The Citizens of Heaven
April 18th, 1971 @ 7:30 PM
THE CITIZENS OF HEAVEN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-18-71 7:30 p.m.
On the radio of the city of Dallas you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church, and this is the pastor preaching tonight about the folks in heaven, The Citizens of Heaven, the people who are going there. Turn in your Bibles to John 10, the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John, and we shall read verses 9 through 16. And the text is verse 16, "And there shall be one fold, and one shepherd" [John 10:16]. And that refers to the gathering of God’s children in glory. John chapter 10, verses 9 through 16. Now everybody, all of us, on radio and here in this great auditorium, read it with me out loud together, verses 9 through 16:
I am the door: by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth His life for the sheep.
But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.
The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.
I am the good shepherd, and know My sheep, and am known of Mine.
As the Father knoweth Me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down My life for the sheep.
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.
"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" [John 10:16]. This of course refers to the great gathering of God’s saints, the redeemed of all ages and of all time. "They shall hear My voice, these other sheep, and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd." I speak first then of the great rendezvous, the great gathering, the great assize in glory.
It says here in my text that there are others beside us: "Other sheep I have, who are not of this fold: them I must bring, and they will come, they will hear My voice and they shall follow Me," and when they’re all together through all of the ages, "there will be one fold, and one Shepherd" [John 10:16]; we’ll all be together with our Lord. As the Lord said upon another occasion, "Many shall come from the east and the west, and sit down in the kingdom of God with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob" [Matthew 8:11]. When the apostle saw, this same sainted John saw, the beautiful city in glory he noticed that the foundations [were] the twelve apostles [Revelation 21:14], and the twelve gates of pearl were the twelve tribes of Israel [Revelation 21:12-14]. And when he saw the elders, representing all of God’s redeemed of all time, they numbered twenty-four: twelve patriarchs of the old covenant and twelve apostles of the new covenant; all of us together in the kingdom of our Savior [Revelation 19:4]. That goes around the earth and through all of recorded time. It crosses every line and every barrier, the gathering of God’s people together.
When I was in Oslo, Norway, I went around for several days with a businessman who was a tremendous Christian and the leader of our Baptist church in Oslo, the capital of Norway. He loved to talk about the Lord. He loved his country. And upon a day, he said, "So many things have I told you about the days of the Nazi occupation, those traumatic and terrible years, five of them, when our country was under the iron heel of Hitler’s Germany." But he said, "Let me also tell you a sunlight story," and he called it that, a "sunlight story." He said, "When the Nazi Germans came into Oslo and took our country, they also conscripted our church, and they turned it into a warehouse. They used it for storage." So he said, "Our little Baptist congregation met in a hall. Well, while we were meeting," he said, "upon a Sunday, there came in a German Nazi soldier in a German uniform. He came to church." And he said, "We looked upon him as though he had leprosy, as though he had a plague. Nobody went near him or spoke to him; but the next Sunday, when our little Baptist church gathered, there was this same Nazi soldier, German soldier. And we didn’t speak to him, and I didn’t. I hated him. Those years of oppression, I hated him. And the next Sunday that same Nazi soldier was there; and the next Sunday, and every Sunday."
So he said, "My wife, who’s a better Christian than I, said, ‘Husband, you must speak to the boy.’ Why," he said, "I will not speak to him." He was there the next Sunday, and the next Sunday, and every Sunday. And finally she said to him, "Husband, you must speak to that boy, you must speak to him." Well, he said, "Wife, I’ll speak to him here in the church, but outside of that church, I would spit on him!" So in the church, when the service was over, he walked over and introduced himself as the leader of their deacons there in the church. And the boy introduced himself, a Baptist boy from Germany. And he said, "There are not many of us Baptists in the Nazi army, and I love Baptist people; and I love the Lord. And I just wanted to come to church." Well, he said, "Thank you," and turned on his heel and walked away.
And the boy came to church, and he came to church. And his wife said to him, "Husband, that’s a Baptist boy, and it’s not his fault that he has on a Nazi uniform. Don’t you think we ought to invite him to our home?" And he said, "Under no conditions would I have a Nazi soldier in my home!" But the boy came to church, and he came every Sunday. And the wife said, "Husband, don’t you think you ought to invite the boy to our home? He’s lonesome, and he’s a Baptist boy." Well, the husband said, "I’ll invite him if he’ll take off that uniform and come in civilian clothes," which of course the boy couldn’t do. So he went to him after the service that day and said, "We are inviting you to our house, and you can come and be in our home and visit my family; but you can’t come in that uniform, you have to come in civilian clothes. I’ll not allow a Nazi soldier in my house!"
So he said, "Upon a day when it was pouring down rain, there came a fellow under an umbrella with an old slouched civilian hat on his head; knocked at the door." And when they opened the door and looked under that umbrella and that slouch hat, there was that Baptist boy. Well, he said, "We invited him in, and my children loved him. He played with those children of mine all day long; the sweetest boy, but I hated him. After five years, as you know, Hitler was crushed. And the boy, of course, went back to Germany."
And he said, "I got a letter from that boy, living in the British zone, and it was written in beautiful and chaste Norse, in the language of Norway." And he said to that deacon, he said, "You know, I was seated on top of the hill of the mountain there overlooking Oslo, down in the forge the bay"; and he said, "When I saw the Allied fleet steam in and anchor in Oslo," he said, "I sat on that hill looking on the fleet and on the capital city," and he said, "I cried, I wept." He said, "Sir, I was not crying and weeping because my country was defeated; but I was weeping tears of joy because Norway was free" – his enemy, a Nazi soldier, a Baptist boy.
He said, "The days passed, and I got another letter from the lad! He said, ‘Sir, I’m getting married. I live in the British zone. I’m getting married. Would you and your wife come to my wedding?’ That is too much!" He put the letter down, turned to his wife and said, "Wife, we’re going! I have something to say to that boy!"
So they went. When the wedding was over, he asked the boy to come with him in the garden where they could talk alone. He said, "There in the garden I confessed to that boy how un-Christian I had been, and how God said in the Word to love our enemies, and I didn’t do it!" And he said, "I ask your forgiveness. I ask you to forgive me."
The boy put his arms around the deacon and said, "I understand, I understand. It was my people and my country and our army that ravished Norway. And I understand. There’s nothing in my heart, nothing at all." Well, that deacon was crying as he told me that; he had me in tears. Isn’t that great? Isn’t that marvelous? Isn’t that wonderful? "Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring; they will hear My voice, and they will come; and there shall be one fold, and one Shepherd" [John 10:16]; crossing every line around this earth to the isles of the sea, God’s people. It’s a gathering. It’s a gathering.
Now, we could understand that, all of us are made to be convivial, socially minded; we like to be with one another. The Indians, so scattered, would bring the tribe together and there they’d have a powwow! The lonely Eskimo would gather all of his Eskimo friends, and they’ll have Eskimo games. Way out in Arizona one time, I don’t remember what I was doing, why I was there, but way out in Arizona one time, I passed by a little cowboy’s cabin. And going by the cabin, I noticed that the window, just one window in it, the window had beautiful little lace curtains, just pressed so nice. And as I looked at that I thought, "That cowboy’s got a wife, and she thinks maybe somebody will come to see her, and she’s got those lace curtains on that window, so nicely cleaned, white, and pressed." We’re all that way.
I asked an insurance man one time, I said, "I want you to tell me, in these tremendous mutual companies," and those are the biggest things in the world, financially they are gigantic, they are gargantuan, these tremendous mutual insurance companies like the Metropolitan of New York and the Equitable of New York; these vast insurance mutual companies that have millions and millions and millions of dollars, they don’t have any stockholders; I said, "Who owns them, and who gets all of those billions of dollars of profit in a mutual insurance company?" And that insurance man replied to me, and he said, "The last living survivor." I got to thinking about that. Man, if I could just out live those critters, I’d have millions of dollars, billions, billions! Then I got to thinking about what I was thinking. These vast insurance companies, these mutual companies, billions and billions and billions of dollars, and if I could just outlive all of those others, man I’d have it all, billions of dollars; then as I say, I got to thinking. Well, that means I’d be here by myself; I’d outlive all of these others, so I’d be by myself, and I’d walk down New York City. I own everything in it, it’s all mine; walk down Chicago, I own the whole thing, it’s all mine; go down these highways, look at these fertile fields on both sides, every acre of it is mine, it all belongs to me; and come to Dallas, go up and down these streets, look at these skyscrapers and all these homes, every bit of it is mine; and I’m by myself, by myself. Just exactly what kind of a fellowship would I have with a skyscraper, just me and it? Just what would I do? Why, bless you, what makes life? What makes happiness and joy and gladness is the folks that you love that are around you; it’s the koinonia, it’s the communion, it’s the fellowship! "There shall be one fold, and one Shepherd" [John 10:16]; and that’s heaven, that’s what it is. Jesus is there, and you are going to be there, and we’re going to be there. And that’s glory.
A little girl whose mother was so sick and unto death, a neighbor took her home while her mother died. After the memorial service and after the mother was buried – I’m going to bury a sweet mother tomorrow, one that belonged to this church a long time – after the sweet mother was buried, the little girl wanted to go home. So the neighbor was wise; she said, "Why certainly I shall take you home." So she took the little girl home. And the little girl went in this room, called for her mother; went in this room, called for her mother; went in this room, "Mother, where are you? Mother? Mother?" went in this room, went through every room in the house calling for her mother. And her mother was gone. She wasn’t there. And the little girl said, "I don’t want to stay, take me away"; and they took her away; because it’s not home when mother’s gone. And that’s the way with heaven: it wouldn’t be heaven if Jesus weren’t there, and it wouldn’t be heaven if you’re not there. That’s what makes heaven heaven; because our Lord is there and you are there: "There shall be one fold, and one Shepherd" [John 10:16].
Not only is it a gathering, a communion, a fellowship, but it is also a select gathering. Do you think on these words? You know them better than I: "But as it is written, Eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, neither has it entered into the heart of a man, the things God hath prepared" – for whom? – "for those who love Him, for those who love Him" [1 Corinthians 2:9]. Or, again, this famous passage when Paul wrote:
I fought a good fight, I finished my course, I have kept the faith:
Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto them also that loved His appearing.
[2 Timothy 4:7-8]
It is a select company; it is made up of those who love Jesus [2 Timothy 4:8]. Nobody else would be at home. People that don’t love the Lord, what would heaven be to them? It’s people who love God and have given their hearts to the Lord, who love His appearing, who love our Savior. That’s what heaven is; and it is made up of this select company of those who are contrite and humble in spirit, who’ve confessed their sins and asked God to forgive them. Look at this glorious passage in Isaiah: "For thus saith the High and Lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit"; up there in glory, "I dwell with him that is of a humble and contrite spirit" [Isaiah 57:15]. That’s God’s people up there in glory, and that’s the kind of folks they are. They’re folks who have humbled themselves and in contrition and confession asked God to forgive them and to save them.
I was standing in the Red Square in Moscow, standing just oh, a hundred yards this side of one of the big gates that go into the Kremlin Wall, through the Kremlin Wall into the Kremlin. By my side was standing an attachÃ© to the American military establishment connected with our embassy there. And while I was gawking around, standing out there in the middle of Red Square, the policeman who was just right there, just a few feet from me, blew that whistle, man he busted everybody’s ear drums for a mile around, and I turned to see what in the earth it was! And rolling through that crowd, through the Red Kremlin circle, was a big black limousine, and it passed me just like that, and I saw the chauffer up there, and I saw a man seated by himself in the back seat; and it rolled through that crowd and into the Kremlin Wall and disappeared into the Kremlin grounds. And while I was watching that thing roar by through that crowd, with that policeman blowing his whistle to the top of its sound, why, the military attachÃ© turned to me and he said, "Just look at that, and they say there are no class distinctions in Russia; look at that!" Nobody has any car over there; certainly nobody has any chauffer, and certainly they don’t have any policemen blowing whistles as the car dashes through the crowd.
All right, the next day, the next day I was in our Baptist church in Leningrad. As you’ve heard me say, I have never cried so long, hour after hour, as I sat there in that service in Leningrad. I don’t know any Russian; but oh my soul, as they wept I wept with them. In one of the services, I mean in one of the parts of that long service – it lasts several hours, and they have several services a day. They start early in the morning and go to late at night, jammed full of people, one service after another, can’t get in; the only reason we got in, there were people, they had filled the yard, the only reason we got in was because we were American strangers. So we were taken in by the Intourist guide, and we sat up there with the deacons and the pastors on the platform in the pulpit. And as I sat there and wept, in one part of the service, they read letters. And as they read the letter, the pastor of the church read a letter and just wipe the tears out of his eyes, all the deacons around me just wipe the tears out of their eyes, and all the people just wipe the tears out of their eyes; read a letter and read a letter. So I turned to the Intourist guide, and I said, "Will you tell me what it is in those letters?" She said, "Sir, I don’t understand, I’ve never been to a Baptist service, and this is the strangest thing. I don’t understand, I don’t understand." Well I said, "Would you please ask that deacon there, and tell me what he says that that pastor’s doing?" And so she asked the deacon, and the deacon told her, and then she told me. You know what those letters were? It was people, members of that Baptist church in Moscow who, under the awesome pressure of the Communist Party and of the communist government, had withdrawn their membership and renounced their faith. See, you can’t educate the child in Russia if you’re a Baptist; you can’t belong to any governmental party or any governmental agency if you are a Baptist; and you can’t have any kind of a job other than one that is menial if you’re a Baptist. You are persecuted and outcast and a tenth class citizen. And some of them had found, as they faced the traumatic, unbelievable sorrow with their family, that it was more than human heart can bear, and they had withdrawn from the church and renounced the faith. And what those letters were, the pastor was reading the letters, and they were saying, "We want to come back, and we want you to forgive us, and we want God to forgive us." And as they’d wipe the tears and name the family and read the letter, they would all welcome them back; "Of a humble and a contrite spirit" [Isaiah 57:15]. And I couldn’t help but think of the vast abysmal difference between that chauffer and that policeman making the way for that Kremlin official as he roared into the government grounds and those humble persecuted Baptist people wiping the tears from their eyes. Reckon in glory if God will change that thing around? I believe He will. That’s heaven, a select company.
And last, it’s going to be a redeemed company, a redeemed company. "Unto Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood . . . to Him be honor, and glory forever and ever, Amen" [Revelation 1:5-6]. "Worthy art Thou," I’m quoting songs they’re going to sing in glory:
Worthy art Thou to take the book, and to loose the seals thereof; for Thou wast slain, and hath redeemed us unto God by Thy blood out of every language, and tribe, and nation under the sun . . . And the four and twenty elders, and the cherubim, and the myriads of thousands and ten thousands of angels fell down and worshiped Him who liveth forever and ever.
That’s the song they’re going to sing, the redeemed ones in glory, "These who have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" [Revelation 7:14]. And that’s the song, once in a while, I hear you all sing:
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
My sin is all pardoned, my guilt is all gone!
Saved by the blood of the Crucified One!
["Saved by the Blood," S. J. Henderson]
God’s children in glory. "And there shall be one fold, and one Shepherd" [John 10:16].
Would you like to pilgrimage with us? Come. Would you like to give your heart to God? Come. Would you like a home in heaven? Come. Would you like heaven in your home here? Come. Would you walk with God in the light of His grace? Come. Would you have the Almighty see you through? Come. Would you be happy in Jesus every day of your life? Come. Would you face all of every future and eternity itself with assurance and triumph and gladness? Come, come, come. In a moment, we’re going to stand and sing our song, and while we sing it, you, to give your heart to Jesus, to put your life with us in this colony of heaven, to pilgrimage with us on the glory road, come, come, God’s blessings attend you in the way as you make the decision for Christ, "Here I am, and here I come." Make the decision now in your heart; and when you stand up in a moment, stand up coming. Down one of these stairways, into the aisle and here to the front, "Here I am, pastor, tonight I’m making it now." Do it, come, while we stand and while we sing.
CITIZENS OF HEAVEN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. The great gathering
A. One fold, one Shepherd (John 10:16, Matthew 8:11, Revelation 21:12-14, 19:4)
1. Nazi soldier in occupied Norway
B. We are social creatures here
C. Heaven is the fellowship, communion
II. A select gathering
A. Those who love the Lord (1 Corinthians 2:9, 2 Timothy 4:7-8)
B. Those of a humble and contrite spirit (Isaiah 57:15)
1. Baptist church in Leningrad
III. A redeemed company