Christ and the City of God
March 26th, 1964 @ 12:00 PM
CHRIST AND THE CITY OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-26-64 12:00 p.m.
The theme for this year, the forty-fifth consecutive year our church has conducted services in a downtown theater, ever since this Palace Theater has been built they have been conducted here. The far famed and illustrious pastor, my predecessor, Dr. George W Truett, preached through these services for twenty-five years. And this is now the twentieth year, the twentieth time that I have conducted these holy convocations.
And the theme for this forty-fifth year is “Christ and the City.” Tomorrow, Christ Dying in the City; Monday, was the theme message, Christ and the City; Tuesday, Christ and the City Citizen; yesterday, Christ and the City Church, and today, Christ and the City of God, a message on heaven.
And I saw a new heaven and the new earth: for the old first heaven and the old first earth were passed away. . .
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 there came unto me one of the seven angels…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, descending out of heaven from God,
Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.
[Revelation 21:1-2, 9-11]
Then follows the description of the city of God [Revelation 21:10-25], and in the description, “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” [Revelation 21:23], Christ and the City of God. One of the affluent executives of a great city, his life enmeshed in this world, had an only son, a little boy. He became sick and he died. Night after night thereafter the man took his Bible and read long hours, every night in the Bible. Once in awhile as he would read he’d underscore and underscore. One day his wife, wondering what it was he underscored, took his Bible and looked through it and found that wherever there was a passage about heaven he underscored it.
When I was a youth—and I began preaching when I was seventeen years of age, and was a pastor when I was eighteen—when I was a youth and people especially older people would ask me about heaven, I would always try to change the subject. I was afraid I would give them the impression I thought they were soon to die. An old pastor, learning of that, said to me one day, he said, “My son, don’t do that. Don’t change the subject. If you were going on a long, long journey wouldn’t you like to know about the place? They are going on a long journey. Talk to them about it. Answer their questions, for God says here we have no abiding place; our home is in heaven” [Hebrews 13:14].
An old time hymn goes like this.
I am a stranger here,
Heaven is my home;
Earth is a desert drear,
Heaven is my home;
Sorrows and dangers stand
Round me on every hand;
Heaven is my fatherland,
Heaven is my home.
[“I’m But a Stranger Here,” by Thomas R. Taylor, 1836]
And to us, who someday make the long, long, long journey, it is interesting that we talk about it and read what God has to say about it. So the apostle John writes, “I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride, adorned for her husband” [Revelation 21:2]. Then he describes the city, first the outside, then the inside, then the people worshipping God beyond the gates of the holy New Jerusalem [Revelation 21:10-27]. We shall take his descriptions.
First, the outside; he describes the foundation, twelve: the first is diamond; the second is sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald, and so up and up until the last and twelfth is the amethyst [Revelation 21:19-20]. From the diamond to the amethyst, the foundations of the city of God. And as we climb up those twelve foundations and surmount the top, the amethyst, and look down and look up at the eternal glory we have just begun to commence to see the marvel and the wonder of what God hath prepared for those who love Him.
If this is the foundation what must the wall be? If this is the wall, what must the city be? If this is the city, what must be the palace be? If this is the palace, what must the throne be? If this is the outside what must the inside be? The twelve foundations.
Then the high and glorious wall made out of solid diamond. These Greek words translated here in the Bible, ours in this instance is a jasper, clear as crystal. Far better translation to us would be a diamond [Revelation 21:11]. The wall, solid diamond, two hundred fifty feet high pierced with twelve gates. Each gate named for a tribe of patriarch of Israel [Revelation 21:12], and each foundation named for an apostle of the Son of God [Revelation 21:14], twelve gates, twelve tribes, twelve patriarchs, the old dispensation, the Old Covenant; twelve foundations, twelve apostles, the New Covenant, this age of grace and of the church. A picture of the city of God including all of the saved of all time, the redeemed of the Lord from the days of Abel [Genesis 4:8] to the last martyr slain by the Antichrist [Revelation 6:9-11], all God’s saints gathering home [Revelation 21:24].
Then beyond the wall, the city itself made out of pure gold, its size, twelve thousand stadia in the Greek, twelve thousand furlongs in the English [Revelation 21:16], to an American, one thousand five hundred miles in length, in breadth, in height, a city from Maine to Florida, a city covering the whole space of Great Britain, and Ireland, and France, and Spain, and Italy, and Austria, and Germany, and European Turkey, and one half of Russia [Revelation 21:16].
Then street upon street upon street upon street for one thousand five hundred miles. These astronauts around this world a hundred miles up, that is the beginning of the height of the foundation of the wall of the glorious city of God.
Its color, God must like color, a proliferation of iridescences, the enthronement of color, frozen like, in diamond, and sapphire, and ruby, and emerald, and turquoise [Revelation2 1:19]. Ah, bending together the blue of the sky and the surf of the sea and the rainbow colors of the autumn and the sunset fire of an August day; oh, the color in God’s beautiful city!
Then the proportion: the cube of the Holy of Holies, everything symmetrical, glorious, perfect, beautiful, light, godly, pure, holy, heavenly, without spot or blemish, the length, the breadth, the height, the perfect cube, the city of God.
Then having looked upon the outside, the apostle enters through the gates into the city, and as he walks through the gates he notices they are solid pearl, solid pearl [Revelation 21:21], a gem, the fruit of suffering and hurt. Through tribulation and trial, we enter into the kingdom of God, and the gates, solid pearl. Then through the gates he walked on the streets. They were pure gold, pure gold [Revelation 21:21].
Then he noticed there was no temple, for the city itself is a sanctuary and God fills all in all [Revelation 21:22]. Then he noticed there was no sun nor light of the moon, for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof [Revelation 21:22-23]. The presence of God is the inherent prism of light. The glory of God did lighten it, the glory of God, glorious brightness, iridescence, fullness of splendor and light. And the glory of God did lighten it. Like Moses down from the Mount of Sinai, his face shown, he had been in the presence of God [Exodus 34:34-35]. Or like the face of our Lord was transfigured above the brightness of the sun on the Mount of Transfiguration [Matthew 17:1-2]. Or as the apostle Paul saw the glory of Jesus on the Damascus road, and he fell blinded by the glory of that light [Acts 9:1-4]. And the presence of God lightens it [Revelation 21:23].
Then as he walked through the golden streets he saw the river of life and by the side of the river of life the tree of life whose leaves are for the healing of the people, to drink and to live forever, and the fruit of the tree and even the leaves for the immortality, the healing, the youth of our bodies [Revelation 22:1-2].
One of the greatest theologians of all time, one of the greatest preachers England ever produced, one of the saintliest, godliest men who ever lived was Richard Baxter, living in the 1600s, a lifetime of imprisonment and suffering and persecution. At the end of his days, after a long and severe illness, he lay dying, and a friend came by to see him and asked him, “Richard, how are you doing?” And in the last gasp of his breath he replied, “Oh, dear friend, I am, I am almost well,” and died.
Think of it; think of stepping on shore and finding it heaven. Think of it; touching a hand and finding it God’s. Think of it; breathing new fresh crisp air and finding it celestial. Think of it; feeling the transformation of our bodies and finding it immortality. Think of it; waking up well and finding it home.
“And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the people” [Revelation 22:2].
Then he describes the citizenship [Revelation 22:3-5]. One of the most unusual persuasions on the part of the ordinary citizen is this, that in heaven we will be on a cloud somewhere flapping our wings, strumming a harp. Cartoon reference, how many times do we meet that persuasion? It is the opposite. It is the opposite. As he describes the great throngs in that city of God, he says, “And His servants, and His servants shall serve Him” [Revelation 22:3]. There are vast assignments and multiple activities. In the garden of Eden when God created the man, how many times does it say this? And this morning I went through it again; to till the ground, to dress it and to keep it, to subdue and to have dominion over all God’s creation [Genesis 1:28, 2:15].
Some of the silliest questions are asked me sometimes, “Preacher, what about this going to the moon? And what about this astronauting around the world? And what about this probing into space? Don’t you think that is a violation of the will of God for the man that He made?” I don’t understand that kind of a question, for when God made the world and placed here all of these marvelous things we are just now beginning to discover, God said to the man, “This is yours, subdue it and have dominion over it” [Genesis 1:28]. And there is no thing that God has made that He did not create for the man to use, and to enjoy, and to be blessed by it. We are limited now because of our fallen natures.
But in heaven, but in heaven in the new Eden, in the regained paradise, with our faculties perfected think of what we shall be able to understand and to achieve and to enjoy. “And His servants shall serve Him.” [Revelation 22:3]. Why, if the dear Lord will give me a planet somewhere that I can preach the gospel, world without end, think of it! If I can just get a congregation patient enough to listen to me, man, what a glorious assignment! Or the scientists to study, or the artists to paint, or the singers to sing, think of it men! Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is likened to,” then He told the parable of the pounds. And this worthy man who gained ten pounds, you be ruler over ten cities. And this worthy man who gained five pounds, “You be ruler over five cities” [Luke 19:15-19]. God has a government in this universe and laws to uphold and assignments to fulfill. And that’s our work in heaven [Revelation 22:3-5].
And he says, “And they praised the Lord night and day” [Revelation 7:15], David with his harp, Gabriel with his trumpet, Handel with his organ, Asaph with his choir, the throngs with their new songs. Lee Roy, get ready, get ready, get ready. Oh, what we shall do in glory!
And I hasten to conclude.
Did you know the last and the climatic thing John writes about the glory of the city of God is this? The last one, “And we shall see His face, and we shall see His face” [Revelation 22:4], repeated, repeated. The Book says no man shall see the face of God, and live [Exodus 33:20]. And we shall see His face [Revelation 22:4].
A neophyte, a young theologue seated by the side of an old dying saint said to him, “Let me read to you the sweetest verse in the Bible.” And the neophyte read, “In My Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you” [John 14:2]. And he spake a word to the old saint about his mansion in the sky. The old man put his hand on the hand of the young theolog and said, “My son, my son, look upon me. Do you think it is a mansion these old eyes are longing to see? My boy, read the next verse.” So the boy read, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself: that where I am, there you may be also” [John 14:3]. And the old saint said, “That’s it, my boy. That’s it. It is my Savior these old eyes are longing to see.”
And we shall see His face, and live [Revelation 22:4].
Sunset and evening star
And one clear call for me!
But may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,
But that the tide is moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound or foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.
Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;
For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see, I know I shall see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.
[“Crossing the Bar,” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson]
And we shall see His face, and live [Revelation 22:4].
When my life’s task is ended, and I cross the swelling tide,
When the bright and glorious morning I shall see;
I shall know my Redeemer when I cross to the other side
And His smile will be the first to welcome me.
[“My Savior First of All,” Fanny Crosby]
Christ and the city of God and the Lamb is the light thereof [Revelation 21:23].
Oh, blessed, blessed Jesus. Enmeshed as we are in the toils and cares of this world, sometime Lord at least, sometime, help us to remember that better thing God hath prepared for us [1 Corinthians 2:9]. When these cares and burdens we lay down, when we lift up our faces in the glory land; oh, what a fellowship, oh, what a joy divine. Jesus and these we have loved and lost for awhile, our Lord and the city of God. In His blessed name comfort us and encourage us. Amen.
CHRIST AND THE CITY OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Affluent business executive whose life was in this world, lost his only son – he underscored everywhere in Bible there was a passage about heaven
B. When I was a youth and asked about heaven, I’d change the subject – older pastor encouraged me to speak to them about their long journey(Hebrews 13:14)
C. Hymn, “I’m But a Stranger Here”II. The outside
A. The twelve foundations(Revelation 21:19-20)
1. Diamond, sapphire, chalcedony, emerald and on up to amethyst
2. If this is the foundation, what must the wall be? the city? the palace?the throne?the inside?
B. The wall – made out of solid diamond, 250 feethigh(Revelation 21:11)
1. Twelve gates, each named for a tribe of a patriarch of Israel (Revelation 21:12)
2. Twelve foundations, the twelve apostles(Revelation 21:14)
3. A picture of all the redeemed of God, from the Old and New Covenant
C. The city
1. Size – 12,000 stadia, furlongs, which is 1,500 miles, in length, breadth and height
2. Color – a proliferation of iridescence
3. Proportion – a perfect cube, like the Holy of Holies, everything symmetrical(1 Kings 6:20)III. The inside
A. Apostle enters through the gates made of solid pearl(Revelation 21:21)
1. Pearl is a gem of suffering and hurt – through tribulation and trial we enter into the kingdom of God
B. Streets of pure gold
C. There is no temple, for the city itself is a sanctuary – God’s presence fills all in all
D. There is no sun or moon – the glory of God lights the city(Revelation 21:22-23)
1. Face of Moses (Exodus 34:35)
2. Face of Jesus on Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-2)
3. Paul on the Damascus road (Acts 9:1-4)
E. The river of life and the tree of life(Revelation 22:1-2)
1. Richard Baxter’s last wordsIV. The citizens
A. Vast assignments and multiple activities(Revelation 22:3)
1. Man’s assignments in the garden of Eden (Genesis 1:28, 2:15)
2. Parable of the pounds(Luke 19:15-19)
B. Praise, thanksgiving, adoration, music(Revelation 7:15)
C. “And they shall see His faceâ€¦” (Revelation 22:4, Exodus 33:20)
1. A young theologian to a dying saint, “Let me read you the sweetest verseâ€¦”(John 14:2-3)
2. Poem, “Crossing the Bar”