Pastor Cosand: March 2018
INSIDE THE GATES OF PEARL
the inexpressible glory of heaven
In John Bunyan's (1628-1688) The Pilgrim's Progress the two travelers, Christian and Hopeful, make their journey to the Celestial City. In Bunyan's allegorical style, the Celestial City is heaven. The description that comes from his pen is stirring to every heart that longs for that everlasting place. Christian and Hopeful are ushered to the gate of the City by two Shining Ones (angels) sent to see them across a great River, which is death. As they all approach the City, they talk about the wonders of the place they are going to.
"The talk that they had with the Shining Ones was about the Glory of the place, who told them, that the beauty and glory of it was inexpressible. . . . You are going now, said they, to the Paradise of God, wherein you shall see the Tree of Life, and eat of the neverfading Fruits thereof; and when you come there you shall have white Robes given you, and your walk and talk shall be every day with the King, even all the days of Eternity. There you shall not see again such things as you saw when you were in the lower region upon the earth, to wit, Sorrow, Sickness, Affliction, and Death, for the former things are passed away. You are going now to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and to the Prophets, men that God hath taken away from the Evil to come, and that are now resting upon their beds, each one walking in his Righteousness.
”The men then asked, 'What must we do in the Holy Place?' To whom it was answered, 'You must there receive the Comfort of all your Toil, and have Joy for all your Sorrow; you must reap what you have sown, even the fruit of all your Prayers and Tears, and Sufferings for the King by the Way. In that place you must wear Crowns of Gold, and enjoy the perpetual sight and vision of the Holy One, for there you shall see Him as He is. There also you shall serve Him continually with Praise, with Shouting, and Thanksgiving, whom you desired to serve in the World, though with much difficulty because of the Infirmity of your Flesh. There your eyes shall be delighted with seeing, and your ears with hearing the pleasant Voice of the Mighty One. There you shall enjoy your Friends again, that are gone thither before you; and thither you shall with joy receive even every one that follows into the Holy Place after you.
'There also you shall be clothed with Glory and Majesty, and put into an equipage [carriage] fit to ride out with the King of Glory. When he shall come with Sound of Trumpets in the Clouds, as upon wings of the Wind, you shall come with Him; and when He shall sit upon the Throne of Judgment, you shall sit by Him; yea, and when He shall pass Sentence upon all the workers of Iniquity, let them be Angels or men; you also shall have a voice in that Judgment, because they were His and your Enemies. Also when He shall again return to the City, you shall go too with sound of Trumpets, and be ever with Him.'"
Bunyan's depiction of the indescribable glory of heaven is thrilling, but there are Biblical passages which are also given to us to stir our souls. Heaven is a place where believers "rest from their labors" (Rev 14:13). How we long to be at such rest. How easily we get tired and how exhausted our fatigue can be. In the presence of God and for all eternity, there is rest from all our labors.
"And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them, and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away'" (Rev 21:3,4). No more pain, no more crying, no more heartache. How often have we laid awake at night with our hearts aching over some trouble, some complicated pressure, or some sickness of our own or of someone we love. How have we wept over the death of someone we lived with and loved?
There is no night in heaven (Rev 21:25) because God is light. There is no need to close the gates (Rev 21:25), because there is no crime. There is no crime because there is no sin there … no hatred, no adultery, no murder, no horrors on the news reports, no wars, no famine, no neglected babies, no battered wives, no gossiping, no hurt feelings, no terrorists, no drug dealers, no pride. God is supremely holy and His holiness will have consumed sin and judged those who have refused Him. Heaven is perfection because of God.
Puritan pastor Richard Baxter (1615-1691) wrote what has become a Christian classic on heaven entitled The Saints' Everlasting Rest. His encouragement to believers is this: "... take your heart to task, chide it for its willful strangeness to God, turn your thoughts from the pursuit of vanity, bend your soul to study eternity, and busy it about the life to come . . . you will find yourself in the suburbs of heaven, and that there is, indeed, a sweetness in the work and way of God, and that the life of Christianity is a life of joy. You will meet with those abundant consolations which you have prayed for and groaned after, and which so few Christians do ever here obtain."
Our Father has pulled back the curtain of mystery and given us a glimpse of the inexpressible glories of heaven in order to inflame our hearts with hope.
Longing, with you, for the eternal day,