Our Home In Heaven

Our Home In Heaven

April 12th, 1992 @ 8:15 AM

Ecclesiastes 12:3-5

In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened, And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of musick shall be brought low; Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets:
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OUR HOME IN HEAVEN

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Ecclesiastes 12:3-5

4-12-92    8:15 a.m.

 

 

And welcome the uncounted multitudes of you who share this hour on radio, our glorious KCBI, and all others who in heart move in loving prayer and anticipation to this holy hour.  As our pastor has said, this is the twelfth message delivered from the Book of Ecclesiastes, and there is one other next Sunday after Easter.  The last message will be entitled The Conclusion of the Whole Matter, a text from this last chapter.  And the message today is entitled Our Eternal Home, Our Home In Heaven.  Reading from the twelfth, and last chapter of Ecclesiastes, 

 

Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, Before the difficult days come, And the years draw nigh when you say, "I have no pleasure in them": 

While the sun and the light, And the moon and the stars, Are not darkened, And the clouds do not return after the rain; 

In the day when the keepers of the house tremble, And the strong men bow down; When the grinders cease because they are few, And those that look through the windows grow dim; 

When the doors are shut in the streets, And the sound of grinding is low; When one rises at the sound of a bird, And all the daughters of music are brought low. 

Also they are afraid of height, And of terrors in the way; When the almond tree blossoms, The grasshopper is a burden, And desire fails.  For a man goes to his eternal home, And the mourners go about the streets. 

Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed, And the golden bowl is broken, Or the pitcher shattered at the fountain, Or the wheel broken at this well. 

Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, And the spirit will return to God who gave it. 

[Ecclesiastes 12:1-7] 

 

This is without doubt one most picturesque of all the poetic descriptions of age and death to be found in human literature.  There is nothing comparable to it.  First, he speaks in this incomparable parable of youth; the sun and the moon and the stars are not darkened [Ecclesiastes 12:2].  Those are symbols of life and happiness and the joy of living; when the light goes out, a picture of death. 

O’ Henry, one of the greatest short story tellers of all time, lay dying.  And an attendant lowered the flame of a lamp.  And O’ Henry said, "Please, raise the light.  I don’t want to go home in the dark."  Darkness is a sign and a symbol of death and the grave, and the sun and the moon and the stars brilliantly shining, a symbol of life and joy and gladness.  "And the clouds do not return after the rain" [Ecclesiastes 12:2]; speaking of the recurring weaknesses and troubles and illnesses that come in age and finally death. 

Then follows the unbelievably picturesque picture of old age, 

The keepers of the house tremble – referring to the hands, And the strong men bow down – speaking of the bent shoulders and the weakening of the sturdy limbs. 

And the grinders cease because they are few – referring to the teeth. 

And the eyes that look through the windows grow dim – referring to the eyes. 

And the doors are shut to the streets – the lips mumbling because of the loss of teeth. 

And the sound of grinding is low – speaking of the loss of hearing, not being able to follow the ceaseless hum of the grinding mill. 

And he rises at the sound of a bird – even the chirp of a bird will awaken him in the morning. 

And the daughters of music are brought low – no longer does he hear the voice of singing. 

He is afraid of height and terror in the way – any high hill bothers him and any journey is a burden.  He’d much rather stay at home. 

When the almond tree flourishes – referring to the white blossoms of the almond tree, a picture of the white head of the old man. 

When the grasshopper is a burden – the least weight is too much for his infirm body. 

And desire fails – all bodily appetites finally cease. 

The silver cord is loosed and the golden bowl broken – a picture of life and the silver cord that holds the bowl is severed and the oil of life is spilled out. 

And the dust returns to earth – death consigns us back into the earth from whence we came. 

[Ecclesiastes 12:3-7]

 

An amazing poetic description of old age; "For man goes to his eternal home. And the mourners go about the streets" [Ecclesiastes 12:5].  Man goes, humanity passes, the whole human race is a river that flows to an eternal sea.  And I’m a part of it; whether I will or no, I am moved along in that everlasting flowing river.  Where do I go?  What is my destination?  I go to an eternal home.  And the character of that home is being chosen now.  It will be either a paradise or a torment.  And, if I had time, I would speak of that, but we hasten on. 

"And the mourners go about the streets" [Ecclesiastes 12:5]. 

            I’ve seen yon winter’s weary-sun 

Twice forty times return; 

And ev’ry time has added proofs, 

That man was made to mourn. 

 ["Man Was Made To Mourn," by Robert Burns]

 

"And the mourners go about the streets" [Ecclesiastes 12:5].  What streets?  Any street!  In what town?  Any town!  Every street and every town that black hearse stops at every door.  And there’s no exception to that pale visitor Death knocking at each house.  "It is appointed unto men once to die, and after that the judgment" [Hebrews 9:27].  And every house will be filled with mementos and keepsakes and pictures of these whom we’ve loved and lost for a while. 

When a few days ago I went to California, one of the sweet men in the church gave me a disposable camera.  I never had heard of one before.  You can take it, use it for pictures, and turn the whole thing in.  It’s amazing to me.   And he gave it to me because he knew that my father and mother, who all of their lives lived in Texas, upon retirement, went to California; died there and are buried in Forest Lawn.  And they wanted me to have someone to take my picture standing by the grave of my mother and my father, which I did, and I’m looking forward to the return of the picture. 

That is universal.  There is no family without its vacant chair; grandparents are gone; dad or mother is gone; a child is gone.  Death is universal, and all of us belong to that dissolving family. 

 My friend, there will come one day

A messenger whom you cannot turn away. 

He will say come with me. 

And all your business cares and earthly pleas. 

Will be of no avail. 

When his cold hand touches yours 

You will drop the key to the courting room forever. 

You will not be too busy to die. 

[Abbott Eliot Kitterdge]

 

Death is as near to the young as it is to old; 

This is the difference: death stands behind

the young man’s back but before the old man’s face. 

[Thomas Adams]

 

The prince who kept the world in awe, 

The judge whose dictates fix’d the law. 

The rich, the poor, the great, the small 

Are levell’d, Death has buried ’em all. 

[John Gay]

 

 

And I suppose there is not a child who has not memorized this passage from Gray’s, "Elegy Written in the Country Churchyard," 

 

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power, 

All that beauty, and all that wealth e’er gave, 

Awaiteth alike, the inevitable hour. 

The paths of glory lead but to the grave. 

["Elegy Written in the Country Churchyard," Thomas Gray]

 

But there is a word in my text that brings an eternal gladness to my soul, that is, if I am a Christian, for man goes to his eternal home.  Heaven and my entrance into heaven is through the gate of death.  And to us who are Christians this is the sweetest comfort of life.  If there’s not any heaven, there’s not any gospel.  But to us in the Christian faith, heaven is our eternal home.   For our conversation is in heaven [Philippians 3:20].  Our citizenship is in heaven from whence we look for the Savior who shall change this vile body into likeness of His own glorious resurrected body. 

            I am a stranger here, 

Heav’n is my home; 

Earth is a desert drear, 

Heav’n is my home; 

Sorrows and dangers stand 

Round me on every hand; 

Heav’n is my fatherland, 

Heav’n is my home. 

["I’m But a Stranger Here," Thomas R. Taylor] 

 

He goes to his eternal home.  And that home in the Bible for us is likened unto a beautiful and glorious city in which we shall have an incomparably precious mansion [John 14:3].  Here we have no continuing city.  We seek one to come.  And the ancients who loved God looked forward to that beautiful and eternal city. 

 

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out. . .to receive an inheritance.  And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 

By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, 

for he waited for that city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. 

[Hebrews 11:8-10] 

 

Then speaking of the people of the Lord,

 

These all died in the faith, not having received the promises, but saw them afar off, embraced them, confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 

For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. 

Truly if they had called to mind that country from whence they had come out, they could have had opportunity to return. 

But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly [country].  Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He hath prepared for them that city, our eternal home. 

[Hebrews 11:13-16] 

 

And apostle Paul writes of it, saying, "Eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, neither has entered into the heart of a man what God hath prepared for those who love Him.  But God hath revealed it to us by His Spirit" [1 Corinthians 2:9-10].  And when I turn to the Revelation of God, I read as you did just now of that beautiful city. 

 

I saw a new heaven and a new earth: this old first heaven and this old first earth were passed away,.

And I, John, saw the holy city, the city of God, I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 

And I heard a great voice saying, Behold, the dwelling place of God is with men, and God will be with them, and we shall be His people, and God Himself shall be our God. 

And there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for these things are all passed away. 

[Revelation 21:1-4] 

 

There is a holy and beautiful city 

Whose builder and maker is God; 

John saw it descending from heaven, 

When Patmos, in exile, he trod; 

Its high, massive walls are of jasper; 

The city itself is pure gold; 

And when my frail tenure here is folded, 

Mine eyes shall its beauty behold. 

 

In that bright city, pearly white city, 

I have a mansion, a robe, and a crown; 

Now I am watching, waiting, and longing, 

For the bright city that is soon coming down. 

[from "The Pearly White City," Arthur F. Ingler] 

 

Our eternal home.  And this I say is the heart and the hope and the promise and the triumph of the Christian faith, for man goeth to his eternal home. 

In the Bible the scholars say that the height of all the revelation is the fifteenth chapter of the Book of 1 Corinthians.  And Paul under inspiration writes: 

 

Now is Christ risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 

For since by man came death, by Man also comes the resurrection of the dead. 

As in Adam all die, even so in Christ, all shall be made alive. 

But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those that are Christ’s at His coming. 

Then cometh the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts to end to all rule and all authority, 

For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet.

And the last enemy that will be destroyed is death. 

[1 Corinthians 15:20-26]

 

So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, "Death is swallowed up in victory." 

"O Death, where now is your sting?  O Hades, where now is your victory?". . .Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 

[1 Corinthians 15:54-57] 

 

The great, wonderful, God-blessed Christian poet John Whittier wrote, 

 

If love will dream and faith will trust, 

As He who knows our need is just 

That somewhere, somewhere, somehow meet we must. 

Alas, for him who never sees 

The stars shine through his cypress trees! 

Who, hopeless, lays his dead away, 

Nor looks to see the breaking day 

Across the mournful marble play! 

Who hath not learned, in hours of faith, 

The truth to flesh and sense unknown, 

That life is ever lord of Death, 

And love can never lose its own! 

["Snow Bound," John Whittier]

 

And again, 

 

We shall reach the summer land, 

Some sweet day, by and by; 

We shall tread the golden strand, 

Some sweet day, by and by; 

. . .

Then the star that, fading here, 

Left our hearts and homes so drear, 

We shall see so bright and clear, 

Some sweet day, by and by. 

            . . .

There before our Father’s throne, 

When the mist and clouds have flown, 

We shall know as we are known 

Some sweet day, by and by. 

[from "Some Sweet Day, By and By," Fanny J. Crosby] 

 

This is the eternal home to which God hath opened to us the hope and promise in Christ Jesus our Lord.  But do you notice, "But each one in his own tagma, Christ the firstfruits, and afterwards those who are Christ’s at His coming" [1 Corinthians 15:23].  But each one in his own tagma, order, series, the picture of a marching group, a marching army passing by one after another, after another.  So the apostle says, by inspiration, when we come to the end of our lives we will enter heaven, and the glorious eternal home that Ecclesiastes speaks of, in a series we shall do it one after another. 

Just for a second, and I have to stop, just for a second, let me speak of that series.  First, now, now, when I die now, I am taken to Paradise.  Our Lord said to the thief that died on the cross by His side, "Sēmeion, this day, sēmeion, thou shalt be with Me in Paradise" [Luke 24:43].  If I die before the Lord comes, I go to Paradise. 

In the book of Acts, when Stephen, the first martyr, was stoned to death, Jesus stood to receive His sainted preacher [Acts 7:55-56].  Isn’t that an unusual thing?  Without exception, every time Jesus is presented in the New Testament in heaven, He is always seated at the right hand of God.  But when Stephen was martyred, He rose to receive His sainted emissary. 

When we die, we go into Paradise.  Paul writes of it in 2 Corinthians, chapter 5, "When we are absent from the body, we are present with the Lord" [2 Corinthians 5:8].  Now that’s first.  Second, in this series, in this tagma, any day, any moment, any hour, any time, the Lord can come for His own.  The Lord will come secretly, furtively, clandestinely to take away.  We call that the rapture of the saints. 

 

For this we say unto my brethren, that we who are alive and remain shall not precede them who are asleep. 

For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God.  And the dead in Christ, those that sleep in Christ, shall rise first. 

Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up to meet our Lord in the air.  And so shall we ever be with the Lord. 

Wherefore comfort one another with these words. 

[1 Thessalonians 4:15b-18] 

 

In the series, the next great step, the next great tagma is when the Lord comes for His own.  And these who have fallen asleep in Jesus will be resurrected, they’ll be raised first.   Then we who are alive and remain to that glorious triumphant hour will be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye at the last trump, and we shall be given our transfigured, immortal glorified bodies, in the series [1 Corinthians 15:51-52].  

In the fourth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, after the age of the church, chapters 2 and 3, John is raptured to heaven [Revelation 4:1-3].  That’s a symbol and a picture of the church of our Lord, of the saints of Jesus, we are all raptured with our Lord.  And there is the great judgment, and we’re given the reward for our works, and we sit down at the marriage supper of the Lamb [Revelation 19:6-10].  And down here in the earth is the tribulation, for seven years the tribulation; God’s people with the Lord in heaven and down here, the great Tribulation.  And in the nineteenth chapter of the Revelation the church reappears, and the people of God come with Christ when He descends in His glorious triumphant victory over sin and death and the grave [Revelation 19:11-16]. 

Then after the millennium, then after the great, great, great judgment day, we are all entered, we are all escorted, we’re all welcomed into our eternal home in heaven.  "I go to prepare a place, a topos."  There’s no way, Pastor, to translate that word topos, but place; no way in the world.  It’s a place.  Just as you live in a place, you’re going to live in a place up there.  He calls it a mansion [John 14:2-3]. 

And then that glorious and heavenly promise, "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying: for these things are all passed away" [Revelation 21:4].  No more sorrow, no more tears, no more crying, God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.  He must have had that beautiful passage in mind when James Whitcomb Riley wrote, 

 

There! little girl, don’t cry! 

They’ve broken your doll, I know. 

And your tea set blue, 

And your play house, too 

Are things of the long ago; 

But childish troubles will soon pass by –  

There! little girl, don’t cry! 

 

There! little girl; don’t cry! 

They’ve broken your slate, I know; 

And the glad, wild ways

Of your schoolgirl days 

Are the things of the long ago; 

But life and love will soon come by –  

There! little girl; don’t cry! 

 

There! little girl, don’t cry! 

They’ve broken your heart, I know; 

And the rainbow gleams 

Of your girlhood dreams 

Are the things of the long ago; 

But heaven holds all for which you sigh –  

There! little girl, don’t cry! 

 ["A Life-Lesson," by James Whitcomb Riley] 

 

Heaven holds all for which we sigh. 

God shall wipe away every tear.  I think of that child who said to her aged father and mother, "Dad and Mom, when you walk down one of those golden streets, walk slowly and look over your shoulder for I will be coming behind you."  What a glorious hope we have in Jesus.  We don’t face defeat and decay and death.  What we face is heaven and glory and our eternal home. 

Fred, let’s sing us a song.