Jack Graham - The Beauty of Heaven
You can't think of heaven without trying to imagine its beauty, its magnificence. I heard about a mother and a child that were walking outside, a beautiful evening, the stars were glistening like diamonds in the dark and the girl was just taken in by the beauty of the evening and she said to her mother, asking her a question, she said, "mommy, if the wrong side of heaven is so beautiful what must the right side look like"? Well the fact is there are many beautiful things this side of eternity and yet, the right side of heaven, when we are in the heaven of heavens, where Christ is, will truly be the most beautiful place that we have ever experienced.
Now the apostle John was overwhelmed, he was taken down by the beauty of heaven, the joy of the city and he gives us a kind of fly over, if you will, in the last two chapters of the Bible, Revelation 21 and 22, it's really a tour of the new Jerusalem. And so in Revelation 21 verses 1-5: "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth has passed away, and the sea was no more". I explained that in a previous message. No more sea. You say, "Well, I like the ocean". No, this talking about separation. John was in exile, separated, looking over the Aegean Sea, separated from his friends, living with crazies on a penitentiary island. He was alone. And when he saw heaven he saw no more separation. We're with one another and our loved ones in Christ forever and ever. No more sea, no more separation.
"And I saw the holy city (this is the heavenly 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 the throne saying, 'Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself (take a breath there) God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes (every one of them personally, He will wipe away your tears) and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.' And he who was seated on the throne (that's the Lord Jesus) 'Behold, I am making all things new.' And he said, 'Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'"
Yes, they are! The beauty of heaven. He is making all things new, which means that the heavens and the earth will be renovated for the redeemed. And this heavenly and holy city described here will be coming down and this is in the future, the millennial kingdom of God. Remember, the Bible tells us "to absent from the body is to be present with the Lord". As a believer when you die, you instantaneously, immortally are in the presence of the Lord. Jesus said to the thief on the cross, "Today you will be with me in paradise". That thief repented of his sin and believed in Jesus, and Jesus took him to heaven, to paradise with Him. Paradise, another picture of beauty and the exquisiteness of eternity with Christ. And yet, there's coming a day when God will renovate the earth and the heavens, and the heavens and the earth will become as one.
And that is what is known with theologians as the eternal state. Your condition eternally with God. That's what he's talking about here. Coming down out of heaven. And he says it's like a beautiful bride. That's verse 2; also in verse 10. Now one of the best sights in my lifetime was to see my young bride Deb, coming down the aisle at the First Baptist Church of Mineral Wells, Texas in May 22, 1970. That's 47 years ago. It keeps getting better and better and she's more beautiful and beautiful to me. But I tell you, that was quite a sight when my bride came down that aisle. And you know, every groom can say that, and should say that. I've never seen an ugly bride. I just haven't. I've performed many wedding ceremonies. You know the guys just sort of clean up and look okay, the best they can. But every bride is so beautiful, just lovely! The hair is adorned and the dress, and all the rest. Just magnificent!
And John said, when he saw the holy city, the heavenly city coming down, this city was like an adorned bride for the people of God. Of course, we are the bride of Christ, and we are citizens of this city, and members of this family, and participants in this beauty. We're there! We're right there! And it's real! And just as a bride comes down without blot, without blemish, beautiful, breathtaking, beautiful, when the heavenly city descends the New Jerusalem, the new heavens, the new earth, it's going to be a beautiful and wondrous sight to behold. Like a diamond in the sky. Dazzling like diamonds and emeralds and rubies. Scintillating and glorious! The capitol city of heaven is the New Jerusalem, and Jerusalem, of course, is an important, very important city in all of the history of our faith, the history of the Bible and the history of the world. Jerusalem is important in history. It's important in prophecy because at the very center of the prophetic word of God is the nation of Israel and its capitol Jerusalem, and the destiny of nations.
Even today, though, it has been decimated many times through the years, and there are ruins still everywhere. Seventeen times the city of Jerusalem has been defeated and destroyed, left to rubble, and 18 times the city, the people have gotten up again, because God's hand is upon Israel and the people and this nation. The Bible proclaims that Israel will be and is the geo-political center of the earth. Ezekiel 5:5 says, "I have set you (Jerusalem) in the midst of the nations". In other words, Jerusalem is the touch point; it's the reference point for the entire earth. We're also told in the prophetic word that Jerusalem will be a stumbling block to the nations and we know that's true! So much crisis and so much division as a result of Jerusalem and people's fight to maintain Jerusalem and power and control in Jerusalem. That's all in the plan of God.
And ultimately Jesus our Lord and Savior will, just as He ascended from the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, will descend, "This same Jesus taken up from you into heaven will come again in the same way that you have seen Him go". And He will return to Jerusalem and establish His eternal millennial kingdom. That's what this is talking about. Revelation 21:10 speaks of the great city of our God! And what a city it is. It's the community of God's people. A city should primarily be known for its people. I mean, there are beautiful cities and city sites and scenes and buildings and skyscrapes and even small towns with their lovely streets and all the rest. But ultimately a city is known for its people. A town, a city is known for what it is like. You like a city, you don't like a city typically based on who lives there. Well, this beautiful holy city will be perfect and pure and pristine because in that day, according to verse 8 God is going to drain the swamp. "But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, and sorcerers and idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death".
And if you believe in heaven, you must believe in hell because the same Bible that tells us there's a beautiful heaven, tells us that there is a terrible hell. That there is a heaven to gain, and that there is a hell to shun. Yes, there is a hell because in heaven there is no rebellion, there is no sin. We live in a sin-sick world, an ugly and broken world. I've already said there are many beautiful things on earth that we enjoy. I love living here. I do. I'm grateful for the beauty. We see the good in people. We see good neighbors being good neighbors to others all around whether it is a crisis, a natural disaster, we see people rally. We see a lot of goodness, don't we? And we can celebrate that. But we also know that there's a tremendous amount of ugliness and brokenness in our world. There's so much of it. Our world is filled, not with beauty, but with brokenness. And that's because of a thing called the curse of sin. Because sin has shattered the human condition, and our world is in trouble because of sin, and there is so much of this darkness in the world.
In 1971 John Lennon wrote a song, well known, about the future and he spoke of a utopian world in this song. He pled for a place that would be beautiful and lovely. He called it "Imagine", and in it he crooned a world without religion, no god, no heaven, no hell, but just a perfect world in perfect peace, void of religious strife and human division, and all the rest. "Imagine". Imagine there's no heaven, imagine there's no hell. He wanted something more, something better. And yet on December 8, 1980 John Lennon was gunned down in New York near his apartment in Manhattan by an assassin, and he was a direct hit to the ugliness and the darkness of a world that has gone astray. There's no world without God. There's no future without Him. Everything in this present condition of life is marred and scarred and charred by sin. The world is broken. Filled with broken dreams, broken hearts, broken promises, broken marriages, broken families, broken communities, broken bodies, broken hopes. And the rubble, we see it everywhere. The ruins are everywhere.
No wonder Jesus said, "Don't lay up your treasures here because you can't take that with you". But you can send it ahead. Lay up treasures in heaven. Invest in heavenly things! If your heart is there how can we stay here with our hearts and our affections and our ambitions? There is something better, something greater. Don't leave your treasures here, but invest in the things that matter the most. What would you take with you? Now verse 12 begins a description, and this truly is going to be a quick flyover, but it begins a description of this heavenly city. Verse 11, we need to note that. It says: "having the glory of God (We're going to talk about the glory of heaven next week) its radiance like a most rare jewel, like jasper, clear as crystal".
So imagine in your mind this crystal city, this celestial city. "It had a great, high wall," yes, there's going to be a wall in heaven! It's going to get built! And Donald Trump is not going to build it! It's a high wall, 12 gates. "And the wall of the city", verse 14, "had 12 foundations". And verse 15, "And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold in measuring the city and it s gates and it's walls". And so verse 16 is worth noting: "The city lies foursquare". In other words, it's a cube, it's a crystal cube. This imagery is fascinating, isn't it? "Its length is the same as its width. And he measured the city by his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and its width and its height are equal. He measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel's measurement".
Angels have their own measurements, I guess, but they're similar to human measurements. But here is this city and the size of it is astronomically large. Now, I'm not good at mathematics, I'm really not. How I got out of tenth grade geometry I have no clue. Good friends, I guess. But here's the geometry of this thing. Fifteen hundred miles, that's the distance described here in every direction and the measurement is of a cube. Now according to the scholars, therefore, when you add it up, the cube, the square miles of a cube is two million, two hundred and fifty thousand square miles! Two million, two hundred and fifty thousand square miles on the ground! That's just on the ground. That doesn't consider the width and the height. And it's estimated that approximately 30 billion people have lived on earth since its creation, 30 billion, give or take a billion or two.
So that would mean that there is plenty of room in heaven if all 30 billion went to heaven, and we know not everyone goes to heaven. There would be over 200 miles per person of living space, and that's just in the heavenly city. Remember, this is just the capitol city. We'll have all of the universe, the heavens to explore. And this is the capitol city but there's plenty of room. The point is there's plenty of room for the family of God to include everyone who follows Jesus. That means there's a place and a space for you, reserved in heaven for you who are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. And that's magnificent to me. The wall is built of jasper and the city was pure gold, like glass. I brought you some photos of just some of the gems that are described here. And, that's a sapphire, agate, (I don't even know how to pronounce some of these), emeralds (oh, that's a good one), and onyx.
Look at some of these, all described here, these beautiful jewels, the bejeweled city of God. We sing I heard about a city with many colors, and the God who painted the wings of a butterfly, who blended the colors of the rainbow, who is the light of the city and reflecting His radiance, these gorgeous gems is describing just how beautiful this place is going to be, where we're going to spend eternity. Even the streets we're told are made of gold. Verse 21: "And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl", this is the reference to the pearly gates. They're really not pearly, plural, they're pearl gates. One pearl. And you know how a pearl is made, right? An oyster is irritated, the creature inside the shell is irritated by some sand or debris and as a result the creature secretes a fluid which surrounds the irritation, the pain and the hurt, and it becomes a pearl.
So a pearl is birthed in pain. These gates of pearl. And to me that always signifies the fact that the entrance to heaven, the beautiful pearl gates of heaven remind us forever of the price that was paid at the cross! The pain of the cross! The suffering of the cross! And the same nail-scarred hands that opened the gates of grace will open to us the great gates of glory! Indescribably wonderful! Streets of gold, the word here is translucent gold, see-through gold. On earth we treasure gold. We strive for gold. We want gold, riches and money. In heaven they make streets out of the stuff. Yes, heaven is going to be an enriching and elevating place! So many things beautiful about heaven. And, of course, He is the God of wonders who is making it. He is the Lamb who is the light of the city. No more night.
And John, when it comes to describing the heavenly city, what he is seeing there, it's interesting that he tells us some things that are not there. And in some ways it's easier to describe heaven by what is not there than what is there! And he says what is not there, verse 4, no more tears, no more terrors or death, no more crying, pain, suffering. Why? No more sin. Had there been no sin there would have been no suffering. Had there been no suffering, there would have been no death. And this is the place where death has died! The risen Lamb of God reigns, radiates from the throne of God! And it is His beauty that attracts us! It is His glory that draws us in! And, yes, we will see His beautiful face! And when you get down to it, it won't be streets of gold or gates of pearl, the translucent crystal cities that will be the main attraction for us in heaven, but it will be the beautiful face of Jesus.
Some of the great preachers of yesteryear brought sermons regarding the beauty of God. We need more sermons like that. The beauty of God, the beauty of Jesus. "And one glimpse of His dear face all sorrows will erase when we see Christ". I've done a lot of funeral services in my time, seen a lot of tears, a lot of broken hearts when people bury their loved ones and half their hearts with them. But in heaven there'll be no funeral processions down streets of gold. There will be no more sad goodbyes, no more tears staining our cheeks, cause we will live in the perfect bliss and beauty and blessedness of Jesus. We will see His face. I wish I could describe it for you better.
Dr. Robert G. Lee, the preacher of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee, was one of the greatest preachers of a generation. He was a magnificent orator type, and, boy, he could paint a picture! I got to hear him preach when he was 92 years of age. And even then, I mean, he would get up and say things like, "And the moon was blossoming like a yellow jonquil in the garden of the stars". Now if I said something like that today, you would laugh me off the platform. But, you know, that was that era and that generation. And he was so descriptive. His vocabulary was truly extensive. And it came time to die, and Dr. Adrian Rogers, his pastor who succeeded him at Bellevue, many of you know Dr. Adrian Rogers, also now in heaven, went to see him. I believe the story is he took Billy Graham with him. And they went to see Dr. Lee on his death bed. And Lee drew them up close and said, "Let me tell you something, I never did it justice".
Now if anybody did the descriptions of heaven justice, it would have been Lee. But he said, "It's more beautiful than you can imagine". A few days later his faith turned to sight and he saw it all! And so will you if you believe and trust in Jesus. Do you know for sure, for certain that if you were to die today that you would go to heaven, if Christ were to come this hour, would you be with Him forever? You can know, you must know. "These things are written that you might know that you have eternal life". And to know Jesus is to know eternal life because heaven is Jesus, it's being with Him. So the way to be with Him is to receive Him into your life right now and I'm going to give you an opportunity wherever you are, you may be watching online, maybe listening on radio, watching on the podcast, just invite Christ into your life because the Bible says, "whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved".
If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus Christ and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead you will be saved. And if you right now will turn from your sin, that's repentance and trust in Christ, that's faith and receive the gift of eternal life He will save you now and forever, that's God's promise not mine. So will you just pray with child-like faith this simple prayer: Lord Jesus I invite you to come into my life. I trust you as my Lord and Savior. I repent of my sins, I receive you Lord. I call on your name. Just say, "Jesus, Jesus come into my life, I do believe, I now receive," and if you will do that I promise you according to God's word He will forgive all your sins, He will come into your life and you can be as certain for heaven as if you were already there.