What I Believe About Heaven: The Pageantry
June 17th, 1990 @ 10:50 AM
WHAT I BELIEVE ABOUT HEAVEN:
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-17-90 10:50 a.m.
We welcome the 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. They asked me, Tyndale Publishing House, to prepare and deliver four sermons on heaven, and they have been very insistent on it. They have been writing me and calling me for several months. So we are in the midst of it now. Sunday a week ago, I preached on What I Believe About Heaven: the Place-what it is like; last Sunday, What I Believe About Heaven: the People-who is going to be there; today, What I Believe About Heaven: the Pageantry-what we are going to do; and next Sunday, What I Believe about Heaven: the Inexpressible Preciousness-answering questions that are most frequently asked. This morning, What I Believe about Heaven: what we are going to do, the Pageantry. A background text is in the last chapter of the Revelation:
He showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits… and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and His servants shall serve Him: And they shall see His face; and His name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; they need no candle, neither the light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever—
how often that is repeated, “to reign,” “to serve”—
He said unto me, These sayings are faithful and true: and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to show unto His servants the things which must shortly come to pass. Look, behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.
What I Believe About Heaven: the Pageantry—what shall we do? The sarcastic unbelievers answer: “Nothing!” That is the contemptuous satire, the insulting travesty, so often depicted and pictured. There is not any one of you but that have seen again and again and again a cartoon about what we do in heaven. There’s a man seated on a fleecy cloud, with wings, with a halo on his head, strumming a harp. Could such a grotesque paradox, such a ridiculous burlesque be true? In heaven, we simply resign ourselves to endless ages of nothingness? We fall into the boredom of nothingness? We are forced to look forward to nothingness? There awaits us an inevitable Christian nirvana of nothingness? We are graduated into a paradise of inactive nothingness? Heaven is nothing more than a scrapheap of worn-out bodies, a collection of human entities consigned to the endless boredom of nothingness? Is that heaven?
But what does it mean in Revelation 14:13: “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord . . . that they may rest from their labors”? Does rest mean nothingness? It means we shall “rest,” be delivered from sin, temptation, weakness, failure, defeat. We shall “rest” in God’s grace, love, and our heavenly assignments. The very word “rest” implies the word “labor” which is in the text: “That they may rest from their labors.” We shall work without weariness. We shall still be refreshed after toil of the day, and the century, and the forever.
What shall we do in heaven? The answer of Jesus and the revelation of infallible Scripture give us a certain and a firm affirmation. Service and unfailing rewards are basic themes in Christ’s teaching. Look at Matthew 24:45-47:
Who is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household? …Blessed is that servant, when his lord, when his lord comes—
He is talking about the end of the age and the forever beyond—
when he comes, blessed is that servant that the Lord will find so doing. Verily, I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler —ruler!—
over all God’s creation.
Look at Matthew 25:20-23:
He that had received five talents came and brought another five talents, saying, Lord, Thou deliveredst unto me five talents: look, I have gained five others.
And the lord said, Well done, good and faithful servant, you have been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of the lord.
And then he that had received two talents came and said, Lord, you gave me two talents; look, I have gained two more.
His lord said unto him, “Well done, good and faithful servant: you have been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
And a like message is presented in the passage that you just read out of Luke, in Luke 19:15-19:
And it came to pass when the lord was returning, having received the kingdom—at the end of the age—he commanded those servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading. Then came the first, and said, Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds.
And the lord said, Wonderful, good: because you have been faithful in this, have thou authority over ten cities—
going to rule over ten cities in the world to come—
And the second came, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds.
And the Lord said likewise to him, Be thou also ruler over five cities.
Assignments in glory according to a man’s ability, reigning and ruling: Jesus is the great Instructor. He teaches us to use the money and means of this life for service and advancement in the life to come. For example, in Luke 16: 9, He says:
I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when it—
the riches, the mammon fails, when you come to the end of life—
they may receive you into everlasting habitations.
That is when in death riches are gone, life is gone, those you have blessed and benefited by your ministries here in this world will welcome you in heaven; the work here is to prepare for our greater rewards over there.
We have a picture of our work assignments in the heavenly world in the life and work ministry of Jesus Himself. One of the great verses of the Bible is Hebrews 13:8: “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever.” Well, look at our Lord: Jesus Christ the same yesterday—in His preexistent state, He worked, He created the heavens and the earth, every firmament, every star, every planet; God in Christ did it, in His preexistent form [John 3:1; Colossians 1:15-17]. “Jesus Christ, the same today”—in His earthly life, He was a workman, a carpenter [Mark 6:3]. And in His ministry, He toiled day and night [John 5:17]. Today in heaven, He is the great Intercessor [1 Timothy 2:5], the Head of the church, the Savior of the body [Ephesians 5:23]—“Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever” [Hebrews 13:8]. He will be King and Lord over a vast, created universe, a heaven and an earth filled with teeming, laboring, serving, reigning people; you, we [Revelation 22:3-5].
The model work ministry of our Lord finds repercussions in the heavenly assignments of His redeemed people. In John 5:17 Jesus answered, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” In John 14:12, “Verily, verily,” truly, truly, the Greek of that is amen, amen, “I say unto you, he that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do.” Well, what are these heavenly works and glorious assignments we shall have in the other world? He says we shall be judges in the re-created world with Christ. In Matthew 19:28:
And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, ye who have followed Me, in the regeneration, in the re-creation of this heaven and earth, when the Son of Man shall sit on the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
First Corinthians 6:2-3, and verse 2; “Do you not know that the saints shall judge the world?” [1 Corinthians 6:2]. The world shall be judged by you. And verse , “Know ye not that ye shall judge angels?” [1 Corinthians 6:3]. That vast, innumerable, multitudinous throng of angels are to be judged by us. We shall reign and rule with Christ throughout the endless succession of ages. Second Timothy 2:11-12, “It is a faithful saying: if we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him: If we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him.” And Revelation 5:10, “Thou hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.” This created heaven above us and this renewed earth on which we plant our feet, we shall reign in this place. And as Luke 19:17-19 says, some of us over ten cities, some of us over five cities, but all of us shall have our individual, separate assignments. Revelation 22:3, “And His servants shall serve Him.” We shall have a place of honor next to the King such as the servants described in Esther 1:14, “They saw the king’s face, and sat first in the kingdom.” That’s you! We shall not be passive spectators, just observing, but we shall be an active vital part of the whole re-created kingdom of God. We each shall have a service to render according to how God has made us and endowed us. As we differ in taste, in likes, in looks, in choices, in abilities, so also we shall differ in our separate assignments and activities.
I speak now of the Biblical revelation of the continuity of life, that it continues. When the shadow of this life is over, the real life begins there, over yonder. There is progress in the pursuit of the purpose of God for us in the rich meaning of life on a higher level. What we have begun on earth, we shall consummate in heaven.
We shall be the same persons there as here. Otherwise, a heavenly life has no meaning. I will be I! You will be you! We shall be we! If that’s not so, it has no meaning at all. Our traits, our abilities, our personalities will be the same; only they will be redeemed and glorified. The poignant example of this is seen in the resurrected, glorified life of our Lord Jesus. He was the same Lord Jesus in His resurrected life as He was in the days of His flesh. His recognitions were human. As He was when He walked in our midst, so He was when He was glorified and raised from the dead. For example, He said in Luke 24:39, “Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself: handle Me, and see,” touch Me, hold Me, “for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, such as you see Me have.” He is the same Lord Jesus. He is human. He was recognized by John in the way that He folded up a napkin [John 20:3-8]. Jesus had a way of folding a napkin, and when John saw that napkin folded over here by itself, he believed it was Jesus, raised from the dead by the way He folded the napkin. He was recognized by Mary by the way He pronounced her name [John 20:11-16]. He was recognized by the two disciples in Emmaus by the way He said a blessing [Luke 24:13-16, 30-31]. There was a certain way that Jesus said a blessing.
Dr. Truett had a certain way of benediction—nobody like him in the earth! Nobody said a blessing just like the Lord Jesus. He was recognized by the way He said a blessing. He was recognized by the disciples on the Sea of Galilee by the way that they caught a miraculous draught of fish. He was the same human being, the Lord Jesus [John 21:4-8]. So we shall be the same persons with our separate faculties, and abilities, and personalities. We shall continue developing and progressing in the world to come.
Mozart died at thirty-five years of age; are the gifts he possessed in this life to vanish away in the life to come? Is he not to be recognized in heaven as the great musician? Is his genius to be separated from the man himself? Is he not Mozart in heaven? I told Fred this morning at the early service, he’s taking the Chapel Choir over to those Germanic nations, and among the places they’re to visit is Salzburg. And when you are in Salzburg, you are going to see everything about Mozart; he’ll be Mozart in heaven!
Raphael died at thirty-seven years of age. Is he not to be recognized as Raphael? Is his sublime career to be obliterated and forgotten? When I see Raphael, won’t I see the great saintly, holy painter of the yesteryears? Will he not be Raphael? Samuel Stennett, our London Baptist pastor, died in the prime of his ministry. He wrote many beautiful hymns, including the one you sang this morning, “On Jordan’s Stormy Banks I Stand.” And he wrote “Majestic Sweetness Sits Enthroned” and other beautiful hymns. In heaven, does he cast his gift of song away?
The Book of the Revelation constantly speaks of the new songs that we shall sing. For example, Revelation 5:9, Revelation 14:3, Revelation 15:3, they’re going to sing a new song! The Revelation contains more songs than any other book of the Bible except the hymnbook, the Book of Psalms. And even in the Psalms—I went through it—even in the Psalms, the new songs are constantly referred to, such as Psalm 33:3, Psalm 40:3, Psalm 69:30, Psalm 96:1, Psalm 98:1, Psalm 144:9, Psalm 149:1. The new songs up there in heaven, we shall keep on writing them, and we’ll keep on singing them. And it will be an avenue of praising our Lord God throughout all of the eternal ages. Our lives, our talents, our gifts, our abilities shall continue to be developed throughout all eternity.
In heaven, we shall be permitted to finish tasks we dreamed to do, but here on earth we had no opportunity or time, or strength, or ability to finish. I remember reading about the great astronomer, O. M. Mitchell. He said that he believed that in the future life, he would go from world to world and planet and planet, continuing his study of astronomy. What a glorious assignment! The Lord’s infinite creation, to study it forever, to sit at the feet of the Creator Himself and learn what God has done. Like Him, we shall also ascend out of this narrow circumscribed valley of life into the infinitely broader expanse of the glory of God above us, beyond us, and around us. Our life and work here are interrupted by death; we get old and we die right in the midst of our assignments. As Cecil Rhodes said in his last word before he died, “So little done, so much to do.” We shall continue in heaven.
Another thing: the injustices and inequalities of this life plead for another and recompensing creation. A good God could not leave us a prey to a leering devil in a ruined universe. The moral law found not only in God, but also deeply in us, demands a vindication of adjustment after death.
There are people in this life with talents never seen or used; many have a gift cherished, but possess no opportunity to use it. They are like a bird with wings, placed in a cage. They are poets, and philosophers, and singers, but their talents and gifts are lost in a coffin and buried in a grave. But they will get their chance and will come into their own in heaven! They will. God did not create us here and endow us here to cast us away there. The great abounding triumphant life is beyond death! It’s not here. The consummation is there! We sing a glorious song.
There is no disappointment in heaven,
No weariness, sorrow or pain,
No hearts that are bleeding and broken,
No song with a minor refrain.
The clouds of our earthly horizon
Will never appear in the sky,
For all will be sunshine and gladness
With never a sob or a sigh.
There will never be crepe on the doorknob,
No funeral train in the sky.
No graves on the hillsides of glory,
For there we shall never more die.
The old will be young there forever,
Transformed in a moment of time.
Immortal we’ll stand in His likeness,
The stars and the sun to outshine.
I’m bound for that beautiful city
My Lord hath prepared for His own.
There all the redeemed of all ages
Sing “glory!” around the white throne.
Sometimes I grow homesick for heaven
And the glories I there shall behold.
What a joy that will be when my Savior I see
In that beautiful city of gold!
[“There’s No Disappointment in Heaven,” F. M. Leham]
There! Not here! The consummation is in glory; one that we will never know or experience in this life and in this world.
May I briefly summarize? There are two possessions we shall carry into the forever, free from death, beyond the grave: one, our character, redeemed by the blood of the Crucified One [1 Peter 1:18-19]; the other, our capacity, given and endowed by the Lord God Himself. Shall these gifts, from the creative hand of God, bestowed upon us be wantonly wasted, discarded in uselessness and forgetfulness? Shall we be consigned to a forever of idleness and nothingness? A thousand times no! Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote a poem in the last days of his life and asked that whenever his works were printed, that poem be at the end. And you will never see the published works anywhere of Alfred, Lord Tennyson but that this poem will conclude, will be at the end of it.
Sunset and the evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,
But such a tide as 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!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;
For tho’ from out this bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I know I shall see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.
[“Crossing the Bar”; Alfred Lord Tennyson]
Death does not end in defeat and tragedy for us, but every one of us shall experience triumph and victory at the conclusion of our lives.
Now Robert Browning did the same thing—just before he died, just before 1890, about a hundred years ago now—just before Robert Browning died, he also wrote a poem and asked that it conclude all of his published works. And wherever you see a publication of the works of Robert Browning, you’ll find his “Epilogue,” his “Epilogue.”
One who never turned his back but marched breast forward,
Never doubted clouds would break,
Never dreamed, though right were worsted, wrong would triumph,
Held we fall to rise, are baffled to fight better,
Sleep to wake.
So, at noonday, in the bustle of man’s work-time,
Greet the unseen with a cheer!
Bid him forward, breast and back as either should be,
“Strive and thrive!” say, “Speed—fight on, fare ever
There as here!”
It’s the continuation of our lives there, broken by death here. What a glory, that good thing God hath prepared, that purpose of the Lord for us in an upper and better world! [1 Corinthians 2:9].
And to you who have listened to the message, how we pray that the eternity that lies before you will be filled with the presence and the glory and the triumph of God. All of that is a gift to us in Christ Jesus accepting Him as your Savior. And if you do not know how to accept Jesus as your Lord and as your Savior, you call us. The number is on the screen. There will be a devout, consecrated, dedicated man or woman who will answer your call and show you how to accept Jesus as your Savior. It will be the greatest, loving commitment of your life, and I will see you in heaven someday. Write me. I would love to hear from you. Any problem, any burden on your heart or life, or any glory you experienced in Jesus, share it with me. God love you and bless you forever and ever.
And to the great throng in the sanctuary of God’s house this holy hour, a family you, placing your life with us in this dear church; a couple you; a one somebody you accepting Christ as your Savior; in the balcony round, down a stairway; in the throng on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, this is God’s day for me, and I am answering with my life.” On the first note of the first stanza, come, and angels attend you in the way, while we stand and while we sing.
WHAT I BELIEVE ABOUT HEAVEN, THE PAGEANTRY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. The contemptuous satire and insulting travesty often depicted
1. Cartoon of a man with wings, halo on head, seated on a cloud, strumming a harp
B. Could such a grotesque paradox be true, that we fall into the boredom of nothingness?
C. Does rest mean nothingness? (Revelation 14:13)
1. We will be delivered from sin, temptation, weakness, failure, defeat
2. We will rest in God’s grace, love and heavenly assignments
3. Very word “rest” implies “labor” – we shall work without wearinessII. The answer of Jesus and the revelation of infallible Scripture
A. Service and unfailing rewards are basic themes in Christ’s teaching(Matthew 24:45-47, 25:20-23, Luke 19:15-19)
B. Jesus is the great Instructor
1. He teaches us to use money and means of this life for service and advancement in the life to come (Luke 16:9)
C. We have a picture of our work assignments in heaven in the life and work of Jesus Himself(Hebrews 13:8)
1. Yesterday – in His preexistent state He worked in the creation
2. Today – in His earthly life He was a carpenter; and toiled in His ministry
a. In heaven He is our Intercessor
3. Forever – He will be King and Lord over a vast re-created universe
D. His model work ministry finds repercussions in heavenly assignments of the redeemed(John 5:17, 14:12)
E. We shall be judges in the re-created world with Christ (Matthew 19:28, 1 Corinthians 6:2-3)
F. We shall reign and rule with Christ throughout the ages (2 Timothy 2:11-12, Revelation 5:10, Luke 19:17-19)
G. All of us shall have our individual, separate assignments (Revelation 22:3)
1. We shall have a place of honor, next to the King (Esther 1:14)
2. We will not be passive spectatorsIII. The continuity of life
A. When the shadow of this life is over, real life begins there
B. We shall be the same persons there as here
1. Poignant example seen in the glorified life of Jesus(Luke 24:30-31, 39, John 20:4-8, 11-18, 21:6-8)
2. Mozart died at 35; are his gifts to vanish away in the life to come?
3. Raphael died at 37; is he not to be recognized as Raphael?
4. Samuel Stennett died in the prime of his ministry; does he cast his gift of song away in heaven?
a. Revelation speaks of new songs we will sing (Revelation 5:9, 14:3, 15:3, Psalm 33:3, 43:4, 69:30, 96:1, 98:1, 144:9, 1:1)
C. Our lives, gifts, abilities shall continue to be developed
1. Professor O.M. Mitchell
2. Cecil Rhodes
D. The injustices and inequalities of this life plead for another and recompensing creation
1. Hymn, “There’s No Disappointment in Heaven”IV. Summary
A. There are two possessions we shall carry into the forever
1. Our character, redeemed by the blood of the Crucified One
2. Our capacity, given and endowed by the Lord God Himself
B. We will not be consigned to a forever of idleness and nothingness
1. Tennyson’s, “Crossing the Bar”
2. Browning’s, “Epilogue”