And God, and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for these former things are all passed away” [Revelation 21:4]. I know therefore, as I read this passage, I know therefore that to the very gates of heaven God’s people are going to weep. They’re going to arrive at those pearly gates [Revelation 21:21], accompanied by sorrow and sighing, for my text says that it is there, not here, it is there that God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes [Revelation 21:4]. Now I repeat. I know therefore, that as long as we are in this pilgrimage, and up to the very gates of glory, that God’s people are going to know sorrow, and suffering, and pain, and disappointment, and illness, and death.
It was so with the children of Israel, wandering through the wilderness to the Promised Land. All through those weary years they were burdened, under the heat of the sun, under the blasting of the desert winds; and the ninetieth Psalm, the saddest Psalm and the saddest chapter in the Bible, the ninetieth Psalm, the only one written by Moses, reflects the more than three hundred funerals every day for those forty years through the wilderness; the weeping, and the crying, and the lamentation [Psalm 90:1-17]. It is so with a true picture of the Christian in this world, such as John Bunyan’s Pilgrim. Oh, the trial, and the suffering, and the disappointment, and the despair of Christian Pilgrim, as he goes through this vale of tears! I would know that from the life of the Lord Jesus. I would know it from the life of Paul, who speaks so many times of his tears. God’s saintliest people, some of them have lain longest on beds of affliction. We may forget how to laugh, but we shall never forget how to weep. To the very gates of heaven, God’s people arrive with tears in their eyes [Revelation 21:4].
I have another comment to make about that, and it is this: the sweet fruits of heavenly increase, and benediction, and comfort are given to us because of the sorrows we know in this life. For example, Paul will say, in the second Corinthian letter and the fourth chapter, “Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more and exceeding weight of glory” [2 Corinthians 4:17]; he’s talking there about the sorrows of our lives. And he is saying that these distresses, and trials, and sufferings that come to us in our lives make heaven all the dearer and the sweeter; and how true that is.
What would heaven be to someone who had never cried? When it says, “God shall wipe away our tears” [Revelation 21:4], but he never had cried? What would heaven be to someone who had never sorrowed? When it says, “Heaven is a place where there is no more sorrow, nor crying, nor pain” [Revelation 21:4], what would those things mean to someone who had never lain on beds of affliction, and had never known the agony of a morning that seemingly would never come? These things work for us, Paul says, a far more and exceeding weight of glory [2 Corinthians 4:17].
I was astonished, as I’ve told you before; I was astonished in reading through Spurgeon. I was astonished that Spurgeon one time said, “If I had my choice of remaining, abiding, until the Lord came again, and to be raptured with the church and never die—if I had a choice between being raptured to the Lord, taken away to the Lord, or dying, I would choose to go through the tomb, the sufferings of death. For,” said the great preacher, “my Savior died, and He suffered the pangs of death [Matthew 27:32-50], and He knew the power of the resurrection” [Matthew 28:5-7]. He said, “If I had my choice, I would choose to go through the tomb with my Lord, and suffer the agony of death, that I might know the power of His resurrection.”
That made an impression upon me. And could I apply it to all of the sorrows of life?
Man of sorrows, what a name;
For the Son of God who came,
Lost sinners to reclaim;
[from “Hallelujah! What a Savior,” Philip P. Bliss]
Man of sorrows” [Isaiah 53:3]. When you suffer, you’re entering into the life of our Lord. And you shall know, as Paul describes in the first chapter of the second Corinthian letter, you shall know the comfort of God if you suffer in this life [2 Corinthians 1:7].
Now that comfort is described: “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes” [Revelation 21:4]; God shall do it.” An angel can’t comfort us or take away the causes of our grief; God shall do it. “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” Tears of bereavement, as with Mary and Martha [John 11:32-33], or the widow of Nain [Luke 7:12-13]; tears of disappointment, as with Job, as with Lazarus [Luke 11:35]; tears of lamentation, as with Jeremiah. “Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people” [Jeremiah 9:1]. Tears of separation, “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death” [Revelation 21:4]. I can’t think of it. No more death.
Yesterday, yesterday, we buried a little boy five years of age. “And there shall be no more death” [Revelation 21:4]. No stonecutters chiseling epitaphs; no funeral wreaths on the doors of glory; no graves on the hillsides of heaven. In this life,
There is no flock, howsoever watched and tended,
But one dead lamb is there!
There is no fireside, howsoever defended,
But has one vacant chair!
[from “Resignation” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow]
How different in glory. I can hear the whole earth of God’s creation ring under the triumphant cry of God’s sainted people, “Death is swallowed up in victory” [1 Corinthians 15:54]. “And there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, neither sorrow” [Revelation 21:4].
I had a dear friend, now with God in glory, a mountain boy, raised in the mountains. His father was killed when he was a little boy, and his stepfather was crude and mean. One day at the breakfast table that stepfather stood up and took the plate of biscuits that displeased him, and threw the plate and biscuits and all in the face of his mother, and cursed her, and took his fist and beat her, and stomped out of the house.
And the little boy went to his mother, and said, “Mother, let’s leave. Let’s leave. I don’t know how, but Mother, I can make a living for you some way. Let’s leave.” And his mother replied, “Son, there has never been a separation in my family, never. I shall not live long, my boy. It will soon be over for me. And God watch over and care for you, my boy.” And the mountain preacher said not long after, his mother died. He became a wonderful preacher in the providence of God.
We don’t know the sorrows in this world. Oh, in the nighttime how many pillows are wet with the tears of the suffering and the sorrowing in this world? “No more crying.”
Every heart knows its own bitterness; pain and suffering follow us like a shadow. “Neither shall there be any more pain” [Revelation 21:4]; pain of heart and soul and the wracking of our bodies. “For behold, I make all things new, new” [Revelation 21:5]. We shall live in a city that shall never be stormed. We shall bask in a sun that shall never go down. We shall swim in a tide that shall never ebb. We shall eat from a tree that shall never wither. We shall drink at a river that shall never go dry. Oh, what things God hath prepared for those who love Him! [1 Corinthians 2:9]. “Behold, I make all things new” [Revelation 21:5].
What’s that song we sang? Let’s sing it again:
There’s a land that is fairer than day,
And by faith we can see it afar;
For the Father waits over the way
To prepare us a dwelling place there.
In the sweet by and by,
We shall meet on that beautiful shore;
In the sweet by and by,
We shall meet on that beautiful shore.
I will sing you a song of that beautiful land,
The far away home of the soul
Where no storms ever beat on the glittering strand,
While the years of eternity roll
Oh how sweet it will be in that beautiful land,
So free from all sorrow and pain
With songs on our lips, and with harps in our hands,
To greet one another again.
[from “In the Sweet By and By,” by Sanford F Bennett]
And God, God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain for the former things are all passed away” [Revelation 21:4], God’s beautiful city, the New Jerusalem, the home of the soul [Revelation 21:2-3].
Now while we sing our song of appeal and invitation, somebody this morning to give his heart to Jesus, somebody to put his life with us in the fellowship of the church, a family you or one somebody you, in this throng in the balcony round, this great press of people on this lower floor, coming down one of these stairways, into the aisle and down to the front, “Here I am, pastor, and here I come.” Would you today? Would you this precious moment, while we stand and while we sing.
WHEN GOD WIPES AWAY OUR TEARS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. More difficult to speak about heaven than any other subject
1. Illustrated in the experience of the men who have penned the Bible(2 Corinthians 12:4, Exodus 33:20-23, 1 Corinthians 2:9-10)
2. Seen in our attempts to realize how it will be for us
a. Skenoo – “tabernacle with them”(Revelation 21:3, Genesis 3:8, Exodus 13:21, 33:11, John 1:14)
i. How to describe unimaginable reality of God dwelling among us
b. “No more sea”
i. Spiritualizer – refers to tearing down of all political, national and social barriers; one common brotherhood
ii. Symbolizer – no more separation
iii. Not annihilation of the sea
iv. Changed, remade in new creation – no longer a cruel, fearful thing, but “still waters” (Psalm 23:1-2)
3. The old things of sorrows taken away, new things of comfort bestowed by God(Revelation 21:4-5)
a. The lot of God’s people in this earth
i. The pilgrimage of Israel through the wilderness to Promised Land
ii. Christian faith brings deliverance from so much, but not from the trials of the wilderness journey
b. Affliction and the fruit of heaven(2 Corinthians 4:17)
i. Spurgeon – would choose to die rather than be raptured(Isaiah 53:3, 2 Corinthians 1:5)
ii. Hymn, “Christ Returneth”II. The comfort of God(2 Corinthians 1:5)
A. Tears wiped away – of bereavement, of misfortune, of lamentation, of disappointment (John 11:35, Luke 16:20-21, Jeremiah 9:1)
B. No more death(1 Corinthians 15:54, Revelation 20:14, 19)
C. No more sorrows
1. Testimony of C. E. Matthews
D. All things made new(Revelation 21:5-7)
1. New heaven, new earth, new city
2. Hymn, “Home of the Soul”
3. Hymn, “In the Sweet By and By”