What It Is To Be In Heaven
March 23rd, 1989 @ 12:00 PM
WHAT IT IS LIKE TO BE IN HEAVEN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-23-89 12:00 p.m.
We welcome you with all of our hearts. This is your busy noon day lunch hour and any moment that you have to leave, you feel free to go. If it is in the middle of a sentence or syllable, you will not bother me, and all of our people will understand. Our theme for this year is the “Revelations of God.” On Monday; What it Is to be Lost. On Tuesday: What It is to be Saved. Yesterday; What It is to be in Hell. Tomorrow: What it is Like to be Washed in the Blood of the Lamb. And today; What it is Like in Heaven. You know it is that opposite study that you would ever think for. Upon a time, I preached through the Bible, to this congregation in the church. I preached for eighteen years through the Bible. Where I left off Sunday morning, I started Sunday night; where I left off Sunday night, I started the following Sunday morning. I did that for eighteen years, and there were many difficult, very difficult passages in the Bible, and I struggled through it in intercession and preparation the best that I could. And I thought; now when I get to the consummation, when I get to the end and we talk about heaven, it will be so much easier. Sweet people, it was the opposite. When I came to the end of the Revelation and began to present the messages on the holy city, our heavenly home, I never had such difficulty in all of my life. Heaven is another category. It is in another category. It is in another definition. It is in another world and another life from anything that we know or experience.
Just a little typical of it is, it says that this beautiful city descending [out of] heaven [from] God will have the glory of the Lord: and “Her light is like a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal” [Revelation 21:11]. Both of those are Greeks words. “Crystal” is an English word spelled out from the Greek. And the Greek is krustallos. And then it is called in Greek a iaspis stone, iaspis. An “i” in Greek, when you spell it out in English it will be a jasper, jasper stone. Nobody knows what a iaspis stone is. Nobody! So they just spelled it out, the Greek word, not knowing what kind of a stone the holy city resembled. So I would translate it a diamond. The whole city looks like a glorious, beautifully cut, sparkling diamond, a jasper stone, a diamond [Revelation 21:11].
So the angel says to the apostle John, “Come, and I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” And he showed him the great city, holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God [Revelation 21:9-10]. So the city is named for the bride of our Lord. And that means, too, the bride of our Lord is His church [Ephesians 5:25]. And then the friends of the bridegroom are there, John the Baptist, all of the old prophets, and the saints of the old covenant [John 3:29]. They are all there together in that beautiful city [Revelation 3:12, 21:12, 14].
And first, he describes the outside of that New Jerusalem, our eternal home. First, he says, it has twelve gates, which represent the twelve tribes of Israel [Revelation 21:12]. Our Lord said: “Salvation is of the Jews” [John 4:22]. And we owe them a debt we could never, ever repay. Anti-Semitism to me is like being anti-God; I don’t understand it. Those twelve gates represent the twelve tribes of Israel. Then the city has twelve foundations and in them the names of the twelve apostles [Revelation 21:14]. The foundation of our gospel message and of the hope of our souls is found in the message delivered to us after the resurrection of our Lord [Matthew 28:1-7], by those chosen apostles of our Savior.
Then he sees the angel measure the length and height and depth of the city. And the city measured twelve thousand furlongs. The Greek is stadia. When you turn the stadia, the “furlongs” in English, it is one thousand five hundred miles [Revelation 21:15-16]. The city is one thousand five hundred miles this way, and one thousand five hundred that way, and one thousand five hundred that way. It is an enormous city. It would cover England, and Scotland, and Ireland, and France, and Germany, and Austria, and Italy, and Spain, and European Turkey, and one-half of all Russia. And when you think of a city in stories, even if the stories were one mile apart, and even if the streets were one mile apart, there are eight million miles of streets in that city. If you took all of the souls that were born from Adam [Genesis 1:27], to this present moment, we would occupy one corner of that vast metropolis. It is a tremendous city, this heavenly city of God, our eternal home [Revelation 21-22]. And God must like color. The foundations of the city and the walls of the city have twelve glorious iridescent colors [Revelation 21:18-20]. When you go outside and look up in the heavens, they are blue. God must like color. When you look at an autumnal sunset, it looks like fire. When you look at those gorgeous, gorgeous sunrises, they are beautiful. God must like color. And there in that beautiful city are twelve glorious foundations [Revelation 21:19-20].
Then, we are not going to stay on the outside of the city. We’re going inside. And when we go inside of the city, it is even more marvelous. It has twelve gates, and each one of the gates is a solid pearl [Revelation 21:21]. We enter the New Jerusalem, our eternal home, through suffering and sacrifice. A pearl is the only jewel that is formed by hurt, by wound. And those gates of the New Jerusalem, our eternal home, are solid pearl. We enter into the city through sacrifice and through suffering.
…and the street of the city was pure gold . . .
I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.
And the city had no need of the sun, neither the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.
What a marvelous place for us. God visible, God on His throne, and we there looking upon His face, and do live [Revelation 22:3-4]. And the light of the city comes from the face of Jesus our Lord [Revelation 21:23, 22:5]. What a beautiful apparition, what a beautiful vision, what a beautiful glory! There to stand on one of the golden streets of that holy city of God and look upon the Lord Himself [Revelation 22:4]: the only God you’ll ever see is the Lord Jesus; you’ll never see three Gods; the only God you’ll ever see is the Lord Jesus [John 1:18]. The only God you’ll ever feel is the Holy Spirit in your heart [Galatians 4:6]. And the only God there is, is the Lord God [Isaiah 46:9]. And that’s what we’re going to see in heaven. We’re going to praise the name of our wonderful Savior, sing to Him, bow in His presence, just thank Him forever and ever for dying for our sins [1 Corinthians 15:3], and raising us for [our] justification [Romans 4:25]. That’s going to be heaven, praising our Lord Jesus in the day, in the night, and forever and ever.
Then it describes the city itself. Right through the middle of it, down through that beautiful golden city of God is:
a pure river of the water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.
And in the midst of the street, and on either side, there is a great forest and of [tree]s of life . . . and the leaves were for the healing of the nations.
All of the fruit of those trees are for us to partake, to share. And every bite we eat and every substance that we inherit is a part of the extension of our unending days. The tree of life was in the garden of Eden [Genesis 2:9], “And lest they take of it and live forever” [Genesis 3:22], God transplanted it to glory [Revelation 22:2]. And there it multiplied on the banks of the river of life, and God’s people share it, eat of it, and live forever [Revelation 22:2].
And there shall be no more curse, that is gone and forever [Revelation 22:3]. No more death; neither sorrow nor crying, neither anymore pain: for all of these things are passed away [Revelation 21:4]. We’ll never get old. We’ll never be sick. We’ll never be separated. We’ll never die. We’ll be there in the presence of our Lord forever and forever and forever [Revelation 22:3-5]. O God! What a wonderful prospect to look upon Thy face and in the presence of these whom we have loved and maybe lost for a while, to sing Thy glory and praise Thy name world without end!
“And His servants shall serve Him” [Revelation 22:3], ah! what a beautiful assignment. “And His servants shall serve Him,” there’ll be no end to our dedication. In the day, in the night, in the fall time, in the springtime, forever and ever we shall be in the employ of our dear Lord, running His errands. Now, you may think that I have lost my mind when I tell you this, but this is a persuasion on my part. I think that when God says we shall serve Him, we’re in His employ, I think we’re going to have a new creation. “I saw a new heaven,” the firmament, “and a new earth,” because that old, fallen first heaven and the old, fallen first earth were passed away; God re-creating this whole, vast, fallen universe [Revelation 21:1]. And there will be no more dead planets. And there will be no more deserts and dead seas. But the whole creation of God will come to life. And, according to the parables of our Lord, we’re going to be assigned the government of this whole, vast infinitude of God’s handiwork. As He said to one of His servants:
You have been faithful, you be ruler over ten cities.
You have been faithful, you be ruler over five cities.
[You have been faithful, you be ruler over two cities.]
[From Luke 19:17-19]
We’ll be the governors of the entire re-created universe. And sometimes I facetiously say in the pulpit, I want God to give me a planet somewhere out there in that vast sidereal sphere. And I want a pulpit, and I want to stand and preach and never have to watch a clock, just preach forever, and ever, and ever, ever, and ever, and ever, just praising the Lord, praising the Lord.
And we shall see His face [Revelation 22:4], the climax of it all. We’re going to see Jesus. And we’ll be together in His divine presence, world without end, in an eternity. That will be heaven in itself. Jesus is there [John 14:1-3; Revelation 21:23]. And you will be there, and we shall be there [Revelation 21:1-3]. It’s like this. I heard of the testimony of an old, old pilgrim: an old Christian warrior of the faith. And as the old man stood up, this is what he said: “When I was a little boy, my little brother died.” He said, “I thought of heaven before as a place with golden streets and pearly gates, and spires, and domes, and white tenuous angels, and a vast multitude whom I didn’t know and had never seen. But when my little brother died, I thought of heaven, a vast, beautiful city, golden streets, pearly gates, tenuous white angels, a great multitude and one little face that I knew; one little face.”
Then the old man continued his testimony, and he said: “As the years passed, my mother died, my father died, finally my wife died, and I have outlived all of my children.” And the old man concluded, “No longer do I think of heaven in terms of golden streets or pearly gates, or spires and domes, or tenuous white angels, I think of heaven now as where my little brother is, and where my mother and father are, and where my sweet wife is waiting, and where my children will make the family complete. And I’m looking forward to that triumphant day when I join their heavenly number.”
That is heaven enough. If we can just be together and serve our Lord and sing His praises, world without end, that will be heaven enough for me.
Gracious Lord, we look forward to seeing You, living in Your presence, drinking from the River of life, eating from the tree of eternity; being with friends and family. O God, what the Lord hath in store for us! Beyond what eye has ever seen, or ear hath ever heard, or mind or heart has ever imagined. And praise God, without loss of one, may we be there answering to our name some triumphant and glorious day; through Christ our Lord, amen.
WHAT IT IS TO BE IN HEAVEN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Description of the outside, to the gates(Revelation 21:9-21a)
1. Whole city looks like a diamond
B. Description of the inside, beginning with the street that runs to the gate(Revelation 21:21b-22:5)II. The bride – the Lamb’s wife(Revelation 21:9-10)
A. City is named for the bride of our Lord, His church
1. The occupants make it so – the bride, the friends of the bridegroom, the old prophets, saints of the old covenant
B. The outside of the city
1. The twelve gates – the twelve tribes(Revelation 21:12, John 4:22)
2. The twelve foundations – the twelve apostles(Revelation 21:14)
3. It is12,000 stadia, “furlongs”, or 1,500 miles in length, height and depth(Revelation 21:15-16)
4. Foundations and walls of the city have glorious iridescent colors (Revelation 21:18-20)
C. The inside of the city(Revelation 21:21-23)
1. Through the gates, each made of a solid pearl
a. We enter our eternal home through sacrifice and suffering
2. Streets of pure gold
3. No temple there – the presence of the Lord filled all
4. No sun or moon needed – the glory of God lightens it
5. Worship and adoration, praiseIII. The city in which she dwells(Revelation 21:1-2)
A. Right through the middle is the river of life and on either side the trees of life for us to share(Revelation 22:1-2, Genesis 2:9-10, 3:22)
B. The people who dwell there
1. No more curse, death, sorrow, crying (Revelation 21:4)
2. The Lord’s servants shall serve Him – multiple activities, vast assignments(Revelation 22:3)
a. As in Eden (Genesis 1:28, 2:16)
b. Parable of the pounds (Luke 19:17-19)
3. We shall see His face (Revelation 22:3-5)