Where is the Road to Heaven?
November 14th, 1982 @ 7:30 PM
WHERE IS THE ROAD TO HEAVEN?
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-14-82 7:30 p.m.
This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled Where is the Road to Heaven? In our series of nine nights of revival, the theme of each evening has been the great questions of life and eternity, and this one tonight: how can I find the way to heaven? A Sunday or two ago, I made the remark that one of the most beautiful chapters in the Bible is Isaiah 35. Let us turn to that chapter, Isaiah 35. And we shall begin reading at verse 8 and read to the end of the chapter through verse 10. Isaiah 35, beginning at verse 8. Isaiah 35, and we invite the great throngs of you who are listening on radio to turn to the chapter and read it out loud with us. Isaiah chapter 35 beginning at verse 8; now let us read it out loud together:
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.
The background of the passage is, of course, known to all of us. The Northern Kingdom has been destroyed, and the Southern Kingdom, in prophecy, also has been taken into captivity. And the land is left vacant, and sterile, and dry, and parched, and desert, but there is coming a time, says the prophet, when the captives of Zion shall return home. And he pictures their return as pilgrimaging along a great, elevated causeway, and as they come back, they are singing, rejoicing. Sorrow, and sighing, and tears, and disappointment, heartache; all are passed away [Isaiah 35:8-10]. And now nothing remains but the gladness of the presence of God. And of course, it is a picture of all of God’s children as they are gathered into the kingdom of our Savior. So we will look at the description of that return and we shall look at that highway, that road that leads to God and to heaven. He describes it here in beautiful and heavenly language.
First of all, that road to heaven: that road to God is a plain way. It is a simple way. It is easily found and easily understood. He says that the way is so plain that a wayfaring may, a sojourner, even though he be a foolish one, could not miss it. He will not err therein [Isaiah 35:8]. The Scriptures are so much like that. In that last invitation, "Let him that heareth," in Revelation 22:17, "Let him that heareth say, Come." Just a passerby, just a sojourner, just a visitor in our midst; let him extend that invitation to come, come to the Lord Jesus. The way to heaven, the way to be saved, always is a simple way. It is a plain way. And even a foolish man need not err in that road to glory [Isaiah 35:8]. That is so beautifully illustrated in the coming of our children. I was saved when I was ten years of age. I was no theologian. I never saw a child ten years of age who was a theologian. They are not versed in the deep things of the revelation of God. Being an American, not read the Hebrew Scriptures, not read the Greek Scriptures, not be introduced to all of the nuances of the holy language of God, yet, a ten year old boy – namely I, a ten year old boy – found the Lord years and years ago and have been walking in that way sixty-two years now, growing sweeter in the love of Jesus with every passing day. A simple way that a child can understand and accept; the obvious reason for that is felt by all of us; had the way been difficult, many would not have been able to find it. It has to be simple so that it will include everybody.
I have been asked in these years past when I used to go on these mission journeys every summer – preaching say, to the Stone Age Indians in the Amazon jungle or to the black Hottentot in the heart of Africa – "When you stand before that Stone Age Indian, or when you preach to those black natives in the heart of Africa, what do you say?" And my answer is just the plain, simple faith that is a common denominator for them and for us; I start with the fact that all of us feel in our hearts the condemnation of sin. There is a black drop in all of our hearts; all of us, all of us know sin. Mistake, shortcoming, all of us [Romans 3:23] – they do, we do – and what do you do with the sin in your life? We are helpless before it. "There is no man that sinneth not" [1 Kings 8:46; 2 Chronicles 6:36; Ecclesiastes 7:20]. We cannot make ourselves righteous. We can’t wash our souls or the stain of sin out of our lives and out of our hearts. What do we do? God has provided a way whereby we can be washed – we can be forgiven, we can be cleansed, we can be whole again – we can be new and that is the faith. The gospel, the preaching of Jesus Christ our Lord; it is a simple way, a plain way, a wayfaring man, though a foolish one, need not err therein. The way to be saved is always a plain, simple way. In my heart, I turn from sin, from the world, from the wooing and the blandishments of evil and iniquity, and I turn to the Lord Jesus Christ, and I accept Him as my Savior in my heart [Hebrews 6:1].
There are many ramifications. There are many things to be explained and discussed. There are many theological overtones, but the simple, foundational fact of what it is to become a Christian is always that simple; "In repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" [Acts 20:21]. It is a plain way.
It can be easily seen because it is a crimson way. It has a color to it. It says here in Isaiah that the redeemed walk thereon, and the ransomed are pilgrimaging on that way to heaven [Israel 35:9-10]. When it speaks of redemption and of ransom, it is speaking of the blood-bought children of God. The road to heaven is plainly seen and marked because it’s red – it’s crimson, it’s blood-stained – it always has been, it is forever. It started in the garden of Eden, in the shedding of the blood of an innocent animal [Genesis 3:21]. It continued onward in the sacrifice of the lamb brought before God by Abel [Genesis 4:4]. It continued on in its story of crimson bloodshed and sacrifice in the Passover lamb that was offered before God and the blood sprinkled on the little doorposts on the homes of the people of the Lord [Exodus 12:3-7, 13]. It continued on in the Mosaic legislation, the sacrificial system, the offering of the lamb each day [Exodus 29:38-42]. It continued in the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur [Leviticus 16:1-34]. It continued on in the story of John the Baptist, who laid down his life for the faith [Mark 6:14-29]. In Jesus, our Lord, whose blood poured out, first in Gethsemane when He agonized before God [Luke 22:41-44], when He was scourged in the courtroom of Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator [John 19:1], when finally He was nailed to the cross, and a spear pierced His heart, and His life flowed out, and the ground drank it up [John 19:16-34]. It continued on, this crimson way, in the blood of Stephen, the first Christian martyr [Acts 7:54-60], in the sacrifice of the preaching of the gospel, sealed with the death of the apostles, through all the story of devotion of God’s sainted people since, and finally in heaven:
Who are these dressed in white robes? And whence came they?
These are they who have washed their robes, and made then white in the blood of the Lamb.
I call it "a scarlet thread through the Bible"; from the beginning to the ending, that story of the crimson cross of our Lord. This highway to heaven is plainly seen. It is clearly marked; it has a color to it. It is crimson, it is blood-stained. It is the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son that washed our sins away [Revelation 1:5].
Not only is it plain in its simple explanation, even to a child; not only is it plainly marked, it has a color, it is scarlet, it is blood-stained; it is also tear-stained: it is a way of humility and contrition. In this beautiful passage, it says sorrow and sighing shall flee away [Isaiah 35:10]. It speaks in the third verse of weak hands and of a fearful heart [Isaiah 35:3-4]. All of us who have ever come to God have come in our need. We have come humbly. No man walks into the presence of God in self-sufficiency and in pride. Lord, look at me. Any man who comes before God comes before Him like that publican, who would not so much as lift up his face to heaven but beat upon his breasts saying, "Lord, be merciful to me the sinner" [Luke 18:13]. We come before God like that, with many tears, with contrition, with confession in repentance, bowing [Acts 2:38]. There is no other way to look up into the face of God but to kneel. Somehow contrition and humility move the heart of God, and the obverse of that is no less true; pride and self-sufficiency turns God’s face away from us. It is the way of tears, of contrition, of confession, of humility [Psalm 51:17; Isaiah 57:15]. That’s the way a man comes into the presence of the Lord God.
Will you notice again? It is a way of great gladness and rejoicing [Isaiah 35:10]. It says here that they will come with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness. It’s a happy way, it’s a glorious way. When that black, Ethiopian treasurer found the Lord and was baptized [Acts 8:36-38], the next verse says, "And he went on his way rejoicing" [Acts 8:39]. Any man is like that. The Christian way is not the dream and vision of dreary devils descending on a stairway down to hell, but it is a vision and a dream of angels ascending a ladder to the top of which leans against the balustrades of heaven [Genesis 28:12-13]. That’s what it is to be a Christian. I’m happy in my heart, I’m glad in my soul. My life overflows.
Now, I can’t sing like that big man, Michael Brown. But I can be as happy as he is in my heart.
On Monday, I am happy; on Tuesday, full of joy.
On Wednesday, I have peace within that nothing can destroy.
On Thursday and on Friday, I’m walking in the light.
Oh, Saturday is a heavenly day and Sunday’s always bright.
I know a second stanza, you want to hear it? I was going to sing it anyway, you know:
O glory, glory, glory; O glory to the Lamb.
Hallelujah, I am saved and I’m so glad I am.
O glory, glory, glory; O glory to the Lamb.
Hallelujah, I am saved and I’m bound for the Promised Land.
["Glory to the Lamb"; Selected Hymns, (Logansport, IN; Home Music Co.) 1900]
Amen! That’s what it is to be saved; just being happy in the Lord. I see those people going to all these dens and dives, you know, driving up there to those bars and what; and then I see our people coming to church. They are trying to be happy; they are trying to find joy. You won’t find it there. You find it here, in a godly, godly, godly fellowship; singing the songs of Zion, praying to the Lord, living a beautiful, full life in the presence of Jesus. Lord, Lord; it’s the sweetest way to live in the world. It’s a happy way, coming with joy and singing [Isaiah 35:10].
And last: it is an open and a public way. That word translated highway; and a highway shall be there [Isaiah 35:8]; the actual meaning of the word is a raised causeway through the land, a raised causeway where you can see it, and the people that are on it are very much displayed; a causeway, a raised highway going clear to heaven. That’s the way of God always, His people are openly and publicly displayed. I don’t think you could hide a real Christian anyway, and certainly, he doesn’t seek to be hid. The light in his face, and the beauty of his life, and the happiness of his days are seen by everyone. It’s a public way, a stated, open way. It’s an avowal that is offered unto God gladly and gloriously. Our baptism is like that; when the man raises his hand and begins that benedictory prayer, "Upon the public, upon the public confession of your faith in Jesus our Lord and in obedience to His great command, I baptize you, my brother, my sister, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." Upon a public confession of your faith in Him, an open, public avowal; Paul defined our salvation like that. He said:
If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in thine heart that God raised Him from the dead, thou shall be saved. For with the heart one believeth unto a God kind of righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
When a man has accepted Jesus in his heart, the first thing that he wants to do is to confess it, "My brother, I have found the Lord. I have found the Savior, and I’m so glad. I am so happy; I want the whole world to know about it!" It is an open, public confession where everybody can see the commitment of our lives to the wonderful Lord Jesus.
I don’t know why this thing stays in my mind and memory as it does, but I have thought of it a thousand, thousand times. I wish that I could unravel the years and the years and go back to that day when I stood in Hyde Park in London, England. As you so well know, it is a place that is open to anybody to speak in. And on a Saturday and a Sunday, you can go down there to Hyde Park, and there will be thousands of people gathered in all kinds of groups. And they are listening to every conceivable thing under the sun – there will be communists down there who are extolling Russia; there will be American baiters down there who are castigating the United States; there will be others there who are deriding and ridiculing the British government – they are there talking about every conceivable thing under the sun, and the people gathered round this group, that group, that group, that group, just all around listening to those men and women as they are denouncing or approving certain things that are either opprobrious or affirmative to their minds and affinities.
Well, I was down there at Hyde Park this day, and I was going from one to the other to the other, listening to this nut as he was expatiating on some screwball thing; and that one over there as he’s deriding some other thing and just going from one to the other, just like an entertainment. And right in the middle of the group, there was a man who stood with a Bible in his hand, and by his side, a godly looking tall man. Well, I made my way, wormed my way through the group that was surrounding him, and I stood there in the inner circle and listened to that man who had a Bible in his hand. To my great surprise, He was preaching the simple gospel and the simple faith of Jesus our Lord. He had chosen to take his Bible and to stand down there in the midst of that motley, non-descript group of flotsam and jetsam and was preaching the gospel; and that godly, I suppose, deacon standing there by his side. Well, as he preached, why, the hecklers would break into his message of salvation, and they would do it in a vicious way. For example, one of them, while the preacher was preaching with that open Bible in his hand and doing it sweetly and beautifully – I was amazed to hear the gospel so preciously presented in such a surrounding – while he was preaching, why, those hecklers would say all kinds of things. And one man, in particular, stepped out into the circle in front of that preacher and began to curse the Lord Jesus. And he said, "I wish I could get my hands on Him. I’d choke Him to death with these very hands." And he said, "If He were to come back and be in London today, we would crucify Him twice as fast as He was crucified when He came here the first time. I hate the Lord Jesus, and I wish I could kill Him with my own hands." That was typical of what was said, and that humble preacher of the gospel, with his open Bible, just naming the name in a beautiful and a precious way; naming the name of our wonderful Lord.
All right, me; I stood there and that blasphemer was within two or three feet of me, standing there cursing the Lord Jesus and saying all kinds of terrible things about Him and then ridiculing the preacher, that humble preacher. You know what I did? I just stood there. That’s all I did. I never lifted my hand. I never lifted my voice. I just stood there while those blasphemers ridiculed that humble preacher and cursed the Lord Jesus. I’d give anything in this world if I could go back to that day, and back to that hour, and back to that moment; I wish I could. You know what I’d do? I would step out in the middle of that circle before that humble preacher, and I’d like to say to him, "My brother, I am a stranger in London. I come from across the seas, but I would like for you to know and all these gathered round to know, that I love that wonderful Book out of which you are preaching. And I love the Lord Jesus as my Savior, and I praise God for you and your testimony before this motley throng." Why didn’t I do that? Why were my lips sealed and my testimony mute? As I say, I wish I could go back, step out in the midst of that circle and say, "I want to be counted by the side of this godly minister and that deacon standing by his side."
That’s what it is to be a Christian. That’s what it is to walk on this heavenly road. It’s an open and a public avowal. It’s an unashamed commitment of your heart and your life, every purpose and prayer and vision to the Lord Jesus. That’s what it is to be saved. O Lord, and it’s a sweet, heavenly privilege God has given us to be numbered with His elect and to be a member of the family of God.
May we stand together? Our Lord, there is no blessing comparable to that of walking close by the side of our Savior. He is our friend. He died that we might live [1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 10:5-14]. In His blood poured out on the cross do we have forgiveness of sins [Revelation 1:5], and we love Thee, blessed Lord Jesus. It’s going to be heaven to see Thee face to face [Revelation 22:3-5], to bow at Thy feet, and to say, "Thank You Lord for dying for me" [Galatians 2:20]. Oh, wonderful, wonderful Savior!
And as our people pray and wait, this is God’s time for you. Down one of those stairways, down one of these aisles: "Pastor, we have decided for the Lord and here we are. This is my whole family, we are coming tonight." "This is my wife or my friend; the two of us are coming tonight." "Pastor, I am coming tonight."
Make that decision in your heart, and on the first note of the first stanza, come. It will be the most meaningful decision and commitment you have ever made in all of your life. Do it. And may God speed you in the way, and may angels attend you as you come. And thank You Lord for the sweet harvest You will give us tonight; these openly, publicly, unashamedly committing their hearts and lives and every destiny to Thee. In Thy precious and saving name, amen. While we sing our song, welcome a thousand times.