The Highway to Heaven
February 26th, 1967 @ 7:30 PM
Happiness, Heaven, Humility, Joy, New Jerusalem, Repentance, Salvation, depression, 1967, Isaiah
THE HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-26-67 7:30 p.m.
On this radio, WRR, the radio of the city of Dallas, you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church. And this is the pastor bringing the evening message entitled The Highway to Heaven, the glory road. Turn to Isaiah , we shall read the whole chapter [Isaiah 35:1-10]. Isaiah 35, Isaiah 35, we shall read the chapter, Isaiah 35, the text will be verse 8 [Isaiah 35:8]. There are ten verses in the chapter, Isaiah 35. And if on the radio you listen with us, turn in your Bible to the thirty-fifth chapter of this prophet Isaiah and read it out loud with us. Isaiah 35, now let us read out loud together:
The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.
It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing; the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon, they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God.
Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees.
Say to them that are of a fearful heart; Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense; He will come and save you.
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.
Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.
And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes.
And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.
No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there:
And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
What an incomparable prophecy, what a glorious picture, “And an highway shall be there, and it shall be called The Way of Holiness” [Isaiah 35:8]. It shall be for the redeemed, the saints of God. “And a wayfaring man,” though unlettered and unlearned, “will not mistake it and will not err therein . . . And the ransomed of the Lord shall come back home, and they shall return to Zion with songs and everlasting joy…they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away” [Isaiah 35:8-10].
Sounds kind of like the vision of the holy and beautiful city, the New Jerusalem, when God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor sighing, nor crying, for these former first things are all passed away [Revelation 21:1-4].
Now the background of the prophecy: Isaiah lived between the destruction of the Northern Kingdom and the destruction of the Southern Kingdom. He had witnessed the cruel and bitter visitation of the winged bull of Asshur that carried into captivity and wasted over the face of the earth the kingdom of Israel, the destruction of its capital in Samaria, and the carrying abroad of the people into captivity [2 Kings 17:5-6, 18]. Isaiah himself was a prophet of the coming destruction of the Southern Kingdom in which he lived [2 Kings 20:16-18]. He lived in a sorrowful and a tragic time, seeing the ways of his brethren in the north, viewing by prophetic vision the destruction of his kingdom and his people in the south [Isaiah 22:1-14]. And not only did he know of the carrying into captivity of the Northern Kingdom [2 Kings 17:5-6], and not only did he know of the carrying into captivity of the Southern Kingdom [2 Kings 24:10-16], but he also prophesied the waste and the desolation of the land: the land flowing with milk and honey, in the favor and blessing and love of God, should be a howling place for the jackal and the ravenous beast and the lion, and all that marks waste and sterility and vacuity and destruction and ruin and rubble; the whole country given over, the whole land given over to emptiness and futility [Isaiah 9:8-10:4]. Now that was the prospect that lay in front of the prophet Isaiah.
Had his prophecy been that alone, of all men he would’ve been, like us who are Christians without a hope of the resurrection, he would have been most miserable. But God did not leave the promise and the land and the people in waste and rubble and destruction. God gave to the prophet Isaiah a vision, an incomparably glorious one. And he starts off, first, about the wasted land, which has been given over to the hand of their enemies and to the vacuity of destruction. He begins his prophecy, “The wilderness and the solitary place shall rejoice; and the desert shall blossom as the rose” [Isaiah 35:1].
When you go from Jordan into Israel through the Mandelbaum Gate at Jerusalem, that will be the first thing you will read, “And the desert shall blossom as the rose.” That is the national motto of the modern country of Israeli. “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad; and the desert shall blossom as a rose” [Isaiah 35:1]. God’s favor shall rest upon the whole land; it would be beautiful, like the garden of Eden. Now that was the prophecy God gave him for the land [Isaiah 35:1].
But God gave him a more an incomparably precious prophecy concerning the people—exiled, carried away into captivity to Nineveh on the Tigris, to Babylonia on the Euphrates, and scattered like the chaff before the wind to the ends of the earth. And He gave him another vision: “And he saw an highway,” not just a pathway or a road, but a raised causeway, “And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called God’s way, the glory way, The Way of Holiness” [Isaiah 35:8], and it shall be for the redeemed of the Lord who are returning home, returning home, returning home [Isaiah 35:9]. In the vision Isaiah saw all of the captive people scattered over the face of the earth returning home, returning home, coming back home. These who had been sold as slaves and carried away into captivity are coming back home, returning home. And in that return, “The ransomed of the Lord shall come with songs of Zion” [Isaiah 35:10]. I can just listen to those fourteen psalms of degrees [Psalms 120-134], psalms of ascent, as the pilgrim sang them on this highway of heaven, returning home. “Joy and gladness, when sorrow and sighing shall flee away” [Isaiah 35:10], one of the most magnificence prophecies to be found in all the Word of the Lord.
Now to us, it also has a vision and a promise of another city, and another kingdom, and another land, and another gathering together of the redeemed of the Lord. It is a vision and a prophecy of the highway to heaven, the glory road, and the redeemed of the Lord are on it [Isaiah 35:8-9], pilgrimaging, marching to Zion, singing songs of exaltation and gladness and praise to God in heaven [Isaiah 35:10]. And I want to speak tonight of that heavenly way, that highway to glory.
First of all it’s a plain way, a plain way. “A wayfaring man, though a fool, need not err therein” [Isaiah 35:8]; so simple, so designated, so plainly and easily found. That is one of the remarkable things to me about the gospel we preach. A child—one of our missionary wives said to me just before I came into the auditorium, she said, “You know, my little boy four and a half years old, my little boy has given his heart to Jesus, and has been saved.” Think of that, a small child! I went to the foreign mission board one time, attended their meeting there when they consecrated for mission service seventeen young men and women. And to my amazement every one of those seventeen had been converted when they were small children, and had felt the call to be a missionary when they were little boys and girls, five, six, seven, and eight years old. It is a plain way, and a little child can understand it, can give himself to it, can trust in the Lord and give his life to the blessed Savior. It is a plain way [Isaiah 35:8].
I don’t know of a more remarkable development in this earth than to see a savage Stone-Age Indian like the Aucas, and they are devout, humble Christians. What knowledge they have of theology? I would think none. And all the metaphysical discussions that enter into scholasticism, and those heavy theological tomes that you read and find on the heavy shelves of theological seminaries, they never saw them. They never dreamed of them, they never heard of them, and it would be far and extraneous to their life and experience. But those Stone-Age and savage Indians have been saved, and they’ve been baptized, and they belong to the church of Jesus Christ. A plain way, a simple way; “and a wayfaring man, though a fool,” though unlearned and unlettered, “need not err therein” [Isaiah 35:8].
The highway to heaven, it is a crimson way; it is stained red. That is one way we can know it, by which it can be found and identified so plainly and so easily. The highway to glory is crimson; it is a way of blood. “If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth us from all sin” [1 John 1:7]. It is a crimson way.
It started in the garden of Eden [Genesis 3:1-7]. Somewhere in Eden God slew an innocent lamb, and took the skin of the lamb to hide the nakedness of our first father and mother [Genesis 3:21]. That road is crimson. We see it in the offering of Abel [Genesis 4:4], when the sacrifice he gave to God, the blood poured out on the ground. And by the side of that sacrificial blood, his own crimson of life poured out [Genesis 4:8-11]. It is a way of blood. We find it in the Passover lamb; blood sprinkled in the form of a cross on the lintel at the top, and on either side of the door posts [Exodus 12:5-7]. And when the death angel passed over Egypt that night—when he saw the blood, no death, no condemnation entered that house, dare intrude into that home under the blood [Exodus 12:13, 22-23]. It is a crimson way; it is a way of blood.
It is found in the daily sacrifice in the temple: every morning, every evening a lamb was slain and its blood poured out [Exodus 29:39]. The highway to heaven is stained with blood. It is found in the Day of Atonement, Yom Kipper. Once a year the high priest, with the blood of the sacrificial animal, entered into the Holy of Holies beyond the veil and there offered blood of expiation and atonement for the sins of the people [Leviticus 16:1-19]. Then coming out, confessing the sins of the people on the head of the other animal, it was carried away into the wilderness, signifying that in the shedding of blood atonement is made for sin [Leviticus 16:20-28]. For God said to the people, “The life is in the blood” [Leviticus 17:11]. Isn’t strange! Thousands of years before modern doctors discovered it, God said it in Leviticus 17, “The life is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls” [Leviticus 17:11]. It is a crimson way; it is a way of blood.
And outside of the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins [Hebrews 9:22]. It is a plain way; it is stained with blood. In the light of the great forerunner John the Baptist, “Behold!” He said, “Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world [John 1:29]. No Jew but knew what that meant; for the thousands of years His people had offered those sacrifices. The Lamb of God, for the atonement of the sins of the people; this, this is the One for whom every type was offered [Hebrews 10:1, 20]. It was a picture of Him, the way of blood, “the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world” [John 1:29]. And in Gethsemane, in the agony of His intercession for us, His sweat was as if it were drops of blood falling down to the ground [Luke 22:44]. And before that awful and tragic crucifixion [Matthew 27:32-50]:
He broke bread and said, This is My body, eat in remembrance of Me.
And He took the cup and blessed it and said, Drink ye all of you of it; this is the blood of the new promise,
the new covenant shed for the remission of sins.
[Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26]
It is a way of blood. And Pilate took Him and scourged Him [John 19:1], and the blood fell down on the marble pavement. And on the Via Dolorosa, as He staggered under the heavy burden of His cross, blood stained the way [John 19:17]. And on the “Hill of the Skull,” called Calvary [Luke 23:343], Golgotha, there they raised Him up beneath the sky [John 19:18], and there blood poured out of the wounds of His hands and His feet [Luke 24:39-40], and blood poured out of His side [John 19:34].
It is a way of blood, a crimson way. And that way is followed through the martyrdom of Steven [Acts 7:54-60], through the beheading of the apostle Paul, through the suffering and the martyrdom of the prophets of God, the preachers, and emissaries, and evangelists of Jesus through the centuries. And in heaven, when John saw the redeemed gathered before the throne of grace, they were there from every language, and tribe, and tongue, and family under the sun [Revelation 7:9]. And the elders said to John, “John who are these? Who are these?” And John said, “I do not know, I do not know. Such a vast innumerable throng that no man could number [Numbers 7:9], I do not know!” And the elder said, “These are they,” the redeemed of God, “these are they who have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” [Revelation 7:13-14].
Saved by the blood of the Crucified One!
All praise to the Father, all praise to the Son,
All praise to the Spirit, the great Three in One!
Saved by the blood of the Crucified One!
[from “Saved by the Blood,” S.J. Henderson, 1902]
The highway to heaven: the glory road, it’s a crimson way [Hebrews 10:20]. It’s not only a plain way, “and a wayfaring man need not err therein” [Isaiah 35:8]; it is not only a crimson way, from earth to heaven, from time to eternity, a way of blood:
What can wash away my sins?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Oh! precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
[from “Nothing but the Blood,” Robert Lowery, 1876]
There is a fountain filled with blood,
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins,
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains.
[from “There is a Fountain,” William Cowper, 1772]
It’s a way of blood, it’s a crimson way [Hebrews 10:20].
It is a way of repentance [Mark 1:15]; it is a humble way. No man ever comes before God in his pride and self-sufficiency, never! The nearer we draw nigh to God, the more unworthy do we feel.
- David: “Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Purge me, and I shall be clean” [Psalm 51:7].
- Isaiah: “Woe is me! for mine eyes have seen the glory of the Lord, and I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell with the people of unclean lips” [Isaiah 6:5].
- Simon Peter: “Depart from me, Lord; for I am a sinful man!” [Luke 5:8].
- And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter . . . And Peter went out and wept bitterly [Luke 22:61-62].
- Two men went down to pray . . . and the Pharisee lifted up his head to God and said, Lord, I thank Thee, that I am not like other men, unjust and sinners . . . But the publican would not so much as lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat upon his breast and cried saying, Lord, Lord, be merciful unto me the sinner [Luke 18:9-13], as though no other sinner were in the world.
It is a way of humility, of sorrow, of confession. David said, “Against Thee, and Thee only, have I sinned” [Psalm 51:4]. Vice relates to society, crime relates to law, but sin relates to God. And there is no man that sinneth not [1 Kings 8:46; 2 Chronicles 6:36]. And for a man to think that he can stand in the presence of the holiness of God, unashamed and in his own strength, it’s wholly immeasurable, indescribable. The way to heaven is a humble way [Luke 8:9-13], it’s a way of confession of sins [Psalm 51:1-9]; it’s a way of repentance [Mark 1:15]; it’s a tear-stained way [2 Corinthians 7:10].
It is not only a plain way [Isaiah 35:8], it is not only a crimson way [Hebrews 10:20], it is not only a humble way [Luke 18:9-13]; the glory road is an open way, opened, unashamed, unreserved [Romans 10:9-10]. Isn’t that a remarkable thing how God has done it? An Israelite could have said, “I will take the blood of the Passover and put it on the back door or on the closet door, but not in the front of the house!” God says, “Not so, not so! The blood must be displayed on the lintel, and on the door posts [Exodus 12:7, 22], where the whole earth passing by can see it, and know that this is a house that belongs to Jehovah God. And these are people and a family whose trust is in the Lord. It is an opened way, an unashamed way. There is no such thing as a clandestine, furtive, secret Christian:
If thou shall confess Me before men, I will confess you before My Father which is in heaven.
If ye deny Me before men, I will deny You before My Father which is in heaven.
It is an open way:
If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thine heart that He lives, that God raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
For with the heart one believeth unto a God-kind of righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
It is an open way, a way of public committal and confession; Before men and angel, “O God, here I stand.”
It is, last: a glorious way, a happy way, a joyous way [Acts 8:39]. It is a plain way [Isaiah 35:8], yes; a crimson way, it goes by the cross [Hebrews 10:20], yes; it is a humble way, the confession of our sins, our repentance [Psalm 51:1-9]; it is an open way, a public committal of our lives to God [Romans 10:9-10]; it is a happy way, a triumphant way, a victorious way [Acts 8:39].
And Philip began at the same Scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.
And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water; and he said, See, here is water: what doeth hinder me to be baptized?
And Philip answered, and said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus is the Son of God.
And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.
And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way, glory, hallelujah, and he went on his way rejoicing.
“And he went on his way rejoicing” [Acts 8:39]; it is a glory road, it is a happy road, it is a road of singing. “The ransomed of the Lord shall return, and shall come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy…and they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away” [Isaiah 35:10]. Who has a good time? People out there in the world, people out there in the night? Who has a good time? God’s people! It’s a glory road; it’s a happy way, the highway to heaven [Acts 8:39]. That’s what it is to be a Christian.
Why, one time I heard one of those old country preachers telling about a teenager. You know a teenager is full of life and all the gladness of living. And this child was a Christian girl, and she’s just all so happy in the Lord. And she got a lecture about her happiness, and about her gladness, and about her singing, and about her laughter, and about the lilt and the fullness of her life. And she was so hurt, this teenager was, because of what teacher said. And she went outside and was so grieved; and there in the barn was the old mule with his long face and his floppy ears. And she went over to him and put her arms around his neck and said, “Oh, mule, what a wonderful Christian you must be!”
Ah, oh, no! If anybody can sing, we ought to be the one to sing. If anybody’s rejoicing, if anybody’s glad, if anybody’s triumphant, we’re the ones who are glad and triumphant. It’s a happy road, it’s a glory road.
And he doesn’t know this: come up here, going to teach you a song. You might as well learn it now, might as well learn it now. You ready to learn? All right, we’re going to sing us a song!
On Monday I am happy, on Tuesday full of joy;
On Wednesday I have peace with Him that nothing can destroy;
On Thursday and on Friday, I’m walking in the light;
On Saturday is a heavenly day and Sunday’s always bright.
Oh glory, glory, glory, oh glory to the Lamb!
Hallelujah, I am saved, I’m so glad I am!
Oh glory, glory, glory, oh glory to the Lamb!
Hallelujah, I am saved; I’m bound for the Promised Land!
[“Glory to the Lamb, traditional]
Jesus will never fail, never fail, never fail.
Jesus will never fail, we love Him!
That’s right. That’s right, you did all right. I think for a singer and a minister of music, he did pretty good! Ah, that’s what it is to be a Christian. It’s a glory road. It’s a happy road; it’s a marvelous road. Why, bless you.
I had a man come to see me, I shook hands with him. When I was done baptizing tonight, I just happened to meet him back there. I baptized him. Not very long before, a few Sunday nights before, he came to me. I don’t think I ever saw a young fellow more mixed up in his life in my life, out there in the darkness and in the sin and in the world, and he came to me with an intolerable burden he couldn’t bear. And he said, “Preacher, I need help, and I’ve come to you. Can you help me?” And we talked, and we read the Bible, and we got down on our knees and we prayed, and we gave ourselves to the Lord. And he stood up, and having accepted Jesus in his heart he said, “Preacher, for the first time in my life, I’m happy. I’ve found peace in my soul.”
I just almost ought to call him up here and let him testify to you tonight. That’s what it is. It’s a glory road, it’s a heavenly road, it’s a happy road. On Monday, just like on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, Friday and Saturday and Sunday, we start all over again singing the praises of Jesus. And the ransomed shall walk over that road, singing the songs of Zion, obtaining joy and gladness; and sorrow and sighing shall flee away [Isaiah 35:10]. What God hath prepared for us who love Him [1 Corinthians 2:9].
Now our time is gone. Lets’ sing us a song. And while we sing our invitation hymn, somebody you give himself to the Lord [Romans 10:8-13]. A family you, a couple you, one somebody you, in this balcony round, the throng on this lower floor, into that aisle, down here to the front: “Pastor, I give you my hand; I’ve given my heart to God.” Or, “We want to come into the fellowship of this church.” Or, “I want to give my life to the Lord. I feel God calling me, and here I come.” As the Spirit of Jesus shall press the appeal to your heart, make it now; come now. On the first note of the first stanza, make it tonight. Make it now, while we stand and while we sing.
A. Background of text
B. Prophecy of glorious
times to come
II. A plain way
A. Easily found
III. A crimson way
A. A way of blood
atonement (1 John 1:7)
B. Scarlet thread
through the Bible
IV. A humble way
A. Confession and contrition
(Psalm 51, Luke 18:13)
V. A happy way
A. Both weeping and
rejoicing (Isaiah 35:10)
VI. An open and public way
A. The “highway”
B. Terms of salvation
(Romans 10:9-10, Matthew 10:32-33)