Images of Heavenly Glory Revelation 21:1-27
Read Revelation chapter twenty-one. In that chapter the Holy Spirit gives us several biblical images representing the present and everlasting state of God’s saints in heaven’s glory. It is mot my intention in this study to the mysteries of that chapter. I know the impossibility of that task. We will never know the fulness of the glory awaiting us until we experience it. But the things recorded in those twenty-seven verses do give us some images of the heavenly glory awaiting every believer.
In this series of studies I am trying to describe the glorious state of God’s saints in heaven, a task more fit for an angel than for a man, or for one of the glorified saints in heaven than for a weak, sinful, mortal creature like myself. But it is a task God has, I believe, laid upon my heart and one in which I thoroughly delight. Our conception of heavenly glory and the greatness of it must be formed according to the adjectives used in the Word of God to describe it.
It is an unseen glory (1 Cor. 2:9). The glory of heaven consists of “things not seen” (2 Cor. 4:18), which are eternal. We look for and have an assured hope of heaven by faith. But no one on earth has ever seen it. (See Heb. 11:1.) No one here has ever had so much as a glimpse of heaven but by faith. We live in hope of that which we have not yet seen (Rom. 8:24-25).
The glory of heaven is for us a future glory (Rom. 8:18; 1 John 3:2). Our friends who have gone before us enjoy the glory of heaven now. But for us, it is altogether a future thing, yet to be revealed. Sometimes we imagine that we have experienced a little foretaste of heaven, or a little of “heaven on earth,” in the worship of our God; but we have never come close. The glory of heaven is a glory yet to be revealed.
It is also an incomparable glory (Rom. 8:18). There is nothing in this world to be compared to the glory of heaven. All earthly honor, riches, pleasure, and greatness are trifling and empty things of vanity, when compared to the glory that awaits us. Even the sufferings of God’s saints in this world for Christ’s sake, which is the purest and most glorious form of service to him, is not worthy to be compared to the glory that awaits us. And if our most glorious services cannot be compared to the glory of heaven, they certainly cannot be meritorious of heaven! The very best things we do for our God, from the purest principles cannot be compared to heavenly glory. Our afflictions for Christ are “light afflictions” - Heaven is a weight of glory. Our afflictions are but for a moment - Heavenly glory is eternal.
It is the prospect of heavenly glory that supports believers in their troubles, and makes them choose to suffer affliction with the people of God and to esteem the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt, causing them to take joyfully the spoiling of their goods for Christ’s sake, knowing that in heaven they have a better and an enduring substance (Heb. 11:25-26; 10:34). If nothing in this world can be compared to the glory that awaits us in heaven, then let us set our hearts on things above, not on things on the earth (Col. 3:1-4; Matt. 6:19-34).
My rest is in heaven, my rest is not here, Then why should I tremble when trials come near?
Be hushed, my dark spirit, the worst that can come But shortens thy journey, and hastens thee home.
It is not for me to be seeking my bliss, Or building my hopes in a region like this;
I look for a city that hands have not piled, I pant for a country by sin undefiled.
Afflictions oppress me, but cannot destroy, One glimpse of His love turns them all into joy;
The bitterest tears, if He smiles but on them, Like dew in the sunshine, grow diamond and gem.
Let doubt, then, and danger my progress oppose, They only make heaven more sweet at the close,
Come joy, or come sorrow, whatever befall, One hour with my God will make up for them all.
A load on my back, a staff in my hand, I march on in haste through an enemy’s land;
The road may be rough, but it cannot be long; I’ll smooth it with hope and cheer it with song.
The glory awaiting us in heaven is called an eternal glory (1 Pet. 5:10). The glory of this world passes away very quickly. But the glory of the world to come never shall. The glory of this world is fading. The glory of that world is ending. The glory of this is temporal. The glory of that world is eternal. The glory of heaven is an immutable, eternal weight of glory. All that awaits us on the other side is eternal...
· A Crown Of Glory That Fadeth Not Away.
· An Inheritance That Is Eternal.
· A House, Not Made With Hands, Eternal In The Heavens.
· A Kingdom That Is Everlasting.
· A City That Abides And Continues Forever.
“When kingdoms, crowns, and scepters are no more, and all that is great and glorious in this world (has passed away), this will endure forever, for it is eternal glory the God of all grace calls his people to and will put them in possession of” (John Gill).
Here is the glory of heaven - It is to be forever with the Lord. It is eternity with Christ!
This world is not my home, I’m only passing through;
A stranger here, I must go on, My home is now in view:
“Forever with the Lord!” Amen! So let it be!
With Christ I’ll live forevermore In immortality!
Add to all this the fact that heaven is a place of glory (John 14:3). Our Lord said, “I go and prepare a place for you.” Yes, heaven is a state and condition of glory. But it is also a place of glory, a place where Christ is gone, a place where he sits in a real body upon a glorious throne, a place prepared for us.
The glory of that place called heaven is set forth in the Scriptures under many striking images, images taken from the most great, glorious, rich and valuable things known to men. We know that the imagery used in the Scriptures to describe heaven is not given to describe its literal form, size, and shape, because Paul told us plainly that no tongue could describe what he saw there and heard there (2 Cor. 12:1-4). Those images drawn of heaven by the inspired writers of God’s Word are intended to show us the surpassing excellence and infinite glory that awaits us in heaven. Here are five images given in the Word of God to show us the grandeur and greatness of heavenly glory.
HEAVEN IS REPRESENTED TO US IN THE SCRIPTURES AS A HOUSE (2 Cor. 5:1). It is a house, but a house incomparable to any house found in this world. This house is a building of God, “a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”
This house of glory is not built by man’s hands. This is a house whose Builder and Maker is God. There is nothing, not one brick or piece of timber in that heavenly house that has been laid in its place by the will of man, the works of man, or the worship of man. Our house in heaven is a construction of grace alone. It is true, the works of God’s saints follow them into their house in heaven (Rev. 14:13). But they do not go before them. And they have nothing to do with the building of that house. It is a building of God. Its foundation was laid in God’s purpose. Its walls were erected by Christ’s blood. Its title deed was purchased by Christ’s blood. Its door was opened by Christ’s entrance into heaven.
Solomon built a great temple in Jerusalem. When it was laid in ruins, Zerubbabel rebuilt it, and Herod repaired it. It was a grand and glorious structure in the eyes of men. But where is it now? Not one stone is left in its place. It was a holy place made with hands. But it was only a temporary, typical house. Our house in heaven is the true holy place. It is the building of God, the work of free, sovereign, effectual grace in the Lord Jesus Christ.
This house is in the heavens (2 Cor. 5:2). Our present houses of clay, the physical bodies in which we now live, have their foundation in the dust of the earth. Therefore, they must soon crumble. But our house which is from heaven and in heaven is eternal. It will never age, or crumble, or stand in need of repair. Men build their houses on earth and vainly imagine that they will stand forever (Psa. 49:11). But in time they decay, are demolished by the elements, broken down with earthquakes, burned by fire, or destroyed by their enemies. Our heavenly house of glory abides forever. All its apartments are called “everlasting habitations” (Lk. 16:9).
Our Lord Jesus called this house our “Father’s house” (John 14:2). It is his Father’s house. That makes it our Father’s house; and that makes it all the more endearing and glorious. In our Father’s house there are many mansions. Roll this morsel around in your heart - Heaven is called the “Father’s house.” Our Father built it. Our Father dwells there. It is the place where He would have all his children to be. Our Father’s house is a rich, roomy, stately, and well stored house, a place of “many mansions.” These mansions are dwelling places for the King’s sons. They are places of rest, joy, and peace, where the sons and daughters of almighty God want for nothing. And there are “many” of them! Many for the many who were ordained to eternal life - The many who have been justified by Christ’s obedience - The many for whom his blood was shed for the remission of sins - And the many sons whom he will bring to glory (Acts 13:48; Rom. 5:19; Matt. 26:28; Heb. 2:10). There is room enough and provision enough in the Father’s house for all the innumerable hosts of those men and women out of every nation, kindred, tribe and tongue chosen, redeemed, and called by almighty grace.
HEAVENLY GLORY IS CALLED AN INHERITANCE (Acts 20:32; Eph. 1:11; Col. 1:12; Rom. 8:17). As Canaan was an inheritance distributed by lot to the children of Israel, so heavenly glory is an inheritance given by lot, by the lot which God himself arranged (Prov. 16:33), to the Israel of God. As Canaan is a type of heaven, it should never be forgotten that Moses could never bring Israel into the land. But what Moses through the weakness of the flesh could not do, Joshua did. And the saints of God are brought to heaven not by the works of the law, but by the Lord Jesus Christ, our Joshua, our Deliverer, the Captain of our salvation.
An inheritance is a free gift. It cannot be earned by labor and diligence. It cannot be merited. And it cannot be purchased with money. It is bequeathed from one person to another. Our inheritance in heavenly glory was given by God the father to his Son, Christ Jesus our Lord. And it is given by Christ to all who trust him. It is to us a gift of pure, free, sovereign grace. Be sure you understand these things.
Heavenly glory cannot be obtained, in any part or degree, by the works of men. All men by nature vainly imagine that they must do something to inherit eternal life in heaven. But their proud imaginations deceive them. Eternal life is the gift of God (Rom. 6:23) in its promise, in its bestowment, in its preservation, and in its everlasting enjoyment. Heavenly glory cannot be purchased by men. If a man should give all his substance for it, the price offered would be utterly despised by God. Heavenly glory is an inheritance bequeathed to chosen sinners by our heavenly Father from eternity. It is the Father’s good pleasure to give his kingdom to his elect. He gives it by his own will, by a testament, through, by, and upon the merits of the sacrificial death of his dear Son, the Testator (Heb. 9:15-17).
This inheritance belongs only to the children of God (Rom. 8:17). It does not belong to his servants, the angels (Heb. 1:14), nor to the children of the bond-woman (Gal. 4:30), self-righteous, legalistic, works and free-will religionists, but only to those men and women predestinated to adoption in eternity and called to be the sons of God in time. Yet, it is an inheritance that belongs to all the saints of God fully. There are no degrees of glory in heaven. There are no back settlements in the heavenly Canaan! There are no second class citizens in the New Jerusalem!
Our heavenly inheritance is incorruptible. All earthly inheritances are corruptible, subject to change, and unstable. This inheritance cannot be corrupted by us or anyone else. It cannot be changed or altered in any degree. It is as sure as the throne of God. It is an undefiled inheritance. It is an inheritance that fadeth not away. It is an eternal inheritance (Heb. 9:15). It is an inheritance reserved in heaven, immutably and infallibly reserved in heaven for God’s elect (1 Pet. 1:4). God keeps the inheritance for us; and God keeps us for the inheritance.
ANOTHER FAMILIAR IMAGE OF HEAVEN IS THAT OF A CITY (Heb. 11:10). Heaven is a large, rich, spacious, fully inhabited city, whose Builder and Maker is God. Like the other images, this word, “city”, is a figurative term, not to be understood in any carnal, earthly, mundane sense. Heaven is a city infinitely beyond anything on this earth.
It is “a city which hath foundations.” Not one foundation, but many, so that it is firm, immovable, and cannot be shaken, thrown down, or dissolved. The foundations upon which this city, this habitation of glory, is built are the everlasting love of God, the unalterable covenant of grace, and the blessed Rock of Ages, Jesus Christ our Lord.
The glory of this city cannot be comprehended or described by men upon this earth (2 Cor. 12:4). The description of the New Jerusalem given by the Apostle John is a hyperbole. It does exactly what it was intended to do. It defies imagination. John saw in his vision a city with walls of jasper, gates of pearl, and streets of pure gold, transparent as glass! What a place of spiritual wealth, abundance, and happiness heaven must be! What a place of spiritual excellence and perfection! There they have no value, absolutely no value, for the most priceless treasures and gems of the world! In that world, where there is no sin, there is no greed, nor covetousness, nor ambition. In that glory land, where there is no sin, material things are nothing but useful accommodations. No value is placed upon them. Jasper is nothing but a wall to enclose the church of God. Pearls are nothing but gates to open the kingdom of God. Gold is nothing but pavement upon which men and women walk to the throne of God. May God graciously teach us so to use them now!
HEAVENLY GLORY IS REPRESENTED TO US AS A KINGDOM. A house is great. An inheritance is something greater. A city is something greater still. But the inspired writers seem to stretch for words to describe the heavenly glory, using ever expanding ideas to describe it. What is heaven? It is a glorious house! Yes, but it is more than a house. It is a glorious inheritance! Yes, but it is more than an inheritance. It is a glorious city! Yes, but it is more than a city. It is a glorious kingdom!
God’s saints in this world are kings. We have a kingdom now which cannot be moved (Heb. 12:28). It is a kingdom that lies not in carnal ceremonies, but in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17). And we are heirs of another kingdom, a kingdom prepared for us from the foundation of the world (Matt. 25:35). It is a kingdom of glory (1 Thess. 2:12). It is an everlasting kingdom. We have been called and born into this kingdom by the almighty, irresistible grace and power of God the Holy Spirit. We have been prepared and fitted for this kingdom by the blood and righteousness of Christ.
The kingdom of glory to which we are heirs is the place where every believer shall be crowned and honored by God and all the holy angels. In this world there is no honor put upon faith, faithfulness, and commitment to Christ. But in the world to come God himself and all his holy angels will honor and crown redeemed sinners for the perfection of beauty grace has given them in Christ (Eph. 1:10; 2;7; Rev. 21:9). (See Jeremiah 33:16.) The Lord God himself will give us a crown.
· A Crown Of Life (James 1:12).
· A Crown Of Righteousness (2 Tim. 4:8).
· A Crown Of Glory That Fadeth Not Away (1 Cor. 9:25).
And our great God and Savior will cause us to sit upon a throne as kings in his glorious kingdom (Rev. 3:21). We have been raised from the dunghill of fallen humanity by his grace. And we shall be raised from the dunghill to a throne of glory in heaven (1 Sam. 2:8). There, in heavenly glory, we shall inherit and sit upon the throne with Christ himself. This is grace! And this is glory!
HEAVENLY GLORY IS SET BEFORE US UNDER THE IMAGE OF INFINITE, ETERNAL, HOLY PLEASURE (Psa. 16:11). Heaven is a house. Heaven is an inheritance. Heaven is a city. Heaven is a kingdom. And heaven is a place of glorious life, fullness of joy, and pleasure forevermore. Everything that is pleasing to the renewed mind, gratifying to the sanctified heart, and desirable to the regenerate soul shall be fully enjoyed to all eternity in heaven’s glory land.
There we shall sit down with Christ at his table and drink new wine with him in his Father’s kingdom. There we shall pick and eat the fruit of the Tree of Life which stands in the midst of the Paradise of God. There we shall drink of that pure River of The Water of Life proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. There we shall see what no eye has seen, hear what no ear has heard, and understand that which has never entered into the heart of man.
“The eye of man has seen many things on earth very grand and illustrious, and what have been very entertaining to it. But it never saw such objects as will be seen in heaven. The ear of man has heard and been entertained with very pleasing sounds, very delightful music, vocal and instrumental. But it never heard such music as will be heard in heaven. The heart of man can conceive of more than it has either seen or heard. But it never conceived of such things as will be enjoyed in the world above” (John Gill).
The door of access to heavenly glory is straight. The way is narrow. We must come in by the Door, Christ Jesus. The only way to God, the only way to heaven, the only way to glory is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ is the Only Way, the Righteous Way, and the Sure Way. Let none be satisfied with merely studying about the glory awaiting Gods saints in heaven. Let us make certain that we are in the Way that brings sinners there. Let us make our calling and election sure. Make certain that you are in Christ.