Heaven: A Prepared Place for a Prepared People
"Let not your heart be troubled: believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I come again, and will receive you unto myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And whither I go, you know the way. Thomas says to him, Lord, we know not whither you go; how know we the way? Jesus says to him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no one comes unto the Father, but by me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also: from henceforth you know him, and have seen him. Philip says to him, Lord, show us the Father, and it suffices us. Jesus says to him, Have I been so long time with you, and do you not know me, Philip? he that has seen me has seen the Father; how say you, Show us the Father? Believe you not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I say to you I speak not from myself; but the Father abiding in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake."
Please join me in prayer. O Lord, I have no desire to stand before your people in my own strength, not only because I have none but because I do not desire to short circuit the way that you have been pleased to appoint by which you would save your people and bring them to glory. Lord, I would pray that you would use me in spite of my sins, that you would cover me and make the people to see yourself. And I would ask you that you would now have compassion on those that are hardly concentrating some who wasted their afternoons, some who have not thought yet in the worship of God that they were worshipping God, others who long to know you but struggle with a cold heart, some who pray and seek you and have trouble in this world, others who delight in you and need a word from you again, and some who labor under distress and troubled hearts. Lord, would you give power to your Word and bring it to the hearts of us needy people? Use your appointed instrument in your great mercy and look upon us with favor through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen.
It's a good thing that the apostles were of such stuff as to be able to be troubled men. They weren't perfect. Otherwise we might not have these wonderful encouraging words in our Bible. But the apostles knew what it meant to be discouraged and troubled and disquieted.
In chapter 13, that last night when the Devil himself, at that supper, entered into Judas and carried him into the betrayal of his Redeemer, his Lord, the Lord's apostles were all sitting there. They were wondering if it were to be them who would betray Him when they said, "Is it I?" Then the Lord discourses to them what's about to happen in His glorification, in His coming out as a Redeemer and being revealed as the Savior of the world. He commands them to love one another. Then in verse 36: "Simon Peter says to him, Lord, where are you going? Jesus answered, Where I'm going, you cannot follow me now; but you shall follow me afterwards. Peter says to him, Lord, why cannot I follow you even now? I will lay down my life for you. Jesus answered, Will you lay down your life for me? Verily, verily, I say to you, The cock shall not crow, till you have denied me three times." It was on the heels of that little interview that our Lord looks at the apostles and says, "Let not your heart be troubled."
The apostles were troubled. They were distressed. And a good thing it is that our Lord Jesus takes no delight in the disquietude of His people! He is concerned for them even though this trial was His trial, and He was entering into the hour in which He was to be marred beyond the visage of any, in which He would be known as a Man of Sorrows in fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah in the Old Testament, in an hour in which He was to sweat blood and, finally, to shed His blood on the cross, to have men's spit rolling down His cheeks, plucking out His beard, placing a mock crown of thorns upon His brow, punishing Him with words and with nails. Our Lord, in this hour of pressure and great struggle and great trial and great distress, is concerned about them and their troubled hearts. Instead of saying, "Notice me. Don't you men understand what I'm bearing already for you? Don't you know what I'm going through?" He looks at them and says, "Let not your hearts be troubled." You see, it's the spirit of a Christian, it's the spirit of every loving parent, every loving spouse, every loving pastor that says when he's in trouble, "What will my sorrow and my trial do to those who look to me?" He's as concerned, or more concerned, about what his problems will do to others as he is about what they do to him. The mature Christian is a person who does not first think of himself, but of others. Our Lord is our example here.
Pray tell, would any of you, going through what He was now going through, having just been betrayed by a trusted follower, think what this trial is about to do to others and be more concerned about that than yourself? I doubt it. But let me say as a pastor to a growing church and a young church, the mark of maturity is when you quit living for yourself. The proof of that is when it doesn't occur to you first what you're going through, but it occurs to you what others around you are going through. When you seek not your own things but the things of others, that's love. That's the mark of a maturing Christianity. So I would show you our Lord's example, who does not delight in the disquietude of His people, who takes notice of them, and then comes to meet the need.
The disciples were disquieted because the Lord was going to die. That scared them. They could not see when He prophesied His death and resurrection. All they could see was the Son of David being killed, and that was contradictory to their expectation. It bothered them. And Simon Peter rebuked that language back in Matthew 16 when he said, "Lord, be it far from you that this should happen, that you should be delivered up into the hands of sinful men and killed. Don't let it happen." And the Lord addressed him as he deserved to be addressed, "Get thee behind me, Satan: you savor not the things that are of God, but the things that be of men."
The apostles couldn't comprehend how He would die. They didn't understand why He would die. They didn't see the need for His death. But even in that, Peter, in John 13:37 says (anticipating, perhaps that He was about to be arrested and die), "I will lay my life down for you. If you're about to get in trouble, I want to be there. I'm yours all the way. No chance I'll leave you. Why can't I go where you're going? I'm true to you." Then the Lord, in His piercing way, revealed the truth. And I believe they had enough experience with Him that they believed He knew what He was saying when He said, "You're going to deny me before the rooster crows in the morning. Before the sun comes up in the morning, you're going to deny me. It's late night already. You think you're true? You just have a few hours before you're going to deny that you know me." That distressed Peter and the others, no doubt.
Isn't it disquieting when you fail? Or when you think you're going to fail? When it's revealed that you heart's not what you thought it was? One of the most difficult and painful experiences of my life has occurred in the last ten years as an adult who ought to be in the fruit of his manhood, to become aware of what a sinner I am. The longer I grow and the more I read, the more vile my heart becomes to me. The more discouraged I become with what I am. I used to think I would be righteous by this time.
I remember a time when I thought a forty-three-year-old Christian would be greatly gigantic in his purity and holiness. And now at forty-three, I can't believe how naive I was about what my heart really had in it. Things in my heart I never knew I had come out now. Vileness, that I never thought capable in my own soul, comes out in my thoughts and in my words and in my life. I fail in places I never thought I would fail. I'm not saying that to you who may look at that and say, "Oh, I thought my pastor was an example." Well, I trust that I am. And I trust that the failings and the foolishness and the sins are not so blatant and so characteristic that there is not overshadowed in that the grace of Christ. But I also trust that you are mature enough in yourself to identify with what I'm saying and understand by your Bible that the older a Christian gets, and the more he grows in grace, the less he thinks of himself and the more he longs for his Savior and the righteousness of Another. It's a disquieting thing to think that I'm going to deny the Lord.
Sometimes we're disquieted at the failings of others. Some of us are disquieted at the tenor of our own times. How could it be that God's precious Son is going to be killed? What kind of world is it? What kind of man is this Judas? What kind of people would pay him to betray the Lord? How could it get to this? Aren't you disquieted sometimes when you think of what's around you and what's going on? Sometimes it's amazing that it hasn't all fallen apart already. Sometimes we just live on the brink and wonder at the restraining grace of God that the world has not already caved in.
The fact that we have the liberties we have today, the fact that we have the joys we have today in the face of the wretchedness of our times troubles us. Sometimes we're troubled by the way our friends and our family and those that work with us think and live. The Bible says, "It is time for thee, O Lord, to work, for they make void thy law." In Psalm 119:136 the psalmist says, "Streams of water run down my eyes, because they observe not thy law." There's a disquieting. There's a troubling in the hearts of God's people for various reasons. Whether it's their own corruption, whether it's the thought of their own impending failure, whether it's the fear of what the dawn will bring, whether it's the disquieting of the tenor of their times, the Lord sees them and understands they're troubled.
So the Lord ministers to them. He gives them an exhortation, "Let not your heart be troubled." He doesn't just say, "Don't act like you're troubled." He doesn't say, "Put on a happy face." He doesn't say, "Be happy as best you can." He doesn't say, "Pretend to be doing OK." He says, "Let not your heart be troubled." He gives an exhortation that expects that we are able and responsible to regulate the innermost part of our being so that it knows no disquieting.
Now some of us don't believe that's possible. We've never experienced the rule of our own hearts. We don't know what it means for the peace of God to govern and rule and guard and umpire our hearts. We don't know that. We can't imagine such a thing. But the Lord says to us, "Let not your heart be troubled." Don't let it happen. Rule your heart. Don't let it be troubled. Whatever the trouble, don't let it be troubled.
He gives them some reason for it. You see, that's the good thing about the passage. Not only does He exhort His disciples, He speaks truth. And with every exhortation, brethren, we ought to discipline ourselves to bring truth with it. Don't just tell people what they ought to do. Give them a foundation for why they ought to do it and how they can do it. Call their minds to the attention of the truths of God. Don't just lecture, but lecture with a purpose and with truth undergirding everything you say. Teach your children why they ought to do what they do and why they can expect a reward at the end for doing what they ought to do. Our Lord understands that principle, as we've seen it in Revelation chapter 3 in the letters to the churches. He anticipates the weaknesses. He gives promises to churches that are scared, that are under trouble and temptation. He says to them things that will help them obey His exhortation.
So we have here rational support given with the command not to be troubled. Rational support. There is a good reason for you not to be troubled. "I'm going to help you get your heart untroubled." And here is how He does it. He says, "You believe in God, believe also in me. I'm going to go away. I'm going to come again. I'm going to go away and prepare a place for you. I'm going to come again. You believe in God, believe in me as you believe in God."
So He's directing their attention at some theology which, if they believe it and if they embrace it, will remove the trouble from their hearts. Their temporal trouble will be swallowed up with an eternal perspective. He knows that it is cursed for a man to put his trust in man and to make flesh his arm, and knowing that He says to them, "Believe in me." Here's the Son of David, born of a woman, born of the flesh, who says to men, "Believe in me," knowing that it's a curse for a man to put his trust in the arm of flesh or to look to man. So what is the Lord saying? Knowing that if you trust in a man, you're cursed, but He says to them, "Believe in me." He says it three times in this chapter. In verse 1 He says, "You believe in God, believe also in me." In verse 11, two times He says it, "Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake." "Believe in me." "Believe me." "Believe me."
What does that mean? Why would He ask them to believe Him and to believe in Him, unless He considered Himself to be somewhat more than flesh and man? "Cursed is he that puts his trust in man and leans on the arm of flesh." And our Lord, who authored that Scripture, says, "Believe in me." Well the reason He says it is that He understands who He is. He says, "You believe in God, believe also in me." In the same way you believe in God, and for the same reason you believe in God, "believe in me." He's simply saying, "I'm God. You may trust in me, God. Believe me the way you believe God, because that's who I am. The Father and I are one. If you've seen me, you've seen the Father. How long have I been with you and you don't understand yet?"
Two of these fellows had trouble with this. "We don't know the way. What are you talking about? Show us the Father, and it will be enough for us." "How long have I been with you, and you haven't seen me and known me?" "Show us the Father." "Philip, don't you know me?" "I want to see the Father." "You know me, Philip. You've seen the Father. You know the Father."
As we read in Colossians this morning, this is the express image of the invisible God. The Lord Jesus is God's icon. There is no other. He is the image of the invisible God. As Mr. Spurgeon said, "We should believe now in the absent and invisible Christ that He is still as mighty as though we could see Him walking the waves or multiplying the loaves, or healing the sick or raising the dead." We need to learn in our own time and our own day that the Lord Jesus is one on whom we may believe, as we believe on God. As you believe in the God whose attributes we've been learning about, you're to believe in Jesus. Is God independent? So is the Lord Jesus. Is God omniscient?
The Lord Jesus is omniscient. He knows you. He knows all about it. Is God omnipresent? The Lord Jesus, by His Spirit, is omnipresent. By Him all things hold together, do they not? Every atom in the universe clings to all of its atomic neighbors by whom? By the Lord Jesus who is present there, holding them together. You say, "I don't understand that." Neither do I! But it's the testimony of Scripture. Is God omnipotent? Can He do anything? Can He deliver anybody from any situation? Does He have enough power to save you from all your sins even the remaining ones that seem to be nagging you after you first believed? Then believe in Jesus; He has the same power. Is God sovereign? Is He able to carry out all His will? Then believe in Jesus; He's sovereign. "As you believe in God, Believe also in me." Is God good? Does God long to bless His people? Does God welcome sinners who come with nothing in their hands, but filth and need and a request for mercy? Then Jesus does, too. "As you believe in God, believe also in me." Is God righteous? Will He make a mistake? Will He judge wrongly? Will He forget justice? No! Neither will Jesus. Is God gracious and filled with lovingkindness? So is the Lord Jesus. "You believe in God, believe also in me." He is able. He does know. He is faithful. "You believe in God, believe also in me."
But, you see, that's not all He says to them. Now, that would be plenty, and we could dwell on that for a month. But He says something else. He says, "I'm going away, but I'll come again. And I'll come again to receive you to myself; that where I am, there you may be also." Not only does He tell us to believe in Him, but He tells us that He's about to do something. He's going to leave. And when He leaves, He's going to do something. He's going to be preparing a place for us. He gives us a statement in verse 2. "In my Father's house are many mansions [or dwelling places, rooms, abiding places, many]; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you." The Lord Jesus encourages their hearts not only by saying, "Believe in me," but "Believe in me, who is about to go do something that should remove your troubles. Let not your heart be troubled. Even though I'm leaving." We see in later parts of this section of John's Gospel that they are going to be sad because He's away. But He won't leave them orphans. He'll send another Comforter, and He'll come to them. And later He'll come again. Don't be sad. The day will come when you'll rejoice. And here in the introduction to that section, He tells them, "I am coming again." But in the meantime, "The reason I'm going (don't miss it) is to prepare a place for you. I'm not leaving and forgetting you. I'm not going to do something else with somebody else that doesn't relate to you. The whole purpose I'm going is to finish something for you that I've begun. I'm going to prepare a place for you. Let not your heart be troubled." What appears to be utter failure and disaster is not that at all. "I'm going through the path of the cross (and no other way could I do this) to prepare a way and a place for you."
Now what I want us to concentrate on is heaven, the prepared place. First, this prepared place is great and glorious. How do we know? Well, because when the Lord sets out to build it, He does not appoint an angel or a group of angels to do it. He does not collect all the architects of heaven. He does it Himself. "I go to prepare a place for you." The place that is being prepared for you who believe on Christ is of such magnitude and of such glory that none other than God, the Son, is capable of preparing it. "I go to prepare a place." What kind of Jesus do you have? What kind of place would you expect Him to build and prepare? It's going to be great and a glorious and a noble and a vast and an overwhelming place, because nobody but Jesus is qualified to build it. "I go to prepare a place for you. I go." We look for a city which has foundations whose builder and maker is God. We're not impressed by the city built by man. We look for a city that God is building. And the city will reflect the massive, overwhelming, awesome skill and beauty and symmetry and power and capacity of God.
Somebody asked Bunyan what heaven looks like. He asked a question about heaven that wasn't in the Scripture, and Bunyan responded by saying, "That's something I can't answer; it's not in the Bible. So you live holy and go see." Part of this doctrine we don't understand. I don't know much about heaven. I can't describe it other than from revelation, and that's a very mysterious description. But it appears to me that it's going to be grander than anything I ever thought about. I'll tell the children, "Whatever it is, it's greater than anything you've ever seen yet." And then their eyes begin to look off in that distance and try to comprehend what that might mean. Their little minds can think so far, but not very much further. But you see what that does? It puts it out there so they have to look to God to get that answer. It's beyond them. It makes heaven worth pursuing. It's a place that I can hardly wait to see because it's the grandest thing that you've ever seen. The Lord Jesus is building it, after all! Would I insult Him by saying, "I don't expect this to be a big deal"? You'd better, because look who's doing it. "I go to prepare a place for you."
The second thought: it's a place well done and suitable to those who will inhabit it. It will be well built and suitable. The Lord says, "I go to prepare a place for you." Not just any old place, but a place fitted to you. He knows your needs. He knows your capacities. He knows all there is to know. He's going to prepare a place for you.
Do you know how to buy a gift for someone? You know the kind of gifts that are appreciated the most are those appropriate gifts that nobody but the closest and most thoughtful friend or family or loved one would think to get. Not a tie. Not another splash of cologne. Now, that's fine, and we appreciate it. But it's those special things that that one person you know really appreciates, and you select the one thing most appropriate. And they delight in it. It may not even have any monetary value. They may not be able to wear it or smell it. But they'll prize it, and they'll place it someplace special. And every time they see it, their heart will be warmed to the person who gave it because the person understood.
When you invite somebody into your home, you want to find out what they like to eat. You better want to find out. If you're a good hostess or host, you ought to ask. "Is there anything you can't eat? Anything you're allergic to? What's your favorite food?" I delight in asking that question. Now, my wife's not always excited when I ask that because it means we'll have to go out and get something else and change . . . But I like to ask, "Is there anything you just love to eat" And then she has to learn to cook it. But a good hospitality involves thinking what this particular person specifically loves and appreciates and would find to be very comforting and encouraging and happy-ing, and provide it. Find the bed that's best and give it to them. Find the food that they like and prepare it for them. Look at Abraham who entertained the angels unawares running out and getting the calf and killing and preparing . . . Wait. Wait. Wait. Kneeding bread and taking care of them. You get the impression the guy just can't do enough for these fellows. Not yet knowing he's entertaining angels. Doing his best. And we're told to do that.
Well, that's the way the Lord thinks of us. He loves you. And love involves understanding you and wanting to meet your particular, peculiar needs. He loves all of us. Yes. And He's preparing a place adequate for all of us together. But He also loves each of us, and He's preparing a place for each of you. "There are many abiding places in my Father's house. I'm going to prepare a place for you." I'm anxious about that. I'm looking forward to that. I can't believe that the God of heaven has committed Himself now, in my time frame at least about 2,000 years so far from my vantage point. To God that's nothing. I don't understand all this, but it's taken Him this long so far. Maybe that has nothing to do with it, but I don't understand that He didn't mean that He's going to be preparing until He comes back. I've got the impression this thing is going to blow our minds. And He's doing it so that every little piece of furniture (if we may put it this way) and every particle of food in the fridge and every . . . It's going to be just what you particularly need in your soul and for your good. And it will be such that you will be able to delight in it for all eternity. It will have all the variety you need. I can't even talk about this. I don't even have the words. I'm ashamed to try to describe it.
But, you see what we're saying? "I'm going to prepare a place for you." Not just a place, and I invite you if you'd like to come by and stay, fine. It's not just a line of motel rooms that lots of different people find half-way enjoyable as they go on their travels. This is a place designed particularly for you. That makes heaven precious to me. It will have the mark of my loving Redeemer on it, who was thinking of me when He made the thing. I don't believe we can denigrate Christ's motives and make it less than that. I think that's intrinsic in what He's saying. "I'm going to prepare a place for you." Looks to me like He's up to something wonderful, brethren. You're not going to believe it when you see it. Except for your glorification, you wouldn't believe it. I don't even want you to think that it's relegated to some little room someplace with a few pieces of furniture. Our imagination can't carry us to what He's doing here. But I'm just using that illustration that what really delights you is when you go to a place, and they've prepared it for you.
Remember Elijah had that little spot, that little room that the lady, the widow and her son had for him. And every year he went there and stayed there. They had the room all set up. They had a little candle for him. Had a bed. Had a chair. A place for him to study. And a spot for Elijah to pray. Took care of him. Special for him. They knew what he needed. They set it up just for him. What an honor that is to the man of God! What a privilege it was for those people. And what a blessing came upon their home because of those visits.
The Lord Jesus is thinking that way to us. It seems to be turned around backwards, doesn't it? We ought to be preparing a place for Him. When He came to visit us, we put Him in a cave, in straw. We go to visit Him, big, different picture. We're not going to be relegated to the straw. And we're not going to hear the words, "There's no room for you." We're going to be welcomed, taken to the place prepared for us and given glory forever. I won't say any more, but to say that when He died for me because He loved me, He planned to prepare a place for me. And for you. I hope you can meditate on that some time. And enjoy that.
Third, it's a real place, a location, a site. How do I know that? He says, "I'm going to go to prepare a place for you." Three things give me a hint. There are others, but these things occurred to me. Think about this. I think it's a place because of the nature of the One that's preparing it. He is God. But He is man. There is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus. He is in glorified humanity. The resurrected body of Jesus had a bite of honeycomb, I believe, and some broiled fish after the resurrection. I think that the Lord Jesus said, "Look and see the wound in my side and in my hands, Thomas, and in my feet." There's something corporeal here. There's a body here. And that body is out someplace preparing a place. So His nature, as my divine/human Redeemer implies to me that there's a place that He's building.
In the second place, though, also the nature of them for whom He's preparing it. We are not to be disembodied spirits for eternity, floating on clouds. If that were the case, the disembodied spirits who were already in heaven with God in bliss when Jesus made this statement, there would have been nothing else to prepare. I don't believe that He's talking about an ethereal nothing. I don't believe we're talking of Nirvana here which is literally nothingness. I believe we're talking about a place for glorified bodies. Your body, this body, this vile body, is going to be fashioned like unto His glorious body. And there's a place being prepared for that glorified body to dwell properly and appropriately and happily forever. Instead of thinking "Well, a place for a body would be limited. I'd rather think of the spiritual and not limit it," think of it rather that a place Jesus prepares for a glorified body must be glorious. Because it's a place that's suited for a body like unto His glorious body. It expands my imagination a bit about what heaven's going to be like. It's going to be fitting and appropriate and plenty challenging for the likes of a glorified body . . . our whole redeemed humanity.
The cosmological goal of our redemption. Cosmological. Children, have you ever heard the word cosmos? That means the world. All the world: the stars, the heavens, the earth. The cosmos. And when we use the term cosmological, we're talking about the universe. The worlds that God has made. The whole cosmos. Well, the goal of redemption, as I read it in my Bible, is cosmological. Turn with me in your Bibles to Romans chapter 8. (We'll not take the time to look at Isaiah. But Isaiah has prophesied as much when he speaks of a new heaven and a new earth which the Lord will build.) But in Romans 8:19 and following we read something of the redemptive goal of Christ's sufferings. "The earnest expectation of the creation waits for the revealing of the sons of God." Now why does the creation wait for the revealing of the sons of God? That's to happen at the second coming of Christ. Why does the creation wait for that? Well, he says, "For the creation was subjected to vanity." Now why was the creation subjected to vanity? We know that happened in the fall. "Not of its own will." It wasn't the creation's desire that it be subject to vanity, vanity being another word for corruption, perishability. In other words, everything the creation does ends up in death. It's the cycle of destruction and death and corruption. It's a vain thing. It has no long term end. It's just a cycle. And, see, those in the orient who can't see Biblical truth and see beyond and see the eternity of God, they get hung up on that. And their whole thinking of life is cyclical. Their religion is cyclical. That's where reincarnation originates, from a cyclical view of history. You come in one form. You change forms. And you cycle through again. Recycling. Well, that's not what we believe. We don't believe in recycling people. We believe in resurrecting people. They are one kind of thing, and then they are something else. They don't come back and gradually move up the ladder to nothingness. The Biblical doctrine is that people are resurrected. But also the creation. Now "the creation has been subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but by reason of him who subjected it." God subjected the creation to vanity "in hope." And what's the hope? God has subjected creation to vanity in hope. The creation has hope. What's the hope? "That the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation [the cosmos] groans and travails in pain together until now." Well, what's it groaning about? It's vanity. It's corruption. What's the pain? It's inability to free itself of the bondage of its perishing. Even we, the apostle says, "who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for" something much better than what we have in this life. We have the Holy Spirit, and yet there is something better. This isn't all that we're looking for. It's not enough in this world to walk with the Lord. That's precious, and for me to live is Christ. But to die is gain! It's better beyond corruption. And the whole creation is groaning and travailing together in pain. But it's in pain that's covered with hope. Because, see, when God has finished the work of redemption through His Son, the whole creation is going to have been redeemed.
Now don't say it's going to be free because it will be obliterated. It won't be any more. Matter will be non-existent. No, no, no, no. What kind of liberation is that? The whole problem is that creation which was made in the beginning to the glory of God and suffered in the fall of man is to expect to be restored in the restoration of man. The creation is groaning together under vanity, waiting for something to happen that will free it from its corruption. Annihilation is not freedom from corruption; it's the ultimate corruption. It's the ultimate disintegration. That's not what creation is hoping for. Creation is waiting with a certain confidence, because God has promised it that the lasting fruit of the blood of the Son of God will be that the stars and the moon and the sun and the atoms and the fruit trees and everything that's supposed to flourish and prosper somehow, in a way we cannot understand, is going to experience the redemptive glory of the sons of God. It will be the creation which will be (TURNED TAPE OVER) ...fied bodies to live in and enjoy.
So the Biblical terminology of eating leaves for healing, eating fruit of trees that are multiplied with all manner of good food to keep people living and thriving, water of life flowing from the throne of God. Be careful. We're not trying to make this some crassly carnal thing. On the other hand, we don't want to get it so out there in a nether nether land that we forget that in this creation that's fallen is redemption. And God's going to redeem the whole creation. I do still believe that there's going to be something of a glorified or blessed animal order. I won't be surprised at something of Isaiah's intent when the ox and the lamb and the lions and the bears all function together. That's a description of a redeemed cosmos. I'm not going to fight it. If God does that in some other way than I . . . But, brethren, it looks to me like when these little children who say, "Daddy, will there be puppies in heaven?", it looks to me like that's not an idle question. I won't have to have puppies in heaven to make me happy. But I expect that somehow the whole creation, that has suffered in the fall, will be blessed in the restoration. And because of that, I think heaven is a place.
Or let me put it this way, so we won't confuse the terms. The thing Jesus is preparing for us is a place. Now it may be a place so much vaster than anything we ever saw that we can hardly call it a place, but it's a place. Is that important? Well, I think it is. It has an affect on the way I treat my body in this life. Because this body is marked for glory. It's the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. It's not to be discarded and negated and abused and treated like nothing. Christ died for this body. So respect this body. Don't stick stuff in it that's not supposed to be in it. Don't let your children put stuff in it that's not supposed to be in it. Treat it right. Don't use it in a way it's not supposed to be used. Don't use your body parts in ways in which they weren't designed because your body is headed for a place that Jesus is preparing for it.
This creation will be there. But it will be different. It will be this creation incorruptible. When the elements melt with a fiery heat and all of it is dissolved, it's not to be annihilated (we understand by the text); it's to be renovated. And for that reason, I believe it will be a place.
Fourth, it's a sweet and wonderful place. You know why? Turn with me to John 17. I submit to you that it's not because of the perfect furnishings. And it's not because of its vastness and greatness. And it's not because it's a place. All that's part of it, but without this feature, none of that makes any sense. None of that will be blissful. In John chapter 17, verse 24, "Father, [our Lord prays] I desire [or I will] that they also whom you have given me be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory, which you have given me: for you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world knew you not, but I knew you; and these knew that you did send me; and I made known unto them your name, and will make it known; that the love wherewith you loved me may be in them, and I in them." The Lord said, "I go to prepare a place for you. And if [and that word means since] I go and prepare a place for you, I come again, and will receive you unto myself; that where I am, there you may be also."
The thing that makes heaven sweet and wonderful is that Jesus will be there! That's what makes it precious. We love Him. We want to see Him. We long to know Him and to enter into the love with which the Father has loved Him from eternity. That's what He's praying for that we may be one as the Father is in Him and He in us, that we may be one in Him. I don't understand all that. But our Lord is going to make heaven sweet and wonderful. It's not just that the place is there; it's who is going to be there. "I'm going to bring you to myself; that where I am, there you may be also." You see the enlightened and mature saint desires nothing other and better than that. Once the Lord says "that where I am, you may be," that's enough for the saint. That's all he needs to hear. No more troubling of the heart. No more problem. Whatever happens between now and then, just knowing, forever I'm going to be where You are, that's all I need.
Our little ones go through that crisis, don't they? When they don't want to be anywhere but where Mama is. That can make life very difficult for Mama. She can hardly ever leave the house for a certain period. They want Mama. We want Jesus. Our heavenly nurse. Our sufficient God, El Shaddai. We want to be where He is. Because Jesus is there, that makes it heaven.
But fifth, it is a certain and a sure place. There's no question that it's going to be there when we get there. The Lord said, "If it were not so, I would have told you." He knows what we're thinking. How do I know? This sounds nice, but it's hard to believe. You're going to die. The Hope of Israel is going to get killed. That does not forbode well. We're going to die. How do we know? Because "If it weren't that way, I would have told you." You see, there's a lot the Lord hasn't told us. And everything He has hidden, He's hidden it for our good. The reason He didn't tell us is because we didn't need it.
And some of it, if He had told us, would have ruined us. But He has not omitted anything that we needed to hear. He has told us what we needed. If this weren't true, He would have told us. He has no tricks at the end. There are no shocking turn of events at the end of it all. The Lord's not going to change His mind. We aren't going to get there, having loved the Bible, searched the Scripture, longed for heaven, and get there and have the Lord show up with a trick in His hands and say, "Ah, it wasn't what I told you to expect. I didn't mention this?" This is not Holiday Inn, folks. This is not some motel chain that advertises in the national scene, but in the local motel it doesn't show up the way it did on TV. There are no surprises here. "If it were not so, I would have told you."
The Lord anticipates the possibility that we might think, "How do I know?" The Lord is not going to lead us to suffer through this world, to take a stand for the truth, and be persecuted and slandered for it, to do without certain benefits and extras in the church because of the truth, only to find in the end that there's no reward and honor for it and that He didn't have a place for us. That's not our Lord. "If it were not so, I would have told you." That ought to settle it. "Let not your heart be troubled . . . I would have told you if it weren't so. I'm going to prepare a place for you."
You see, there are two things here. We can be certain and sure of this heaven because of His own divine integrity. He cannot lie. "You believe in God, believe also in me." It's impossible for Him to lie. "I would have told you the whole truth. I would have said to you there's not anything at the end of this for you. If that were the case, I would have told you up front." It's not His style. It's not His way to trick His people. He withholds some things from them, but none of those things withheld, in the withholding, hurt them. His own divine integrity gives us the certainty that He is preparing a place for us. He cannot lie. He said, "I go to prepare a place for you."
But also, His own proven record. When has He ever lied to you? I challenge you with that because some people live as though the Lord hasn't been trustworthy. You stand, and you tell us when Jesus has lied to you. That's a big order, is it not? You can't do it. You're scared to do it. You know the consequences of such an attitude. The Lord's never lied. You have His integrity; you have His track record.
By way of application, there really is no comfort in all these words of our Lord if you're unsure that heaven is your destiny. He can say, "I go to prepare a place for you," but if you don't think you're going, it doesn't help your heart any, does it? The troubles of your life are not going to disappear when Jesus Christ, 2,000 years ago says to a few disciples words that find their way into a Book that we read and believe, it's not going to mean much to you if you're not sure you're going. Right? No comfort in these words if you are not among the "you" to whom Christ addresses these words. When He says "I go to prepare a place for you," do you hear? Do you hear Him speaking to you? Do you trust that Jesus means that with you? You little children, do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ? Do you believe that He's preparing a place for all of you who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ? He's not going to lie to you. He's not going to deceive you. But if you don't believe in Him, there's no comfort here. How can I know that it's this man for whom He's preparing a place? That my name can be put in the place of the "you" here? That I fit? And that He's preparing a place for me? Well, just one way. You know it if you are on the way to that place. He said, "The way you know. I'm going to prepare the place. You know how to get there. You know the road." Thomas says, "What? I don't know the way. Show us the way." "I am the way. You know the way."
Well, it means two things at least, if you're on the way. Being on the way means, in the first place, that you are in Jesus Christ who is the way. In other words, you have a definite faith in the narrow and restricted entrance and road to glory which is Jesus Christ. You believe from your heart that He is the only Savior. You believe from your heart that He is absolutely the Lord. You are ruled gladly by Christ, His Word, His law. You love it, and you want to believe and follow it. You have no problem with His sovereignty over you.
You believe also that He is an able Savior. You believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. The way you know that He's speaking to you when He says, "I'm going to prepare a place for you," is that you believe in Him as you believe in God. Do you believe in the God that made the world? Jesus Christ made the world. The worlds were made by Him, and nothing that was made was made without Him. Do you believe in the God that saves sinners? Jesus Christ saves sinners. You see, if you have seen Him, you have seen the Father. If you believe on Him, you're on the way to heaven because He is the way to heaven. It's that simple. Are you in Christ? Are you trusting Christ? Are you depending on Christ? Are you looking to Christ? Do you not trust yourself? Do you know you're a sinner?
One of my children interrupted me last night at 9 o'clock in the study (supposed to be asleep). I said, "What are you doing?" He said, "I've been sitting on the stairs thinking about how great my sin is." Well, I had to redirect him. I had to say, "Wonderful! But let's think of something else, too. Think of how much greater your Savior is. God has shown you something of your sin." (And he was specific.) "Now, let's look at your Savior. Do you believe you can save yourself from your sins?" "No, no, no." "Do you believe Jesus can?" "Yes, yes, yes." "You're on the way to heaven if you believe that from the heart." I didn't grant assurance. God, the Spirit, does that. You're on the way to heaven if you believe that in your heart. If you lean on Christ in your heart, knowing you're a sinner, you're in the way to heaven.
But the second aspect of being on the way is that heaven is your highest desire. What I mean by that is heaven as it is in all of its fullness is your highest desire. Some people desire heaven above hell. But they don't desire heaven above earth. It's not hard to rather be in heaven than to be in hell. But for some it's very difficult to wish they were in heaven instead of in the earth. There's nothing in hell they want, but there is a lot in the world they want. You see, in order to know you're on the way, you have to be able to discern in your heart a good measure of a hope that you will, indeed, live in heaven as heaven is constructed. As William Gurnall said, "There's nothing more contrary to a heavenly hope than an earthly heart." The apostle Paul said that the Lord, "the righteous judge has a crown of life waiting for me and not to me only, but to all those who love His appearing."
Now remember, it's not desire heaven because of eternal fly fishing. It's not desiring heaven because you get all the food you want. It's not desiring heaven because you never get sick again. Those things are good incentives, and the Lord promises those things. And it's not wrong believing them and rejoicing in them. But it's desiring heaven because you're going to be with the One who is preparing it. That's your chief end. You love His appearing. And anywhere Jesus is, is heaven to me. As Peter says, "Whom, having not seen, you love." "If you love heaven," Thomas Watson said, "you cannot miss it." Love takes heaven by storm. If you love heaven as it really is, with Jesus dwelling on the throne, with His law ruling everything . . . You see, heaven's a place where there won't be any sin. You can't do what you do now. Won't be any liberty to do any wrong there. It's where people do nothing but right all the time. They live unselfishly all the time. They're not living for their lower appetites. You want to live in a place where you have to serve others? You want to live in a place where Jesus is the center of attention? You want to live in a place where God's law is perfectly observed and where God's rest is perfectly observed and where God's glory is perfectly loved? That's heaven. Do you want to do everything God said in His Word that people ought to do? Is that your highest desire? Then that's heaven.
Well, how do you know you want all that? Look at the way you're living. Are you now desiring fellowship with Christ above everything else? Check your devotional life to see where you measure on that scale. When you have idle time and free time, do you look forward to that because you're going to get to spend some quiet time with Christ? And I'm not talking about neglecting your family. I'm not talking about not having good, holy recreation times. But I'm saying is your life characterized by looking forward to getting a break from your religion, rather than looking forward to getting an enhancement in it? Is the Lord's Day still something you sort of dread because it's going to hamper your liberties to have fun? Or is it a day you welcome and say, "Welcome, Happy Morning," because it's a whole day God has given when you don't have to do anything but know God and love God and spend time with God? So that you will actually prepare on Saturdays to minimize how much you and your family have to do to distract you?
Now the measure of your love and affection for heaven can be seen in those kinds of things. Check out where you are, and repent of where you come up short. And ask God to fill your heart with a love for the things that accompany heaven. And enjoy the fact that you're on the way.
Brethren, my desire for you tonight is that you do two things. First, examine your hearts to see if you are in a place in which you have a right to say, "These words are addressed by Jesus Christ to me." And I want to help you who may think that they're not because of your great sins. He is speaking to sinners. When He says, "I am the way," He means in that, "The way I save sinners, by grace, free, is the way to heaven." And you say, "Well, I don't love heaven the way you've described loving heaven. I don't see that desire. I am marked by a tendency not to go to my Bible and go to my closet when I have a chance. I'm a woefully cold-hearted follower. I don't know if I even believe. I don't like what I see in me. I'm not sure Jesus is speaking to me." Here's the key. Your cold heart. Your dull heart. Your selfish heart. Your love of the world. All of that's your sin. And that's the kind of stuff for which He died. It's that kind of sin for which He died! As well as the other stuff that you're not worried too much about because you haven't done that in a long time. It's the sins the Spirit of God has made you hurt over that He died for. So trust in Him who died for a cold heart, and who died for one who doesn't love heaven above the earth. And ask Him to quicken in you those things for which He died, so you will love Him more than your own belly.
But in the second place, I want you to be encouraged and comforted and not let your hearts be troubled. I want you to learn to discipline your hearts and not let them, not let them, be troubled. I'm focusing upon a promise of a Christ who has perfect integrity, who cannot lie, and who said, "I'm going to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again, and get you and receive you to myself; that where I am, there you may be also." My dear brethren, as you come to the table tonight, and as you receive the elements, these little elements, into your body, drink in Christ by faith and eat in Christ by faith and enter into the promises of Christ by faith and take delight in the promise that He is now about the business of preparing a place for you, and you're headed for that place. May God help us to delight in such a promise and to lay aside all the other dreams we have in comparison with that one, and to spend our lives purchasing heaven and pursuing heaven and embracing heaven and all that it represents.
But if you're here tonight, and you don't qualify, and God's Spirit has made it apparent to you that heaven is not where you're headed, it's not what you have any interest in, and Christ is not the affection of your heart at all, and there's not even a glimmer of desire for Christ, you must repent. You must bow to Christ and ask Him to forgive such a sinner and have mercy on you and save you. There's no reason for you to go home tonight the way you came, the way you've gone home a hundred nights before. There's no reason for you to go home unsaved and unhopeful and unhappy. There's no reason for it, except your stubbornness. Come to Christ now, the way you are now. Come and bow to Christ now. Confess your sin and turn to Christ and get on the way to the place He's preparing.
May God give us grace to interpret this to our hearts and to find comfort from our Savior's lips.
Let us pray together. Our Father, we don't deserve the words and the plan and the purpose of your goodness to us. And we're so dull of hearing that these things hardly reach our hearts. Forgive us, Lord, for being a generation who has lost sight of heaven and gets so troubled by this world because this world is the end of our view. We've got so much of ourself staked in this temporary time that we get all shaken of soul when something temporal happens that's not what we like. O God, forgive us that we don't have eternity in our minds, that we don't think spiritually, and that your Word doesn't have the rule in every part of us. We pray you'd fix that problem with us and that you'd have mercy on a bunch of cold people and that you'd make the delight of your presence to be that which we long for and live for. And, Lord, if there are any among us who are not on their way to heaven but who are on their way to hell, O God, our Father, in mercy make it clear and bring them to repentance and give them the gift of life in Christ. O God, stir in our hearts. Receive our thanks for the table set before us in which Christ welcomes all who'll come, who'll come in faith to Him. And may your church tonight, even as they receive the elements, receive the comforts in troubled hearts of the words of their Lord who promises that you're preparing a place for us. O Lord, our God, increase our faith and receive our thanks for what lies ahead for us. We ask it all in Jesus' name. Amen.
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