When We All Get to Heaven
October 29th, 1967 @ 7:30 PM
WHEN WE ALL GET TO HEAVEN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-29-67 7:30 p.m.
On the radio you are invited to turn with us here in the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and if you are listening on the radio you would be amazed at how many people are here tonight, this auditorium is practically filled, and it is one of the biggest church auditoriums in America. If you are listening to us on radio, turn to the tenth chapter of John; and we are going to read it out loud together. John chapter 10, and we shall read the first 9 verses together; then I want you to read my text. You got it? Everybody? Lee Roy? You need Clark to help you find the place? You got it? We are going to read it out loud together. This is a glorious passage; and the sermon will be a textual sermon tonight, going to be verse 16, but let us read the first 9 verses together. Now all of us together, John 10:1-9:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.
And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.
This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which He spake unto them.
Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.
All that ever came before Me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.
I am the door: by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
Now read together with me my text; it is verse 16:
And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
And this is the text; the great consummation of God’s purposes of grace. “And there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” [John 10:16]. From the east and the west, from the north and the south, from those who have fallen asleep in Jesus, with those who tarry and remain until He comes, the Jew and the Gentile, the black and the white, the yellow and the brown, the Scythian, the Bavarian, the Roman, the provincial, all of us someday shall be gathered together in one fold with our one Shepherd.
Now, there are many, oh so many, facets of heaven about which a minister could preach. I choose the one tonight in the text: the great gathering together of God’s redeemed. “Other sheep I have, who are not of this fold” [James 10:16], speaking to a Jewish people. They never heard of America at that time; didn’t know our continent existed. But in God’s purposes of love for us, He saw us and called us by name, even before we were born. “Other sheep I have, who are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice; and there shall be one fold, and one Shepherd” [John 10:16].
When I prepared this sermon I did not know we were having an International Night down here. And as these visitors were invited to stand, men, young men from different nations all over this earth, how typical God’s purposes for us; we shall be gathered together, and there shall be one fold in the presence of our one Shepherd.
Now, in this message I have three things to say about God’s purposes for us in glory. And the first is this: heaven is a gathering together, it is a koinōnia. And to me, that is the most beautiful description of the saints of God that I know of, a koinōnia. It is a sharing together. Sometimes it’ll be translated in our Bible “a fellowship” [Philippians 3:10]. Sometimes that same word is translated “a communion” [1 Corinthians 10:16]. It means, literally, “a gathering, sharing together”; and that is heaven; when all of God’s people are gathered home. You know, there is something about the way God made us, and there is something about God’s way of our worshiping and serving Him, and it invariably is the same pattern: God made us to like to be together.
The lonely Indian came together from the plains, from the prairies, in a pow-wow, just to be together. The lonely Eskimo comes together for his games, just to be together. And a cowboy, that’s where the rodeo came from, so far separated, coming together to rope calves and to do all the things that cowboys do, riding horses in a rodeo, just to be together.
I remember one time driving through the vast stretches of Arizona; and away, and away, and away, and away, back and back, out in those illimitable thousands of acres of desert land, I came across a cabin of a cowboy, out there on that great ranch. And as I drove by the cabin, I stopped and looked at it. It looked like a cheap kind of a shack, way out and away; but, there were pretty white starched curtains in the windows. And I thought, now, on the inside of this house there lives a cowboy’s wife. And, of course, she put those curtains there in the window for beauty and for her own aesthetic sensibilities, I’m sure. But she also put them there hoping that maybe somebody would drive down that road and look at them.
We’re that way in a city, just wanting to be with somebody. I asked, for example, I asked an insurance man, I said, “Who finally owns the vast and almost illimitable assets of a mutual insurance company like Metropolitan Life or New York Equitable Assurance Life?” I said, “Who owns those vast—oh, the assets sometimes are in the billions—who owns them?” And he said, “Theoretically, the last living surviving policy holder.” Well, I got to thinking about that, “Man, if I could just outlive all those critters—oh, if I could just do it!” Think of it! I’d have billions and billions and billions of dollars if I could just do it. Then I also got to thinking, if I were the last living survivor, and all of everybody else were dead, man, those tall sixty floor buildings I’d own, and not a soul in them. Those great railroads I’d own and not anybody to ride them. And these airlines and all these vast investments I’d have, and nobody around me; just me, the last living survivor. Why, why, why man, if they were to give it to me like that, I wouldn’t be interested in it; it’s junk, it’s stuff. What makes it glorious is you! We’re here together; that’s the way God made us!
Now, not only is that true with us in our makeup; it is also true with us religiously. There is a social side, a koinōnia side, a communion side, a fellowship side to religion that has never varied. I haven’t time to describe it in the Old Testament, nor to enter much into it in the New Testament except to say this: that from the beginning, from the beginning it has been God’s purposes that we gather together in His name in His church, to sing together, to pray together, to listen to God’s Word together. Why, you can serve God on a hill all by yourself, I know; and you can sing by yourself, I know—it’d be a lot prettier I’m sure, if some of us did that with four walls around us—you can sing by yourself, I know; read the Bible by yourself. There is private prayer; there is private Bible reading; there is private singing, I’m sure. But oh, God purposes for us to rejoice, to be together, to sing together, to pray together, read God’s Book together and to be together in a koinōnia, in a communion, in a fellowship, in a church! That’s God’s way of doing in religion. Now, that’s God’s purposes for us; by and by, we’re going to be together.
In the Old Testament prophet, how many times would he say, “And God shall raise His people out of the dust of the ground, out of those dry-bone valleys, and breathe into them the breath of life; and they shall be a standing army before the Lord”? [Ezekiel 37:5-10]. That glorious vision in Ezekiel 37 is what God is going to do with His chosen people! They are all going to live in His sight someday, a living fellowship [Ezekiel 37:11-14]. God is going to gather His people together; that’s the word of the prophet again and again and again.
And that’s God Word in the New Testament covenant. In those glorious visions that the sainted apostle John saw, the new heaven and the new earth, and then he adds, “And there was no more sea” [Revelation 21:1]. Well, why put that in? “And there was no more sea!” Well, if you remember John and the affection, the apostle of love, for the people of the Lord, and he was exiled on a lonely, rocky isle called Patmos, out there by himself [Revelation 1:9]. And between him and his beloved people in Ephesus, were the waters of that washing, tideless sea. And when he thought of heaven, and in that vision, there is no separation; “there will be no more sea,” there will be no more separation; no death to break the bond, no crying of bereavement and sadness; but God’s people shall be together forever and forever! And that is heaven, a great gathering [Revelation 7:9]. “There shall be one fold in the presence of our one Shepherd” [John 10:16]. Heaven is the gathering together of God’s sainted people.
Now, I’m not denying that heaven also is a beautiful city with domes and spires and foundations of precious stones [Revelation 21:19-20]; and I’m not denying it has gates of pearl, and it has streets of transparent gold [Revelation 21:21], but these are just things, and things in themselves could never make heaven. If you were there by yourself, what would it be looking at pearly gates? What would it be walking on golden streets? What would it be, those beautiful mansions of God [John 14:2], if you were there by yourself? Heaven is the gathering together of His people; that’s what makes it heaven.
An old minister—and I’ve read this several times, and it’s so preciously true—an old minister was speaking to his people. And he said, “You know, when I was a little boy, and I was thinking about heaven,” he said, “I thought of it as a place of golden streets, and pearly gates, and a throne of tenuous white-robed angels; full of strangers, none of whom I know.” He said, “That’s what I used to think of heaven, when I was a little boy.” Then he said, “My little brother died; my little brother died. And,” he said, “I began thinking about heaven with golden streets, and pearly gates, and tenuous white angels, filled with strangers, and one little face that I knew, one little face.” Then he said, “As the years passed,” and he described all the years of his life; his father, and his mother, and as the years passed some of his children, and as the years passed, his wife, and his friends. Then he said, “Now as I stand today, I don’t think of heaven anymore as being a place with streets of gold, and gates of pearl, and domes and spires and jasper walls.” He says, “I think of heaven now as where all of my family has gone; and I tarry behind. Where almost all of the friends I have known have gone, and I am left behind. And now,” he says, “I know far more who are over there than who are down here.” That is heaven. It is the gathering of His people. It is the koinōnia, it is the communion, it is the fellowship of God’s saints that make it glory. And without them it is emptiness, and nothing.
I read—and this is so typical of so many of us, of our homes—the mother in the home was so seriously ill, so friends took the little girl away while the mother was ill and until she could be well. Well, in the providences of God, the tragedy struck and the mother did not get well; the mother died. And after the funeral and after the days had passed, why, the friends thought the time had come to bring the little girl back home. So they brought the little thing back home. And the little child went into this room and called, “Mother, Mommy? Mother?” And then the next room, and the next room, and she went all through the house calling for her mother. And then back to the friends and said, “Where is Mother? Where is Mother?” And the friends said, “Well child, your mother is gone. Your mother’s not here. Your mother’s gone.” And the little thing burst into tears and said, “Take me away, take me away, I don’t want to be here without Mother.” That is heaven! Gold, and pearl, and jasper, and walls and spires, and domes and mansions, these are glory I know; but they are nothing, they are trash—if I could speak of it without blasphemy—without you. Heaven is the gathering of God’s people: you and these whom we love.
Second: there shall be one fold, and one Shepherd. “Other sheep I have, who are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice; and there shall be one fold, and one Shepherd” [John 10:16]. Second: heaven is an aristocracy; it is an election, it is a selection. Not everyone is going to heaven—God’s Book says so. Unfailingly, heaven is an aristocracy; it is an aristocracy of holiness, of humility, of confession, of redemption, of salvation. Heaven is a gathering together of God’s elect. Now, there are two things about that election. They are elect according to the likes and loves of their lives. Listen: 1 Corinthians chapter 2, verse 9, “Eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man, those good things, that good thing, God hath prepared for those who love Him, those who love Him” [1 Corinthians 2:9]. It is an election; it is an aristocracy; it is a choice of those who love God. Look again: 2 Timothy 4:8, and not to me only, “there is reserved for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord will give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also who love His appearing.” The coming of the Lord Jesus, who loved God, the election is according to the likes and loves of our lives. And if we don’t love God, and if we don’t love our Savior, and if we don’t love God’s people, how could we be happy in heaven?
I heard the craziest thing one time. There were two boats, excursion boats, on a pier, on either side of a pier in New York harbor. One of them was a Sunday school class going out for a picnic; and the other was for the bartenders going out for a hullabaloo. Well, there came running down the pier just as fast as he could a man a-going and a-going, he was late. And one of those boats had already gone, and one of them was there. Well, he didn’t know that there were two possibilities; he just saw that one boat. And it was just gradually moving away. Well, he was a bartender, and he was a’ running for all that he could go for; and he jumped over the pier and landed on the deck of that boat as it pulled out into the harbor and away. Guess which one it was…it was the Sunday school boat. Well, I heard that, and I thought, “Now isn’t that the truth?” That bartender who intended to have such a whooping-up time, don’t you know he was miserable? Well, I want you to know, I’d have been miserable had I missed the Sunday school boat. Oh, I just wouldn’t like what they do; I don’t—that’s slop to me, what they drink, and it tastes worse than that. When I was a boy on the farm, we made that stuff and fed it to the hogs; that’s what we did. We took grain, put water in it, let it sour and fed it to the hogs. Well, they drink it out here in these joints. Well, I just don’t like it. But I like sweet milk, oh my!
It’s a selection; these who love God and God’s people. Second: it is an election, an aristocracy, I said, of humility and contrition. You look at this passage in Isaiah, Isaiah 57:15: “For thus saith the High and Holy One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him that is of a contrite and humble spirit.” Isn’t that amazing? “Listen to Me who dwelleth in eternity; I dwell in the high and holy place with him that is of a contrite and holy, heavenly, humble spirit.” It is an aristocracy of humility and confession. It is a gathering together of those who bow in the presence of the Lord, and who are humble and contrite in their spirits [Isaiah 57:15].
Long time ago—and you’ve forgotten it of course—but long time ago, two years ago, when I came back from Russia, do you remember my telling you of the church at Leningrad? I have not seen so many tears in a service in all of my life as I saw in that church in Leningrad. And though mostly I did not know why or what they were saying, oh, as they knelt and prayed with their hands raised up like this, and as the tears fell from their faces in prayer and in their singing, well, I just wept too; and the services are for hours and hours. Well anyway, in that service the pastor of the church began reading letters and letters and letters and letters. And as he would read the letters, oh, they would just weep. Then he would read another letter, and they’d just weep. And he’d read another letter, and read another letter, and they’d just weep. I finally turned to the Intourist guide, and I said, “What are they weeping for? What are these letters? Why are they crying so?” And the Intourist guide said to me,”These are letters from members of the church, mostly families, from members of the church who, under the terrible persecution of the Soviet government, had left the church, and had renounced the faith, and had embraced communism and given up their Lord. And these letters are letters of confession and contrition, wanting to be taken back into the church.”
Coming back home. And as they read those letters from these members and families who were coming back to the Lord and asking to be received back into the church, and asking for the forgiveness of the congregation, the people wept in joy and in gladness as they forgave them, and embraced them in the circle of the love and fellowship, the koinōnia, the communion of the saints once again. That is heaven; that is glory. It is a fellowship of forgiveness and humility and contrition. “These are they with whom I shall dwell in the high and holy place, these of a humble and a contrite spirit” [Isaiah 57:15]. We must hasten.
And last. First: it is a gathering together, a fellowship. Second: it is a selection, these who love God and who are of a contrite spirit. Third: it is a redemption, it is a throng, delivered, blood-bought, redeemed [1 Peter 1:18-19]. Oh, if we had an hour here. So many of our songs are of this,
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!
Glory, I’m saved, Glory, I’m saved!
My sins are all pardoned, my guilt is all gone!
Glory, I’m saved, Glory, I’m saved!
Saved by the blood of the Crucified One.
[“Saved by the Blood,” by S. J. Henderson]
That’s the song of the Revelation. In the first chapter, “Unto Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood . . . to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” [Revelation 1:5-6]. And in the fifth chapter, “For Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for Thou was slain, and hath purchased by Thy blood to God all of us of the families and tribes of the earth” [Revelation 5:9]. And the seventh chapter, “Who were these robed in white? These are they who have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” [Revelation 7:14]. It is a redeemed, blood-bought, purchased, delivered throng. And they are also the fruit of our love and of our tears and of our prayers.
Oh, how much is that true? There’s not a father or a mother that does not know the tears and the intercession and the hope you express for that child, you just do. And beyond the family circle, for a loved friend, also redeemed in our tears and prayers and intercession; it is a blood-bought throng.
One of our great evangelists who built a mighty church and it lives today, it is in Indianapolis, he said that he went to the farm home and his mother had been ill, seriously ill, for twenty years, twenty years. And he said he looked upon her there, her thin and emaciated body, suffering for twenty years; and he said to his mother, “Mother, I sometimes almost lose my faith, and I fall into doubts when I see you suffer so. I can’t understand, I don’t understand.” He said, “In my city I know a woman who lives in a stone mansion; and she is affluent, and she has health, and she has damned more lives than any woman that I know of. And you, Mother, here, for twenty, twenty, twenty years, you have suffered pain. And I don’t understand. And sometimes I can hardly hold onto God. I don’t see.”
And the mother replied and said, “Son, Son, do you see that old barn there? And do you see that old orchard there?” She said, “Son, there is not ten feet of ground around this house on this farm where my knees have not been pressed against the ground praying for you when you were a drunkard, and when you were a gambler, and when you were a thief.” And she said, “Son, in the days when I am the most torn in pain and illness, Jesus has been the nearest to me.” And she said, “Son, had I not been near enough to Jesus for Him to hear my voice, you might not have been saved.” What do you think of that? The pain of her life, and the invalidism of her life, and the illness and the sorrow of her life, just made Jesus seem the nearer to her. And she was close enough to get His ear when she prayed in behalf of that wayward and prodigal son. He’s the fruit of the tears and the prayers of a suffering and sainted mother. And I tell you, practically all of us that are going to be there, we are going to be trophies of grace because somebody loved us and wept over us and prayed for us. Isn’t that going to be a hallelujah time when you go around glory and tell those who have loved you and prayed for you, “Thank you, thank you. Had it not been for you, I might have missed the way.” That’s heaven. O bless God, what sweetness in the preciousness of the dear Savior.
Now we must sing our song. And while we sing it, a family you to come; a couple you to come; one somebody you, while we sing our song, “When We All Get to Heaven,” while we sing that song, you come and stand by me. “Pastor, here I am tonight, and here I come.” On the first note of the first stanza, into that aisle, down to the front; in the balcony round, come down; “Give you my hand, preacher, I give my heart to God. I want to see you in heaven some day.” Let’s make the glory road together, come, come, come; while we stand and while we sing.
WHEN WE ALL GET TO HEAVEN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-29-67I. A gathering, fellowship, koinonia
A. We are social creatures here
B. The Scriptural portrayal there
1. From the beginning God purposed that we gather together (Ezekiel 37, Revelation 21:2)
a. Old minister
b. Little girl looking for her motherII. An aristocracy, an election, a select company
A. According to likes and loves of their lives (1 Corinthians 2:9, 2 Timothy 4:7-8)
1. Two excursion boats
B. According to the spirit of our hearts (Isaiah 57:15)
1. Baptist church in LeningradIII. A redemption
A. Blood-bought by Christ (Revelation 1:5-6, 5:9-14, 7:14)