“And I say unto you, that many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.”—Matthew 8:11
Last Sunday evening I spoke to you on the different judgments mentioned in the Scriptures and especially upon the Judgment of the Great White Throne, Revelation 20:11–15.
Tonight I want to speak to you about the place to which everybody in this audience expects to go. It has pleased God to reveal a great deal more about Heaven than Hell, and yet with all that He has revealed, how very little we know of the Home prepared for those that love Him.
You will have observed that almost all of the teaching regarding Heaven, in the Bible, is through figures and symbols—just hints and suggestions suited to our moral weakness and imperfect state. The finite mind is incapable of receiving the full vision of the Glory that Christ declared we would some day behold, John 17:34. On one occasion, Moses prayed that God would show him the Glory, but Jehovah told him that no man could receive that vision and live, so we do not marvel that human language is inadequate to describe that which awaits us beyond the veil. Paul was “caught up” and he tells us that he saw and heard things that were “unutterable.” In other words there was no human language, figure, nor metaphor that he could use that could possibly describe what he had seen and heard.
Suppose that we had been born in some mammoth cave, the best light that we had ever had was a candle and if one could come to us from this outside world, what words could possibly be used that could adequately describe the glories of a summer day. No painter or poet has ever been able to put into words or on canvas, the sunset or the sunrise; the loveliness of Spring; the splendor of the golden Autumn, or the grandeur of a mid-winter day. Now, if human language and genius fail in making known the glory of the earthly, how can one give any accurate knowledge of the Heavenly? I think it is Mr. Chapman who used to tell of the blind child who had never looked upon the beauties of nature. It was discovered that a surgical operation would give to her sight. After this delicate piece of surgical work had been performed, her eyes were bandaged and for days she was kept in a dark room. Then came the time for her to look upon the world for the first time and it was night. She was led out into the open and the bandage removed from her eyes. As she beheld the moon and stars in all their glory, she cried, “Oh mother, is this Heaven?” “No,” the mother replied, “just Earth, and that is the sky above us.” “Oh why didn’t you tell me that it was so beautiful and so grand,” she asked. Her mother answered, “I tried, my dear, but it was impossible, you just had to see it for yourself to understand.” Never until we stand redeemed before the throne shall we know what Heaven is like. “Now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face.” But while all this is so, it hath pleased our heavenly Father to reveal sufficient to answer the questions of the human heart, regarding the future home of those who love Him.
We observe first that—Heaven Is A Place not simply a state, as some would have us believe. Just as the sun above us is the center of what we call our solar system and other solar systems beyond have their suns around which they revolve, it has been thought that all of these center about one great central orb, a world of unequalled and unimaginable glory, the very center of the universe, the heaven where the “High and Holy One Dwells.” This is a delightful idea, but I cannot see that there is much Scripture to support the thought. The Scriptures describe Heaven as a country. The old patriarchs living in the Holy Land that “flowed with milk and honey” confessed that they were “pilgrims and strangers,” and they longed for a Better Country—the Heavenly. Again it is spoken of as a city. It has “streets,” and “gates,” and “walls,” “rivers,” “trees bearing fruit in season,” a place of “many mansions” and the glories of it all are suggested by “streets of gold,” “gates of pearl,” and “walls of jasper.”
“I have read of a beautiful city
Far away in this Kingdom of God,
I have read how its walls are of jasper
And its streets are all paved with pure gold.
In the midst of that street is Life’s river,
Pure as crystal and grand to behold,
But the half of the joy that awaits us
To mortals has never been told.”
Second, it is—A Place Of Peace, Rest, And Joy. Job tells us “there the wicked cease from troubling and there the wary be at rest,” while Jesus said, “Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord”—they shall rest from their labors.
For most of you in this congregation, life is made up chiefly of toil and weariness, but there you shall “bathe your weary soul in seas of Heavenly rest.” This is not poetry, this is reality. I was thinking today that if it were possible to go to some of these lands in Europe—Germany or Russia, for instance—where they are so war-weary, and tell those poor people about the United States being a land of fruit and flowers, blue skies and bright sunshine, and then if I could add to the picture that here in this country none are ever homeless, nor ever hungry, poor, sick or sad or sorrowful, that in this land there are no graves—no death, to tears, and here they never die, do you not think that everybody would want to leave those countries and come to dwell with us here? What sacrifices they would make to reach this land, but alas! Alas, with all the good things we can say about America it has its sin and shame, suffering and death, just like other lands, but God has told us that there is a place “beyond this veil of tears” where these things never come.
“I think of the land of the blest,
That Country so bright and so fair,
And oft is my spirit possest
What must it be to be there.”
Third—It Is A Place Of Social Pleasure. I often think we overlook this fact. The text that we have chosen tonight surely suggests that one of the features of Heavenly joy will be the meeting and greeting of the great souls that have gone on before us. “And I say unto you, that many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the Kingdom of heaven.”
Sometimes we are asked whether we shall know each other when we meet beyond the river. I always feel that that sin will never sully its soul and if you [ask] an absolutely ridiculous question and am reminded of the words of a dear old Welsh minister, who on one occasion was asked by his wife if he thought they would know each other in Heaven and the old man replied, “Why not? Do you think we shall be bigger fools then that we are now?
Christ here assures us that these grand old heroes of the Cross would come together on some great festive occasion and we should sit down with them. It may be at “The Marriage Supper of the Lamb.” “Shall we eat and drink in the Kingdom?” someone asks. Personally, I believe that we shall. The Scriptures to me are very plain on this point. Before Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden they ate and drank and on one occasion when Jehovah visited Abraham, Genesis 18, accompanied by two angels, the old patriarch went to the herd, killed a calf, had it dressed and cooked and set it before the Heavenly Visitors “and they did eat.” At the Last Supper that Jesus had with His disciples, you remember how He said to them, “For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God” and “I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come,” also “that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom.” Probably in all the Bible there is no picture of Heaven so fascinating as Revelation 19:6–9, “The Marriage Supper of the Lamb.” I often contrast that last supper our Lord had with His disciples to that next one we shall have with Him in the Glory. I remember the last supper we had as a family. Our feelings then were somewhat akin to the feeling of that little company of men who gathered about Christ in that upper room in Jerusalem, the darkest of all nights in the world’s history. The scattered family had received messages to come home. Mother had died suddenly and we came from different parts of Canada and this Land. Some of us had not met for years. I remember coming up to the old gate just in the evening and meeting my brother who had arrived almost at the same time, and together we entered the home. A few minutes later we were all called to supper. Some of us had not taken food all that day, nor did we want any then. It was a sad supper. The next day was the burial and we scattered again and have never been together since. You have all had last suppers, just like that one—no appetite, no conversation, just choking and sighs. But “blessed are they that are called to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.” John says, “I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to Him; for the marriage of the Lamb is come.”
I would have you not that word “many” in the text. “Many shall come from the east and the west.” Some folks would have us believe that just a very few will be in Heaven, but I accept the teaching of Christ here in a most literal way. “Many shall come.” Why just think of the babies that the Lord Jesus takes to be with Himself every day. Every baby goes to Him. Don’t forget that, my brother. Jesus said, “For of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.” Did you carry your little one out to the cemetery? Well, rest assured the child is safe where desire ever to see that child again you must receive Him, who hath said, “I am the Way into the sheepfold.”
Fourth—Heaven Is Home. Had I time, I would like to draw also upon the fact that the Bible teaches that Heaven is Home. Paul says, “Absent from the body at home with the Lord.” You know that home is where your loved ones are. Hotels, boarding houses and YMCAs cannot make a home. Love, fellowship, mother, father, wife, husband and children all have their part in a real home, and yonder beyond the veil they keep gathering one by one, until some of us have many more of our loved ones “over the river” than we have here on Earth.
Some years ago a preacher visiting in Pasadena, which is just about as near the Garden of Eden as anything on this earth, said to a…porter at the hotel where he was stopping, as he looked out over those wonderful orchards, “I think this is the grandest place on Earth.” “Well, [sir],” the black boy replied, “You may think so, but I don’t. To me, there is no place like—.” “Why,” said the preacher, “There isn’t much in that state but rocks and sand. I think it is about the poorest state in the union.” “Well it may be so to you,” said the porter, “but it is everything to me and I am going there just as soon as I can.” “Would you leave these gardens, this land of sunshine and flowers for that barren country?” “Yes, [sir],” said the porter, “I would, boss. I want you to know that the folks are all back there and to me there is no place like where the folks are.” And that is why Heaven will be Home to many of us. The folks are there.
“Friends will be there I have lov’d long ago;
Joy like a river around me will flow.”