Biblical Doctrine, Plainly Stated


I. No man on earth knows much of heaven. Every living man is of the earth, earthy. None of us have ever seen any world but this. We are slow to believe spiritual truths relating to things that must be done on earth; much more are we dull of understanding in regard to the world of glory. So Jesus said: "If I have told you of earthly things, and you believe not, how shall you believe if I tell you of heavenly things?" John 3:12.

II. And yet there is much fellowship between heaven and earth. But it is chiefly kept up by the angels. The ladder on which Jacob saw the angels of God ascending and descending has never been taken away, though we see it not. Gen. 28:12. Jesus said no man has ascended up to heaven. John 3:13. He thus taught us that no man then on earth had been to that bright world, and brought back a report of what he had seen and heard.

III. After Christ said these things Lazarus spent about four days in heaven, and came back to this world. But we have not any account of what he learned by his short abode there. Paul had many visions of the heavenly world; but what he tells us is chiefly negative: "I heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter." 2 Cor. 12:1-7. When Paul says it was not lawful, he means that it was contrary to the divine will, that it was not edifying, or that he could not bring his mind to speak of heavenly things in any terms known to men. John also had many visions of glory; yet he too seems at a loss for words to give us an adequate idea of heaven.

IV. The Hebrews spoke of three heavens:

1. The atmospheric heavens—so we read of the fowls of heaven.

2. The firmament through which the stars pass—and so we read of the stars of heaven, or host of heaven.

3. The holy heaven, where God shows his glory to his children. This they called the third heaven, or the heaven of heavens, or simply heaven, or the heavens. Heavenly glory is spoken of as a crown, a crown of life, a crown of righteousness, an incorruptible crown, a crown of glory that fades not away. It is also called life, eternal life, everlasting life, a rest, glory, honor, immortality, a house not made with hands, our Father's house, the new heavens, the New Jerusalem, a heavenly country, a better country, etc. Of this blessed abode God's word tells us the following things:

V. Heaven is a place. Jesus says so: "I go to prepare a place for you." John 14:2. It must be a place; for there are the glorified bodies of Enoch, of Elijah, and of our Lord Jesus Christ.

VI. Heaven is a very large place. The largest walled city of antiquity was fifteen miles square. But this great city is said to be fifteen hundred miles square. Rev. 21:16. We may regard this as figurative language, but the lesson is that heaven is not a little retired place in some remote corner of the universe. It is the largest city ever built, the greatest country ever heard of.

VII. Heaven is a fixed place. It "has foundations, and its builder and maker is God." Heb. 11:10. The mountains shall melt, the sea be burnt up, the heavens pass away with a great noise, but heaven is as stable as the throne of God.

VIII. Negatively we know a good deal of heaven. "There shall in no wise enter into it anything that defiles, neither whatever works abomination, or makes a lie;" "there shall be no more curse;" "there shall be no night there;" "without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and idolaters, and whoever loves and makes a lie." Rev. 21:27; 22:3, 5, 15. The Lord Almighty will wipe away tears from off all faces, and forever take away the rebuke of his people; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain. Isaiah 25:8; Rev. 7:17; 21:4. And there shall be no more sea. Rev. 21:1. That is, there will be no longer any risk or difficulty in the saints having fellowship with each other; or there will be no more swelling troubles, rising tumults, which are often compared to raging waves of the sea.

IX. Great and good refreshments are there provided for the saints. There is the fountain of the water of life freely given to him that is athirst. Rev. 21:6. "He showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations." Rev. 22:1, 2.

X. Then the society of the holy city is the very best. It is made up of the nations of them that are saved. Rev. 21:24. Not a choice spirit of earth shall fail to be there. "It is not the will of your Father which is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish." Matt. 18:14. To these shall be joined the "elect angels," 1 Tim. 5:21, cherubim, seraphim, principalities, powers, all our elder brethren who kept their first estate.

XI. In heaven great advances shall be made in knowledge. How could it be otherwise? "Now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." 1 Cor. 13:12.

XII. The church shall then be very glorious. "The King's daughter is all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold. She shall be brought unto the King in raiment of needlework: the virgins her companions that follow her shall be brought unto you. With gladness and rejoicing shall they be brought: they shall enter into the King's palace." Psalm 45:13-15. Compare Eph. 5:25-27. All this well suits what John saw—the church prepared as a bride adorned for her husband—the Lamb's wife. Rev. 21:2, 9.

XIII. All Scripture represents the final state of the church as lovely and admirable. "The building of the wall of the city was of jasper: and the city was of pure gold, like unto clear glass. And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones." Much more is said to the same effect. See Rev 21:18-21.

XIV. Nothing can excel the blessed fellowship of the redeemed with God in glory. Even here it is very precious. 1 John 1:3. But there the "tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them and be their God." "And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it." Rev. 21:3, 22.

XV. Many Scriptures show that the Lord Jesus Christ is a very prominent object in heaven. He is the source of light and life and joy in that blessed world. There is a world of meaning in that one phrase, "The Lamb is the light thereof." Rev. 21:23. Compare John 14:3; 17:24; Phil. 1:23; 1 John 3:2; 1 Pet. 2:7. Without the presence of the glorified person of our Lord and Savior no place would be heaven.

XVI. Nor are God's children bold intruders into this heavenly bliss. They are welcome guests. They are not there in despite of truth and justice. They "have right to the tree of life," and so "enter in through the gates into the city." Rev. 22:14. Compare John 1:12; 1 John 1:9; Romans 10:4; Eph. 2:19, 21.

XVII. Let everyone ask himself the questions: "Am I a Christian? Am I fit for heaven? If I were to die to-day, would I go to Jesus?" If you are Christ's, you are living unto righteousness. Has he brought you unto God? Has he changed your heart? Has he redeemed you from all iniquity, and purified you unto himself as one of his peculiar people, zealous of good works? Tit. 2:14. "If any man have not the spirit of Christ he is none of his." Romans 8:9. "If you live after the flesh, you shall die: but if you through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, you shall live: for as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." Romans 8:13, 14. All others are vain pretenders.