Heaven: City Of Light
HEAVEN: CITY OF EVERLASTING LIGHT
By, James L. Thornton
Revelation 21:23 “And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.”
In these lessons we will study about HEAVEN, where it is, its inhabitants, and how to get there. And the certainty of God’s promise of a life beyond the grave, and the rewards that are in store for faithful service as gleaned from Sacred Scripture.
2. Heaven; It’s Hope
3. Heaven; Where Is It?
4. We Are Going To Emigrate
5. Heaven; It’s Inhabitants
6. Heaven; It’s Certainty
7. Heaven; It’s Riches
8. Heaven; All Eternity To Rest
9. Heaven; It’s Rewards
10. Heaven; Home Of The Saved
11. Heaven; It Will Be New
12. Heaven; What Will We Do?
These lessons are upon a subject that is very dear to me, and prepared in the hope that they may give comfort and edification to many; that the weak may be strengthened, the sorrowing consoled, and the despondent encouraged to look with increasing faith to that fairest of cities in the Better Land, which is the home of the Redeemer and of the redeemed.
A great 19th century preacher said. “When I was a boy I thought of Heaven as a great shining city, with vast walls and domes and spires, and with nobody in it except white angels, who were strangers to me. By and by my little brother died, and I thought of a great city with walls and domes and spires, and a flock of cold, unknown angels, and one little fellow that I was acquainted with. He was the only one that I knew in that country. Then another brother died, and there were two that I knew. Then my acquaintances began to die, and the number continually grew.
But it was not until I had sent one of my little children back to GOD, that I began to think I had a little interest there myself. A second, a third, a fourth went, and by that time I had so many acquaintances in Heaven that I did not see any more walls and domes and spires. I began to think of the residents of the Celestial City. And now so many of my acquaintances have gone there, that it sometimes seems to me that I know more in Heaven than I do on earth.”
May the thought of loved ones gone before give additional joy to us as we follow in these thoughts about Heaven. We need not forget our dear loved ones; but we may cling forever to the enduring hope that there will be a time when we can meet unfettered, and be blest in that land of everlasting light, where the soul drinks from the living streams of love that roll by God’s high throne.
In our inmost hearts there are none of us but having questionings of the future.
2. HEAVEN; IT’S HOPE:
Colossians 1:3 “We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . 5. For the HOPE which is laid up for you in heaven.”
A great many people imagine that anything said about Heaven is only a matter of speculation. They talk about Heaven much as they would about the air. Now there would not have been so much in Scripture on this subject if GOD had wanted to leave the human race in darkness about it.
“All Scripture,” we are told, “is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16, 17).
What the Bible says about Heaven is just as true as what it says about everything else. The Bible is inspired. What we are taught about Heaven could not have come to us in any other way than by inspiration. No one knew anything about it but GOD, and so if we want to find out anything about it we have to turn to His Word. The Bible shows itself more than a human book by what it says.
It seems perfectly reasonable that GOD should have given us a glimpse of the future, for we are constantly losing some of our friends by death, and the first thought that comes to us is, "Where have they gone?" When loved ones are taken away from us how that thought comes up before us. How we wonder if we will ever see them again, and where and when it will be.
Then it is that we turn to this blessed Book, for there is no other book in all the world that can give us the slightest comfort; no other book that can tell us where the loved ones have gone.
Every time we breathe some one is dying. We all know that we are going to stay here but a very little while. Our life is but a vapor. It is only a shadow. It is perfectly reasonable that we should study this Book, to find out where we are going, and where our friends are who have gone on before. The longest time man has to live has no more proportion to eternity than a drop of dew has to the ocean.
We are going to spend eternity in another world, a grand and glorious world where GOD reigns. Is it not natural, then, that we should look and listen and try to find out who is already there, and what is the route to take?
3. HEAVEN: WHERE IS IT?
John 17:1 “These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father,”
Jesus “lifted up His eyes to heaven.” This phrase is repeated several times in the Gospels as Jesus began His prayer. So heaven must be up, as He would know more about its location that anyone. In the 17th chapter of Genesis it says that GOD went up from Abraham; and in the third chapter of John, that the Son of Man came down from Heaven. So, in the 1st chapter of Acts we find that Jesus went up into Heaven (not down), and a cloud received him out of sight. Thus we see Heaven is up.
There are men who say that there is no heaven. They say there was nothing to justify us in believing in any other Heaven than that we know here on earth. If this is Heaven, it is a very strange one. This world that some think is Heaven is the home of sin, a hospital of sorrow, a place that has nothing in it to satisfy the soul.
The very arrangement of the firmament about the earth declares the seat of God’s glory to be above us. Job says: “Let not God regard it from above.” Again, in Deuteronomy, we find, “who shall go up for us to heaven?” Thus, all through Scripture we find that we are given the location of Heaven as upward and beyond the firmament.
This firmament, with its many bright worlds scattered through, is so vast that Heaven must be an extensive realm. Yet this need not surprise us. It is not for short-sighted man to inquire why GOD made Heaven so extensive that its lights along the way can be seen from any part or side of this little world.
Some people are trying to find out just how far Heaven is away. There is one thing we know about it; that is, that it is not so far away but that GOD can hear us when we pray. I do not believe there has ever been a tear shed for sin since Adam's fall in Eden to the present time, but GOD has witnessed it.
God is not too far from earth for us to go to Him; and if there is a sigh that comes from a burdened heart to-day, GOD will hear that sigh. If there is a cry coming up from a heart broken on account of sin, GOD will hear that cry. He is not so far away; Heaven is not so far away, as to be inaccessible to the smallest child.
4. WE ARE GOING TO EMIGRATE:
We are going to spend eternity in another world, a grand and glorious world where GOD reigns.
Hebrews 11:8. “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. 9. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: 10. For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”
Abraham was called by God to emigrate to an unknown place and by faith he “sojourned.” This word means he did not take up any permanent residence but constantly moved from place to place. In Abraham’s mind he could see a city, a heavenly city, to which he ever journeyed towards. We too are “sojourners” in a land that is not our permanent home, and we should ever look towards that city.
I do not think that it is wrong for us to think and talk about Heaven. I like to locate Heaven, and find out all I can about it. I expect to live there through all eternity.
If I were going to dwell in any place in this country, if I were going to make it my home, I would want to inquire about the place, about its climate, about the neighbors. I would enquire about everything that I could learn concerning it. If any of you were going to emigrate, that would be the way you would feel.
Well, we are all going to emigrate in a very little while to a country that is very far away. Is it not natural, then, that we should look and listen and try to find out who is already there, and what is the route to take?
Perhaps, if we would listen, we too might hear on this storm-tossed world of ours, some sound, some whisper, borne from afar to tell us there is a Heaven which is our home; and when we sing our hymns upon the shores of the earth, perhaps we may hear their sweet echoes breaking in music upon the sands of time, and cheering the hearts of those who are pilgrims and strangers along the way.
Yes, we need to look up - out, beyond this low earth, and to build higher in our thoughts and actions, even here!
5. HEAVEN: ITS INHABITANTS:
If there is anything that ought to make Heaven dear to Christians, it is knowing that GOD and all their loved ones will be there.
Isaiah 33:24 “And the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick: the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity.”
The society of Heaven will be select. No one who studies Scripture can doubt that. There are a good many kinds of aristocracy in this world, but the aristocracy of Heaven will be the aristocracy of holiness. The humblest believer on earth will be an aristocrat there. Scripture say that we shall “reign as kings and priests.”
It says in the 57th chapter of Isaiah: “For thus saith the High and Lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit.”
Now what could be plainer than that? No one who is not of a contrite and humble spirit will dwell with GOD in His high and holy place.
What is it that makes home so attractive? Is it because we have a beautiful home? Is it because we have beautiful lawns? Is it because we have beautiful trees around us? Is it because we have beautiful paintings upon the walls inside? Is it because we have beautiful furniture? Is that all that makes home so attractive and beautiful? Nay, it is the loved ones in it; it is the loved ones there.
We find clearly in the 18th chapter of Matthew, 10th verse that the angels are there: “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, that in Heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in Heaven.”
We shall have good company up there; not only those who have been redeemed, but those who have never been lost; those who have never known what it is to transgress; those who have never known what it is to be disobedient; who have obeyed Him from the very morning of creation.
John 17:24 “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.”
It says in John 12:26 "If any man serve Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall also My servant be."
6. HEAVEN: ITS CERTAINTY:
Scripture tells us very plainly that GOD has a dwelling-place. We believe this is just as much a place and just as much a city as is New York, London or Paris.
John 14:2. “In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you."
There are some people who depend so much upon their reason that they reason away GOD. They say GOD is not a person we can ever see. They say GOD is a Spirit. So He is, but He is a person too; and became a man and walked the earth once. There is no doubt whatever about God having a dwelling-place. A dwelling-place indicates personality.
God’s dwelling-place is in Heaven. He has a dwelling-place, and we are going to be inmates of it. Therefore we shall see Him. In I Kings 8:30, we read: “And hearken Thou to the supplication of Thy servant, and of Thy people Israel, when they shall pray toward this place; and hear Thou in Heaven Thy dwelling place; and when Thou hearest, forgive.”
Heaven is God’s habitation, and when Jesus came to earth He taught us to pray: “Our Father, which art in Heaven.”
This habitation is spoken of as “the city of eternal life.” Think of a city without a cemetery - they have no dying there. If there could be such a city as that found on this earth what a rush there would be to it! How men would try to reach that city! A city without tears - God wipes away all the tears up yonder. This is a time of weeping, but by-and-by there will be a time when God shall call us where there will be no tears.
It is a city without pain, a city without sorrow, without sickness, without death. There is no darkness there. “The Lamb is the light thereof.” It needs no sun, it needs no moon.
The paradise of Eden was as nothing compared with this one. The tempter came into Eden and triumphed, but in that city nothing that defileth shall ever enter. There will be no tempter there.
Think of a place where we shall be free from sin; where pollution cannot enter, and where the righteous shall reign forever. Think of a city that is not built with hands, where the buildings do not grow old with time; a city whose inhabitants are numbered by no census, except the Book of Life, which is the heavenly directory.
7. HEAVEN: ITS RICHES:
There is no man so poor in this world that he may not be a heavenly millionaire.
Matthew 6:20. “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
In these verses Jesus is not advocating poverty but is addressing the way one regards, or uses, what he owns. Someone has said, “No man thinks himself rich until he has all he wants.” Very few people are satisfied with earthly riches. If they want any thing at all that they cannot get, that is a kind of poverty. Sometimes the richer the man the greater the poverty. Somebody has said that getting riches brings care; keeping them brings trouble; abusing them brings guilt; and losing them brings sorrow.
It is a great mistake to make so much of riches as we do. But there are some riches that we cannot praise too much: that never pass away. They are the treasures laid up in Heaven for those who truly belong to GOD.
Ministers would not have to urge people to live for Heaven if their treasures were up there; they could not help it; their hearts would be there, and if their hearts were there their minds would be up there, and their lives would tend toward Heaven. They could not help living for Heaven if their treasures were there. It does not take long to tell where a man's treasure is.
In fifteen minutes' conversation with most men you can tell whether their treasures are on the earth or in Heaven. Talk to a farmer about the fields, and you will see his eye light up; you will find he has his heart there. Talk to some business men, and tell them where they can make a thousand dollars, and see their interest; their hearts are there. You talk to fashionable people who are living just for fashion, of its affairs, and you will see their eyes light up; they are interested at once; their hearts are there. Talk to a politician about politics, and you see how suddenly he becomes interested.
But talk to a child of GOD, who is laying up treasures in Heaven, about Heaven and about his future home, and see what enthusiasm is kindled. “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
8. HEAVEN: ALL ETERNITY FOR REST:
Another want that we have is rest. We get tired of toiling. Yet there is no real rest on earth. That’s part of the curse that God placed upon man (Genesis 3:17-19).
Hebrews 4:1 “Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. 9. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. 10. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. 11. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.”
Now, while we all want rest, I think a great many people make a mistake when they think the church is a place of rest; and when they unite with the church they have a false idea about their position in it. There are a great many who come in to rest. The text tells us: “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God,” but it does not tell us that the church is a place of rest; we have all eternity to rest in.
We are to rest by and by; but we are to work here, and when our work is finished, the Lord will call us home to enjoy that rest.
There is no use in talking about rest down here in the enemy's country. We cannot rest in this world, where God’s Son has been crucified and cast out. I think that a great many people are going to lose their reward just because they have come into the church with the idea that they are to rest there, as if the church was working for the reward, instead of each one building over against his own house, each one using all their influence toward the building up of Christ’s kingdom.
Only the work we do for Christ and His Church will last into eternity.
In Revelation 14:13, we read, “And I heard a voice from Heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth; Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.”
Now, death may rob us of money. Death may rob us of position. Death may rob us of our friends; but there is one thing death can never do, and that is rob us of the work that we do for God. That will live on forever, “Their works do follow them.” Heaven its riches:
9. HEAVEN: ITS REWARDS:
“Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory”
1 Corinthians 3:8 “…and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.”
Revelation 22:12 “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.”
Whenever you find men or women who are looking to be rewarded here in this life for doing right, they are unqualified to work for GOD: because if they are looking for the applause of men, looking for reward in this life, it will disqualify them for the service of God. If you seek the applause of men, you can't have the Lord say “Well done” at the end of the journey. You can't have both.
This world was not established in grace, and we have to fight “the world, the flesh, and the devil;” and if we fight the world, the world won't like us; and if we fight the flesh, the flesh won't like us. We have to mortify the flesh. We have to crucify the old man and put him under. Then, by and by, we will get our reward, and a glorious reward it will be.
Jesus says: “Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in Heaven.” If JESUS CHRIST spoke of it as “great” it must be indeed wonderful. We call things great that may look very small to JESUS CHRIST; and things that look very small to us may look very large to Him. When Jesus, the Creator of Heaven and earth, He who formed the heavens and the earth by His mighty power, when He calls it a great reward, what must it be?
Perhaps some people said to the Apostle to the Gentiles: “Paul, you are meeting with too much opposition; you are suffering too much.” Hear him reply: “Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”
“Our light affliction,” he calls it. We would have called it pretty hard, pretty heavy, would we not? But he says: “These light afflictions are nothing; think of the glory before me, and think of the crowning time; think of the reward that is laid up for me. I am on my way; the Righteous Judge will give it to me when the time comes;” and that is what filled his soul with joy; it was the thought of reward that the Lord had in store for him.
10. HEAVEN - THE HOME OF THE SAVED:
“I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”
Revelation 7:9. “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;
10. And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.
13. And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?
14. And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
15. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.
16. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.
17. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.
Now if we would ask you that question, some of you would say, “Why, that's the crowd that lived the best they could and treated everybody right, paid their honest debts and were good citizens and behaved themselves. That's the crowd that is going to Heaven. That is the way I'm going.” No, that isn't the answer John got.
And if you would ask somebody else who that crowd is, they would say, “Why, that's the crowd that belonged to our church, because we are the only crowd that is going to Heaven. If you don't come this way, why, you'll never get there.” But that is not the answer John got. And somebody else would say, “Why, that's the crowd that was baptized a certain way and held out faithful to the end.” But that is not the answer John got.
“Who are these?” “These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb”
Everyone of them was arrayed in a white robe, and every robe was washed in the Blood of JESUS. You cannot get in without the wedding garment, and it is washed in the Blood of JESUS. Settle that forever. If the Word of GOD is clear on anything, it is clear on that.
11. A NEW HEAVEN AND A NEW EARTH:
“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.”
Revelation 21:1. “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.”
God is going to make a new Heaven some day. We read, also, in the fifth verse of this same twenty-first chapter of Revelation, that He is going to make all things new. Why is it necessary for God to make a new Heaven and a new earth? God is a holy God and God does not propose to live with sin. He cannot; and God has sworn by Himself that He is going to purge this universe of sin, and everything that sin has touched.
When God gets through there will not be a mark, a stain, a blot of sin left; not a scar or a trace. Every pollution of sin will be thoroughly purged. “What!” you say, “Has sin ever touched Heaven? Has sin polluted Heaven?” Yes!
God tells us in His Word that once there was war in Heaven; that Satan and his angels rebelled against God. Sin, in other words, has lifted its ugly head and made its slimy trail right up to the very throne of God; and God is going to make a new Heaven. When God starts in to purge sin out of His universe, every person that ever lived on this earth who holds on to his sin, and has not been washed of that sin in the Blood of Jesus Christ, will be purged out with it.
If sin is so loathsome to God that He would make a new Heaven because sin had touched Heaven, then dismiss from your mind the thought that anybody ever will live with God who has not been purged from his sins in the Blood of Jesus Christ. No, God is not only going to be rid of sin but He is also going to be rid of everything sin has ever touched.
“Behold, I make all things new” says God. I have something in Heaven with GOD, “an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away.” Give me that, and you can have the world.
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.” That is Heaven He is talking about - the home of God's redeemed, the place of many mansions which Jesus spoke about.
12. WHAT WILL WE DO IN HEAVEN?
In Heaven there will be music, there will be singing; and I expect to join in that.
Revelation 7:15. “Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple:”
The greatest joy that I have ever found on this earth is serving the Lord. I had never known real joy until I cut loose from everything and gave my life to the Lord to serve Him. You know, I feel sorry for Christian people who just dabble around the edge, live with one foot in the world and one foot in the church. They have never known what it is to really live. They have never known real joy.
If you want to be happy; if you want real joy in your life, cut loose from the world and launch out into the deep with God, and be lost in the fullness of His wonderful love and fellowship. Isaiah tells us in 40:31, “They shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
One of the greatest joys to me about Heaven is that I will be able to serve Him to my heart's content. When the saints of God start singing, brother, the angels are going to take a back seat! John says, “And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters,” There will not be a discord. (Musicians tell us that the only perfect musical note ever made is the sound of running water) and as the voice of mighty thunderings” Revelation 19:6.
That mighty crescendo of praise rises and swells until the whole heavens resound with that chorus of the people of God singing. And what are they singing? “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood” Revelation 1:5.
Somehow I think David is going to be the choir director. I do! Because he is the greatest singer God ever had on this earth, and the greatest choir director that God ever had. I am going to sit down and watch him. I’ll just want to jump up and say, “Glory to GOD!”
Isn't it good to be a Christian? Brother that is the way I feel in my soul when I think about what God has for His children. Talk about shouting! I have been so happy here in this world that my soul has overflowed. And I am not ashamed of it. I am glad I love the Lord enough, and that He is real enough to me, and that He sends the joy of His Holy Spirit into my heart until it just runs over sometimes. I am glad that it is so. I tell you, it is great to be a Christian. But just wait until I get to heaven.
Write to me, Godsgrazingfield@att.net
By, James L. Thornton