Have You Committed the Unpardonable Sin?

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Have you committed the unpardonable sin? That is, could you have said something or done something at some unguarded moment that has cut you off from God’s love and made it impossible for you to go to heaven when you die?

That’s something that haunted me as a boy. I wasn’t raised in a Bible-teaching church. Nor did I become a Christian at an early age, like some of you. But I did read the Bible on my own, and because I didn’t have anyone to explain it to me, sometimes I came away from my Bible reading more confused than when I began. I worried, “Could I do something or say something, if I’m not careful, that might cut me off from God’s love and make it impossible for me to be forgiven and go to heaven when I die?”

 IMG_0052 (1)Then during my second year of college, I decided that I wanted to follow Jesus the rest of my life. But instead of making my worries go away, they got worse, because now that I’d experienced God’s love firsthand, I knew what I’d be missing if I lost it. So I worried, “Could I say or do something that would cause me to forfeit my salvation and wind up in hell?” Some of you will think, “That’s silly! A Christian shouldn’t worry that!” I agree. You’re right! But the fact is, many of us do—and not just new Christians. I’ve talked to people who’ve been Christians for years, but still in the back of their minds is this nagging worry: “Could I say or do something so awful in God’s sight that I might lose my salvation and wind up in hell as a result?”

 Hal Lindsey talks about this fear in his book, Satan Is Alive and Well on Planet Earth. He reminds us that Satan is the accuser of the brethren who does everything in his power to keep us from feeling secure about our salvation, because he knows if we aren’t sure of where we stand with our Heavenly Father, we won’t be free to concentrate on what He wants us to do—like reaching out to people in need and preaching the Gospel to every creature under heaven. Instead, we’ll be so paralyzed with fear that all we can think about is: Can I lose my salvation if I’m not careful? He writes: “The helmet of salvation is knowing that your salvation is absolutely secure and complete. However, Satan will take some obscure verse and try to undo all the clear teaching in the rest of the Bible and have you thinking that you have lost your salvation. He will take some of these verses and twist them to undo all the teaching of the entire book of Romans which clearly declares that salvation is a once-and-for-all matter through faith alone.”

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 In my case, the verses he used were Matthew 12:31-32, where Jesus warned about the unpardonable sin. “And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven either in this age or in the age to come.” And so I worried, “Lord, don’t let me do this! Don’t let the devil catch me at some unguarded moment and trick me into cursing Your Spirit! I don’t want to lose my salvation and wind up in hell!” And I have to say it didn’t help much when dear Brother Mark, an elderly saint in the church I was attending, took me aside one day and warned me, “Gary, remember, the one sin the Lord can never forgive is blaspheming His Spirit. I’ve known many people who’ve committed that sin and died as a result!” And right away, I thought, “Oh, no! Am going to be next? Will I in a weak moment let down my guard and lose everything I’ve gained in Christ?”


 The answer to that question and what I want to assure you in this lesson is that no one can commit the unpardonable sin today. To commit an unpardonable sin is possible, and in a moment, I’ll explain what I mean by that—but to commit the unpardonable sin, referred to by Jesus in Matthew 12:31, is impossible for anybody to commit today. And what I want to share with you in this study is why that’s so, not only for your own spiritual comfort, but so you can help others gain assurance of their salvation too. It’s embarrassing to admit, but Cheryl will tell you that I spent 3 or 4 months in terror as a new Christian thinking I’d committed this sin, and I was numb with fear because of it. But the Bible says, “All things work together for good to those who love God,” and in my case that was true! What this fear drove me to do was to study my Bible until I not only gained an understanding of this passage and the Gospel as a whole, I also gained an unshakeable assurance of my salvation and an ability to help others too. So let me do that for you today, if I can. Maybe you’ve received Christ and been baptized as a public testimony that you intend to follow Him the rest of your life. But the question is: How can you be sure He’ll help you do that and keep you safe from this or some other terrible sin? To answer that question properly, the first thing we need to understand is—

  1. The Context of This Passage

That’s the first step in understanding any Bible passage, because the Bible is more than a collection of wonderful verses strung together like beads on a wire. It’s like a beautiful Persian carpet, which is woven together from various colored yarns. In fact, the word “context” comes from two small words meaning “weave together.” Because just as it would be wrong to pull one piece of yarn from a beautiful carpet and say, “This is the rug!” So it is wrong to pluck one verse from the Bible saying, “This is what the Bible teaches on this subject!” To understand salvation or any doctrine, we have to understand each verse in the light of its context.


In fact, the Apostle Peter warns us that we can put our souls in danger by taking verses out of context. In 2 Peter 3:15 he says, referring to the Apostle Paul, “Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.” That immediately brings to my mind the cults and what they do with the Bible, plucking this or that verse out of context and trying to make the Bible say things it was never intended to say. In fact, did you know you can make the Bible teach almost anything you want—reincarnation, polygamy, evolution—if you take verses out of context? But Peter says that is very dangerous.


On the lighter side, maybe you heard about the ignorant fellow who wanted to know God’s will for his life. So holding the Bible before him, he prayed, “Lord, show me what you want me to do?” He then closed his eyes and opened the Bible to Matthew 27:5 which says: “And Judas went out and hanged himself.” He didn’t like that much, so he tried again. This time he got Luke 10:37, “Go and do likewise!” That was worse, so he tried one last time. This time he got John 13:27, “What you are about to do, do quickly!”

 The point is: Not all of the Bible was written to us. All of the Bible was written for us—so we can learn God’s principles—but not all the Bible was written to us. The Bible was written by some 40 different authors over 1500 years addressing thousands of problems affecting billions of people. We must understand that—who each book was written to and what the original writer meant by what he said. Otherwise we’ll be hopelessly confused, especially when it comes to understanding something as difficult as Matthew 12:31-32.

 The fact of the matter is, Matthew 12:31-32 was not addressed to us. Nowhere in the Bible are Christians ever warned about committing the unpardonable sin. And you can bet, if this were a sin we could commit, then surely Peter or James or John or Paul would have warned us about it in one of their epistles. But they never did. The only place this sin is mentioned is in the Gospels, because this isn’t a sin we can commit today. This was a warning to the religious rulers of Israel, who had seen Jesus perform miracle after miracle in the power of the Holy Spirit. But instead of worshiping His Lordship, which was the purpose of His miracles, they rejected him as the son of Satan. So Jesus warned them, “Be careful now. You’re about to commit a sin that cannot be forgiven.”

second-coming-of-jesus-christ1For what was the unpardonable sin? Study the context of Matthew and it becomes clear. For to whom was the book of Matthew written? The Jews, to prove that Jesus is their long-awaited King. The book opens with His genealogy, proving that Jesus was born in the royal line of David. That’s followed by His royal birth in Bethlehem and wise men asking the question: “Where is He who is born King of the Jews?” Next we read of His introduction by His royal herald, John the Baptist, His royal proclamation about who can enter His kingdom, called the Sermon on the Mount, followed by miracle after miracle proving that Jesus is not only the King of Israel, but the Savior of the world! But nothing is enough for those who won’t believe. So when we come to chapter 12, which is the turning point of the book, the King is rejected by the very people who should have been His greatest supporters. For notice what happens starting in verse 22. Jesus heals a blind man who’s been possessed by a demon, but rather than rejoicing at this great miracle of God, what do the religious rulers say?

Verse 22: “Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. All the people were astonished and said, ‘Could this be the Son of David?’ (That is, could this be the Messiah?) But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, ‘It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.’ In other words, “The spirit in him is a demon!” And not just any demon, but Beelzebub, prince of demons. Translate this word, “Beelzebub,” into English, and what does it means? It means “Lord of the dungpile!”

This was a very specific sin. It was the willful rejection of the miracles of Jesus and the attributing of the power behind them to Satan rather than the Holy Spirit. That’s why I say the unpardonable sin cannot be committed today. When Jesus was on earth performing miracles, and when He returns in glory, you could commit this sin. That’s why Jesus said, “Whoever commits this sin will not be forgiven in this age (referring to His first appearance) or in the age to come (referring to His future reign as King of the earth). You see, the person who sees all these things and then rejects them has run out of excuses. I mean, after you’ve seen everything there is to see and you still won’t believe, what more is there to say? But today the situation is different. Jesus isn’t physically present on earth, which means the only way to learn about Him is through faulty human messengers like you and me, which makes it difficult to believe at times. That’s why God gives us so many opportunities to hear the Gospel before we believe. That, then, is the first reason this sin cannot be committed today—the context surrounding it.


J. Vernon McGee, the Bible teacher, write about this in his commentary on Matthew. “Sheer logic leads us to see that if in the days of Christ’s presence on earth—to attribute His miracles to the power of Satan rather than to the power of the Holy Spirit was to commit the unpardonable sin, then conversely: His absence today makes it impossible to commit the unpardonable sin.” He adds, “Our position is entirely consistent with a ‘whosoever will Gospel.’” What does that mean? What does he mean when he says our position is entirely consistent with a “whosoever will Gospel.”

2. The Nature of the Gospel—

What is God promising when He says, “Whosoever will may come.” Probably the clearest passage is Romans chapter 10. You see, when developing a doctrine from the Bible like the doctrine of salvation, the first place to go is not to a few obscure verses like Matthew 12:31-32. You go to several clear verses like Romans 10:9-10, where Paul explains how to be saved by God. He writes: “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, ‘Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.’” What, then, is the promise of the Gospel? It’s the promise that if we believe in our hearts that Jesus died for our sins and rose again, and if we confess to others that He’s our Lord, we will be saved. For verse 13 adds: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord (the King James say, “Whosoever calls upon the name of the Lord”) will be saved.”


That’s what is meant by a “whosoever will” Gospel. It means there are no hidden conditions or unspoken exceptions to this promise. Anybody at any time and in any place who’s willing to call upon the name of Jesus for salvation will be saved. And because that’s true, the unpardonable sin cannot be committed today. Why not? Because if it could be committed, then we wouldn’t be able to say, “Whosoever will may come!” Every time we share the Gospel we’d have to add, “Whosoever will may come except those who’ve blasphemed the Spirit and committed the unpardonable sin.” But we haven’t been told to do that. We’ve been told to preach the Gospel to every creature promising them, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” End of statement. Transaction finished. No strings attached. That’s the first thing we need to understand about the Gospel—that “whosoever will may come!”

The second thing we need to understand about the Gospel is what happens when a person truly believes. You see, what is it we’re actually promising people when we tell them to believe in Christ and be saved? Eternal fire insurance and a free ticket to heaven? Is that all that’s involved in becoming a Christian? Of course not! But many people do not seem to understand that.

Some time ago, I was listening to a Bible teacher on the radio, when suddenly he said something that he gave me the distinct impression that he believed that Christians could lose their salvation. And that bothered me. But rather than stewing about it, I decided to write him a letter and politely ask him, “Do you think Christians are eternally secure?” To his credit, he wrote me back. Here is what he wrote: “Yes, I believe in eternal security, but not unconditionally.” And to this day, I still haven’t been able to figure that out—how a security that’s conditional can be considered eternally for sure.

You see, not everybody appreciates this, but becoming a Christian means more than receiving a free ticket to heaven paid for by the blood of Christ. If that’s all there were to it, what would keep us from having it torn away in a moment of temptation? Because just as none of us was strong enough to earn our salvation, none of us is strong enough to keep it either. The truth is that becoming a Christian involves not only receiving His free gift of salvation, it also involves a basic change in our nature. Peter’s epistle says that we have become “partakers of the divine nature having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” Paul adds in his epistle that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature. Old things have passed away. Behold, all things have become new.” And John goes so far in his Gospel to say that “as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.”


Becoming a Christian, then, involves a basic change in our nature—being transformed from a child of Satan into a son or daughter of the Most High King. And therefore, what would have to happen, in order for us to lose our salvation? God would have to change us back. But friends, that’s one thing our Heavenly Father promises never to do.

 Like father, like daughter, Rebecca had a tough time gaining an assurance of her salvation, when she was first saved. She asked Jesus in her heart at an early age, but the devil did everything in his power to keep her from gaining an assurance of her salvation. The high point of the drama came one night as we watched “The 10 Commandments” as a family. And what grabbed her attention was not the plagues in Egypt or the parting of the Red Sea; it was the idols in Pharaoh’s temple.

 Right away she wanted to know, “Mommy, Daddy, could I do that if I’m not careful? Could I bow down to idols like Pharoah and go to hell? That was the worst sin her 5-year old mind could think of, and she was worried that if she did it, she might lose her salvation. We prayed with her, read her Bible verses, and tried everything we could to help her. But the thought still nagged her, so much so that the next day I found her marching around the house like a soldier, body stiff as a board, and when I asked, “What’s wrong, Honey?” all she could say was: “I’m trying not to bow down to idols.”


 I mean, this went on for days. In fact, it got so bad that one day I found her scooting around the floor on her bottom, again stiff as a board. And when I asked her, “What are you doing, Honey?” her answer again through clenched teeth and with tears in her eyes was: “I’m trying not to bow down to idols!” So what finally made her worries go away? I started to play a game with her in which I’d hold her hand and then tell her, “Now let go.” And for everything in her, she would try, but she wouldn’t be able to do it. Why not? Because even though she’d let go, I wouldn’t. And invariably it’d turn into a wrestling match in which she’d try to see if she was strong enough to get me to let go of her hand, but no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t do it.

 And then I’d remind her, “The same thing is true of Jesus, Honey. When you put your life in His hands, He promises that He will never let go, no matter what you do, and He’s way stronger than me. So no matter what the devil tries to make you think, you’re safe, because now your life is right here in the palm of God’s hand.”

One verses we used to assure her was John 10:27, where Jesus promises: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give to them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone pluck them out of my hand. My Father who gave them to me is greater than all; and no one is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one.” Sometimes people worry, “Well, maybe no one can pluck me out of His hand, but I could fall or jump out, couldn’t I?” The answer to that is also: “No,” because according to Ephesians 1:13 and other verses, there’s something very powerful sealing us in! And what’s that? The very Holy Spirit whom we’ve been talking about all morning. Ephesians says that having believed in Christ, we “were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of His glory.”


My conclusion, then, is that a genuine child of God can never be eternally lost. Nor can you and I commit the unpardonable sin. The only sin you and I can commit that could be called unpardonable is rejecting Christ all of our lives and dying without accepting Him as our Savior. But every other sin or blasphemy, the Bible says, will be forgiven us, because the real issue when it comes to our security as believers is not our faithfulness. If that were the issue, none of us would be saved. The real issue is His faithfulness. Jude writes: “To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.” So I ask you in closing: Do you have that assurance? Have you called on Jesus for salvation? And can you say beyond a shadow of a doubt that you’re a child of God and that one day you too will go to heaven?

When I was a boy, I had two recurring nightmares that terrified me. One involved a little gremlin who would sneak into the house through an upstairs bathroom window in the middle of the night and chase me down the stairs, getting closer and closer with every step I took. Of course, the harder I ran, the slower my feet would go, and always just as I was about to reach my parents’ bedroom and he was able to grab me, I would wake up.


That was frightening, but not as frightening as the second dream I had, because in the second dream, I found myself in another world, very similar to this world, but the problem was that once I got there, I could never remember how to get back—until I’d remember, “Oh, all I have to do is wake up.” And I know psychologists would have a heyday with that, explaining that the reason I had those dreams was because I was so insecure. And they’d be right! I was insecure, because I wasn’t a child of God at that time, and I didn’t have the assurance I needed. But now I do. Now I know who I belong to, and I’m absolutely confident that nothing I do will ever separate me from His love.

 Can you say that? Do you have an unshakeable assurance of your salvation? Or are you still worrying that one day you may say something or do something that’ll cut you off from God’s love and make it impossible for you to be forgiven? Friend, I’ve been there, and I can tell you that’s the worst nightmare of all. But the good news is: it’s only a nightmare—none of it is true, not if you sincerely know and love the Lord Jesus Christ. So to answer the first question I posed: Can you commit the unpardonable sin? No. That was a sin that could be committed only by those who were eyewitnesses of Christ’s miracles, but attributed them to the power of the devil. But the answer to the second question: Can you commit an unpardonable sin? is Yes. You could harden your heart, reject Christ today, and run the risk of dying without accepting Him as your Savior. But don’t do that, friend. If you haven’t yet committed your life to Jesus Christ, do so today. Open your heart to His Spirit this very moment and be forgiven forever!

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Dr. Billy Graham – America’s Pastor

Yesterday one of the greatest men of our generation went home to be with the Lord. He was called “America’s Pastor” and “counselor to America’s presidents.” Because of his great impact, we dedicate this blog to the life of Billy Graham by quoting his son Franklin’s eulogy and directing you to his website where you can listen to his testimony as a young man, read his obituary, hear his life-changing sermons, find peace with God yourself, and learn of his impact on the world. Billy Graham was without question the greatest preacher in our lifetimes and led a ministry that has always been free of scandal and a model of integrity. Thank you, God, for this great man’s ministry to me and to millions around the world.

Dear Friend,

My father, Billy Graham, went into the presence of the Lord on February 21, 2018.

The Bible tells us in Revelation 14:13: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord … that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them” (NKJV). Many have said that his death ends an era, but he would be the first to say that when God’s ambassadors die in Christ, the Lord raises up others, because the preaching of the Gospel will go forward until the end of the age. God’s blessing continues as He opens doors for the Gospel around the world. BGEA remains committed to preach the Word in season and out of season across the globe.

My siblings and I would appreciate your prayers in the days ahead as we honor a man who served the Lord with his life, loved his family, and was always grateful for God’s faithful people who supported him in the work of the ministry in Jesus’ Name.

As we lay to rest this very public ambassador, please pray with us that the testimony he leaves behind will touch many lives and point them to salvation in Jesus Christ. My father’s journey of faith on earth has ended. He has been reunited with my mother and has stepped into the eternal joy of Heaven in the presence of his Savior, in whom he placed his hope.

If you would like to know more about my father’s life, share a memory, or read public visitation details, please visit BillyGraham.org. God bless you, and thank you for your prayers for our family and the staff of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

Sincerely, Franklin Graham


Revelation 22:1-21

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Some time ago, my wife and I were invited to a birthday party. When I received the invitation, I had no idea what the evening would involve. All I knew was the location – a retreat center called Faraway on the Longbranch Peninsula. But the fact that we were going to be with friends made it appealing. So, we said, “Yes!” Then the evening arrived. To our delight, transportation was arranged for us, so that rather than driving ourselves, we were able to relax in the comfort of a friend’s “Caddy.” But there was more! Stepping out of the car, we found ourselves facing one of the most beautiful waterfront mansions we’d ever seen. The evening then began with a tour – delicate antique furniture, embroidered bedspreads from China, precious inlaid tiles in the bathroom. Each room was a masterpiece of interior design. Then dinner was served – one of the most delicious meals we’d had in months. It truly was an evening to remember.


As I reflected on it, I couldn’t help but compare it to another invitation we have received. On this trip transportation is also provided; we will be surrounded by Christian friends; and we will dine in the most glorious mansion anyone has ever seen. But there will also be some striking differences. This time we won’t have to return home afterwards. For we will be at home forever! This time we can eat all that we want without worrying about our waistlines. And best of all, the Lord Jesus will be our host at this meal! As I reflected upon it, I wondered, how could anyone in their right mind refuse an invitation like this?

The invitation I’m referring to is the one given in this, the final chapter of Revelation. The key word here is “come.” This is not a new word in the Bible. When Noah finished building the ark, God invited him, “Come into the ark, you and all your household, and be safe.” When Israel turned to idols in Isaiah’s day, God urged them, “Come now, let us reason together, though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow.” When John baptized Jesus, he said of Him, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” Andrew and Peter wanted to know more. So, they asked Him, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” Jesus invited them, “Come and see.”

The Bible is full of invitations to “come.” But the invitation in Revelation 22 is unique. Actually, there are two invitations in this chapter. The first is Christ’s offer to sinners, “Come . . . take the free gift of the water of life.”


The second is John’s reaction to everything he has seen: “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!” Isn’t that a wonderful way to end such a serious book? For weeks, we have witnessed many terrible, heartbreaking truths. But now the curse of sin is lifted and “whosoever will” may come and freely enjoy the glory of God’s kingdom. No one need suffer the judgments mentioned in this book. That’s something people bring upon themselves because of their unwillingness to repent and turn to Jesus. Everyone is invited to enjoy the blessings of this offer. So, to help us understand what it involves, John emphasizes three key facts about it.


Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young once sang a song about man’s craving to “get back to the Garden.” While we may not recognize it in ourselves, that desire is real! Every philosophical, political, or religious movement is nothing more than man’s feeble attempt to recover what was lost in Genesis 3. But the good news John announces in this last chapter of the Bible is that Paradise Lost will soon be Paradise regained! What we forfeited due to sin, God will restore by His grace. To illustrate that, John describes four blessings we will enjoy in the New Jerusalem.

First, the fullness of God’s Spirit. John says in verse 1, “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city.” This is a physical manifestation of the Holy Spirit who is poured out on everyone who believes in Christ. One reason for this conclusion is the origin of this water. It comes from the throne of God and of the Lamb. Another reason is the promise of Jesus in John 7:37, ”If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me . . . streams of living water will flow from within him.” To what was Jesus referring? John explains, “By this He meant the Spirit, Whom those who believed in Him were later to receive.” In other words, just as Jesus will be the light of that city, so His Spirit will be our source of physical and spiritual life.


Second, access to the Tree of Life. Verse 2 continues, “On each side of the river stood the Tree of Life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” Someone has said that the history of mankind revolves around three trees – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which brought death upon all of humanity when our first parents broke God’s commandment and ate of its fruit in the Garden. The second tree is the Cross of Calvary on which our Savior died to pay for our sins. The third tree is the Tree of Life that will grow along the River of Life in the center of the city. Those who have read Genesis 3 will remember this tree. For it was from this tree that man was banished. God posted cherubim at the east of the Garden with a flaming sword to guard the way to the Tree of Life, so that man could not eat of its fruit and live forever in his fallen condition.

Consequently, the presence of the Tree of Life in new Jerusalem is one of the strongest testimonies to God’s full forgiveness and our complete salvation from sin. For what was taken away from us because of sin now brings eternal life to everyone who enters this city. Other details about this tree are also interesting. One is its fruit. It bears twelve kinds of fruit, one for each month of the year. That means there will be food in heaven – delicious food, of which we can eat all that we want without any worries of getting fat. In fact, it is in eating this fruit that we gain power to live forever.


Another detail is its leaves. It says they will be for “the healing of the nations.” What does this mean? Will there be disease in heaven? No, the word can be translated “health.” That is, just as its fruit gives life to all who eat it, so its leaves maintain the health of those already healthy. Finally, look at its abundance. Genesis makes it sounds as if there was only one tree of life in the Garden. But not in New Jerusalem! This tree will flourish throughout the city!

Henry Morris writes, “The tree is not rare but prolific, growing in profusion all over the world. In the New Jerusalem, it grows along the esplanade in the center of the golden streets and lines both banks of the cascading river. Presumably, outside the city, it grows along the shores of all the tributaries of the mighty river, as they spread out around the world. The need to continually partake of its life-giving fruit will be a testimony to the people of the New Earth that our Creator and Savior is Himself the source of life and breath and all things. This knowledge and requirement will never become a burden but will always remain a joy and a delight.”

Third, fulfillment in our work. People wonder, “What will we do in heaven? Sit around and strum our harps forever?” Certainly, music will play a major role in heaven’s worship. But John says we will also be busy doing other things. First, he says we “will serve Him.” What does that mean? Are we going to have to work in heaven? Yes and no. Yes, we will be actively engaged in serving Christ. That’s been our calling from the beginning. Genesis 2:15 says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” Those who like to garden can appreciate what a pleasure that was, especially without weeds to frustrate their efforts. Thus, it will be on the New Earth! It will involve none of the drudgery involved in today’s work. For what turned man’s work into labor and sorrow was the curse. But Revelation 22:3 promises that there will no longer be a curse. Hal Lindsay says that the service we give to the Lord will be as laborious as a Bride making the bed for her new Groom on their honeymoon.

Happy bride jumping on a bed_photo by Elizabeth Messina

Compare it to your hobbies. Most of us have activities we enjoy doing in our spare time – sewing, painting, reading, writing, playing an instrument. These activities are pleasant because there is no pain or stress involved in doing them. So, will it be in heaven! God will let you explore interests you had in this life, but never had the time or money to pursue. Or maybe He will give you brand-new talents you always wished you had and let you cultivate them for His glory.

By the way, this is one reason we can afford to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and forego other things we’d like to do. Personally, I would love to have season tickets to the Seattle Seahawks’ games, a summer cabin at the ocean, a boat to enjoy on the weekends, and every evening free to spend with my family. But, like many of you, I forego those things. Not because they are wrong, but because there isn’t time in this life to do both everything I want and everything I should. Does that make me sad? No, and why not? Because I’m going to live forever and have all of eternity to pursue the things I enjoy. In fact, given that this is the only life in which we can sacrifice ourselves for Christ, wouldn’t it be foolish to try to get everything I want today? Remember –

Only one life, ‘twill soon be passed; Only what’s done for Christ will last!

The second thing we will do is “reign forever and ever.” There’s no indication here over whom we will rule, but I’m convinced that these are more than idle words dropped onto the page. If John says that we will reign with Christ, then there must be someone who needs ruling. 1 Corinthians 6:3 gives us a hint, for there Paul writes, “do you not know that we shall judge angels?” Another writer suggests that there may be intelligent life on other planets that God will reveal in eternity. In his space trilogy, C. S. Lewis imagines Perelandra and Malacandra, two planets with intelligent creatures living on them who have not rebelled against the will of God. But, of course, the definite answer to this, like so many other questions, won’t be answered until we arrive in heaven.


Finally, the presence of Christ. This will be our greatest joy in heaven. John says “we will see His face.” Theologians call this the Beatific Vision, for there is no sight more beautiful to human eyes than the face of God. You ask, “Is it the face of God the Father or God the Son?” Jesus answered this in John 14:8-9. Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus explained, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” Colossians 1:15 reiterates this. Referring to Jesus, it says, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” God is Spirit, and therefore invisible. But that won’t detract from your heavenly joy. For in Christ “dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” (Colossians 2:9)


Fanny Crosby, the writer of “Blessed Assurance” and many other great hymns, said she didn’t mind being born blind because in heaven, the first thing she would see is the face of Jesus. In fact, in giving her testimony at a conference where Dwight L Moody spoke, she shyly admitted, “There is a hymn I’ve written but never published. I call it my soul’s poem. I repeat it when my heart is troubled, for it brings comfort to me. She then recited it while the audience wept: “Someday the silver cord will break, and I no more as now shall sing; but O, the joy when I awake within the palace of the King and I shall see Him face to face, and tell the story – saved by grace!” At age 95, her wish was granted. She awoke in heaven and the first face she ever saw was the face of Jesus. Imagine her joy!


John continues in verse 6, “Then the angel said to me, ‘These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the profits, sent His angel to show His servants the things that must soon take place. Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book.’” First, the angel emphasizes the trustworthiness of this invitation. In fact, he confirms the reliability of the entire Bible by emphasizing that the same God who inspired this book inspired the prophets of old. But, he doesn’t stop there. He goes on to pinpoint two conditions for enjoying the blessings of this book.


The first is: Keep the words of the prophecy in this book. This means more than keeping a copy of the Bible on your bookshelf or nightstand. It means to stand up for the truth of this book and put it into practice. In fact, to demonstrate how vital our loyalty to this book is, John adds in verses 18-19, (Let the followers of Joseph Smith and other cult leaders beware!), “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the Tree of Life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.”

This was a common practice of scribes when recording royal decrees. Anyone who added to the King’s words was warned that he would stand before the king in judgment. But this warning label is far more severe. John warns us that our very entrance into God’s kingdom is at stake, determined by what we do with this book. Will we believe it and obey it? Or will we ignore it to our eternal hurt?

The second condition is: Worship Jesus alone. John himself is corrected about this. He confesses in verse 6, “I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, ‘Do not do it. I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers, the prophets, and all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!” The only acceptable form of worship in heaven is that which is directed toward the Father and the Son. Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” He also added in another place. “The Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father. (John 5:23) John’s experience points out two eternal dangers that are at work today.


The first is the danger of hero worship. Most leaders are by nature charismatic personalities. Otherwise, people wouldn’t be likely to follow them. But there is a danger in admiring them too much. And that’s what’s happening in Christian circles today. People are so hungry for someone to follow that they develop little fan clubs around their favorite religious artist or Christian speaker. And that’s wrong! Not only does it rob God of the glory that He alone deserves; but we inevitably discover that our idols have feet of clay. I once attended a Bible study where a woman said, “O, I don’t know what I’d do if I ever heard my pastor swear! I think I’d lose my faith!” And I thought, “Then get ready to lose your faith, sister, because I know some things about your pastor you’d never believe.”

The second is the danger of being carried away by emotion. One of my seminary professors used to warn us prospective pastors, “Gentlemen, do not entrust the ministry of the church to artsy people.” I wondered how he could be so harsh. But now I understand his concern. Human emotions are so powerful that unless brought under the control of godly wisdom, they can lead to all sorts of dangerous behavior – worship of angels, visions of giant “Jesuses, as well as unethical and immoral behavior. More than once I’ve heard Christians excuse their immorality by saying, “It feels so right; it can’t be wrong!” But that’s when we need to remember that Satan is an angel of light who can just as easily counterfeit our emotions to deceive us as he can false doctrine.



Finally, in verses 12 to 19, John moves from blessings and conditions to assurances of Christ’s return and our invitation to heaven.

His first assurance is that it is near. Three times in this chapter, Jesus promises, “I am coming soon!” One example is verse 12 where He promises, “Behold, I am coming soon. My reward is with Me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the Tree of Life, and may go through the gates into the city.”

This confuses people. “After all,” they think, “it’s been 2000 years since Jesus made this promise. If He was coming soon, why hasn’t He arrived yet?” The answer is found in the meaning of the word “soon.” The word means “suddenly.” Jesus wasn’t promising that He’d come immediately. He was warning us that when He does come, it will be suddenly and without warning. It is what Paul meant when he said that the Day of the Lord will come without warning “like a thief in the night.” In other words, when the things predicted by this book begin to happen, they will happen rapidly, leaving no time to repent. So, repent now!


That also helps to explain Jesus’ statement in verse 11: “Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy.” Jesus isn’t advising people to continue in sin and be lost. The Bible says He is not willing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance. The point here is that when He returns, there won’t be any time for repentance. Those who have chosen to be holy will continue to be holy forever, whereas those who refuse His invitation will be lost forever. So, again, the time to repent is now, not then!

My next-door neighbor told me about an experience he had. He was helping his friend repair his roof when suddenly a piece of lumber knocked him off balance and sent him crashing to the ground. The fall fractured his collar-bone and nearly broke his neck. I asked him, “What did you learn from the accident?” He said. “I learned one thing for sure. I’ve always heard that a person’s life flashes before their eyes at a moment like that. But that isn’t true! I didn’t have time to think about anything. If I hadn’t known the Lord, I could have died and been lost forever! I realized that the time to make your peace with God is now!”

His second assurance is that it is free. Verse 16 says, “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright Morning Star.” And then He adds in verse 17, “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let them take the free gift of the water of life.” In other words, there is absolutely nothing you and I can do to earn our way to heaven. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Titus 3:5 adds, “Not by works of righteousness that we have done, but according to His mercy, He saved us.”


In fact, notice how the Bible ends in verse 21. John says, “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.” That’s very different from how the Old Testament ends. There Malachi warns that Elijah is coming and will “strike the earth with the curse” unless his readers repent. The Old Testament speaks of law and judgment, but here we read of grace. Why? Because it’s only through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that anyone can be saved. Salvation is a free gift of God that can only be received humbly by faith.

Yet, even though salvation comes freely to us, it came at a high price to God who gave the life of His Son to purchase our salvation. Furthermore, there is often great soul-searching and spiritual wrestling before a genuine commitment to Christ is made. Some Christians give people the impression that all they have to do is bow their heads, say a quick prayer, and “presto- chango,” you’re on your way to heaven. But that is not true. Verse 17 says it is those who are “thirsty” who may freely drink of the water of life. That means there must be a genuine recognition of our need for Christ and a sincere hunger for the salvation He can give us, in order for the change to be real. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,” Jesus said, “for they shall be filled.”

By the way, be sure to notice from whom the invitation comes. John writes, “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come!’” That’s a reminder of our partnership with God in the work of evangelism. The Spirit is God, and He faithfully does His part by convicting the people of sin and drawing them to Christ. But we, the Bride of Christ, also have a part to play in the salvation of others. We are to be witnesses to Christ and invite others to believe in Jesus as often as we can.


Or put another way, William Carey’s pastor was wrong! When the great missionary suggested taking the Gospel to India, he was abruptly told, “Sit down young man. If God chooses to convert the heathen, He will do it without the help of you or me.” But that’s bad theology! Here God reminds us that if someone gets into heaven, it will be because we’ve invited them. We are tools of the Holy Spirit, and our words, if they are God’s Words, have great power over people. Therefore, whatever the Holy Spirit accomplishes, He will accomplish through us. “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come!’” Therefore, prayerfully look for someone who needs that invitation and extend it to them today.
Remember, there are only two things that you can take to heaven with you: 1) Your Christ-like character developed over a lifetime; and 2) Another person with whom you have shared the Gospel and invited to heaven.

(To download this written message and its discussion questions, click here.)




(Revelation 21:1-27)

(To listen to the audio message, click this link – New World.)


Philip Yancey writes, “A strange fact about modern American life: although 71% of us believe in an afterlife, no one much talks about it.” He’s right, of course! According to a survey in US Catholic magazine, 97% of the respondents said they believe in heaven. 83% added that they were confident they would go there when they die. But how many think about heaven on a daily basis or talk about it with their family and friends? The unfortunate answer is: not very many!

One example is the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature. Did you know that four past volumes record a grand total of zero articles on heaven? Many articles deal with death, aging, and even out-of-body experiences, but none address the topic of heaven. Even more surprising is the Religion Index to Periodicals. It includes only a handful of articles on heaven. I know that percentages don’t apply when it comes to eternity. But for the sake of argument, let’s say that 99.9% of our existence may take place in heaven. Is it not strange, then, that we should ignore it as if it really doesn’t matter? Even in Christian circles, the topic usually only comes up at funerals or in special studies like this.

Why? Yancey gives three reasons: 1) Our modern affluence. We have so much that we don’t really feel we need heaven. 2) Another reason is the influence of paganism which tells us that death is the end of our existence. “Eat, drink and be merry. Tomorrow we die!” 3) The traditional image of heaven – a place where we do nothing but strum a harp and sing hymns all day long sounds as exciting to us as it did to Huckleberry Finn.

But whatever the reason, we are about to see that heaven is a real place – the only place capable of satisfying the heart of man. Certainly, there’s a degree of happiness in this life, thanks to God’s grace. But there is also much suffering – death, disease, disappointment. Whatever pleasures we enjoy in this life are marred by the curse of sin. But one day that curse will be removed! Heaven will come to earth and “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.” (Rev. 21:4) That is the message of Revelation chapter 21.


To recap what we have learned so far in this great book, the apostle John was given the final prophecy of the events leading up to the Return of Christ. First, he saw a vision of the glorified Jesus correcting and commending seven churches in Asia Minor, each one representing a type of church in the Church Age to come. Next, the apostle John was caught up to heaven – a symbol of the Rapture and end of the Church Age. For from this point on, the Church is safe in heaven worshiping our Lord and pleading with Him to reclaim the earth for man. To do that, He opens a scroll, representing the title deed to the earth, with seven seals that unleash a host of ever-greater plagues on the unbelieving world – seal judgments, trumpet judgments, and bowl judgments. Together these make up the Great Tribulation. However, there is a silver lining in all of this. While most earth-dwellers refuse to repent, there is a huge multitude from every tribe, tongue, and nation who recognize their guilt, turn to Christ in repentance, and are saved.

Following these plagues, Jesus returns to earth, crushes His enemies arrayed against Him at the Battle of Armageddon, casts the Beast and False Prophet into the Lake of Fire, locks Lucifer and his devils in the Bottomless Pit, so they can no longer tempt the nations for one thousand years, and sets up His Kingdom with His throne in Jerusalem. However, after the thousand years are completed, Satan and his demons are released from prison to test a final generation of mankind, a vast number of whom revolt against Christ. This reveals who truly loves Jesus and who has been hiding rebellion in their hearts. But the mutiny does not get off the ground. God sends fire from heaven to consume His enemies, at which point the Great White Throne is set up, the former heavens and earth fleeing away at His glorious presence, and the final condemnation of sinners takes place.

That is where the action of Revelation 21 picks up, if you will turn in your Bibles there now. First, we notice three facts about the new earth.




Verse 1 begins: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.”

Four times in five verses John uses the word “new.” That’s important because the word he uses means new with respect to quality rather than substance or time. It could be translated, I saw “a fresh heaven and fresh earth.” Some Bible teachers say it’s a brand-new world God will create, that the elements of the present universe will vanish and God will start all over again using new materials. That is possible, but it is not what the word suggests. It suggests that God will purge the present elements of sin and, using the same subatomic particles, will make a new heaven and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. After all, every part of God’s original creation was said to be good. All it needs is a thorough cleaning. How will this massive clean-up be accomplished? Peter says God will pull apart the building blocks of creation and purge them with fire: “the heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.” (2 Pet. 3:10)

By the way, this gives us a pretty good idea of how God feels about materialism. All this “stuff” we’ve been relying on for our security and happiness will suddenly be blown away. So, Peter adds, “Since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness.” (2 Pet. 3:11)

Furthermore, John says there will be “no more sea.” Why not? One reason is that the sea will no longer be needed. Right now, the oceans serve as the reservoir for the hydrologic cycle which sends rain on the earth to provide the life-giving water that plants and animals need. But in the New World, we will live in glorified bodies and will have no need for rain. The second reason is to make room for the immense population of the new earth. Right now, 70% of our planet is covered with water. But the most important reason is where all this water came from. It came from the Flood. The seas are a reminder of sin and judgment so they too will be done away.


 John continues in verse 3: “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live among them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. 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.”


The Bible, in a sense, is a record of God seeking fellowship with man. In the Garden, He walked with Adam and Eve. In the Tabernacle and Temple, He revealed Himself in His Shekinah glory. Finally, in Bethlehem, He entered the world in the person of His Son. John says in his gospel: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) Yet each time God draws near to man, our fellowship with Him is broken because of sin: the forbidden fruit in the Garden, idolatry in Israel, the rejection and crucifixion of His Son on a cross. But one day sin will be eradicated, and God will make His home among us. When that happens, there will be perfect peace on earth and joy to the world.

It is difficult to add anything to what is written, except to say that no longer will anything be allowed to creep into this world to hurt us – the gnarling pain of arthritis, the heartache of a broken romance, the discouragement of a failed business. Even dying itself will come to an end. You see, death isn’t the worst thing a Christian can face, but dying may be. Just think of the pain and humiliation of a lingering bout with cancer! But in that day, even the memory of those sorrows will be wiped away. For John assures us, “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

That fact is something we need to remind each other every day. When, as a teenager, I worked in a grocery store, I was low man on the totem pole, which means I was the one to clean the restrooms and perform the other tasks no one else wanted to do. So, what kept me going by day was the thought of what I was going to do that night. And if the plans were good enough, sometimes I actually found myself singing as I worked. The same is true of our trials in this life. One of the best ways to help someone who’s hurting is to remind them of what is ahead. Remember Paul’s advice following his description of the Rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4. He ends by saying, “Therefore, comfort one another with these words.” Do that for someone this week. Find someone who is hurting, weep with those who weep, and remind them: “Weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)


The residents of this New World are said to be two things. First, they are said to be those who “drink of the water of life freely.” This is a reference to the Holy Spirit who gives eternal life to everyone who trusts in Jesus. Second, they are said to be those who “will inherit all things.”

Dwight L. Moody, the great evangelist, trusted in this truth. Following the great Chicago fire of 1871, his house was burned to the ground. As he inspected the damage, a friend happened by and said to him, “I heard you lost everything in the fire.” “No, you heard wrong,” Moody corrected him. “I have a much more than this.” “What do you mean?” his friend asked. “I didn’t know who you were so rich.” At which point, Moody opened his Bible and read to him Revelation 21:7, “He who overcomes will inherit all things.”


Even better than that, the verse adds, “I will be his God, and he shall be My son.” Some of us never had the father-son or father-daughter relationship God intends for His children. Dad was rarely around when we needed him. Or when he was there, it was to our hurt, rather than our blessing. I have a friend who never knew his real father. When his mother remarried, it was to a man who physically abused him and made him watch as he sexually abused his two sisters. Today my friend is a Christian and has, by the grace of God, forgiven his stepfather. But does that remove the pain of his memories? No, the pain may linger as long as he lives, and then end forever. For in heaven all our tears will be wiped away. He will have the privilege of climbing onto his Heavenly Father’s lap and calling him, “Daddy,” and God will call him, “My son.” You see, no matter what we miss out on in this life will be more than made up for in the life to come

And yet, this comfort is not without a word of warning. Verse 8 adds, “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters, and all liars – their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur.” John isn’t saying that those who commit the sins can never be forgiven. If that were the case, no one would ever be forgiven. “For whoever keeps the whole law yet offends in one point, he is guilty of all.” (James 2:10). Instead, it is a warning to those who persist in sin without turning to Christ for forgiveness and cleansing. They will not be allowed into God’s heaven, no matter how “good” they appear to others.

The story is told of the nobleman who died very suddenly. Immediately, his jester ran to tell his fellow servants what it happened. With tears streaming down his cheeks, he cried, “Oh, where has he gone? Where has he gone?” “To heaven, of course!” the other servants replied. “No,” the jester answered. “I know he has not gone to heaven.” “Why?” the others asked, somewhat surprised. The jester explained, “Because heaven is a long way off, and my master has never taken a long trip without talking about it beforehand and making careful preparations. And since I have never heard him say one word about heaven or seen him do anything to prepare for it, I know he has not gone to heaven.”

What about you? Are you preparing for heaven? Have you recognized your complete unworthiness to enter God’s kingdom, and are you therefore trusting in Jesus to save you? Heaven is a long way off. But even that is not reason enough to prepare for it. The most serious reason is that it lasts forever. You and I will either be with Christ or without Him forever. Which will be true of you?



 What is heaven like? That was a question asked of third-graders in Union City, Tennessee. One little boy diplomatically said, “Heaven is where some very nice teachers will be found.” Another wrote, “Heaven is where you get everything you want. But if you want too much, you may not get to go there.” But my favorite answer was from the little girl who said, “Heaven will be the happiest part of my dead life.” Naïve? Maybe. But adults don’t do much better. One lady said she was hoping for an unlimited charge card. Another lady said, “There will be all the chocolate I can eat.” A gentleman added, “I’ll be able to play golf every day.” And they are right! Heaven will be a wonderful place. But it is going to be so wonderful that all present attempts to imagine it fall far short. To help us out, John pulls back the veil and describes five certain things we can know about it.\


Verse 9 says, “One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the Wife of the Lamb.’ And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, the experience was like that of a precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.”

This used to confuse me. I wondered how both the Church and this city could be called the Bride of Christ. Then I realized, a city is not only streets and buildings; it is also the people who live in them. In fact, this has been the hope of God’s people from the very beginning. Of Abraham, it is written:

“He went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” (Heb. 11:8-10, 15)


 It is definitely worth waiting for. For when John sees it, the sight is so breathtaking he can only describe it as having the glory of God. Unlike our modern cities with smoggy skies, polluted waters, and gray concrete, this city is like “a jasper clear as crystal.”


Its wall is the first thing John describes in detail. He says it has a great, high wall with 12 gates. Unlike earthly cities, this wall is not a defense against enemy armies, for we will no longer have any enemies. Instead, it is a reminder of God’s strength and our security in Him. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear.” (Psalm 46:1) The gates, on the other hand, symbolize our free access to God. Earthly cities like the old city of Jerusalem have gates that lock at night. But because God dwells in this city and Jesus paid our way into His presence by the shedding of His blood, verse 25 says its gates will never be shut forever. Why are there angelic sentries at each of the gates? Since there are no enemies to keep out, they are there continuing to serve as “ministering spirits to those who have inherited salvation.” (Heb. 1:14)


Verse 15 adds, “The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city . . . The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with a rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits thick, by man’s measurement, which the angel was using. The wall was made of jasper and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass.”


The most impressive things about the city is its size. A stadium (plural = stadia) was about 600 feet long, which means the city will be 1400 square miles. Comparing it to our own United States, this will encompass an area stretching from the Canadian border in the north to the Mexican border in the South, and from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to Denver in the west. In fact, John says it will be “as high as it is long,” making the city a giant cube – 1400 miles long, 1400 miles wide, and 1400 miles high – all of it composed of beautiful transparent jasper, 216 feet thick. No wonder John describes it as a giant jewel! Imagine flying into such a city today or hovering over it in your brand new glorified body! It will be the most beautiful sight human eyes have ever seen.


Its dimensions also make it easier to understand how the redeemed of all the ages can fit inside. Dr. Henry Morris did some calculating and estimated that about 60 billion people have been born since Adam. If 20 billion of those 60 billion have been saved, will there be enough room for them in the new Jerusalem? He answers:

“Assume that 25% of the city is used for the mansions of the redeemed with the rest allocated to streets, parks and public buildings. Then the average size of each person’s property would be a little over one-third of a mile in each direction. Some, no doubt, would have larger allotments, some smaller, but this would be the average size. Obviously, there is enough room in the Holy City for all who will be there.”


 Does that make you feel better about your cramped quarters down here? I have to be honest. Sometimes when I visit the beautiful homes of my friends, I am envious. Oh, if we could only afford to decorate or landscape our home like that! But then the words of the song writer come back to me –

When you look at others with their lands and gold, think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold; Count your many blessings – money cannot buy Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.


Verse 14 says, “The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.”

Foundations speak of permanence, and are in sharp contrast to the temporary shelters in which we live today. In this life nothing is for certain. Health fails. Relationships falter. Jobs force us to pull up stakes and move away from family and friends. Earthquakes, floods, and windstorms can destroy all our hard work in a matter of moments. But in heaven our foundations will be secure. Paul promised, “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord.” (1 Thess. 4:17)

Why are the apostles’ names written on the foundation stones? To remind us how the church was built. Ephesians 2:20 tells us that we have been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone. It was due to the faithfulness of men like Peter and James and John that we have the truth in our hands today. So, it is only fitting that they should be honored throughout eternity.


Furthermore, verse 19 adds, “The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper (transparent green), the second sapphire (deep blue), the third chalcedony (blue-gray), the fourth emerald (sparkling green), the fifth sardonyx (white with red stripes), the sixth carnelian (blood red), the seventh chrysolite (golden-yellow), the eighth beryl (sea-green), the ninth topaz (yellow-green), the tenth chrysoprase (pale purple), the eleventh jacinth (reddish-orange), and the twelfth amethyst (flashing violet). The 12 gates were 12 pearls, each gate made of a single pearl.”

By the way, somewhere along the line the story got started that St. Peter is the doorkeeper of heaven, and that he stands at the pearly gates deciding who gets in and who does not. That is only partly true. St. Peter does not stand at the gates of heaven. The angels do. But the gates are made of pearl. As a matter of fact, each gate is made of one giant pearl. Imagine the oyster that made that! Someone has said that a pearl is the perfect jewel to symbolize our way into God’s presence, for it so beautifully pictures what Jesus did to make us fit for heaven. Just as a pearl begins from a small irritating piece of sand in an oyster, and is wrapped in layer after layer of pearl until it becomes beautiful, so every Christian is an unfit vessel until he is wrapped in the beauty and righteousness of Christ.



John’s description ends with a list of things that will be missing from the New Jerusalem. But rather than detracting from its glory, their absence makes it all the more glorious. The first item missing is a temple. He says in verse 22, “I did not see a temple in the city.” Why not? Because he explains, “The Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are Its Temple.”

Second, he says there will no longer be a need for the sun or moon, “for the glory of God gives It light, and the Lamb is Its lamp.” This fulfills Isaiah 60:19, which says: “The sun shall no longer be your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you; but the Lord will be to you an everlasting light, and your God your glory.” Whether or not the sun and moon are destroyed at this point is not clear; but what is clear is that their light will no longer be necessary.


Third, there will be no more night. Night was given for two reasons: to rest our weary bodies and to help us calibrate time. But neither will be necessary in the New Jerusalem. For one thing, our bodies will never grow tired. We will be more alive and awake than a three-year-old first thing in the morning. For another thing, time will be no more. Eternity will be one glorious day without interruption.

Fourth, there will be no impurity in the city. Verse 27 says, “Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.” The Fatherhood of God will finally lead to the brotherhood of man. Everyone who enters the new Jerusalem will have one thing in common: they will love the Lord Jesus with all their hearts and seek to honor one another in everything they do. What a glorious day that will be!


So, what do you think? Having read what the Bible says about heaven, do you think it’s real? Freud said it was a fantasy born of man’s instinct for self-preservation. Harvard philosopher Alfred North Whitehead asked, “Can you imagine anything more appallingly idiotic than the Christian idea of heaven?” Most liberal ministers and agnostics agree. But what do you say? Is heaven fact or fantasy? Is it the great hope and longing of your heart? Or is it the silly imaginings of a religious few?

Personally, I am absolutely convinced of heaven’s reality. Not only does the Bible mention it over 700 times, and not only did Jesus Himself refer to it throughout His ministry, but here is the testimony of someone who visited it: “I, John, saw the Holy City.” In fact, he not only saw it, he participated in its measurement.


No, heaven is not a fantasy. It is the only real thing worth living for. One day earth will be destroyed and replaced by a new heaven and new earth where righteousness dwells. Will you be there? If there is any doubt in your mind, I urge you to bow your heart right now, confess your sins, and call upon Jesus as your Savior. Heaven may seem a long way off, but not for some of us. Life could end in just weeks or hours. So, start thinking and talking about it! Be so heavenly minded that you’re of some earthly good!

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