The World Beyond the Skies
April 7th, 1977 @ 12:00 PM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-7-77 12:00 p.m.
The theme this year has been, "The Ethereal World," the world unseen, invisible, the other world, the world of spirit and intelligence and personality – the world of God.
On Monday, it was, The World Beyond Death:
On Tuesday, The World of Satan, of Evil:
Yesterday, The World of the Angels:
Tomorrow, it will be, The World Beyond the Veil, when our Lord was crucified and we entered into heaven by faith in Him through the brokenness, the tearing, the sacrifice of His flesh. In the Bible, the flesh of our Lord is typified by the veil in the temple, and when the Lord died, the veil was torn apart [Matthew 27:50-52]. And through His sacrifice and suffering, we enter into the presence of God [Hebrews 10:19]. The message tomorrow: The World Beyond the Veil.
Today: The World Beyond the Skies – it is a message on the heavenly home God hath prepared for us, which is beautifully and wondrously and grandly described in the last two chapters of the Bible. John writes:
I saw a new heaven and a 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.
[Revelation 21:1, 2]
And then follows in the next two chapters the incomparably beautiful description of that home beyond the skies. And that is our message today. First, we shall look at it from the outside. Then we shall look at it from the inside. We shall go through the gates into the city. Then we shall look at the people, God’s redeemed, who inhabit this city of the Lord.
When we come to the city itself and look at it, it is a veritable vista of glory and grandeur and beauty and splendor. When the Lord made the first creation [Genesis 1:1-25], how incomparably and breathtakingly beautiful is the handiwork of the Almighty: the stars, the mountains, the verdant emerald meadows, the winding rivers, the vast forests, the handiwork of God in the first creation. But how much more beautiful is this second creation from the hands of the Almighty [Revelation2 1:1-22:5]. So we approach it and look at it first from the outside, this beautiful city of God, the heavenly home of the soul. It is, first of all, placed before us on a vast, vast platform of twelve foundations. The first one is diamond. The second one is sapphire. The third is chalcedony. The fourth is emerald, and thus, on up to the twelfth, which is amethyst [Revelation 21:14, 19-20].
And when, finally, we’re able to climb up to the top of the foundation, we are just at the base of the grandeur of the glory of God. As we look down, and as we look up, what awesome vistas of beauty! If this is the foundation, what must the wall be? And if this is the wall, what must the city be? And if this is the outside, what must the inside be? And if these are streets, what must the mansions be? And if these are mansions, what must the palace be? And if this is the palace, what must the throne be?
Then standing atop of that vast, vast platform, we come in view of the beautiful wall. It is made out of solid diamond, two hundred fifty feet high [Revelation 21:12, 17-18]. In the Bible, it’s not translated. It’s iaspis, but nobody knew what iaspis was. It is just that the wall is made out of "iaspis, clear as crystal." So being unable to translate the word, they just spelled it out in English, and it comes out in English "jasper." The wall is of solid iaspis, translated or spelled out in our English language "jasper," clear as crystal [Revelation 21:11]. I can translate that word. It is "diamond." The wall, two hundred fifty feet high, is made out of solid diamond, clear as crystal; blue-white diamond.
And it is broken by twelve gates as it stands upon twelve foundations, which are the twelve apostles [Revelation 21:14]. It is entered by twelve gates – three on each side, and they represent the redeemed of God in the old covenant and the redeemed of God in the new covenant. As they – as the twenty-four elders represent the patriarchs of the old and the apostles of the new, so the beautiful home of God is made on twelve foundations, the apostles [Revelation 21:14]; and twelve gates, the tribes of the covenant people of Israel [Revelation 21:12].
Then we look at the city itself: what a vast and amazing panorama before us, made out of pure gold, gold that is pure and clear like glass [Revelation 21:18]. And the size of it is breathtaking. It is twelve thousand stadia, and the length and the height and the breadth are the same, twelve thousand stadia – twelve thousand furlongs. A furlong is an eighth of a mile. A stadia is, a stadium, is an eighth of a mile. It is one thousand, five hundred miles this way and one thousand, five hundred miles this way, and one thousand, five hundred miles upward that way [Revelation 21:15-16].
It is so vast a city as to cover all of Great Britain, all of France, all of Spain, all of Italy, all of Austria, all of Germany, all of Eastern Europe, all of Turkey, and half of Russia. And it lies in great, tiered streets, upward and upward and upward for one thousand, five hundred miles.
And what proliferation of iridescence, what enthronement of color, frozen light in diamond, and sapphire, and emerald, and ruby, and turquoise. God has taken the blue of the sky, and the surf of the sea, and the rainbow colors of the glory of autumn, and the fiery sunsets of August, and poured it all into the beauty of that glorious city. God must like color! And its symmetry is perfect. It’s a thousand, five hundred miles this way; a thousand, five hundred miles that way; and a thousand, five hundred miles upward that way; a perfect cube, perfect symmetry, like the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle and the temple.
Now, having approached the city with John, the sainted seer, we walk through the gates into the home of the soul. And as John walked through one of the gates into the beautiful and golden city, he noticed that the gates were of solid pearl [Revelation 21:21]. Each one was carved out of one pearl. A pearl is the only gem that is made in the suffering hurt of a little animal; that is, we enter heaven through suffering. It is described as a place where there are no more tears. What would that mean to someone who had never cried?
It is described as a place where there is no more sorrow [Revelation 21:4]. What would that mean to someone who was never broken-hearted? It is described as a place where there is no more pain. What would that mean to someone who had never been crushed on the wheel and on the rack of suffering and agony? It is described as a place where there is no more death. What would that mean to someone who had never laid in the dust in the ground these he had loved and lost for just a while? We enter the city through gates of pearl, through suffering.
And when we go inside, there before us are the golden streets, pure and clear as glass [Revelation 21:21]: that is, nothing of sin or of defilement enters into that beautiful home of the soul. And as John walks through the streets, he notices there is no sanctuary; there is no temple. For he learns God is the sanctuary of it, and God is the temple of it [Revelation 21:22]. The presence of the Lord – visible, beautiful, wondrous – is everywhere. God fills it all and all.
And John sees that there is no sun or light of the moon to shine upon it; for he says that the glory of God doth lighten it. The city itself is a prism of inherent glory and beauty and light [Revelation 21:23]. What is "glory?" Glory is shining. Glory is luster. Glory is splendor. Glory is the garments of God, the shekinah glory of the Lord. And the presence of the Lord and the light from His face makes the city bright and iridescent.
Glory: "When Moses came down from the mount, he wist not that his face shone with the glory of God" [Exodus 34:29]. When the Lord was transfigured on the high mountain, His face shined as the sun [Matthew 17:1-2]. When the apostle Paul met the Lord on the road to Damascus, he was blinded by the glory of that light [Acts 9:3-4, 26:13-14]. The face of the Lord lightens the whole city with glorious and iridescent beauty [Revelation 21:23].
And as the sainted apostle John walks through the city, he sees there the river of Life [Revelation 22:1]. And by the side of the river, the tree of life, whose leaves are for the healing of the people; no sickness, and no blind, and no crippled, and no lame, and no halt, and no hurt. The leaves are for the healing of the people [Revelation 22:2].
There was a tremendously effective preacher and one of the greatest theologians of all Christendom in England by the name of Richard Baxter. Because he was free in his heart and true to the Word, he was persecuted and imprisoned by the state church. But that dimmed not the luster of the glory of this preacher. In the passing of the days, he lay dying in great suffering and pain. And one of his close friends came by to visit him and found Richard Baxter dying. And seated by his side, he said, "Richard, how are you?"
And the great preacher replied, "I am almost well," and died.
Think of stepping on shore and finding it heaven;
Touching a hand and finding it God’s;
Breathing new air and finding it celestial;
Feeling transformed and finding it immortality;
Waking up in glory and finding it home.
["Finally Home," Robert E. Selle]
"I am almost well," and died.
We have spoken of the city from the outside. We’ve spoken of the city on the inside. We now speak of the people of God, the redeemed of the Lord who live there. There was an old man testifying in an old-fashioned prayer meeting, and this is what he said. He said, "When I was a boy, I would hear heaven described all manner of gold, diamond, jasper, and filled with a host of white tenuous angels; and a throng, not one of whom did I know. That was heaven when I was a boy." Then he said, "As the days passed, my little brother died. And then I thought of heaven as gold, and silver, and diamond, filled with hosts of white tenuous angels, and one little face that I knew."
Then the old man described the passing of the years, and his father died and his mother died and his family died and his wife died and his children died, and all of his friends had gone. And the old man said, "Now, when I think of heaven, I never think of the gold or of the diamond or of the tenuous white angels, but I think of these whom I have loved and are waiting for me in the sky."
Heaven is where Jesus is and God’s redeemed are gathering home. It is a caricature of heaven that we sit on a cloud with a halo, strumming a harp with nothing to do forever. No! For the Scriptures reveal that our heavenly home assigns to us an intensest life. When God made the garden of Eden, He set the man there to dress it and to keep it [Genesis 2:15] and to have dominion over it. So it is, in our heavenly home, we shall be assigned an intensest life. There is God’s whole created universe to govern.
As the Lord said in the parable of the pounds, "This man shall be ruler over ten cities [Luke 19:17], And this man shall be ruler over five cities" [Luke 19:19]. These planets and systems and Milky Ways and sidereal spheres are all under our dominion, under our government. This is just our home. This is the place where our mansion is located on some street, some glorious boulevard. But the whole world of God’s creation is ours to administer in intensest and busiest life.
And, oh, what marvelous services we shall have praising, worshiping, adoring the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ. David will be there with his harp. Gabriel will be there with his trumpet. Asaph will be there with his choir. Organ – Handel will be there with his organ, and we’ll all share in the song of Moses and the Lamb [Revelation 15:3-4]. We shall worship God in heavenly services and exultation as we’ve never known in the services of adoration in this world and in this life.
And do you know the climax of it all: "And they shall see His face and live" [Revelation 22:4]. No man has seen the face of God [John 1:18]. As Jehovah said, "No man can see My face and live" [Exodus 33:20]. But in heaven, we shall look upon God’s face and live. There’s a reason why one of the greatest poet laureates of all English history asked that wherever his poems were published, this one close the volume:
Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And 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!
But 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 crost the bar.
["Crossing the Bar," by Alfred, Lord Tennyson]
We shall see His face and live. Our Lord, it will be heaven enough just to be in Thy presence where Thou art and if these who love us and whom we love can be with us, oh, how doubly dear and precious. And, Master, if together as a redeemed people we can worship Thee and serve Thee, O Lord, it is heaven beyond what our poor hearts can contain. Our cups overflow. Thank Thee, Master, for the salvation that reaches down even to us in Thy dear name, amen.
THE WORLD BEYOND THE SKIES
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. How marvelously beautiful the first creation for our temporal existence – how much more so our eternal home(Revelation 21:1-2)
II. The outside
A. The twelve foundations(Revelation 21:14, 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(Revelation 21:16, 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(Revelation 21:4)
B. Streets of pure gold(Revelation 21:24)
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 – glory of God lights the city(Revelation 21:22-23)
1. Face of Moses (Exodus 34:29-30, 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 words
2. Poem, "Finally Home"
IV. The citizens(Revelation 21:24-27)
A. Old man’s changed conception of heaven
1. Heaven is where Jesus is and where God’s redeemed are gathering home
B. 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)