Heaven: There and Here

Heaven: There and Here

September 19th, 1993 @ 10:50 AM

Revelation 21:1-7

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John 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 out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
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HEAVEN: THERE AND HERE

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Revelation 21:1-7

9-19-93   10:50 a.m.

 

 

The title of the message is, Heaven:There and Here, and it will be in two distinct parts.  I read the background text of the latter part.  Revelation 21:

I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old first heaven and the old first earth had passed away, 

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

And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Look, behold, the dwelling place of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God."

[Revelation 21:1-3]

 

  Here!  Not there, but here.  The dwelling place of God is with men.

Now, for the beginning of the message, a passage concerning the educational work in preparation for ministry and pulpit preaching in the school that we have founded.  In 2 Timothy, chapter 2, "You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.  And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, the same commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also" [2 Timothy 2:1-2].

So on my twenty-fifth anniversary, the fifth of October in 1969, I delivered a sermon in that message describing a conviction and a burden on my heart that we needed to go deeper and be more profoundly committed to the inerrancy and infallibility and inspiration of the Word of God.  And I suggested that here in our dear church we establish an institute that teaches the Holy Scriptures, and that we invite professors from Southwestern Theological Seminary and from Dallas Baptist University and from Dallas Theological Seminary to come and to teach in the school.

On the sixth of April the following year, in 1970, the church appointed a committee to establish such a school.  My assistant at that time was Dr. James Bryant.  And we invited one of our deacons, W. C. Bill McCord, to chairman the group.  Then that fall, on the fifth day of October of 1970, the school program was launched.  And it was unbelievably blessed.  Week nights, we had one thousand two hundred in attendance upon that teaching institution.

As the days passed, there came to be president of the school Dr. Leo Eddleman, who had been president of our South-wide New Orleans Theological Seminary.  Then there came to be president of that school Dr. Paige Patterson, who is now the president of Southeastern Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina.  And under the tutelage and the guidance of those two distinguished academicians, the institute turned into a college, and the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges gave it full accreditation.  The same accreditation accorded to Texas University or SMU is accorded to that college.

Against my will, they insisted, even the Southern Association, on calling it Criswell College.  And there it stands today, in the largesse of the H. L. Hunt family, a beautiful campus on Gaston Avenue.  And Dr. Richard Melick, a born professor, is the leader of the school with gifted and dedicated teachers.  And once again, a tribute of my own heart’s gladness and gratitude to God, our new pastor, Dr. O. S. Hawkins, has in his heart visions in behalf of the building and the enlargement of that glorious school.  He says to me the day is coming when we shall have one thousand students, preachers and young women also preparing for ministry.  We’ll have over a thousand in attendance in that glorious institution.

May I speak a word of the need for such a school?  I have here a copy of an avowal from an eminent theological professor.  He writes in an apology for the Bible, I quote from him:

Of course, there are scientific and historical errors in the Bible.  However, we can excuse such mistakes on the ground that the Bible is not a textbook of science or history, and therefore, we do not expect it to be scientifically or historically accurate.

 

If that is true, then God had nothing to do with it.  There’s no fact of science He does not know.  And there’s no historical occurrence in the story of mankind that He does not even foresee.  And if this Bible is full of errors, and mistakes, and historical inaccuracies, and contradictions, then I have no basis upon which to preach the gospel to you.  We believe in the historical inspiration and accuracy and scientific correctness of every word that is in this holy and heavenly Book.

I was dumbfounded in reading a few days ago a paper that was describing the liturgy and the worship services of the churches of Western Europe and America.  And the paper said, "The tendency of all liturgies in the Western Christian world and the tendency in all the worship services in the Western world is to discard the Bible."  Make no reference to it.  Make no use of it.  Consequently, the Christian faith is dying in our Western world.

When I was in England a few years ago, to my amazement, seven thousand churches were for sale.  You could buy a church for a song – seven thousand of them on the market for sale.  And of course, when I visit, as I am doing now, the churches of America, I cannot believe what I see, such as in New England.  No night service, no Wednesday prayer meeting, no services even in the summertime.  The churches are closed and dead.  Consequently, every major old-line denomination in America is dying – every one of them.

Even our Southern Baptist Convention, a few years ago, was facing a numerical decline, until the resurgence of our conservative men.  And what shall I say of our Christian institutions?  They have all died in the North.  They have all died in Canada.  Those great Baptist schools such as Brown University, Chicago University, George Washington University, are completely and absolutely secular.  They have nothing to do with the Christian faith or with the Baptist commitment.

And that is coming down here into the South.  Our great senior university, Baptist University in Virginia, Richmond, has disassociated itself from the Baptist people.  Our great senior university in North Carolina, Furman University, has disassociated itself from the Baptist people.  Our great senior university in South Carolina, Furman University, has disassociated itself from the Baptist people.  Our great university in Florida, Stetson University, has disassociated itself from the Baptist people.

And to my amazement and indescribable heartache, my own alma mater, a year ago, Baylor University in Texas, disassociated itself from the Baptist denomination, and without exception, when those universities do that, they finally become secular.  Even though Baylor may say, "We are Baptist and remain that way," that is historical idiocy.  Every one of them, without exception, has become completely secular when they disassociate themselves from the religious foundation upon which they were built.  So, the cry from heaven itself for a return to the infallible and inerrant and inspired Word of God, taught in the school and proclaimed in the pulpit; and what a difference that makes!

In London in one of the world-famous elite and fashionable pulpits, stood a gifted preacher; Sunday by Sunday, standing there in his philosophical presentation of the so-called Christian faith, speaking Lord’s Day after Lord’s Day on social amelioration, upon political confrontations, upon the headlines in the newspapers, upon book reviews, upon the passing events of the day.  I’ll give you an illustration of it.  One of the most tremendous church cathedrals in the world is St. Paul’s in London.  Upon a Sunday, when I attended the morning service of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, the dean of the cathedral stood in the pulpit and brought the message.  And his message was the whales of the North Atlantic and the possibility of their extinction.  That was the message that morning from the pulpit of that great, glorious church in London.

So this gifted philosophical preacher, upon a day, was visited by a little, dirty, ragged urchin girl.  And coming into his study, she said her mother was dying and had sent for him and would he come to see her?  So the elite preacher asked where the mother was.  And when he learned the where, in a slum in London, he demurred.  The little child was so insistent, her mother dying had sent for him, he finally acquiesced.  And she took him by one of his fingers and led him through the streets of eastern London, down to the Thames River to an apartment house, climbed up the steps and there on the top floor entered a dirty room and a dirty bed on which lay a dying woman.

He pulled up a stool, and put it by her side, introduced himself, having been sent for, what could he do to help?  And the dying mother said she was not prepared to meet God, and would he tell her how to die and how to meet God.  So he started off, naturally, in the language in all of the philosophical ideas that he had been preaching for years in the pulpit.  He began talking to her about those philosophical approaches to God, and to life, and to destiny.

The poor dying woman looked at him, couldn’t even understand the language, the nomenclature that he used, much less the philosophical approaches that he was making.  The great preacher bowed his head and prayed, "O God, help me to tell this woman how to die and to meet You."  And the Lord answered that prayer.

Into the heart of the learned and distinguished preacher came back the memory of the days when he sat on his mother’s lap and then stood at his mother’s knee and she told him the simple message of the blessed Lord Jesus.  How we were sinners [Romans 3:23].  How we were facing death [Romans 6:23].  And how He came into the world to die for our sins [Hebrews 10:5-14], raised for our justification [Romans 4:25, 5:9], and is in heaven, waiting for us [Romans 8:24].

And as he spoke to that dying woman the simple story of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ [Ephesians 2:7-8], that dying mother began to shake her head.  "Yes," she would say, "Yes.  Yes.  I can trust the Savior like that.  I can love a God like that.  Yes.  Yes."  The following Sunday, he stood at his pulpit and he described to his people what had happened that week.  And he closed it with this sentence, "And my dear people, I want you to know that I got that woman into the kingdom of God that day.  But what is more, I got in myself."

That’s what we need; men of God, standing in the pulpit, declaring the infallible, inerrant, inspired Word of the Lord God Himself.  And do you notice, do you notice, I don’t know why in the world this is the first time in my life I have ever particularly noticed, do you notice, whether it’s there or here, it’s always here?  The Lord God made this planet here on which we live [Genesis 1].  Our first parents sinned here, and fell into the judgment of death here [Genesis 2:17, 3:1-6].  These cemeteries are here.  And the Lord, in pity, promised a Redeemer to come for us here [Genesis 3:15].  And the Lord chose a family, and a race named, Israel, through whom His will was to be achieved here [Genesis 48:4].  And when the Redeemer came, He came here [Matthew 1:21-2:1].  And He died here [Matthew 27:32-50].  And a cloud, just a cloud, received Him out of our sight here [Acts 1:11].  And the Holy Spirit came, and the angels came and sent them to Pentecost here [Acts 2:1-4].  And they preached the gospel of salvation and redemption here [Acts 1:8].  And someday, Jesus is coming again here; here.  And when John saw the New Jerusalem, the foursquare city of God, it came down here.  Here!  Here! [Revelation 21:10, 16].

What I did was, I wrote down what I could find following the new telescopes, and astronomical instruments that searched this created universe for thousands and millions and billions of light years.  And I was trying to find the beautiful city of God.  So there, at the edge of our universe is Neptune and Pluto, the farthest planets of all.  And I can’t find the New Jerusalem there.  Then with the speed of light, 186,000 miles a second, after many, many years, come to Alpha Centauri with its two suns, twenty-six times the light in our solar system, and I couldn’t find the city of God there.

Then with the speed of light, 186,000 miles a second, after many lifetimes, we would come to the Polar Star, the brightest in the Ursa constellation, used for navigation.  And I didn’t see the city of God there.  Then finally to Vega which shines with four hundred and forty times the light than our solar system, and I couldn’t find the city of foursquare there, then to Capella with its many suns, and no New Jerusalem there.

Then through many lifetimes at 186,000 miles a second, finally came to the great Arcturus, blazing with five hundred fifty times as much light as we receive from our sun, and no city foursquare there.  Then eventually to the glorious Alcyone, the brightest star in the Pleiades, blazing with twelve thousand times as much light as we experience in our solar system, and there’s no city of God there.

And yet I read, and yet I read, heaven is so close that Jacob’s ladder could reach up into it.  In Genesis 28:12, "And Jacob dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold, the angels of God ascending and descending on it."  Not descending, ascending.  They’re here, the angels of God.  And the ladder on earth reached heaven. 

Then I read in 2 Kings 6, Ben-Hadad, king of Syria, to capture Elisha, surrounded him with an army in Dothan [2 Kings 6:13-14].  And Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, said, "My lord, my lord, what shall we do?" [2 Kings 6:15].  And Elisha prayed, "Lord, open his eyes and let him see."  And God opened his eyes and behold, the whole heavens around were filled with chariots and horses of fire round about Elisha.  Here [2 Kings 6:16-17].

And yet I read, heaven is so close, the angels led Lot and his family from the doomed city of Sodom [Genesis 19:15-16].  And I read, heaven is so close, the Son of Man – that’s Jesus – walked with the three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace [Daniel 3:23-25].  And the angel shut the mouth of the lions in the den where Daniel was [Daniel 6:22-23].

And I read, heaven is so close, when Jesus was laid in the tomb, two angels opened the sepulcher and gave the world the greatest news, "He is not here.  He is risen!" [Luke 24:1-6].  Heaven is so close, when Jesus went away, angels came down to comfort the disciples, and sent them to Jerusalem to await Pentecost [Acts 1:10-11].

And I read heaven is so close, the apostle John, exiled on Patmos, was raptured up into heaven [Revelation 4:1-2].  I read, heaven is so close, when this earth is purified of sin by fire, and the holy and the perfect new heaven and earth come down, and the New Jerusalem, our home is where it is, here! [2 Peter 3:10-13; Revelation 21:1-3].  Heaven is so close, when Stephen the martyr looked up; there stood the Lord Jesus [Acts 7:55-56], the only place where He is pictured standing, ready to receive His martyred saint.  So close that Jesus stopped Saul on the way to Damascus and guided him into the perfect faith [Acts 9:1-18].

Heaven is so close!  In the morning paper, a day or two ago, the story of a Sunset High School girl with leukemia, and afflicted with that disease, lying in bed and a nineteen year-old senior of Addison High School came to see her every day, fell in love with her, and they married on a Sunday.  And after one marriage night, the next day, she gathered her family around her, father, mother, and the young husband of one night and said, "Today I am to die."  And as they stood around her, she said, "The angels are calling me and I hear them singing in chorus."  How far away was that?  Thousands and millions of light years away?  How could she hear if heaven is there?  She heard the angels sing.  So close is heaven, she heard their call and died.

On Friday, I had a funeral service in this sanctuary for a sweet and precious and godly mother, Mrs. L. O. Taylor, Johnnie Taylor.  And just before she died, she spoke a welcome on the behalf of the sweet members of her family who had preceded her into glory.  Here!  And every time I hear of Lottie Moon: she died in Kobe Harbor in Japan.  And as she lay dying, she clasped and unclasped her hands in Chinese greeting and called the names of the saints that she had known years and years ago.  Where is heaven?  There?  No.  Heaven is here!  Heaven is here!

And you say to me, "Pastor, I don’t see any angels and I don’t see any saints.  And I don’t see the Lord Jesus."  Let me tell you, you’re not thinking.  You’re not thinking.

[To Dr. Davis]: Come up here.  I hold his hand.  I look at his face.  That is flesh that will rot and be buried in the earth and be turned to dust.  When I look at him, is this he?  Rotten flesh and dust?  No!  Dr. Davis lives on the inside of this house.  And he looks at me with his eyes from the inside of the body of decay.  Do I see George Davis?  No!  He’s on the inside of this house of corruption and decay, and he speaks to me from the inside of his heart.  I don’t see him.  I never will see him until God raises him from the dead.  Heaven is here.  The angels are here.  God is here.  Jesus is here.  They’re all around us.  If we just had spiritual eyes that someday God will give us to see.

And the closeness of heaven to earth – I one time experienced, sixty-two years ago, sixty-two years ago, I went to the Green River Baptist Association in the knob country, the hill country of Kentucky.  Sixty-four quarter-time churches made up that Baptist Association.  Not a half-time church in the group, everyone of them, sixty-four of them, quarter-time churches, have services once a month.

Their annual association meeting was under a large, tall grove of trees.  And the messengers sat on split logs, split logs.  That was the seating.  And right in the midst of them, I sat down.  And while the association was proceeding, there stood up a man in the middle of the group.  And he began to sing a song.  And as he sang that song, just out of the blue of the sky, as he began to sing, there was another man over here who stood up and began to sing it with him.  And then others stood up and finally all of them stood up and I stood up.  And as they sang that song, they cried and shook hands with one another.  And I, not knowing a soul, I was crying and singing that song and shaking hands with those dear, saintly people of God.  Never could I forget that old-time song: 

 

My heavenly home is bright and fair

And I feel like traveling on.

No harm or death can enter there

And I feel like traveling on.

Yes, I feel like traveling on.

I feel like traveling on.

No harm or death can enter there

And I feel like traveling on.

The Lord has been so good to me

I feel like traveling on.

Until those mansions I can see.

And I feel like traveling on.

Yes, I feel like traveling on.

I feel like traveling on.

The Lord has been so good to me

I feel like traveling on.

 

Son, can you get up there to that thing?  Got it?  I have no idea how we could do it.  But we can try. 

 

My heavenly home is bright and fair.

I feel like traveling on.

No harm or death can enter there

And I feel like traveling on.

O the Lord has been so good to me,

I feel like traveling on.

Until those mansions I can see,

I feel like traveling on.

 

Choir, I want you to help us sing it too.  And you do as they did in that associational meeting.  I want you to sing the song and shake hands with one another.  Now, let’s everybody stand, and let’s sing the song and shake hands one another.

 

My heavenly home is bright and fair

And I feel like traveling on.

No harm or death can enter there

And I feel like traveling on.

Yes, I feel like traveling on.

I feel like traveling on.

No harm or death can enter there

And I feel like traveling on.

The Lord has been so good to me

I feel like traveling on.

Until those mansions I can see.

And I feel like traveling on.

Yes, I feel like traveling on.

I feel like traveling on.

The Lord has been so good to me

I feel like traveling on.

 

Amen!  Amen!  Heaven: There and Here:  He is as close as our breath and as precious as our very souls.  Jesus is here.  The saints and the angels are here.  Heaven is here and someday, the New Jerusalem is here [Revelation 21:2].

All right Charles . . .

 

 

 

HEAVEN THERE AND HERE

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Revelation 21:1-3, 2 Timothy 2:1-2

9-19-93

 

I.          The founding of Criswell College

A.  October 5, 1969, my 25th anniversary, I delivered a message that we needed to go deeper and be more committed to inerrancy, infallibility and inspiration of the Bible

1.  Suggested we establish an institute

B.  April 6, 1970 the church appointed a committee to establish such a school

C.  October 5, 1970 Criswell Bible Institute launched

1.  Had 1,200 in attendance in evening classes

D.  In the years following, Dr. Leo Eddleman and Dr. Paige Patterson led institute to become a college with full accreditation

1.  Against my will it was insisted it be called Criswell College

E.  Today Dr. Richard Melick is the leader of the school, and our new pastor Dr. O. S. Hawkins has visions of enlarging it

 

II.         The deepening need for the school

A.  Denial of the inerrancy, infallibility of the Word of God

1.  Theological professor, "…there are scientific and historical errors in the Bible…"

2.  Tendency of liturgy in Western world is to discard the Bible

B.  Death of the Christian faith and churches

1.  7,000 churches for sale in England

2.  In New England, no night services, no Wednesday prayer meetings, no services in summertime

C.  Death of denominations – every major old-line denomination in America is dying

D.  Loss of Christian colleges and universities in Canada, the North and the South – even Baylor has disassociated itself from the denomination

 

III.        Desperately need to return to the infallible Word of God in school and pulpit

A.  London preacher – preaching on social amelioration, newspaper headlines

1.  Visited by little urchin girl, who insisted he come see her dying mother

2.  The dying mother was not prepared to meet God

3.  He began in the way he preached – philosophical ideas, great language; but she didn’t understand

4.  He prayed God to help him – and he remembered his own mother telling the simple story of the grace of Jesus

5.  He shared with his congregation the following Sunday that both she and he got into the kingdom that day

B.  Whether it’s there or here, it’s always here

1.  Creation, the fall, the promised Redeemer, the Holy Spirit, all here

 

IV.       Heaven here

A.  Looking for the city four-square, with telescopes, astronomical instruments, traveling farthest out at speed of light – no city found there

B.  Yet we read heaven is so close that Jacob’s ladder could reach up into it(Genesis 28:12)

1.  Angels are here(2 Kings 6:13-17)

C.  Heaven is so close, angels led Lot and his family from the doomed city of Sodom

D.  Heaven is so close, Jesus walked with the three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace, and shut the mouth of the lions in the den with Daniel

E.  Heaven is so close, when Jesus was laid in the tomb, two angels opened it, and announced the good news of His resurrection

F.  Heaven is so close that when Jesus ascended, angels came to comfort the disciples and send them on to Jerusalem

G.  Heaven is so close that John exiled on Patmos was raptured to heaven

H.  Heaven is so close that when this earth is purified of sin by fire, the new heaven and new earth and new Jerusalem come down here

I.  Heaven is so close that Stephen the martyr looked up and saw Jesus standing to receive him

J.  Heaven is so close that Jesus stopped Saul on the way to Damascus

K.  Heaven is so close – in the paper a story of girl with leukemia who was a bride for one day, then as she lay dying she could hear the angels

L.  Heaven is so close – Mrs. L. O. Taylor, just before she died, spoke a welcome on behalf of the members of her family who had gone before her

M.  Heaven is so close – Lottie Moon, as she lay dying in Japan, greeted the saints she had known years ago

N.  Green River Baptist Association in Kentucky, annual meeting – crying and singing together, "I Feel Like Traveling On…"