Revelation 21:4 (part one)
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
“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.” This is one of the Bible’s most beautiful verses. With only a few words, it tells much about Heaven.
An important feature of this verse is, it begins with the most important truth regarding Heaven: “God.” Heaven is the house of God (DT 26:15). He is not confined to this abode, but it does serve as His main dwelling place, His throne-room (PS 11:4), from which He governs the affairs of men.
The Father inhabits Heaven. Jesus prayed, “Our Father which art in Heaven” (MT 6:9). The Son is there: “He was received up into Heaven, and sat on the right hand of God” (MK 16:19). The Spirit is there: the revelator saw the Spirit pictured before the throne (RV 1:4). Never have a fear when you think of Heaven. Streets of gold and walls of pearl should not intimidate us. We will feel at home, because God our Friend is there.
Since we are flesh and blood, we best meditate upon that part of the Trinity which we know as the Son. God “was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (JN 1:14). Jesus was made like unto us; He suffered and endured temptation. He became one of us. Therefore, our affections naturally direct themselves toward Him. He is the One altogether lovely, the fairest of ten thousand, the Rose of Sharon, the lily of the valley, the bright and morning star; and most important, He is the Heaven of Heaven. As we contemplate Heaven, let us focus our thoughts on Jesus.
I. WE SHALL BE WITH JESUS
The greatest delight of Heaven is, we shall be with the Lord. When Paul was rotting in Nero’s dungeon, with death staring him in the face, he summed up his feelings, “having a desire to depart and to be with Christ; which is far better” (PH 1:23). To Paul, Heaven meant being with Jesus.
Christ is the heart and soul of Heaven. Without Christ, Heaven is a contradiction. It is like contemplating day without the sun, feasting without food, seeing without light, oceans without water. Heaven cannot be Heaven without Christ. To be where Jesus is–this is Heaven.
When separated from Ruth, I enjoy the calls and letters we exchange, but most of all, I enjoy contemplating our reunion. My yearning is not to see a house and furniture. Every bit of me longs to see her. Likewise, the adornments of Heaven are nice, but nothing compared to Jesus the Beloved.
He must be the all-absorbing object of our thoughts on Heaven. When thinking of Heaven, if you do not think first and foremost of Jesus, something is wrong in your spiritual life here and now. You should desire nothing about Heaven with greater intensity than you desire to be with Jesus.
To want Heaven primarily for rest is a lazy desire. To want mainly Heaven’s happiness is trite. To desire Heaven essentially to see family and friends is selfish. We should love Jesus in such a way we desire Him first.
To a bride, the most important part of her wedding day is the groom. No matter how beautiful the wedding dress, how lovely the wedding music, or how good the wedding reception food–all is vanity for the bride if the groom is not there. Wedding bells and words of congratulations would be a mockery to her sorrow if the bridegroom did not come.
We view Heaven in a similar light. Angels, crowns, golden streets, and singing are of little significance. If Jesus is there, we will find angels in the gaze of His eyes, crowns in every lock of His hair, gold in His touch, and music in the sound of His voice. We echo the sentiment of Paul: being with Jesus is far better.
II. WE SHALL BEHOLD JESUS
John wrote, “We shall see Him as He is (1 J 3:2). Someday the veil shall be lifted and we shall behold Him.
Face to face I shall behold Him, far beyond the starry sky;
Face to face in all His glory, I shall see Him by and by!
It is a stirring sight to gaze upon Gordon’s Calvary and view the empty tomb in the Garden nearby. It so stirred my brother that he wanted me to join him in a re-enactment of the running of Peter and John to the empty tomb. He wanted to capture a tiny sense of the wonder and awe the disciples experienced there. Charles and I tarried awhile in the empty tomb and contemplated the resurrection of Jesus. We were deeply moved by seeing sites which picture events dear to us.
If seeing the sites can stir us deeply, what shall it be like to behold Jesus Himself? If gazing upon Calvary staggers me, what shall it be like to gaze upon the very flesh on which my guilt was laid? If seeing a slab of stone in a tomb moved me to the essence of my being, what shall it be like to see the nail-pierced One who rested on that slab? When John the Revelator saw Jesus, he fell at His feet as dead.
In Heaven the 24 elders fall down before Jesus and cast their crowns before the throne (RV 1:17). The elders do not place their crowns upon His head. The sight of Jesus causes the onlooker to know Christ is all in all. No one can add to His splendor. Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. No honors are left for us to bestow upon Him. Rather, when we see Him, we can only cast our crowns at His feet in an act of adoration and worship.
III. WE SHALL BE LIKE JESUS
Speaking of the consummation, Paul says, “We shall all be changed” (1 C 15:51). And to what shall we be changed? John replies, “We shall be like Him” (1 J 3:2). We are going to be adorned with His glory.
The inhabitants of Heaven are so radiant that eyes of earth can barely distinguish between them. John the Revelator had a difficult time trekking through Heaven. As we have noted, he fell down as dead before Jesus (RV 1:17). This act of worship was appropriate. However, on another occasion, he fell down before an angel, thinking it to be God (RV 22:8). Actually, this does not surprise us. You would expect an angel to shine like God. However, John made one other mistaken obeisance in Heaven. He fell down and worshipped a prophet, a fellow servant (RV 19:10). John saw a saint, and the saint also looked like God. This well illustrates how glorious we shall be in Heaven. We shall be like Jesus. Here we are clothed in His righteousness; there we shall don His glory.
When the mother of the Persian King Darius was captured, soldiers took her to a tent where she awaited the arrival of her conqueror, Alexander the Great. Soon two men entered. She fell before the first one, supposing him to be Alexander. However, it was Hyphestion, the King’s favorite friend. Realizing her error, the lady immediately begged forgiveness of Alexander for paying homage to the wrong person. Alexander kindly answered, “You have not mistaken, Madam, for he also is Alexander.” His meaning was, he loved Hyphestion so much that he regarded him as his other self. This is an apt illustration of the way Jesus looks upon us. We are his beloveds, and He regards us as one with Him. This is why He will someday make us like Himself. We will still be recognizable as ourselves, but we will have the glory of Jesus upon us. We shall be like Jesus.
IV. WE SHALL BEATIFY JESUS
This means we shall make Him supremely happy. O blessed thought! In Heaven we will never again disappoint Jesus, we shall serve Christ without a flaw. What joy to know a time is coming when we shall never again disappoint our Beloved. Love’s deepest wound is to hurt the beloved.
We shall be rid of all things which grieve our Savior. We will be rid of Satan’s assaults; there will be no more temptations to yield to. The struggle against our old nature will finally cease.
We will make Jesus happy. It will be a thrill to bring unmingled delight to our Savior. This will be the victory of Heaven. Every evil in our lives shall be overcome. Anger will be subdued and forgotten, never to plague us again. Pride will no longer creep in and destroy our spirituality. Never again shall we struggle against doubts, lust, and profanity.
Bickering among His own children must deeply grieve the Father, but someday this will end. We will no longer grieve the Master through our ugliness to each other. Heaven will be full of love–no more envy, jealousy, cruelty, or unkind thoughts. In Heaven our fellowship shall be flawless. We long for the day we shall fully love one another, and make Jesus happy.
Are you prepared to go to Heaven? Only those who know Jesus will enter it. It is time for you to decide. Roman Ambassadors once met with Antiochus and asked whether he meant war or peace. Antiochus said he would have to ponder the thought awhile before he could answer. Immediately, one of the Ambassadors took a staff, made a circle around where Antiochus stood, and said, “You must answer before you leave that spot. If you step out of that it is war. Now, war or peace?”
I now want to draw an imaginary circle around you and say, “Receive Christ or reject Christ. To leave without receiving is a wilful rejection. You must decide. Receive or reject.” May you yield to the Holy Spirit and receive Jesus, the Heaven of Heaven.
Revelation 21:4 (part two)
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Thinking of Heaven delights the soul. We could never in this life fully fathom the delights of Heaven, but we can meditate upon it. Though our knowledge is limited, our contemplation of Heaven helps us understand why the day of a saint’s death is better than the day of his birth.
Rev. 21:4a “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes;”
This phrase implies we do have tears on earth. God would not have to wipe them away if they did not exist. We weep here, but a day is coming when our tears will be no more. Worms shall eat our flesh, but Christ shall receive our spirits; and then we shall empty our tears into the hands of God. In that moment, grief will die. Heaven has a tree of life, but no weeping willow. Our glorified bodies will have no tear ducts.
Rev. 21:4b “. . .and there shall be no more death,”
Death now holds as its treasure the rotting carcasses of millions; but someday Christ is going to snatch these trophies from the cruel one. Death will be empty-handed when it is thrown into the lake of fire.
In this life, no matter how wonderful things become, there is always the nagging thought this bliss will come to an end. Regardless how much you love your wealth, you will someday be separated from it. The richest man will someday own only six feet of earth and wear only one change of clothes. The wealthiest of men will someday have to leave his mansion and be content with a box. No matter how successful you are, you will someday leave the laurels behind.
No matter how happily married you are, it will someday end. Eventually you will moisten the cold corpse of a loved one with your own tears. And the happier the union you now enjoy, the greater will be the grief at your separation.
No wonder the unregenerate man has to keep busy all the time. He must do something to drown out the miserable truth that the end is approaching. If I were lost, I would work, work, work, keeping my mind so occupied that thoughts of the black horseman would be excluded. I would surround myself with people to block out thoughts regarding the loneliness of a grave. I would open the shades and turn on the lights to stifle the thoughts of a coffin’s darkness.
Praise God that believers have something better than such bleak morbidness. We are bound for a place where death is excluded. The saints will dwell in a city which cannot be stormed, bask in a sun which shall never set, drink from a river that will never cease to flow, eat from a tree which will never die, and inhabit bodies that will never age.
This is the honey of Heaven’s honeycomb; it lasts forever. In Heaven there might be homes and churches, but never a mortuary. The streets will carry pedestrians, but no hearses. Heaven might have a newspaper, but the obituary page will always be blank. There are robes in Heaven, but no shrouds. Fine linen shall be there, but not black crepe. There might be parks and recreational areas, but never a cemetery. You may serve as a doorkeeper there, but never as a pallbearer. There shall be no more death.
Rev. 21:4c “. . .neither sorrow, nor crying,”
Here are two painful step-children of death. When I ponder sorrow and crying, my thoughts immediately fly to scenes of bereaved ones mourning their dead loved ones. This is the mockery and taunt of death. It laughs at the survivors. It constantly bombards their memories with thoughts of the beloved ones departed.
Take heart, believer. Your sorrow will not endure long. The time of separation is only temporary. Families shall again be bound, this time never to be dissolved. We shall assemble there, never to part again. You are not going to a strange country. Jesus awaits you. Also, you have many friends and loved ones there anticipating your arrival. You will greet spouse, friends, parents, brothers, sisters, children; and you shall know who they are.
Our identities are maintained in Heaven. Many “shall sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of Heaven” (MT 8:11). This indicates we will know which person is Abraham, which is Isaac, and which is Jacob. We know Moses and Elijah still bear their identity, because of their appearance on the Mount of Transfiguration.
We will know each other in Heaven, but this does not mean we will be in the same relationships to one another as we are now. We will all be fully brothers and sisters in Christ. I will no longer be married to Ruth, but this does not mean I will love her any less. Rather, I will love her and all the saints infinitely more.
Rev. 21:4d “. . .neither shall there be any more pain:”
No more stonings for the Apostle Paul, no more persecution for John Hus. The martyr who died singing in the midst of flames has been singing ever since in the midst of glory. All who have suffered for the Master shall be lifted from their pains. The sheep shall be divided from the goats. This total separation from wicked men shall enhance our bliss. Those of whom this world was not worthy shall someday come to a world worthy of them. There shall be no more pain. Our minds will be relieved of pressures. The furrows of worry will give way to a smooth brow. There will be no more loneliness for Lottie Moon, and no more mental agony and mental illness for William Carey’s wife.
There shall be no more pain in our bodies. The eyes of Adoniram Judson will never hurt again. David Brainerd will never again cough up blood. You shall leave behind the pains of over-exertion. Your toils will be over. There will be no Mondays in Heaven; every day will be the Lord’s Day, a sabbath day of rest. Leave behind your crutches, hearing aids, glasses, and pacemakers. They will not be needed in Heaven. Every ailment and source of discomfort shall no longer exist. There shall be no more pain.
Rev. 21:4e “. . .for the former things are passed away.”
This is John’s way of saying, “In case I forgot to mention something about which you are concerned or burdened, do not fear; it too shall be removed.” Heaven involves more than John could describe. Even under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, John’s pen proved itself to be inadequate when it came to detailing Heaven.
Richard Baxter wrote a book on Heaven, but confessed his inability to describe it adequately. Of his own efforts, Baxter said, “These are only tinklings compared with the full thunders of Heaven.” It is impossible for our minds to grasp it fully. Here we can only taste morsels of Heaven’s happiness, but there we shall swim in a sea of total bliss. Here we can only gaze over the hedge and catch an occasional glimpse of a flower; there we shall walk in the garden at will. Here we only see the city afar off; there we shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever (PS 23:6).
What will Heaven be like? It will be like the moments we share together celebrating the Lord’s meal. Those who miss our Lord’s Supper services are robbing themselves of an inestimable delight. In those services we commune as a whole more nearly with Jesus than at any other time. The Lord’s table lifts us so high that we sometimes feel as though we can see the gates of glory from it. At the Lord’s table we almost breathe the atmosphere of Heaven. At the Lord’s Supper there is a lack of pride and position among us. There is no bickering or rivalry. Everyone is awed before the Savior. The love we share there is a foretaste of our coming fellowship in Heaven.
What will Heaven be like? It will be like the most precious moments we have ever spent in prayer. It will be like the moments when you have enjoyed uninterrupted communion with God.
What will Heaven be like? It will be like the moment when a burden or care is suddenly lifted off your shoulders. It will be like the moment when you are reunited with a loved one. It will be like the overwhelming sense of satisfaction we enjoy when we have helped another.
What will Heaven be like? It will be greater than all of these examples put together. Imagination fails as we try to picture the joys of Heaven.
What will Heaven be like? You will never fully know unless you go there someday. Do not let yourself miss this blessed place. Christ has died and made every provision for you to go there. Receive Him and become a citizen of Heaven.