The Journey of God's Ransomed People to Heaven
William Nicholson, 1862
"No lion will be there, nor will any ferocious beast get up on it; they will not be found there. But only the redeemed will walk there, and the ransomed of the LORD will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away!" Isaiah 35:9-10
It is a glorious privilege to have a saving interest in the Divine favor; for whatever be the toils of the Christian pilgrim, or the conflicts of the Christian warrior — God is his refuge, his present and his future salvation. The hope of victory animates the general in the midst of the contest; and the prospect of home comforts the pilgrim amidst the dangers of the journey.
The believer on earth is contending with enemies, numerous, powerful, and malicious; but he is animated with the hope of a most triumphant victory. He is a pilgrim surrounded by many dangers, and exposed to many storms — but he rejoices in the prospect of a glorious home — and that home is Heaven.
This chapter may refer to the prosperity of Hezekiah's kingdom, during the latter part of his reign; or to the return from the Babylonish captivity; but it is evident, from the peculiarity of the language, that there is a reference to the kingdom of Christ on earth, and in Heaven.
I. The Character of the People Who Journey to Heaven."The ransomed of the Lord." As they are now "ransomed," it implies,
1. They were once captives.All sinners are the captives of Satan, that formidable tyrant; he possesses their hearts, and keeps them in a state of dreadful, but voluntary bondage. "Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will." 2 Timothy 2:25-26.
They are slaves to their own corruptions and lusts, which like so many massive fetters, bind them fast, and they are "sold under sin." They dream of liberty, but are the worst of slaves! "making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" Romans 7:23-24
They are also prisoners to the Divine law, and justice demands their life as a sacrifice. A debt they owe which they cannot discharge, and a punishment is to be inflicted which they cannot endure. Captives are frequently put to death. "The soul that sins, shall surely die."
2. They could not ransom themselves.The price was too great for such insolvents to pay. Revelation 3:17.
3. It was the work of an Almighty Savior to ransom the captives.He alone could pay the price, even "the precious blood of Christ." Hence it is said, "He gave himself a ransom for many" etc. He is called the Redeemer, and his people the redeemed, Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14.
Remember, you ransomed ones, that your freedom was purchased by the amazing condescension, privations, sufferings, and death of the Lord Jesus. It was effected by him who "opens the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sat in darkness out of the prison-house." Isaiah 42; Luke 4:18.
4. They are ransomed to be the Lord's people.Now they are his property, his children, his servants, his jewels, his treasure. They are no longer slaves, but the Lord's freemen. They now love and serve him, and promote his glory. "Our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good!" Titus 2:13-14
II. The Nature of Their Journey."The ransomed of the Lord shall return."
1. They are enlightened to know and feel their state of captivity. They therefore long for deliverance.
2. They return to God by repentance and faith in Christ, the great Ransomer.
3. They unite with the Church of God — the Zion below. "They first give themselves to the Lord," etc. This is the source of joy. Hence their songs. So the Jailor and others rejoiced in God. The Eunuch went on his way rejoicing.
4. The ransomed of the Lord are journeying towards Heaven. "Shall return and come to Zion with songs." Zion is one of the names of Heaven. The Jewish temple being situated on Mount Zion, was so denominated; and even the worshipers were called Zion. Psalm 65:1; 84:7. Heaven will be the place of fellowship, of worship, etc. It is called Zion. See Hebrews 12:22; Revelation 14:1.
This is the place to which they are "journeying" — the "city of the living God;" the "heavenly Jerusalem;" the celestial temple of God. "We have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in Heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. 1 Peter 1:4
"And I saw no temple therein;" for it is one temple; the worshipers are unsectarian; they "are of one heart, one mind, one soul."
It is the land of immortality — where sickness shall never spread, languor or decay; over those heavenly mansions death will never hover, etc. etc.
5. They travel on, depending upon God. "The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me!" Galatians 2:20. They feel themselves weak, but they depend upon the promises. "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:9. "Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior!" Isaiah 43:1-3
6. They travel joyfully. "They will enter Zion with singing." Songs of grateful praise to their great Deliverer, and Conductor. Songs of confidence in his power, love Songs of joyful anticipation, and songs of ultimate triumph.
III. Its Blissful Termination."They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away!"
They shall certainly arrive in Heaven. "God, who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy!" Jude 1:24. "Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus!" Philippians 1:6. "I give them eternal life, and they will never perish — ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand!" John 10:28
They shall finish their course with joy. What a blissful termination! What are other journeys, enterprises, etc., compared with this? Ordinary travelers have accumulated treasures of silver, and gold, and jewels. But the termination of the Christian's course is not followed by such worthless trifles, but by "an exceeding and eternal weight of glory!" The text informs us,
1. Christian travelers shall receive a CROWN. "Everlasting joy upon their heads." The possession of an earthly crown is the source of joy. So the crown of life will afford joy in Heaven. They shall be made "kings and priests unto God," etc. Here on earth, they are counted as lowly and base, but there they will be recognized as the seed-royal of Heaven! Here they wear a crown of thorns — but there they will wear a diadem of glory!
It will be an incorruptible crown, not a fading laurel, etc. 1 Corinthians 9:25. No length of time will terminate the dominion of the saints, or tarnish the luster of their crowns. They shall reign forever and ever.
It is called a crown of righteousness, 2 Timothy 4:7. It was purchased by the righteousness of Christ, and is given, wholly for his sake, to none but the righteous. It has been honorably purchased for them, not by injustice, but by the death of Christ. "Mercy and truth met together." "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him!" James 1:12; Revelation 2:10.
It is a crown of life, meaning they shall never die!
It is a crown of gold, Revelation 4:4, to denote the priceless and lasting honor to which they will be advanced, and the superlative wealth of the kingdom which they will possess.
Hence the New Jerusalem, and all the streets of the Holy City are said to be of the purest and brightest gold, as it were transparent glass; and the elders around the throne have on their heads crowns of gold.
2. Christian pilgrims shall receive GREAT FELICITY. "They shall obtain joy and gladness;" arising from . . .
their arrival in glory,
their conquest over all their enemies,
the extension of their capacities,
the beatific vision of God,
the society of angels and perfected spirits, and
their progressive acquisition of Divine knowledge.
What sources of joy and gladness are here!
3. Christian pilgrims shall be perfectly and eternally exempt from all distress. "Sorrow and sighing shall flee away." This must be the case, if they wear crowns of joy, of life, of gold, etc.; if they see God, and are the companions of angels.
It must be the case, if they dwell in Heaven. No sigh, no groan was ever heaved, or heard there. No heart ever ached there. No soul was ever wrung with anguish there. No tears were ever wept there. "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away!" Revelation 21:4
There will be immortal health, therefore no dread of sickness or death.
There will be immortal wealth, and therefore no dread of poverty and want.
There will be perfect and eternal holiness, and therefore no dread of sin.
There will be everlasting security and salvation, and therefore no dread of Satan or Hell.
Every cloud has vanished — all darkness has rolled away; and the saints are perfectly happy in the inheritance of glorious light!
1. Christians, see your obligations to Christ. From him, all your present, and all your future happiness, is derived!
2. Let the hope of so much glory support you under the trials and difficulties of life. Rest and glory are before you.
3. Continue your pilgrimage; think of its end; prepare for it. You will soon arrive in eternal glory!