What I Believe About Heaven: The Inexpressable Preciousness
June 24th, 1990 @ 10:50 AM
WHAT I BELIEVE ABOUT HEAVEN
THE INEXPRESSIBLE PRECIOUSNESS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-24-90 10:50 a.m.
And welcome the uncounted throngs of you who share this hour on radio and on television, you are now part of our dear First Baptist Church in Dallas. And this is the pastor, bringing the message entitled What I Believe about Heaven: It’s Inexpressible Preciousness—answers to questions most frequently asked.
Tyndale Publishing House has importuned my study and presentation of these messages on heaven. They are meticulously prepared because they are stenographically recorded and will be typed and sent to the publishing house. The first one, What I Believe about Heaven: The Place—what it is like; the second one: What I Believe about Heaven: The People—who are there; last Sunday, What I Believe about Heaven: The Pageantry—what we are going to do; and today, What I Believe about Heaven: Its Inexpressible Preciousness—the answers to questions that you have asked.
As a background text, Paul writes in Philippians 1:21, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is a gain, yet what I shall choose? I do not know what to choose [Philippians 1:22], for I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better” [Philippians 1: 23]. Then, in the last words that he wrote to his son in the ministry, young Timothy, in 2 Timothy 4:6:
For I am ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.
I have fought a good fight, I have 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 all them also that love His appearing.
[2 Timothy 4:6-8]
What I Believe about Heaven: Its Inexpressible Preciousness—answers to questions most frequently asked, and the answers have to be from the Bible. There is no other infallible source of revelation. The number one question most frequently asked: will we know each other in heaven?
A baby is born in a home, the grandmother dies; in heaven, she is expecting a baby. A little brother dies, he is expecting to see a little child in heaven. The years passed, and the mother dies; she is expecting to see a teenager in heaven. The years passed, he marries and his wife dies; she is expecting to see her husband in heaven. Other years passed and a grandchild dies; and he is expecting to meet a grandfather in heaven. The same person: a baby, a child, a youth, a husband, a grandfather: the answer? We will know by intuitive knowledge who the heavenly arrival is. Intuitive knowledge: a gift of God.
In Luke 9:31, Moses and Elijah are on the Mount of Transfiguration. How did Peter, James, and John know them? [Luke 9:28-33]. They had been dead for a thousand years. They knew them by intuitive knowledge; God gave them the introduction. In Matthew 8:11: “Many shall come from the east and west, shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” How would they know who Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were—dead thousands of years before? They knew them by intuitive knowledge. In 1 Corinthians 13:12: “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then I shall know even as also I am known.” We shall not know less of each other in heaven, we shall know more. In fact, we shall not really know the full circumference and parameters of life until we get there.
In Revelation 3:5, “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the Book of Life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before His angels. We shall posses our individual names in heaven. We shall be known by our names. You will be you. I shall be I. We shall be we. Personality and individuality exist beyond the grave. We’ll be the same.
For those in heaven, do they know what is happening on earth? In heaven, we shall have a knowledge of what is developing on earth. Hebrews 12:1: “Wherefore seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses… let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” The passage certainly does not deny the thought that the saints in heaven look down upon us in our pilgrimage here.
In 1 Samuel 28:16-18: Samuel is in the other world, he is in heaven, yet he knows what is developing about King Saul and Israel in this world. In Luke 15:7 our Lord says, “I say unto you, joy shall be in heaven over every one sinner that repenteth. And in verse 10, “Likewise I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth” [Luke 15:10]. Who are these rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God? They are the redeemed saints in glory. And when one of them comes down this aisle and gives his heart to Jesus, those in heaven see it and rejoice in unspeakable gladness over that one somebody who has found life in the Lord.
Luke 16:23, the rich man has died, and quote, “In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torments… and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.” Verse 27, 28, “I pray thee,” he said, “Father Abraham, that thou wouldest send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brethren… lest they also come to this place of torment” [Luke 16:27-28]. In torment in the other world, in Hades he knows his five brothers are still lost. In Revelation 6:9-10, “And when He had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God . . . And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord… dost Thou not judge… them that dwell on the earth?” They know what is happening on the earth and they follow it with intensest interest.
Now if our loved ones do not arrive in heaven, will we know? How can we be happy if someone dear to us in this life dies without Christ? The answer: they will not be remembered, they will be as if they never lived. There is no life or existence outside of Christ. In Deuteronomy 25:19, “Thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.” Psalm 9:5, “Thou hast rebuked the heathen…Thou hast put out their name for ever and ever.” Psalm 69:28, “Let them be blotted out of the book of the living.” Psalm 109:13, “Let their name be blotted out.” That’s the tragedy of family members who are not Christians. In heaven, they are as though they never existed—they never were, they never lived—their names are blotted out forever.
If a man had two wives on earth, or a woman had two husbands on earth, in heaven, will he have both wives? Or will she have both husbands? This question was asked of the Lord Jesus by the Sadducees in their scorn for the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. In Matthew 22:23-30, they used the law of levirate marriage, whereby the next male relation of a man who died was required to marry the widow to raise up children to the deceased [Deuteronomy 25:5-6]. In this instance, used by the Sadducees sarcastically, the widow had seven different brothers as her husband. When one brother died without any child, why, the other brother had to take her. When he died without an offspring, the other brother had to take her. That’s what you call the levirate marriage—the law of Moses. So in Matthew 22:28, the Saducees conclude their illustration, “Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? For they all had her, ha! ha! ha! ha! ha!” I can just see those Saducees, sarcastically laughing, and full of scorn, and derision, and disdain for our Lord, who was preaching the resurrection of the dead.
Now the answer of Jesus, in Matthew 22:30, “In the resurrection they neither marry, nor are they given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.” Angels do not have sex; they are persons, but not sexed. Angels do not procreate, angels do not share sexual intimacy, nor shall we in heaven. That alone, sexual intimacy, is taken away. Now is sexual intimacy necessary for our knowledge of and enjoyment of each other? Look, I loved and knew my mother with no thought of sexual intimacy, never once entered my mind; it would have been unthinkable and unimaginable. I loved and knew my father, with no thought of sexual intimacy. I loved and knew my brothers and sisters, with no thought of sexual intimacy. I love and know you—deeply so, preciously so, prayerfully so—with no thought of sexual intimacy. I love and know my Lord Jesus, with no thought of sexual intimacy.
An older couple inevitably loses their sexual intimacy. If you live long enough, it will die away. In Genesis 18:12 when the angel came and said to ancient, old Abraham and Sarah, “You are going to have a boy—the child of promise” [Genesis 18:10]. Genesis 18:12: “Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, “After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure?” as they were when they were first married? “My lord being old also?” He was 99, she was 89 [Genesis 17:17]; but, though sexual intimacy had died between the two, they still loved each other and were blessed by each other. So we shall be in heaven. No longer sexually intimate as young husband and wife, but we shall know, and enjoy, and approach each other in the life of our Lord, as here in our church, I love being with you; as in the presence of our friends, I love breaking bread with you; as before the whole world, loving each other.
Will Jesus be the only Person of the Trinity we shall see in heaven? Yes. There is one God, and only one. We shall not see three Gods in heaven. The only god there is, is God. Deuteronomy 6:4, the famous shema, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord.” The only God we shall ever feel is the Holy Spirit in our hearts: “being filled with the Spirit,” Ephesians 5:18. We shall experience Christ living in us, Romans 8:9-10. First Thessalonians 1:6, “Ye became followers of the Lord… with the joy of the Holy Spirit.” The gladness, the exaltation, the unspeakable ecstasy of God is the Holy Spirit in your heart, that’s the only God you will ever feel.
The only God we shall ever see is the Lord Jesus. John 14:8: “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.” When you look at Him, you see God.
Will our Savior have the nail scars in His hands? Yes, Luke 24:39-40, “Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself… and He showed them His hands and His feet.” John 20:25 and following, the disciples said to Thomas:
We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe.
Then, when the Lord, the next Sunday night appeared [John 20:26]:
He said unto Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold My hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into My side: and be not faithless, but believing.
And Thomas answered and said unto Him, My Lord and my God.
If you are going to be you, I shall be I, and all those little old distinctive personalities, and forms, and figures, and configurations that make you, you, are going to make me, me; just like our Lord.
Sometimes, for a moment, the risen Lord Jesus was not recognized. In Luke 24:16, “Their eyes were holden that they should not know Him,” the two disciples in Emmaus [Luke 24:13-15]. In John 20:13-15 Mary Magdalene, “her eyes were drown with tears of sadness. In John 21:4, the early morning fog hid the figure on the shore: the Lord Jesus. But, all of this was for an earthly moment. Jesus revealed Himself to those whom He loved and who loved Him, in His chosen time and way.
Next, can you eat all you want in heaven and not get fat—such as doughnuts and pizza? The answer is a hilarious and glorious, “Amen, let it be, yes, yes!” We are going to eat in heaven all the time! I’m in favor of that. I have made more friends as a young preacher by eating than any other thing I ever did in my life. I never turned down an invitation. If they wanted to invite me to go eat, I was there at the table. Luke 24:41-43 Jesus says, “Do you have any thing to eat? And they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And He took it, and did eat before them,” resurrected. Revelation 19:9, “And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb.” Revelation 22:2, “In the midst of the street of it…was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manners of fruits, and yielded a fruit every month… .”
This brings to mind the miracle of assimilation—of constructive metabolism. You are what you eat. If you don’t believe that, you see what happens to you if you quit eating for a while. You are a monument to bread, and beans, and garlic, and pepper, and all the other things that you consume. Before your eyes on a table are dishes of food. Eat it, and it becomes you lifted, raised, quickened into another realm of life; one of thought, and mind, and emotion, and will, and living. That stuff becomes you! Dead, inanimate matter, by a miracle of assimilation of metabolism, is quickened into you. Now when we, in our resurrected, glorified spirit bodies eat food, it is raised and quickened one step and level higher. It becomes a miraculous part of the spiritual body. And I can tell you this in all earnestness: one miracle is just as great as the other and just as marvelous as the other. The miracle of eating inanimate food, and it becomes me—full of thought, and emotion, and will— is no greater than the miracle of the translation of the food we eat in heaven into our spiritual glorified body. It’s just the same. God has to do it. It’s going to be a wonderful thing. I’m going to have a sign hanging around my neck as I walk up and down those golden streets: “Feed the pastor. Feed the pastor.” Oh, dear! We’re going to have a big time up there, I tell you.
All right—questions about going to heaven: will angels escort us to heaven? Yes, [Luke 16:22], “And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom.” When we die, an angel is going to escort us to heaven. I might lose my way, He knows, and that angle is going to guide me and escort me, and be with me, and open for me the gate of heaven. Won’t that be great?
Will we go to heaven when we die, or to an intermediate state? We go, when we die, to an intermediate state called “Paradise,” waiting for the resurrection of our bodies. But Paul, in 2 Corinthians 12:2, 4 uses the words “Paradise” and “heaven” interchangeably. Where Jesus is will be heaven enough. And when we die and go to Paradise, that’s where Jesus is. Waiting for the resurrection of our bodies that will be given to us when He comes with the saints [1 Cointhians15:35-58]. That will be heaven—Paradise or heaven, it will be the same for us.
Do people who commit suicide go to heaven? Yes, if they are saved. In [1 Samuel 28:19], Samuel—who is in heaven—says to Saul, who that day commits suicide, “Tomorrow shalt thou be with me.” Sweet people, we can be sick in any part of our living existence; in out head, in our foot, in our hand, in our torso. But we can also be sick in our mind and in our soul. Anyone who commits suicide is desperately ill. Does God hate us because we are sick? Does He disown us because we are not well?” Jesus is the Great Physician [Matthew 9:12]. He will heal us up there, in body and in soul. The retarded will be retarded no more. The crippled will be crippled no longer. And the sick in mind—the suicide—will be tortured no more. He is the great Healer [Psalm 103:2-3].
Do homosexuals go to heaven? We all are alike, tempted to sin; the heterosexual is tempted to the opposite sex, homosexual is tempted to the same sex. We all must ask God for strength to overcome: the heterosexual, to remain chaste and pure, and the homosexual likewise, to be chaste and pure—it is for Jesus to save us both.
Will animals go to heaven? Well, well, I never had particularly thought about that, until I started reading the Bible in answer to the question: will animals go to heaven? The Garden of Eden, which is Paradise, was filled with animals; Genesis [3:1], expressly says so. The millennium is described as being at peace with the whole animal world. I don’t know anything more beautiful than the description in Isaiah 11:6-9, “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion together.” It is a beautiful scene, filled with animals.
Now, Romans 8:19-23 avows the deliverance of the whole creation—all of it. The burnt-out planets, and these barren deserts, and the fallen humanity, and all of God’s creation, all of it will be delivered. The word ktiseōs, creation, is used as the subject in verses 19, 20, 21, and 23 [Romans 8:19-23]. The whole creation of God will be delivered from corruption—and that includes our pets, that includes our animals—that includes the whole work of the living God. It’s going to be a beautiful, Edenic Paradise for us all—for us and for them.
Explain the new heaven and the new earth of Revelation 21:1. They are not annihilated, matter is everlasting and indestructible. The creation will be recreated in perfection, such as our bodies that can decay or be burned, but they will be resurrected and remade. Jesus spoke of this recreation in Matthew 19:28 as the palingenesia, the regeneration. Peter spoke of it in Acts 3:21 as apokatastaseōs, the restitution. And Peter wrote of it again in 2 Peter 3:6, 7, 10, as kausoumena, purging by fire. This earth as you see it, and this universe as you look upon it, will be recreated as God reconstructed it in the beginning [Genesis 1:3-31]. The New Jerusalem, our eternal and heavenly home, comes down from God out of heaven [Revelation 21:2-3, 10]. It is from our mansion in this city that, along with Jesus, we shall rule the universe [2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 5:9-10; Revelation 22:3-5], with its teeming multitudes of angels, and saints, and cities.. Jesus resurrected in an instant, could be anywhere. So we shall be able, in an instant, to be anywhere in the recreated universe. The whole creation of God will be ours to rule and to reign over.
We shall keep on learning throughout eternity, as do the angels. [1 Peter 1:12] We shall keep on serving, along with our fellow saints, using our differing talents and abilities Revelation 22:3 and Matthew 25:15. We shall work, and labor, and toil for God without tears, without sadness, without regret without weariness, without failure. All this belongs—failure, and regret, and inability, and defeat, and disappointment, and weariness—all of that belongs to this vale of tears in this earth; but it no longer belongs to heaven, Revelation 21:4 and Revelation 14:13.
Now last: why do I fear death and going to heaven? Because this is God’s way of keeping us in this present world and work at our assigned tasks. Innately, do we draw back from death. Death is a frightful enemy, the last one that shall be destroyed, [1 Corinthians 15:26]: “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” Innately, we draw back from death. It is a horrible thing; it was not intended. God never created us to die. Death is an intruder, it is an interloper, it is a curse. God calls it an enemy, and we flee from it. It is a horror to us. But someday, there will be no more death [1 Corinthians 15:26].
Second: why do we fear death? One thing other; our shortcomings, our weaknesses, our sins make us hesitate facing the great Judge of all the earth. Although we are Christians, saved by the blood of the Crucified One [1 Peter 1:18-19], we all are sinners, all of us [Romans 3:23]. And God says in His sweet and Holy Word that our sins are completely blotted out and remembered against us no more, and, we do not need to fear when that day comes that we we will stand before Him. Isaiah 43:25, “I, even I, am He that blotted out thy transgressions … and will not remember thy sins.” Isaiah 44:22, “I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins; for I have redeemed thee.” Jesus, in Mathew 26:28, said: “This is My blood of the new covenant, shed for the remission of sins,” the washing away of our sins. And Paul, in Romans 5:8 avows: “But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” And verse 10: “By the death of His Son, we shall be saved” [Romans 5:10]. No wonder we sing:
Glory, I’m saved! Glory, I’m saved!
My sins are all pardoned and my guilt is all gone!
Glory, I’m saved! Glory, I’m saved!
Saved by the blood of the Crucified One!
[from “Saved By The Blood,” S.J. Henderson, 1902]
There is life for a look at the Crucified One.
There is life at this moment for thee:
Then look, sinner, look unto Him and be saved.
Unto Him who was nailed to the tree.
[“There is Life for a Look at the Crucified One,” Amelia M. Hull]
What a marvelous thing God hath done for us. And what an incomparable, inexpressible, precious prospect God holds before us in His goodness and in His grace.
I am sorry that we are off the air, because I can’t make an appeal to those who have listened by television to accept Christ as their Savor. But may God bless the message to their hearts and may God give us a gracious response this morning. So may I pray for you who ought to come forward that God will give you the courage to step out for our Savior?
Our Lord for all of the sweetness, and the preciousness, and the glory of Thy promise, we are Thy debtors forever. Oh! what Jesus has done for us in preparing our home in heaven [John 14:1-3]. We are here such a brief time. This life is so short and soon over with. Eternity is forever, and ever, and ever, and Lord to be lost, what an unspeakable, inexpressible tragedy, but to accept Thee as Savior [Romans 10:8-13], to love Thee and serve Thee, what gladness and triumph here and what a glory and joy for the morrow. Bless us as we sing our hymn of appeal, and put into the hearts of those who ought to respond that they come forward to be with us and to pilgrimage with us to the glory land where Jesus is; waiting to accept us and welcome us in His love and grace and in His dear name, amen.
Now Fred, let’s sing us a song of appeal. And while we sing the song, as God shall press the appeal and invitation to your heart, answer with your life; come and a thousand times welcome, while we stand and while we sing.