The Kind of Folks in Heaven
November 29th, 1987 @ 10:50 AM
THE KIND OF FOLKS IN HEAVEN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-29-87 10:50 a.m.
This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas delivering the message entitled The Kind Of Folks in Heaven, the kind of people in glory. It is a textual sermon in John chapter 10, through which chapter and through which book we are preaching. We have come to verse 16, John 10:16; the kind of people in heaven: “And 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.”
The Bible will reveal to us many things about our eternal home. It is a beautiful city. It has jasper walls [Revelation 21:18], the gates are solid pearl, the streets are gold [Revelation 21:21]. And the river of life runs through its midst [Revelation 22:1]. But we will not be thinking about the city itself. Today we shall look at the people who are there. What kind are they? Where do they come from? What are they like? Who is there?
In my reading this week, I came across a funny doggerel, “Well, Look Who’s Here!”—that’s the title of it.
I dreamed death came the other night,
And heaven’s gate swung wide;
With kindly grace an angel
Ushered me inside.
And there, to my astonishment,
Stood folks I’d known on earth—
Some I judged unfit
And of very little worth.
Indignant words rose to my lips,
But never were set free;
For every face showed surprise—
No one expected me!
[“Well, Look Who’s Here!” anonymous]
Who are the folks in heaven? What are they like? Where did they come from? The text, “Other sheep I have not of this fold; them also I must bring; they shall hear My voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” [John 10:16].
So our first avowal: we are all there together, one fold, one Shepherd, some near, some from afar, but we’re all there together. Here you have two different words translated “fold.” Aulē, isn’t that strange? Aulē: it refers to a sheepfold where they’re gathered together. The word also is used in some places for a palace, a beautiful home; we’re all in one fold.
And down here, “And there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” [John 10:16], an altogether different word, poimnē, poimnē, like poimēn, “shepherd.” Poimnē is a flock. We all belong to one flock, loving and following one Shepherd, all of us together, there with the Lord. After all, we are social critters here in this world, all of us. That lone Indian, separated and scattered on the plains of mid-America, once a year will gather together with all of the other Indians for a pow-wow. Or the Eskimo in the Arctic gathers with those other Eskimos, from wherever they come from, for games.
Driving through Arizona, in a most desolate and out of the way place, I came across a cowboy’s cabin. And as I looked at it, there in the window were beautiful curtains. On the inside of that cabin surely lived a wife, and she was making the place pretty for somebody who might drive by and look at it, or a guest who might be in the home and enjoy it. We’re social creatures.
I one time asked an executive of a great mutual company, I said to him, “Who is it that would own the great, vast, extensive investments of this mutual company?”
And he said, “Well actually, the last living survivor.”
And I thought of those great tremendous companies like Prudential and Metropolitan and Equitable, with their billions and billions of assets. And the man that will own it all would be the last, last living survivor. And I could just picture that man: he has come into the inheritance and the possession of all of those vast assets, so he walks around our great cities and these tall skyscrapers around our church, they belong to him. And these great railroad systems, they belong to him. And those vast real estate possessions, they’re all his. And he walks around and looks at them, and he’s by himself; there’s nobody with him. There’s nobody in the streets, and nobody in the house, and nobody in the home; what a poor and poverty stricken prospect!
We are social creatures, being together. And what we are here, we’re there; we are social creatures there. If you’re not there, I don’t want to be there. However beautiful the city may be, with its golden streets and its gates of pearl, if you’re not there, it’s nothing to me.
I think of that little girl; when her mother died she was taken away from her home, and after a few days the little child was brought back. And the little thing went from room to room to room, seeking her mother. And when she was told her mother was not there and would never come back, the little child said, “Then take me away. I don’t want to be here without mother.” We’re that way. It is you that make heaven.
I remember the testimony of an old, old man one time, who said when he was a youth he thought of heaven as jasper walls, and golden streets, and pearly gates, and white, tenuous angels, and a great throng of strangers, none of whom he knew. Then he said, in the passing of days his little brother died. And then he thought about heaven as walls of jasper and gold and pearl and tenuous angels, and a great throng of strangers, and one little face whom he knew. Then he said, as the years multiplied, and now he’s an old, old man, he said, “I never think of heaven as being streets of gold and walls of jasper and gates of pearl and white tenuous angels.” He said, “I have more over there than I have here. And I think of heaven now as being with these whom I’ve loved and lost for just a while.” That’s heaven; you make it so.
Will you notice the text? How diverse will be our assembly: “Other sheep I have, who are not of this fold: them also I must bring . . . and there will be one fold, and one shepherd” [John 10:16]. How diverse the group! In the eighth chapter of the Book of Matthew it says, “Many shall come from the east and from the west, and shall sit down in the kingdom with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob” [Matthew 8:11]. It will be a diverse group; how amazingly, fascinatingly interesting! Think of all of God’s family gathered from the ends of the earth, there in one great company praising God, loving the Lord together.
One time I spent about a week in Oslo, the capital of Norway. As I came into the sanctuary today, Dr. Charles McLaughlin said, “Pastor, what you told about your experience in Scandinavia surely did mean a lot to me.” You see, he was shot down in a plane over Germany in the Second World War, and managed to go across the strait into Sweden, and was interned as a prisoner of war in Sweden.
Well, while I was in Oslo, I went to church, the Baptist church there in that Norwegian city, and met a godly deacon and his family. And in the kind providences of the Lord, I went around with him in his car all the days that I was there in Oslo. And he invited me to dinner; had a beautiful time with him and his family.
Well, in our much going around, he talked to me about many, many things in his life. And one of them concerned the five years that Norway was occupied by the Nazi Germans. He said that the Germans had taken their Baptist church and had turned it into a warehouse, a storage place, and they met in a rented hall. Then upon a Sunday, there came into the church a Nazi soldier. He said everybody in the church bristled. He said, “You cannot imagine the hatred we had in our hearts for that occupying army. Nobody spoke to him. Nobody said a word to him, but the young fellow, the Nazi soldier, attended the church regularly. Every Sunday he was there.”
“Finally,” he said, “my wife said to me, ‘Husband, I want you to speak to him.’” He said, “I will not!” She said, “He comes every Sunday. I want you to speak to him.” And he said to her, “Well, I will, but not outside. I’ll just speak to him in the church.” So he spoke to the lad. He was a Baptist boy from West Germany and he came to church. And his wife said to her husband deacon, “Husband, I want you to invite him to dinner, to our house.”
“What?” he said. “That hated Nazi, despised soldier occupying our nation, invite him to our house? No!” But she prevailed, and he said to the soldier, “You take off your uniform and you can come to our house and eat dinner.” The lad came for dinner. “And,” he said, “my children, who were little then, fell in love with him. He played with them. We had the best time in the world. And he came back again and again.”
And the deacon said to me, “You know, when the end of that occupation came, that soldier stood on the hill overlooking our city. And he wept as he saw the British fleet come into the harbor. He was glad for us and for our nation.”
“Well,” said the deacon, “after the war was over, we received a beautiful invitation, written in perfect Norse language from that boy, inviting us to his wedding, living in a city in the part of Germany then under British occupation, in the British zone. And I said to my wife, ‘Let’s go.’ So we made our journey to a city in West Germany, and there we attended his wedding. And for these years since, we have been close to him, and he has been close to us.”
Can you imagine such a thing? But that’s God; that’s the Spirit of the Lord. There are no barriers of color or state or political persuasion or economic status. We’re all one in the family of God, “Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring” [John 10:16].
A second thing in our text: what kind of folks are in heaven? All of us belonging to one family, one flock, one fold, one Shepherd. A second thing: we all shall love our Lord, and the flock, and one another. “They also shall hear My voice” [John 10:16].
“They too,” all of us, loving God, loving our Lord, loving each other, loving being there. That implies a choice, isn’t that correct? We choose to love our Lord, and we choose to love God’s people. It is an affirmation that arises out of our souls. We love Him, our Savior, and we love these who belong to our family.
You know, that’s an unusual thing, how the change in the heart, in the love, in the interest, in the devotion of these who fall in love with God and with God’s people. What a difference in their lives!
I one time read about two excursion boats that were anchored side by side in New York harbor. One was a Sunday school group going on an excursion and the other was a bartender’s weekend going on an excursion. Well, the two boats there side by side, the bartender’s excursion boat pulled out first, and it left. And the Sunday school excursion boat was just beginning to raise anchor and move out, and as it started to move out, why, a bartender came running down the street. And seeing that excursion boat there and thinking it was his, why, he jumped and landed on the prow, and the boat pulled out.
Well, he was expecting an excursion of drunkenness and whoremongering and carrying on, the bartenders, and when he found out that he was with a Sunday school group, can you imagine how he felt? Dear me, it’s like that dowager here in Dallas, who went up to heaven and appeared before the gatekeeper, St. Peter, and he asked for her credentials of entering in. Well, she opened her purse and she pulled out a “Niemen Markup” charger plate. And she pulled out a season ticket to the Dallas Symphony. And she showed him her membership card in the Dallas Country Club, and the stub end of a Cowboy football game. And he looked at them all very carefully and said, “Well, madam, come on in. But I’m a telling you now, you ain’t going to like it.” It’s remarkable! It’s remarkable! The change in our life when we fall in love with the Lord Jesus and with the people of God!
You know, could I make an aside here about a doctrinal teaching from the Word of the Lord? You see, I think God teaches us that when we’re saved, we’re saved forever. “I give unto My sheep eternal life; and they will never perish, and no one plucks them out of My Father’s hand” [John 10:28-29], that’s what God says. That’s what He says in this very chapter.
Well, forty dozen, dozen, dozen multiplied times have I been told in my pastoral work, “You know if I believe that, that no matter what I did, I was going to be saved, that I was going to heaven, elected and chosen, if I believe that, that I couldn’t be lost, you know what I’d do? I’d go out here and I’d just drink, and I’d just cuss, and I’d just gamble, and I’d just whoremonger, and I’d just—oh, I’d just live out there, if I believed that.”
You know what I tell them? “I do that. I do that: I cuss all I want to, I lie and steal and gamble all I want to. I whoremonger all I want to. You see, I’ve been saved. I have a new heart. I have a new love. I have a new commitment. I’m just not interested in cussing. I’m just not interested in gambling. I’m just not interested in getting drunk, just not interested. It doesn’t appeal to me.” Well, I love the things of the Lord. I love going to church. I love listening to the choir sing and the orchestra play. I love to hear a man preach the Bible. I could sit there and listen forever. I love the fellowship of the people of God. That’s what it is: loving the Lord and loving His people, that’s what we’re going to do in heaven.
I was in Leningrad one time, in our Baptist church. Those Soviets over there will allow one Baptist church for the five million people in Leningrad. They’ll allow one Baptist church for their seven million people in Moscow. They call that freedom of religion. Whatever it is, they still have one church. Well, this is my first time in Russia, and the service lasted oh, between three and four hours. And sweet people, I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that I sat there and cried. I wept for over three, toward four, hours. Oh, those services! They’re kneeling and praying with their hands raised to God.
Well anyway, in the service there was a long period in there when the pastor read, apparently, letters. And the people just cried, just weep. So I said to that infidel, atheistic Intourist guide assigned to me, I said, “Do you know what they are doing? And do you know why they are crying?” She said, “No. I have no idea.”
Well, I had brought a Russian Bible with me, smuggled it in. And I’d given it to a deacon there in the pulpit, where I was seated. And I said to that atheist, I said, “Would you ask this deacon here what it is that they’re doing that moves them so much?” So she talked to the deacon and then turning back to me, she said, “What’s happening is, there have been people, members of the congregation, that have defected; they have renounced the faith. They’ve renounced the Lord. They have renounced the church, and they have gone out into the world. And they are now coming back, and they’re asking the church to forgive them, and to receive them, and to welcome them back into the fold. And that’s why they are rejoicing, weeping for gladness that these are coming back into the fold.”
Sweet people let me tell you something that is God’s truth; if you have ever known the Lord, if you have ever been saved, if you have ever been regenerated, you’ll not ever be happy out there. You never will. There’s something on the inside of you that will cry for the love of God, and the peace of His sweet Spirit, and for the fellowship of His people. That’s what it will be like in heaven: we will love the Lord. We will love His people, one flock and one Shepherd.
May I make one other, then I must close? What kind of folks are up there in heaven? What kind of people? They’re all blood-bought; they’re all redeemed [1 Peter 1:18-19], they’re washed in the blood of the Lamb [Revelation 1:5].
In this little passage out of which I’m preaching here, one, two, three, four: four times is it said here, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth His life for the sheep” [John 10:11]. And again, “I lay down My life for the sheep” [John 10:15]. And again, “I lay down My life, that I might take it again [John 10:17]. I lay down My life of Myself, no man takes it from Me” [John 10:18], a voluntary sacrifice for us!
Who are these people up there in heaven? They’re all blood-bought. They’re all redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. In the Revelation, over and over and over again:
They sang a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, to break the seals, for Thou was slain, and has redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;
And made us unto our God kings and priests; and we shall reign on the earth.
And I heard the voice of the angels…thousands times thousands times ten thousands . . .
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing.
I turn the page. In the beautiful, wonderful passage that you read, “These are they who have come out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” [Revelation 7:14]. And in the first chapter:
Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father;
to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
What are they like? Who are they in heaven? They are all redeemed by the blood of the Lamb [1 Peter 1:18-19]. They are washed in His blood [Revelation 1:5]; they are bought [1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 2 Peter 2:1]. They are God’s because He made them His, in giving His life that they might be saved [1 Corinthians 15:3; Hebrews 10:5-14], all of them, all of them, all of them.
May I also make a doctrinal aside here before I close? All of them are bought, blood-bought, purchased by the blood of the Lamb [Acts 20:28; Revelation 1:5-6, 5:9], all of them, redeemed by the sacrifice, the cross of our Lord [1 Peter 1:18-19].
There was a time in heaven, before the world began, the Bible says, described in the tenth chapter of the Book of Hebrews, when the Savior, our Christ, our Lord and Savior, said to God His Father, “Lo, I come (in the roll of the book it is written of Me) to do Thy will, O God” [Hebrews 10:7]. “He will be bruised for our transgressions: the stripes and the chastisement of our peace is upon Him” [Isaiah 53:5].
And, you know what? God the Father said to His Son, He said to Him, “Son, You give Your life an atonement for their sins. You take upon You their humanity, their sorrows and burdens, and finally, their death. You do that, My Son. You pay the penalty for their sins and their transgressions. You do that, My Son, and I will promise You a people. You will not die in vain. I will give you a people” [Titus 2:14].
And my doctrinal aside: that is election and predestination. God said to His Son, “You give Your life for the sins of the world, and I will give You a people who love You, who will thank God for You, and who will follow You to the ends of the earth” [Titus 2:14]. And my brother, I remember so well when God touched my heart, God did it. When God touched my heart as a child, as a boy, God touched my heart, and I received the Lord Jesus as my Savior.
And if you are in the kingdom, there is a time in your life when God spoke to you, when the Lord opened the doors of heaven to you, and you by faith walked in [Ephesians 2:8-9]. That’s God. And how shall I thank Him, that in His goodness and in His grace He chose me, wrote my name in the Book of Life? [Luke 10:20; Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27, 22:19]. And down one of those aisles in one of those little, tiny, white crackerbox of a church, down one of those aisles did I walk as a lad, giving my heart to the Lord Jesus, one of God’s redeemed.
And who are those folks in heaven? All of them, all of them have accepted the Lord as their Savior. They have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb [Revelation 7:14].. They’ve accepted Him as their Lord, and they are in heaven to praise His name. “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain” [Revelation 5:12], “who hath made us kings and priests unto God” [Revelation 1:6], whom we shall adore forever and ever. Amen. It’s a marvelous gospel, it’s a wonderful message; God’s open door, to belong to His dear and redeemed family [Galatians 4:5]. . And that is our appeal to you. Let’s pray.
Wonderful, precious Savior; Lord, what a privilege it will be to praise Thee, and honor Thee, and worship Thee forever, and ever, and ever, world without end, singing with the saints of God in glory, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain [Revelation 5:12], who hath redeemed us by His blood out of every nation, and tribe, and tongue in the earth [Revelation 5:9], all of us belonging to the family of God. And our Lord, if You will give us length and strength of days, in this life we shall praise Thee. And Lord, when we’re in heaven, when we’re in glory, we’ll add our voices to those who are there in Thy love and grace, thanking Jesus for His wonderful goodness to us. Blessed Lord, make this an hour of rejoicing and salvation, in Thy dear and worthy name, amen.
In a moment we stand and sing our hymn of appeal. A family you, to come into the fellowship of our dear church; welcome [Hebrews 10:24-25]. A one somebody you, to accept the Lord this day as his Savior; welcome [Romans 10:8-13]. Anybody you, following the call of the Spirit of God in your heart; welcome. Make the decision now. In the balcony, down one of these stairways, in the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, this is God’s day for me, and here I stand.” Welcome; while we sing our hymn of appeal, come, make it now.