Real Salvation and Whole-hearted Service

By R. A. Torrey

Chapter 5



"He looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God." — Heb. xi. 10.

" Here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come." — Heb. xiii. 14.

" I go to prepare a place for you." — John xiv. 2.

"And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away." — Rev. xxi. 4.

My subject to-night is " Heaven: What Sort of a Place it is, and How to Get There." This was the city Abraham sought, the " city which hath foundations," this is " the continuing city " which we are seeking instead of these fleeting and perishable cities and homes of earth. What sort of a place is this city? what sort of a place is heaven? In answer to the question I am not going to tell what sort of a place I imagine heaven to be. I care very little for my speculations or any other man's speculations and fancies on this point. I am going to tell you something that is sure about it. I am going to tell you what God plainly teaches about it in His Word. There are many who think we know nothing about heaven, and that it is all guesswork. That is not so. God has revealed to us very much about it, and what He has revealed about it is very cheering, and eminently calculated to awaken in every wise and true heart a desire to go there. I think if we reflected more about heaven it would help us to bear our burdens here more bravely, that it would incite us to holier living, that it would do much to deliver us from the power of the greed and the lust that is blighting so many lives, that it would make us cheerier and more sunshiny. Those are very shallow philosophers who tell us that our present business is to live this present life and let the future take care of itself. You might as well tell the schoolboy that his present business is to live to-day and take no outlook into the future life of manhood, that he might wisely prepare for it on the one hand, and feel its stimulus on the other. True thoughts of the life that is to come clothe the life that now is with new beauty and strength. Let us then think awhile to-night about heaven. What do we know about it?

I. Heaven, a Place

First of all, heaven is a place. " I go to prepare a place for you," says Jesus (John xiv. 2). Some will tell you that heaven is merely a state or condition. Doubtless it is more important to be in a heavenly state or condition than in a heavenly place. It would unquestionably be preferable to be in hell in a heavenly state of thought and heart, than to be in heaven in a hellish state of thought and heart. But heaven is a place. We are not to be merely in a heavenly state of mind, but in a heavenly city as well, " a city that hath foundations," " a continuing city." Christ has already entered into heaven now to appear in the presence of God for us (Heb. ix. 24). He has gone to prepare a place for us, and is coming back for us to take us to it. We are not to be disembodied spirits in the world to come, but redeemed spirits, in redeemed bodies, in a redeemed society, in a redeemed universe.

II. But What Sort of a Place is Heaven?

1. It is a place of incomparable external, as well as internal beauty. This appears from such descriptions as we have in the 21st and 22nd chapters of the last book in the Bible. The God of the Bible is a God of beauty. The God of nature is also a God of beauty. He made this world beautiful. Its beauty has been marred by sin, the weed and the thorn and the brier spring up, the insect devours the roses, the lilies fade, decay and death bring loathsome sights and foul smells. " The whole creation," fallen in sympathy with fallen man (and it may be in sympathy with fallen preadamite races), groans and travails together in pain until now (Rev. viii. 20-22). But enough is left of the primal beauty to show us how intensely God loves beauty, and He has told us in His Word that the creation itself shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God (Rom. viii. 21). There will be in heaven the perfection of beauty. Perfection of form, colour, sound, and odour. The beauty that is to be is necessarily indescribable. All earthly comparisons necessarily fail. Every sense and faculty of perception in our present state is blunted by sin and the disease that results from sin. But in our redemption bodies every sense and faculty will receive enlargement and exist in perfection. What new senses there may be we cannot, of course, imagine. Every faculty will have unlimited opportunity for exercise. A material beauty, the counterpart and double of the moral beauty of that world, a material beauty the highest and most faultless will surround us on every hand, filling eye and ear and nostrils. Some of us have seen beautiful visions on earth. We have seen the mountains rearing their snow-crowned heads through the clouds; we have seen the vista of rolling hills and verdant valleys and winding rivers and forests with their changing colours; we have seen the lake and ocean dancing and tossing and rolling in the moonlight; we have seen the heavens in the clear wintry night bejewelled with their countless stars; we have caught the odours that float through the summer night in park and garden and tropical island; we have listened to the indescribable harmonies of piano and violin and organ as they responded to the touch of the master's hand, and the more matchless music of the human voice; but all these are nothing to the beauty of sight and sound and fragrance that will greet us in that fair city that hath foundations. This shall be the lot of the poorest of God's children. That poor widow who to-night toils by the dim candle-light to gain the pitifully small wage with which pitiless sweaters reward her painful toil, will soon be at rest, and entering upon these scenes of indescribable beauty to go no more out for ever.

2. But the beauty of heaven, as good and attractive as it is, will be its least important characteristic. Heaven will be a place of high, holy, and ennobling companionships. The best and wisest and noblest men of all ages will be there. Abraham and Isaac and Jacob will be there (Matt. viii. u, "And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven"). Moses, Elijah, and Daniel, Paul and John, Rutherford and Brainerd and Payson. All the purest, noblest, most unselfish the world has known. All those who have trusted in the atoning blood of Christ (2 Cor. v. a, " For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens"). All the dear ones who believed in and loved the Lord Jesus will be there. There are many who desire to get into the best society of earth. That is all right if really it is the best society, and not merely the society of wealth and fashion and foolishness that is sometimes so strangely and irrationally called "the best society." But the very best society of this world will be nothing to the society of heaven. The joys we find in the companionship of noble, unselfish, thoughtful people here, in the dearest companionships we know, give but the faintest conception of the joys of heaven's companionships. The angels are there (Luke i. 19, "And the angel answering, said unto him, ' I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings.' " Luke xv. 7, 10, " I say unto you, That likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance." " Likewise, I say unto you, There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth "). We shall enjoy the companionship of these lofty intelligences, every one, Gabriel, Raphael, with the whole angelic host. God Himself is there too. In a sense He is everywhere, but heaven is the place of His peculiar presence and manifestation of Himself. (2 Chron. vi. 30, " Then hear thou from heaven thy dwelling-place; " Matt. vi. 10, " Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.") We shall hold communion with Him. Jesus Christ is there. (Acts vii. 56, "And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God." Heb. iv. 14, " Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession; " viii. I, " Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens.") To Paul this was one of the most attractive thoughts about heaven (Phil. i. 23, R.V.). The holy Rutherford also cried, " I would rather be in hell with Thee than in heaven without Thee; for, if I were in hell with Thee that would be heaven to me, and if I were in heaven without Thee that would be hell to me." On the other hand, there will be no unpleasant or degrading companionships there. The devil will not be there. The lewd, the vulgar, and the obscene will not be there. The avaricious and the scheming and selfish will not be there. The liar and the slanderer and the backbiter and the meddler and the gossip will not be there. The mean and the contemptible and the hypocrite will not be there. The profane and the blasphemer and the infidel and the scoffer will not be there. No money, nor influence, nor cunning will get them in. "And there shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination or maketh a lie "

(Rev. xxi. 27). It will be a good place to be. Birmingham would not be such a bad place to live in if we could get rid of some of its inhabitants. All such will be gotten rid of there. There are limitations to the joys of the dearest earthly companionships. Here

"Thought is deeper than all speech,

     Feeling than all thought,

Soul to soul can never teach

     What to itself was taught."

It will not be so there. We can perfectly open our hearts to one another there, as we so often and so vainly long to here. (1 Cor. xiii. 12, "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.")

Heaven will be a place of glad reunions. " Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up in the clouds, together with " those who have left us, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord (1 Thess. iv. 17). The bereaved wife shall meet again the husband she has missed so long, the son shall meet again the mother whose departure left his life so desolate. There we shall meet again children who were removed from us in all the beauty of their early life, and whom we have never forgotten through all the months and years that have passed since. Ah! what glad days those coming days will be when we meet again never more to part.

3. Heaven will be a place that is free from everything that curses or mars our life here. The world we live in would be a happy place indeed if it were not for a few things. If there were no sin, no sickness, no pain, no poverty, no servile labour, no want, no death, this world would be good. But these things mar and well-nigh ruin this present world. There will be none of these things in heaven. There will be no sin. Everyone will perfectly obey the will of God. There will be no poverty. Everyone will have all the inexhaustible wealth of God at his disposal. (Rom. viii. 17, " And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ: if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together.") There will be no servile, grinding toil. I tell you, when I see the weary women who toil from early morn until late at night over the tub or ironing-board or sewing machine, when I see the men who rise at break of day and go forth to the forge or bench or ditch, I rejoice that there is a place where the weary are at rest. There will be none of these things in heaven. "There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God " (Heb. iv. 9). There will be no sickness nor pain. "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no, more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away" (Rev. xxi. 4). No more aching limbs, no more throbbing temples, no more darting pains, no more grinding tortures, no more swelling tongues, no more weakness, no more sighs, no more groans, no more nights of tossing in sweltering rooms, no more tears. There will be no death in heaven. No breaking hearts as we look for the last time into the faces of loved ones as cheeks grow ashen, as eyes glaze. No watching the undertaker as he screws down the coffin lid on the one we loved, no black dresses and veils, no funerals passing through the streets, no standing by a yawning grave and watching a coffin lowered into it, no listening to the cold clods as they fall remorselessly on the box that contains the form of the one we love so much and whose departure leaves life so cheerless. Thank God there is no death in heaven.

4. Heaven will be a place of universal and perfect knowledge. Here the wisest of us sees through a glass darkly, but there face to face. Here we know in part, but there even as we are known (I Cor. xiii. 12). The wisest scientist or philosopher on earth knows but very little. The little they know is exceedingly precious, but it is very little. Sir Isaac Newton when an old man said to one who praised his wisdom, “I am as a child on the seashore picking up a pebble here and a shell there, but the great ocean of truth still lies before me.” But in heaven the most uneducated of us will have fathomed that great ocean of truth. Perfect knowledge of all things. The great perplexing problems of God and man, of time and eternity, solved. God’s wondrous purposes and their accomplishment lying open before us. No doubts, no questionings, no uncertainties, no errors. Faith swallowed up in sight.  

5. Heaven will be a place of universal and perfect love. “Beloved now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is ” (1 John iii. 2). We shall be like Him, and He is love. (1 John iv. 8, “He that loveth not, knoweth not God; for God is love.”) What a place to live, where everyone is a lover and where all love is perfect. How happy is the home where love is triumphant. It may be a lowly home, a plain, a very plain place, but it is a happy place. “Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith ” (Prov. xv. 17). All is love there. And the love there will not be like that of earth, hesitating, suspicious, changeful, selfish, now so cold and again so warm, but pure unbounded, unfaltering, unchanging, constant, Christlike. What a world that will be | The universal brotherhood of which we read and talk so much and see so little will find its perfect realisation there.  

6. Heaven will be a place of praise. “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; and cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.” And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, saying, ‘Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen’” (Rev. vii. 9-12). Men will have open eyes to see God as He is. To see Jesus Christ as He is. Souls will throb and burst forth with praise. Suppose we should here in this hall to-night get one glimpse of God as He is, one view of Jesus Christ as He is! There would be a burst of song rising from this audience such as never rang through this building before. There will be melody all day long in heaven. Some people ask me in a critical way, Why do you have so much music in your meetings? Because we wish them to be as much  like heaven as possible. Heaven will be a very musical place. There will be far more singing than preaching there.

7. Heaven will be " a city which hath foundations," a "continuing city" (Heb. xi. 10; xiii. 14). Earth's greatest cities and earth's fairest homes do not abide, they crumble into dust. The so-called " eternal city " of the past is trodden underneath the unheeding feet of the beggars of modern Rome. The world itself does not abide. " The world passeth away " ( 1 John ii. 17). Heaven does abide. We enter it to go no more out for ever. The seons of eternity roll on, but heaven abides in its beauty, in its glory, in its joyousness, in its love; and we abide with it.

III. How to Gain an Entrance Into Heaven

Is no heart to-night stirred with a longing for that "better country"? (Heb. xi. 16). Who would not rather have an entrance there than to have the poor fleeting possessions of any of earth's millionaires? If I had my choice between having the most splendid mansion on earth, and largest fortune, and all that money could buy, and then missing heaven at last, and living in the wretchedest tenement in want and hunger and suffering all my days and then gaining heaven at last, it would not take long to choose. Ah, when we reach that fair home, the privations of earth through which we may have passed to gain it will seem small and trifling indeed. " I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us " (Rom. viii. 18). But we may all gain an entrance there. There is but one way, but that is very simple and open to all. In John xiv. 6, " Jesus saith unto them, ' I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by Me.' " In John x. 9, He says, " I am the door: by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture." Christ is the door to heaven: Christ is the way to God. Accept Christ, accept Him fully as your Saviour, your Master, your Lord. Do it to-night. Do it now. If you stood outside the door of some fair mansion tonight where all inside was beauty, and sociability, and joyousness and love, and the owner with cordial invitation said, " Come in," would you wait a second invitation and risk its not being given? But even now Jesus swings heaven's door open wide, and says, " Come in." Accept Him at once and gain a right to enter and live for ever in heaven.

Over in our country there was a godless father who had a sweet little child who was an earnest Christian. This young daughter fell ill and died. The father was very angry at God. After the funeral he raged about his room cursing God who had taken from him his beloved child. At last, utterly worn out, he threw himself upon the bed and fell asleep. In his slumber he dreamed that he stood beside a dark river, across which he saw a beautiful land on the farther side. As he gazed across the river he saw children's forms coming toward him. From among the children one fair child came forth, whom he soon recognised as his own little daughter. She was beckoning to him and calling, " Come over here, father; come over here." He awoke, and bursting into tears gave up his rebellion against God, accepted Christ, and prepared to meet his child in the fair land beyond the river. To many of us to-night there are voices of loved ones who have gone before calling, " Come over here, father; " " Come over here, my son; " Come over here, mother; '* " Come over here, husband; " " Come over here, wife." Let us accept Christ at once, and thus gain the right to enter heaven and live there for ever.