|By: Dr. John Ankerberg and Dr. Erwin Lutzer; ©2003|
|Dr. Erwin Lutzer shares a list of ten things that will be missing from heaven, as found in Revelation chapters 21-22.|
Dr. John Ankerberg: Erwin, a lot of people have a deep misunderstanding of what heaven will be like. We have talked quite a bit about heaven in the last few weeks, but what else can you tell people about heaven that might help them understand?
Dr. Erwin Lutzer: Of course, you know, we always talk about the glories of heaven and what is going to be there. But we can also take comfort in the things that won’t be in heaven. When our children were small, they sang a little song that talked about the “won’t be’s” of heaven—things that will not be there.
I have read Revelation 21 and 22 and I’ve come up with at least ten things that will not be in heaven. For example, it says, that the New Jerusalem comes down from God out of heaven and it says, “And there was no more sea.” Now, the sea in the Bible usually refers to “the nations,” you know, the “sea that cannot rest that casts up mire and dirt.” Well, there will be no more restlessness among the nations of the earth. The wars are going to end. Those headlines as to what is happening in some of the countries of the Middle East are finally going to be over. Aren’t you glad? No bad headlines in heaven.
Secondly, it says, “there is no more death.” The hearse will have taken its last journey. You know, you look at all the funeral homes and you can see how busy they are, day after day. I’m not to the point yet where I read obituaries, but from time to time, you turn to it in the newspaper and you see this long list of people who died. When we do that, what we should really do is to see our own names because the time is coming when you and I shall be listed there. It’s going to be all over and it’ll be all over a lot sooner than we realize.
In Chicago the other day, a friend died very, very unexpectedly. Just, boom, and he’s gone. And that’s going to be our story. We’re gone. The Bible says it’s like a vapor that is here today and gone tomorrow.
No more death. No more sorrow. I speak to you today because you are filled with sorrow possibly, and if you are not filled with sorrow today, you know someone who is.
And then it goes on to say that “there is no more crying.” Let me read the text here. It says, “And he shall wipe away every tear from their eyes and there shall no longer be any death, nor mourning, nor crying, nor pain, for the first things have passed away.” The phrase that I want us to zero in on is, “He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Naturally, the question always is, “Why are there tears in heaven?” Well, I think that there are tears in heaven possibly because we regret the way in which we lived. Now, by the way, this is a good time to emphasize that we are the same people in heaven as we are here on earth. And the memories of earth we take with us. I’m not necessarily saying the memories of our sins, but the memories of who we were, how we served the Lord, the Judgment Seat of Jesus Christ which shall already have happened at this point. We have all of this that we bring to bear and we weep. We weep because of the way in which we lived. Yes, we also might weep because of people we know who will never show up for the celestial celebration—relatives, friends, possibly a mother, a father, and we know that they will be lost forever. We weep.
You know, there are some people who have actually looked at this and they’ve said, “It is impossible to be happy in heaven as long as you know that you have a loved one who is in hell,” and they’ve even suggested that God will blank out the memory of a mother who has a son who is lost. I disagree with that. I can’t imagine that God is going to somehow take away our tears by giving us the “gift of ignorance.” God’s method of solving these problems is not to limit the sphere of human knowledge; it is to broaden it and to give us an explanation.
And here is how I generally answer that question. I say, “Look, if God can be happy throughout all of eternity, we will be happy throughout all of eternity, too.” So I tend to think that rather than God having a handkerchief and coming and wiping away each individual tear—though, of course, He could do that—I tend to think the tears are wiped away because He gives us an explanation for those who are lost and His purposes; and we accept the fact that we have failed and that is put behind us. That’s one of the reasons for the tears, so that we can get on with heaven without crying.
I don’t know about you, but I think I speak for you when I say that when you look at the newspapers today: children being abused; you see starvation—twenty thousand die every day because of famine throughout the world. You think of the buckets and buckets of tears cried every single minute on this sinful, hurting world. I want you to know that for believers in Christ, the tears are wiped away. Wiped away by God.
Let me say also that there is no more pain. Revelation 21:4 says, “There shall no longer be any pain.” Well, you come with me to a hospital and you see the pain, you see the agony, you see those that are going through these difficult, difficult circumstances, whether the pain is physical or emotional. We live in a very, very hurting world. None of that in heaven. No more pain. It’s all gone.
Also, “there is no temple therein,” it says. Let me read it directly in the text: “And I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple; and the city has no need of the sun nor of the moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and the lamp is the Lamb.”
Now, earlier in the Book of Revelation there is a temple and it has been suggested that as long as the earth is in existence and the Great Tribulation is taking place, there’s a temple in heaven. But once that ends in the new order of reality there is no temple. Why? Because we have the privilege, then, of worshiping God directly. We don’t even need a temple that we enter. Could I say it? That the whole universe is God’s temple at that moment! All of heaven is God’s temple. And we have the privilege of being able to see Him face to face and to worship Him directly. So there is no temple therein.
And then, we read it here, “There is no need of the sun, nor of the moon, for God Himself shall illumine it, and”—remember this—“the lamp is the Lamb.”
Wow! Did you know that in heaven we will not have to sleep, and it’s not because we will be weary, either. We’re going to have bodies that are going to be able to just keep going and going and going and we will never, never be tired. And therefore there is no need for night because we generally sleep during the night.
“The lamp is the Lamb.” You know, it does make you want to say, “Lord, come quickly,” doesn’t it, as you think about the beauty and the glories of heaven.
And then, “no more abominations.” Now, notice, “And the nations shall walk by its light and the kings of the earth shall bring their glory into it, and in the daytime”—for there is no night there—“its gates shall never be closed; and they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it and nothing unclean....” We need to take this carefully because we live in an age where we have taken the holiness of God and we have brought God down to our own level and we’ve gotten so used to sin that it doesn’t affect us anymore. But listen to this: “Nothing unclean, no one who practices abomination and lying....”
Sometime ago I read that book, John, The Day America Told the Truth, and I concluded that the only time you can believe an American is when he tells you he’s lying. I’ve exaggerated it, but around 90 percent of all Americans say they lie at least every week if not every day! Notice, it says, “...and lying; they shall not enter in but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.” Wow!
Let’s talk very frankly about this. You today, “Well, I’ve committed abominations and I am one who practices lying.” What you need to do is to flee to Christ. What you need to do is to understand that, of course, it’s possible to have that in your background. We have all sinned. But what we need to do is to recognize that Jesus Christ died for sinners and when we put our faith in Christ, we can be assured that our name is in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
Maybe it’s because I’m getting older than I used to be, which is true of all of us, but I used to like that song sung many years ago: “Is your name written there?” The question is, “Is your name here?” You can find out by believing in Jesus and participating in the blessings that He brings and be very, very clear on this, that no abominations will enter heaven. It’s a pure place for a people that have been purified by God.
John, even as I am here with you today, in Chicago a close friend of ours is dying. She is dying so victoriously. Sometime ago I was with her in the hospital and I knelt beside her bed, I took her hand. She said, “Pastor, my bags are packed. I’m ready to go.” She’s dying so victoriously, in fact, that some of her relatives and friends have asked, “Tell us about her. How can she die that way? Is she in denial?” No. She’s not in denial. She knows that eternity is coming. But about four or five years ago she accepted Jesus Christ as her Savior and she knows where she is going.
One day after dinner I received a phone call from a pastor friend of mine who is dying of cancer and he just had days to live. And he said to me on the telephone, “Goodbye, Erwin, I will see you in heaven.” I spoke to him very briefly then and put the receiver down and spontaneously I began to cry. I normally don’t do that but it was so touching to think that this is real. These people and many others will be in heaven and we will be there with them forever. And as we’ve learned, no more tears, no more crying.
If you have never trusted Christ as your Savior, if you are not sure whether or not heaven is your final destination, there’s only one way to be sure, and that is to trust the One who is already there qualified to lead you all the way home.
You know, there was a little girl who was asked whether or not she was afraid to go through the cemetery. She lived close to one. And she said, “No.” She said, “The reason I am not afraid to run through the cemetery is because my home is on the other side.”
All of us are going to be in a cemetery someday. But through faith in Christ, we need not be overwhelmed by it because our home is on the other side.