About this book
“I go to prepare a place for you.” This well-known promise from Jesus must cause us to think about the reality of heaven. Where is heaven? What is it like? Will I recognize people there? Heaven is to be our home for ever. All who are Christians must surely want to hear about the place where they are to spend eternity. In this White Tree Publishing abridged edition of William Branks’ classic work of 1861, we unlock some doors and discover what the Bible has to say about heaven. There may be a few surprises, and there are certainly some challenges as we explore a subject about which there seems to be little teaching and awareness today.
Heaven Our Home
This abridged edition ©Chris Wright 2016
e-Book ISBN: 978-0-9935005-3-4
Original book first published in 1861
White Tree Publishing
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of the copyright owner of this abridged edition.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
About this book
Part 1 Heaven Our Home
Chapter 1 Heaven is a Place
Chapter 2 Pictures of Heaven:
Eden and |Canaan
Chapter 3 Pictures of Heaven:
Chapter 4 Pictures of Heaven:
Chapter 5 Pictures of Heaven:
Chapter 6 The Family in Heaven
Part 2 Knowing Our Friends
Chapter 7 Knowing our Friends
Chapter 8 Heaven a Home
Chapter 9 Entering Heaven
Chapter 10 Memory in Heaven
Chapter 11 The Judgment Day
Part 3 Heaven and Earth
Chapter 12 Heaven and Earth
Chapter 13 Angels
Chapter 14 Children of God
Chapter 15 The Lost
and the Found
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“In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2).
“These words of Jesus must cause us to think about the reality of heaven. Where is heaven? What is it like? Will I recognize people there? Heaven is to be our home for ever, so all who are Christians must surely want to hear about the place in which they are to spend eternity.” So writes William Branks in the opening chapter of his 1861 book Heaven Our Home.
A rather sweeping observation today would be that in the 19th century, when young deaths within the family were relatively common, people were especially interested in heaven, with questions such as: Where and what is it? Will we know people there? In the 20th century, with world wars and the return of the Jews to Israel, attention turned from heaven to studying signs for the return of Jesus in the end times. Now, in the 21st century, immersed in consumerism and self-fulfilment, in many churches little is heard of heaven or the promised return of Jesus.
“Heaven is like a locked door. The Bible tells us almost nothing about it.” Wrong! All through the Bible there is an amazing picture being painted of heaven, if we only look for it.
“Anyway, I’ve got too much to do in this life to think about heaven.” If we could just get a glimpse of heaven, imperfect though our understanding would be, our lives, our hopes, would surely be different.
“I know someone who’s so heavenly minded, he’s no earthly use!” The apostle Paul was given a glimpse of heaven, and he was a man of great earthly use. John Wesley, William Wilberforce, Hannah More, William Booth (and so many other great Christian reformers that we could fill a book with their names) were godly, heavenly minded people who were a powerful force for God while on the this earth.
In 1861 William Franks explored all the Bible references to heaven. In this classic work he unlocks the door and leads us as close to seeing and understanding this exciting and comforting picture as we are likely to get with our earthly vision. Heaven is a place! He explores direct Bible teaching about heaven, parables about heaven, and descriptions of heaven in visions recorded in the Bible. The first edition sold out in just over a week, and 100 reprints were subsequently needed to keep up with the demand.
His book received criticism from some liberal theologians who accused him of concentrating on the family and the reality of heaven as our home, because in their view heaven is more a state than a place. This is in absolute contradiction to what the Bible has to say about heaven, where the emphasis is very much on heaven being a real place, with believers knowing each other there -- although knowing Jesus must, and will be, our main priority.
My surprise, when reading William Branks’ original book many years ago, was that there is so much we can learn about heaven from the Bible. Here is an exciting glimpse of a very real world, already existing and ready for us for eternity.
The original work is long and sometimes heavy and repetitive in places. In abridging this work, I have tried not to alter William Branks’ original understanding or emphasis. However, there are some places where I felt more explanation was called for in the 21st century, and I have added the occasional note which may help clear up any confusion, or give a different viewpoint to consider. (The original book has recently been reprinted by several publishers, and is available from them as a print-on-demand paperback.)
Mediums and spiritualists often give a comforting description of the world “on the other side” or “over there”. We must ignore this as dangerous and misleading, because in the Bible contacting the dead is strictly forbidden, and surely much false information will be given by those who do not acknowledge Jesus as Lord. The imagery in “messages from beyond the grave” is certainly very different from that used in the Bible. The Bible is the Christian’s source of teaching about God and heaven.
As you read this book, you may have your own interpretation of some passages, and occasionally question some of William Branks’ imagined scenes in heaven. Please feel encouraged to examine this teaching for yourself, and maybe understand a few things a little differently. Some will see John’s descriptions of heaven in Revelation as exact. Others will imagine what a man from a tribe deep in the rainforest might take back as a description of what he had seen if he was transported for an hour to the centre of a modern city, full of cars and buses, traffic lights and signs, and large department stores. What words could he use to describe the city when he returned to people who have never left their isolated village? The city would still be real, even though the understanding of the people would be far from perfect. Does our limited understanding make heaven any less real?
When we are planning to travel to a part of the world we have never visited previously, we can read the guide book and imagine the towns and the countryside. But when we’ve been there, and read that same guide book again, our understanding of what we first read is now very different. Yet the description in the guide book has not changed. It is our understanding that has changed. To see and understand heaven we need to be in heaven and see it with heavenly eyes. One day, of course, we will be able to understand. As the apostle Paul says, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face” (1 Corinthians 13:12).
The sole reason for publishing this abridged book is to awaken a deeper interest in heaven among Christians in the 21st century. If it does that, its purpose will be achieved. I am well aware that there is no Bible translation that suits everyone, but the translation I have used in this abridged book is the New King James Version (NKJV), which bridges both the traditional and the modern translations. If you are a reader with a strong preference for a different translation, you will be able to check the verses in your own Bible. The full reference is given for every Scripture quotation.
Heaven Our Home
“In My Father’s house are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2).
Heaven is a Place
“I go to prepare a place for you.” These words of Jesus must cause us to think about the reality of heaven. Where is heaven? What is it like? Will I recognize people there?
Heaven is to be our home for ever. All who are Christians must surely want to hear about the place where they are to spend eternity.
The sailor who is afloat on the ocean, on his voyage home consults the compass regularly and carefully, for it points out the course he must sail if he is to reach the sheltered harbour. Here he will drop anchor and be safe and secure, for the storms will then be rolling far away in the distance behind him. He also delights to study the book which gives him a detailed account of the country to which he is sailing.
In the same way, you who are the children of God can look forward with excitement and longing when you think of your eternal home. You must surely feel some interest in an attempt to give you a description of it, what it is, and what you are to experience when you enter it.
What, then, is heaven? This is no trifling or unimportant question. If I am immortal, and if heaven is to be my home for ever, much of my present happiness will depend on the understanding of heaven which I now hold. This will have an influence on my way of life, leading me to prepare and make ready, so that I may be sure to enter it at death. Before I proceed to consider what heaven is, I will make a few reflections on the question, Where is heaven?
I believe that the ideas of many Christians about the locality of heaven are as vague as are the thoughts of a child who is two or three years old over the position of India, Australia, or the Cape of Good Hope. With many Christians all is dark and dreamy concerning the fact that heaven is a place, and not merely a state.
I believe that the young generally have a far more vivid, though incorrect idea, of the exact place where the eternal home of the people of God rears its walls than that possessed by those more mature in years.
Ask a child, “Where is heaven?” Is there any doubt existing in the mind while giving an answer to your question? The finger is instantly lifted up, and looking and pointing to the sky the answer is, “Up there.” Advancing years however, and increasing knowledge, bring about a complete revolution in our view of this locality. Astronomy not only shows us the greatness and the splendour of the universe, but the greatness also and sovereignty of God who made it, and through which He walks in His glory and in His majesty.
A similar change of view about the exact position of a friend sometimes comes over our imaginings. Have you not sometimes dreamt that you saw someone meeting you in your home, with the love and friendship he might show if he lived with you? You awoke in the morning and saw that in the dream you thought he was with you, when in fact he was not.
Would it be right reasoning, in these circumstances, for you to say, “Because I had a wrong view in the night about the place of his present abode, therefore my friend has no existence”?
It is the same with the whereabouts of heaven. After the dream of childhood over its position in space has vanished, would it be right for us hastily to jump to the conclusion, “Oh, heaven is nowhere! It is not where I once thought it was; therefore it has no existence at all!”
Some preachers have attempted to get over the difficulty of fixing the present locality of heaven by representing it as a habitation that is not yet formed. These theologians place heaven in the same category as the Judgment Day -- the resurrection of the dead. In support of their view they are in the habit of quoting the following words of the apostle Peter: "Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells" (2 Peter 3:13). These words apply to the final state of the saved, with resurrection bodies after the Judgment.
Be sure, there is a heaven existing right now, into which Jesus has ascended. There God has established His throne, a throne of glory that is high and lifted up, where angels live. “In heaven,” says Jesus, “their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 18:10), and in which are dwelling “the spirits of just men made perfect” (Hebrews 12:23), or otherwise the revelations of the Bible are so many myths.
There is a heaven into which Abraham and the other patriarchs have entered. They are still alive. At Horeb, God said to Moses, “I am,” not, I was, “the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob” (Exodus 3:13-15). When these words were spoken, the patriarchs had been dead for several hundred years. God implies they were still alive. He is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live to Him.
There is a heaven into which the prophets have ascended, who once acted as the mouth of God on earth. There is a heaven into which the disciples of our Lord have entered, who once followed Jesus in His mission of love in this world, and who still follow the Lamb wherever He goes. There is a heaven into which martyrs have ascended, who sealed their testimony to Jesus with their blood.
There is a heaven into which believers, from every country on earth, and from every age of this world’s history, have ascended, who have been coming from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south, and have been meeting with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.
From the throne of His love in these high places, God has been saying to the north, "Give them up," and to the south, "Do not keep them back; bring My sons from afar, and My daughters from the ends of the earth" (Isaiah 43:6). The redeemed of the Lord have been for thousands of years returning and coming to the heavenly Zion with songs of praise -- they are now obtaining, in God's presence above, the joy and gladness that they were promised -- and sorrow and mourning have for ever fled away from them. These multitudes now, at this very moment, stand together in praise and sing before their God and Saviour.
There is a heaven existing right now, into which you are to ascend at your death, who are the children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
Where, then, is heaven? The Bible constantly speaks of it as up, as above. But this language, it is quite evident, is only relative. In other words, it merely implies that heaven is away from the earth. The earth turns completely round every twenty-four hours.
Take the case of an individual who speaks about heaven, and who in faith looks up to it at midday. Up, to him, simply means the direction in which he is looking into space. Let twelve hours pass over that individual’s head. The earth is revolving, and has now brought him into the exactly opposite direction from where he was twelve hours before.
Let him now speak of heaven, and let him look up to it. His feet are in a line leading through the centre of the earth, downwards towards the heaven to which he looked twelve hours before. Either there must be two heavens, or all space is heaven, or he is mistaken in his view of the direction in which heaven lies from the earth at one or other of these times.
I believe the Scriptures do not fix the place. They have not explained the exact locality which heaven occupies in space, no more than they have fixed definitively the exact locality where Eden was situated. The Scriptures do not attempt to explain to us where heaven is situated, and its existence does not depend on our ability to understand where it can be.
In the 21st century we now see that the location of heaven could be within a different space-time continuum (existence), and therefore impossible to locate from an earthly point of view. But this does not invalidate the argument that heaven has to be somewhere.
Heaven is as much out of my sight, and beyond the reach of my eye, as if it had no existence. As in the temple in Jerusalem, God has stretched a veil between us and His throne, which entirely hides it from our view. The prophet’s description of God is, “Truly You are God, who hide Yourself, O God of Israel, the Saviour!” (Isaiah 45:15). God not only hides Himself, He hides also from us the habitation of His holiness. While we remain on earth we are to walk by faith and not by sight. A clear view of the hosts of heaven, and of the great realities of eternity, would so overpower and paralyse us as to unfit us for the duties of earth and time.
But though God does not show us heaven, He speaks to us in His Word about heaven, and tells us not where it is, but what it is. A small child in this country has his parents living in, for example, India. That child knows not where his parents’ home is, nor the way to it, but the captain of the ship knows as he takes that child on board. In the same way angels who will take us, believers, home, know where heaven is. (See Luke 16:22, where the angels knew exactly where to take Lazarus.)
Those who are already in heaven possess a knowledge of it, independent of the descriptions in the Bible. They see its heights of majesty towering around them; its valleys of joy stretching away in an eternal summer; its rivers rolling through its brightening scenery, and the living streams flowing at their feet, which make glad the City of God.
They see its azure sky arching over them in a splendour of light that never grows dim, for there is no night there. Finally, they see the building of God -- the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens -- the house with many mansions, in which God's great and happy family meet, and live, and walk, and talk, and dwell in love for ever.
Angels have been surveying heaven and have been contemplating its scenery since the dawn of creation. It is different with us, who are yet but pilgrims on earth. We have in the Bible the only inspired descriptions of heaven which will ever be put into our hands. But these descriptions are not heaven, any more than the pattern of the Temple which Moses saw on the mount was the massive and splendid fabric raised by Solomon, or a map is the country it delineates, or a book of geography is the earth, or the plan of a house is the actual building, or your portrait is yourself.
With many, heaven is merely a sound. They see the word “heaven” in their Bible. They read about it there. But to them the great heaven into which Jesus has ascended, where God has His throne, where angels and the departed dwell together in love, is not at all or is but dimly realized as a place -- a world existing entirely apart, independent of the Bible’s descriptions. Such people should remember that heaven existed before the Bible was written, and would continue to exist even were there no Bible to tell us what a glorious, holy, and happy place it is.
A star, in the far distance of space, hidden from the view of the eye, exists independent of the telescope that has brought it into view. What does the telescope do to that star? The star is not in the telescope, any more than your friend you see before you is in your eye. It has an existence independent of the instrument through which you look. The telescope does not create the star, it merely brings it into your view, and shows you how the heavens are declaring the glory of God, and the firmament is showing forth His handiwork. (Psalm 19:1).
In the same way, the Bible does not create heaven, but it does to heaven what the telescope does to the most distant star that is invisible to the naked eye: it brings it into view. It lifts the veil that hides the great regions of eternal life from our view, and it shows us a glimpse of a world existing, inhabited, and lighted up with its own special joy.
Heaven is not a state or condition. Certainly Jesus says, “The kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21), but in these words Jesus is not speaking of the kingdom of glory, He is speaking of the kingdom of [_ grace -- _] of the reign of grace in the heart of every believer.
What would heaven be to you, speaking generally, were you carried up in bodily form and set down among its assemblies and eternal praises? It would be what the warm dry beach on a beautiful summer day is to the fish that has been dragged up there alive out of the sea.
The apostle Paul was highly favoured in getting a knowledge of heaven in the visions of the Almighty. He was caught up into the third heaven. “Caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter” (2 Corinthians 12:4). Paul looked on its inhabitants and listened to the roll of its praises. God, however, conceals heaven from our view. But, as I have said, He speaks to us about it in His Holy Word. He tells us what it is like, and what things on earth bear a resemblance to it.
These are the words in Scripture that we are going to find the Holy Spirit using to represent heaven to us. These illustrations are like so many lakes in whose clear water we see the world above us reflected. They are so many mirrors reflecting in their polished surfaces the image of the heaven of heavens. These illustrations show us that heaven is both a real place and a place of friendship.
[* Pictures of Heaven -- Eden and Canaan *]
Eden was an illustration of heaven: paradise on earth. Every reader of the Bible knows that it was not only the home, for a season, of our first parents, but also a place of friendship. “To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7). And Jesus said to the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with Me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).
Heaven is the Eden of creation. Did God walk in Eden with our first parents, and talk with them? Yes, and God is doing this now to all who are in heaven. He walks now with the hosts above through the eternal Eden. He communes lovingly now with all its rejoicing inhabitants.
No inhabitant of heaven ever says, "I am sick," or suffers death, or is ever laid by mourning survivors in a grave. No funeral is ever seen moving slowly and sadly along the highways of eternal life to some lonely churchyard. The inhabitants there possess a life without end. They will live as long as God Himself, as long as Jesus who is on the throne, as long as heaven itself will exist -- and that will be for ever.
Heaven is creation’s Holy of Holies. It is a holy place, and all are holy who dwell in it. I believe, so bright, so shining, so glorious in holiness are all the members of God’s great family in heaven, that were I at this moment taken up into it and set down among them, I could no more gaze on their faces and forms than the Israelites could on the face of Moses when it was reflecting the brightness of God; or than his persecutors could on the face of Stephen, so like that of an angel; or than I, with unshrinking eye, could look on ten thousand suns.
Paul was struck blind by Christ’s presence in the Damascus road (Acts 9). What would I feel were Christ at this moment to unveil Himself to my view, surrounded by all the hosts of heaven? I believe that one look would in a moment strike me blind.
Heaven is the paradise of love. All who are in heaven are living in love. The earthly Canaan was not merely the habitation of the people of God; it was a place of friendship. Canaan was the Land of Promise. Heaven is the Promised Land which God has prepared for us who are believers in Jesus -- it is ready for our joyful and triumphant entrance. And when we have crossed the Jordan and have taken possession, we will live in it -- nay, we will never leave it -- while the endless cycles of a glad eternity are rolling over us.
The earthly Canaan was a land flowing with milk and honey. What is the better land? The heavenly? “The Lamb who is in the midst of the throne,” throughout eternity, “will shepherd them, and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:7). They feed on the fruits of the tree of life, they drink from the rivers of God’s pleasure; and thus they hunger no more, neither thirst any more. The Lord God is their sun and shield. They are dwelling in a world of unchanging and of unfailing abundance. It is a world filled with the uncreated light of God’s glory, and in which there is no darkness at all. “They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light” (Revelation 22:5). There will be no night there, for “the Lamb is its light” (Revelation 21:23).
Heaven is the world of liberty. “Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all” (Galatians 4:26). Those who are in it are free from slavery, from sin, from pain, from sorrow, from death.
[* Pictures of Heaven -- A Temple *]
A temple or church is a picture of heaven. “He who overcomes I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. And I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new Name” (Revelation 3:12).
One of the elders in heaven asks John, “Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?” John is given the answer. “These are the ones who came out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them” (Revelation 7:13-15).
The great universe is the temple of God's presence. The Church -- every believer's soul -- is the temple of God's grace. Heaven is the temple of God's glory. A temple is a house consecrated to God in which He dwells and meets with His people and blesses them. It is a place of love and friendship, not only between God and His people who assemble there, but also among these worshippers themselves.
The worship of God is the very object for which a temple is built. The chief purpose for which God created the heavens and spread them forth was that He might have one region at least, in His vast and boundless dominions, in which the great retinue of followers who are round about Him, and the innumerable hosts who are assembled above, might be with Him day and night in His temple.
We cannot tell exactly in what form God’s worship in the temple of heaven consists. From various allusions made in the Scriptures, it is evident that praise constitutes a part of it. I never read of those who are in heaven engaging in prayer to God, as we do on earth, for the pardon of sin. I often read, however, of them engaging in praise. It thus appears that it is Jesus who prays in heaven and intercedes for us, with the Holy Spirit. All the created intelligences who are there, spend their glad eternity, not in praying, but in praising.
Do not, however, imagine that the praises of heaven never vary in their subject. You have only to read your Bible carefully to see that there is a very great variety indeed in the subjects which call forth the praises of those who stand before the throne of God.
At one time God is praised as the great Creator of all things. “The twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, ‘You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created’” (Revelation 4:10-11).
At another time, they praise God for the spread of Christ’s kingdom on earth. “Then the seventh angel sounded: and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign for ever and ever.’ And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshipped God, saying; ‘We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was and is to come, because You have taken Your great power and reigned’” (Revelation 11:15-17).
The triumph that believers obtain through Jesus over Satan is at another time the subject of a distinct song to God by the assemblies of heaven: “Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, ‘Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them!’” (Revelation 12:10-12).
The conversion of every sinner causes joy to those who are in heaven. And I presume, over every wandered child’s return to God on earth, a special song of praise will be presented to Him who is on the throne.
The inhabitants of heaven are not spending their eternity in idleness. They feel how much God has done for them. They show their gratitude to Him for all His great and unspeakable benefits bestowed on them, by doing His will, by engaging unceasingly in His service, and in the worship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
You are not to imagine that there is no personal conversation between the Worshipped and the worshippers -- between Him who is on the throne and those who are assembled before it, or that the worship consists simply and solely and exclusively of praise.
The redeemed from earth have left their Bibles behind in the world, from whose pages they learned God’s will while here below, and have heard God Himself speaking to them. So have they no means of obtaining a knowledge of God’s mind and will, now that they are standing before Him?
Does God make no communication of His will now, to those who are in heaven? Do they do nothing but praise, praise, praise? Does God sit on the throne of His majesty, and does He neither break the silence of eternity, nor make known one new revelation of His will to those who are round about it? If so, then I have only to say that there is a great difference between God’s dealing with those who are in heaven from what it was while they lived on earth.
The Scriptures reveal to us the fact that God has spoken to His people audibly and face to face in almost every age. He spoke to our first parents in Eden; to Cain when reproving him for the murder of his brother; to Noah in giving warning of the coming flood; to the tribes of Israel when trembling at the foot of Mount Sinai; to Moses, both on the mount and in the tabernacle; to Job from the careering whirlwind; to the three disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration; and to many others.
Did God speak only to those who are particularly mentioned in the Bible? Has He never spoken to His people on earth since, either in dreams, in visions, or in their prayer with Him by day? I am not prepared to answer these questions in the negative.
I believe that what God has often done to His people on earth, speaking audibly to them in a language which they understood -- and revealing to them His holy will -- is just a glimpse of what He is doing in heaven. So His meeting with His people, and blessing them while here, is a symbol of what He is doing to His people who are assembled before Him above.
I believe that just as the multitudes in heaven are permitted to speak to God, thus prayer on earth is a figure of this communion enjoyed by the departed. God speaks to them also on particular occasions, to break by the divine voice the silence of eternity, and to make known to them both additional and fuller revelations of His will than they previously possessed.
I am sure God does not speak merely about what is taking place in heaven and on earth. He may, on particular occasions, refer to the past. He may describe what was taking place throughout His great universe during the long ages that preceded the dawn of creation. What He was, during that period; what He felt, and what He was doing; and where was the shining forth of His glory.
He may describe the creation of angels, of the heavens, of the earth, of the human family, and of all that exists. He may solve, in words conveying a whole flood of light, many of those subjects that have for ages puzzled geologists and scientists, and baffled philosophers.
He may refer to that eternal love in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the covenant of grace -- the offer of free forgiveness. He may assign the precise reason, or reasons, why He who is all power, and all wisdom, and all knowledge, and all goodness, and all love, and who could have made His whole universe a paradise of life, of holiness, of happiness, nevertheless permitted evil to enter it, to mar, to disfigure, and to spread death over it -- a subject that has been a dark contention both to philosophers and preachers in every age.
He may give the reason, or reasons, why in the sovereignty of His justice He passed fallen angels by, and in the sovereignty of His grace made provision for the eternal redemption of fallen man.
He may say why the incarnation and humiliation and sufferings and death of His only begotten and well beloved Son were so absolutely necessary; that there was no other way possible, even to Him, to bring salvation to man, consistent with Divine Justice. He may show the precise reason why the mission of Jesus to the world was delayed for so many thousands of years after the promise of it had been given to the human family. He may give the reason why He did not cause the Gospel to be spread through the world instantaneously by a miracle, but left it to be propagated gradually by the living agency of the Christian Church.
He may tell the listening assemblies why it was that He permitted the monstrous systems of false religions to originate and exist, that have overspread the world and overshadowed the nations in different ages.
Or He may speak of the future, and tell to angels and to the spirits of the departed how the last day is to dawn on the earth; how the Judgment is to sit; how the resurrection morning is to overshadow the world; and how the long dark night of the grave is to roll away for ever.
Is Jesus as silent now as if He were a statue of white polished marble, standing cold and still on the right hand of the throne of God? If Christ’s teaching was so persuasive and fascinating while on earth, that even His enemies were forced to exclaim, “No man ever spoke like this Man” (John 7:46), what will its power and influence be while heard by the great congregation in heaven? He preached while down on the earth here, and prayed and talked with His disciples and followers, and He is the same yesterday, today, and for ever (Hebrews 13:8).
Two thousand years ago the Son of God was born. It is true the Scriptures do not reveal to us what wonder, what feelings of amazement, were running through those in heaven as they watched Jesus leaving the throne. But is there no feeling in a home when a beloved son is preparing to go out from it on some important mission? Is there no feeling of emotion in a kingdom when a monarch leaves his throne and lays aside his royal apparel, and leaves behind him his palace and his courtiers, and goes out on some important mission of difficulty and danger?
Jesus may now be telling to those who were not then in heaven of the emotions that thrilled through it when the fullness of time dawned, when He bowed the heavens and came down. He may describe too, more fully than the Scriptures have done, the depth and the terribleness of His sorrow which He endured for the salvation of the lost; how He trod the wine press alone, while of the people there was none with Him; how He felt in the garden of Gethsemane when His soul was exceedingly sorrowful, even to death, and His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground; how He felt on the cross when the Father withdrew from Him the light of His countenance, the tokens of His love, and when in the horrors of deep darkness and desertion He exclaimed, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46)
He may tell how the darkness that came down on the earth was the shadow of the deeper darkness that was on His soul; how He felt when sleeping among the dead; how He felt when the resurrection morning dawned, when the angel from heaven was in the act of rolling back the stone from the door of the tomb, when He was rising the conqueror of death.
He may tell how the heavens were moved when His ascension from the mount of Olives and from the midst of His followers was taking place, when the everlasting doors were lifted up, and the gates of glory were flung wide open (Psalm 24:7-10), so that, amid thousands and tens of thousands of attending angels, He might return to His heaven.
The thrill of an indescribable joy shot through all who were in heaven when they looked and saw Him seated in His glory on the throne with God. What happenings in heaven and earth may Jesus now relate to the listening assemblies, while the joyful cycles of a long eternity are rolling on. What new revelations of God, of Himself, of the Holy Spirit, of the ways of God with man, may Jesus make.
So, too, Jesus may describe to the assemblies the various events that are taking place on earth in connection with His kingdom; the name of every new Christian; the spread of His salvation among the nations of the world.
When not engaged in making known to the great congregation views such as I have suggested, will He not walk with His followers in heaven and talk with them personally in the language of eternity? He did this while on earth. Is He not acting similarly towards His people who are now with Him? Joyous indeed will eternity be that is spent in this holy and personal and loving communion.
[* Pictures of Heaven -- A City *]
[_ A city is a picture of heaven -- _] not in terms of the surroundings, but in the size of the crowd of its citizens and in their friendship with each other. By far the most splendid description of heaven which the Bible contains is given by John in the Book of Revelation, chapter 21.
“And I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven, from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.’ … Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, ‘Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.’ And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God” (Revelation 21:2-10). Surely we may well say, “Glorious things are spoken of you, O city of God!” (Psalm 87:3).
The new Jerusalem has a wall of glory, great and high (Revelation 21:12). It has twelve gates, and at these gates twelve angels are standing.
The gates of the city are twelve stones most precious; the streets of it are pure gold, in brilliancy and purity like transparent glass. The heavenly city is not lit with lamps at regular intervals burning along its streets. It has no need of the sun or the moon to shine in it; for the glory of the Lord lightens it, and the Lamb is its light. The nations, the multitudes who are saved, are walking in the light of it, and are rejoicing in the splendours of a day to which no night comes. The gates of heaven are never shut, and angels are bringing the glory and honour of the nations into it (Revelation 21:10-27).
Angels bore Elijah up into heaven with horses of fire, and with a chariot of fire they rose with him in the whirlwind (2 Kings 2:11). Angels carried the beggar Lazarus up from the rich man’s gate, and placed him in Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16:22).
Angels were around Jesus at His ascension in countless multitudes, while through the cloud He returned to the Father. In Acts 1:9 we read that Jesus was carried up to heaven. “Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.”
These angels, at the gates of the holy Jerusalem, welcome their companions in who bear home to the city of God the spirits of the departed: “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14).
When heaven is called a city, the picture reminds us that it is a place of assembly in which many are gathered. London is a large and crowded city; vast multitudes dwell in it and throng its bustling streets. But in the number of its citizens it is no more to be compared to heaven than one solitary grain of sand lying by itself on the washed rock of the beach is to be compared to the beds of sand that lie along all the sea shores of earth.
Who can take a census of the angel hosts moving to and fro through these golden streets? “The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of thousands” (Psalm 68:17). “Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels round the throne, the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands” (Revelation 5:11).
“And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God” (Revelation 21:10). The angel took John to a mount of glory, rearing its summits to the east of the New Jerusalem, and commanding a full view of the holy city, spread in its vastness and glory, as it were at his very feet. Place yourself in imagination on the top of that mountain beside John and his angel companion, and with them look down on the city of the great King.
There is the clear scene: one unsetting Sun, for the Lord God is heaven’s Sun. No cloud ever sails across to darken that firmament. The air is peaceful. The calm of heaven’s eternal Sabbath spreads a pure and holy peace over its whole population. And there is the celestial city itself, extending far and wide, its twelve gates standing continually open, through which the weary pilgrims from earth pour incessantly. At these gates are twelve angels, whose faces are turned towards the highways by which the children of God come home to the realms of rest.
Picture one of the daughters of God’s family who has just died. She has left a home of sorrow, where a great change has just taken place. A bereaved partner is standing in it, with a heart like to break. That child of God, freed from the trammels of the body, parted from those she loved so tenderly, and surrounded by her companions, rises higher and higher surrounded by angel helpers, approaches nearer and still nearer to the city of the living God. “Lift up your heads, O ye gates! And be lifted up, you everlasting doors!” (Psalm 24:7). The angel at the gate perhaps goes forward to meet that child of God, to welcome her into the heavenly city.
There also you may sometimes observe the patriarchs walking among the other citizens of the New Jerusalem. These lived long ages in the world below, while the human race was yet young. You see also, not far off, the prophets of the Lord of hosts. The descending messages of prophecy from the Spirit of the Lord once shone on their souls.
Turn your eye towards the throne of God. There are seats of honour placed there, each glittering in the uncreated light of God’s presence, as if formed separately of the precious stones, multiplied twelvefold, which constitute the gates. Seated on these are twenty-four apparently honoured citizens, with crowns of glory on their heads, and arrayed in robes of white. Who are they?
On twelve of these seats of honour are enthroned the twelve apostles of our Lord. They spent a life of toil on earth. They resembled, while down in the world below, the four living creatures that you see above them, who are full of eyes before and behind, and who rest not day nor night crying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory” (Isaiah 6:3).
These disciples left their homes and their friends and their native land in the cause of Christ. They faced persecution cheerfully, and fire and sword and even death itself, while carrying the banner of the cross in their hands to the ends of the earth. But they went cheerfully as the ambassadors of Christ; for it was the King of Zion, the Head of the Church on earth who sent them forth. They travelled the world as the messengers of the Gospel of peace, bringing to those who were far off from God the good news of reconciliation.
As heralds of the cross, they proclaimed everywhere that God in Christ was stretching out His sceptre of mercy to every member of the human family -- "Longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).
Each of them breathed out these words of longing in the course of their mission: “For Zion’s sake I will not hold My peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a lamp that burns” (Isaiah 62:1). How much did they endure? And now you see what has followed as their reward. On the other twelve seats are enthroned the twelve patriarchs, as if they were the elders of the celestial Church.
You may observe, also, a large company arrayed like the others in white. They are like ships which have suffered by fire at sea, but have managed to reach the harbour where they have been repaired and even improved, but yet exhibiting the lingering traces of former disaster. They are at rest, like weary pilgrims at sunset who have finished a long journey, and have reached their home with difficulty.
Now the whole of heaven is ringing with their praising, and yet they appear to have on their faces the shadow of disappointment seated in the midst of joy. “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Revelation 6:10).
These are the holy martyrs who sacrificed their lives for Christ’s kingdom and crown. They sealed their testimony with their blood, for they did not love their lives to the death, and over them the heavens are called to rejoice (Revelation 12:11).
There was a gate through which they left the world and entered into the glory where they now sit, and where they now enjoy freedom from pain, and exemption from fire and sword and wild beasts, and the torture of man. A gate of blood and of pain. Through much tribulation they entered the kingdom.
“‘Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?’ ‘These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them’” (Revelation 7:13-15). How joyful must the rest of heaven be to these when they compare it with what they endured, when their bodies were literally roasting in the flames, or suffering under the tooth and claw of ferocious animals, or scalded to death in the boiling caldron, or choked in the stagnant pond or running stream.
But let your eye wander searchingly over these crowded streets, and try to single out any one of those happy citizens in their robes of glory. There must be on some face, among all these that are looking up to you, the smile and recognition of former friendship.
There are others among the citizens, members of my family who are there in the great world of heaven, and others also who were once my companions and neighbours and friends. Farewell, all, for a season. My time is not yet come, but soon my God will call me home. There I will rise from my death as I fall asleep in Jesus, and join you for eternity in this peopled heaven. I will then dwell with you for ever beneath the overshadowing of God’s presence.
I will walk with them under the light of the great Sun that never sets, and talk about the glories and the joys of the New Jerusalem, and the past scenes and associations and recollections of earth.
[* Pictures of Heaven -- A Home *]
Of all the illustrations through which the Holy Spirit speaks to us in the Bible about heaven, there is not one that awakens in our souls such a flood of tender and hallowed associations as when He tells us, not merely once but in many a varied description, that heaven is a home in which there is assembled already a great and glorious and happy family, in which we who are the children of God are to spend eternity with them.
It is not one illustration alone, but the various pictures of the Scriptures combined, that give us the truest view of heaven. This is the reason that has led me to dwell for a little on the earthly pictures -- Eden, Canaan, a temple, a city. We now think of heaven as our home.
Those who are in heaven are often spoken of in the Scriptures as one family, and in all such passages it is implied that heaven is a home. The house in which the members of a family live and talk is their home. Heaven, again, is expressly called the “house of God”, “our Father’s house”. A child’s father’s house is its home. Our Father’s house is to be our eternal home if we are the children of God.
“We have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1). “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3). “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever” (Psalm 23:6).
The great universe is the house of God, which He more than fills, for He made it, and the Creator must be greater than the creation. In this house He walks in His majesty to and fro, and in every part of it Every believer’s soul is the house of God in which He now reigns in grace and through grace. Heaven is the home of the Christian where God’s scattered children are all at last to meet, and in which they are to dwell together in love for ever.
The word “home” may awaken in the mind many pleasant associations. You may not be at home just now. You may be a sailor in the midst of strangers, far away on the rolling billows; or you may be a soldier in an enemy country, exposed to all the perils and deprivations and fatigues of war; or you may be a traveller a great distance from that home which is so dear to you. But you have a home awaiting your return to your own land.
Maybe there is no dwelling now on earth to which you can give the name “my home”. The word “home” for many has around it now the never-to-be-forgotten associations of the past. And to you surely the announcement must be a comforting one -- that you do have a home -- if a believer in Jesus -- and that home is heaven.
If your current home is a happy and secure place, you will feel safe in the inside, for the Lord in love has shut the door, and you are under His covenant protection, while the great world around is the wide waste of cold waters. Your home is, in this case, the image, the symbol of heaven.
Or it may be that you are confined to your bed and are now facing death. Your head is pressing in much pain on your uneasy pillow; your heart and flesh are beginning to faint and to fail; you feel that you have not long to live. The rising sun is just beginning to pour its brightening beams into your dwelling, shadowing forth to your friends around you the morning of a glorious eternity that is bursting out with its flood of light on you.
Like an individual setting out on a long journey, you bid your relatives an affectionate farewell. You have taken the last look at the home you are about to leave, and the well-known but sorrowful faces that are around you. Your spirit is struggling to be free; angels are hovering over you in their sympathy and love, waiting to conduct you in triumph to the realms of life, to the brightness of eternal day.
Is your name enrolled in the Book of Life? Are you a child of God? If so, how comforting to you is the knowledge that heaven is your home. Death to you will thus merely take you out of one home, that it may usher you into another. You can leave and go out from your weeping friends with the full and gladdening assurance that you are not departing to be a homeless wanderer for eternity. Your disembodied and living spirit is not to wander for ever in the wide and boundless universe of God in search of a home, finding it all dark and empty and unpeopled, discovering no refuge for eternity in any part of it that will open its friendly door and admit you to its rest.
You have a home for eternity in heaven. You can look up in joyful hope, and exclaim in the words of the apostle Paul, “The time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:6-8).
Death is to you not simply a passage out of one place to rise and enter another, it is a passage from the midst of the warm love of the present members of your family, who are dear to you, up into heaven to become associated for eternity with the warmer love of God’s great family. They are waiting for you to join their happy number with songs of unspeakable joy.
A young man is about to be married to one who has long been the object of his affections, who with a warm heart shares and returns his love. He has already prepared the home to which he is about to conduct his bride. Here for the remainder of his life he is to live with her. That home which he is soon to enter in these circumstances, and in which he is to spend life with her who is all fair in his eyes, and is in every way worthy of his love, is everything to him, and he longs to be there.
Such is your position, who are believers in Jesus and the children of the living God. Christ, your Beloved, the Spiritual Bridegroom of your souls, has gone up into the glorious eternity that is above you. He is even now preparing and making ready for you, for heaven is to be your home of rest and joy for ever, in which you will spend a glad and an endless eternity.
You should now be looking up with this longing desire for an entrance into your new home. “Having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” (Philippians 1:23).
The day is drawing near when He who is "the chief among ten thousand" (Song of Solomon 5:10), will come forth at your death to receive you, escorted by a great company of attending angels. That where He is, there you may be also (See John 14:3). You can even now look eagerly to heaven with the same feeling that excites the bride as she looks to her new home, to which she is soon to be conveyed -- it is your future and eternal home of love.
The Family in Heaven
Heaven is not a home that is empty, deserted and lonely in the way that many of the houses around us in the world become through the influences of time and disease. There is in it “no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
A glorious family is already there, where a Father is presiding in love. There is on His countenance neither the scowl of the tyrant nor the frown of the cold and unfeeling judge. His smile proves that He is not simply a severe and exacting master but the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort.
There is the love of a Father in His look as He listens to the song which the countless assemblies present to Him, as with one heart and one voice they proclaim, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:10).
There is the loving care of a Father on His face as He contemplates His great family rejoicing round about Him, and feeling the affection of a Father that ever glows with love towards all the members of His family. The Father with His outstretched arms beckons His children to approach Him, so that they may speak to Him individually as a loving child on earth does with an affectionate parent in their home of love.
The Lord Jesus is on the throne with God, the brightness of the Father’s glory, and image of His person. He is the Elder Brother of heaven’s great family. He is acting the part of an attentive and affectionate elder brother towards a younger brother or sister, watching over them in love, taking them by the right hand, bearing them up on His arm, “for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:17).
Angels compose a part of that great family. I cannot tell their number, nor do I believe their number could be set before the human family in the arithmetic of earth. I cannot describe their glory or portray their beauty. The splendour of Gabriel’s face was so great that when the prophet Daniel looked on it he could not stand upright and gaze, but fell with his face on the ground (Daniel 8:17).
The angel that came down from heaven to roll away the stone from the door of Christ’s tomb is described in this way: “His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow” (Matthew 28:3).
The angel who appeared to the shepherds by night on the plains of Bethlehem to announce the advent of Jesus to earth was so shining that his presence filled the plains with light (Luke 2:9). In this splendour the angels of heaven stand and sing before the throne of God, and give glory to Him who was, and who is, and who is to come.
I cannot tell whether angels, who are the morning stars of eternity and the sons of God, differ in their appearance as people do. When a painter wishes to draw the portrait of an angel, he forms the image of a woman, and then simply adds a pair of wings. This shows his inability to comprehend an angel’s beauty.
The Bible does not describe whether there exist differences of feature. We must enter heaven before we can know. But I can learn from the Bible that angels differ in rank, in the scale of dignity and honour which God has appointed them to occupy in heaven. Besides the angels, there are the archangels; also principalities, powers, cherubim, seraphim. We never read of God’s angels feeling envy towards those who are in a higher position in the scale of promotion; and they mingle with the saints.
The redeemed who have come to the heavenly Zion -- the whole glorified members of the human race -- compose yet another part of the family now assembled in heaven as their home of love. I have already referred to the fact that the number of the redeemed must be large, so many that they are beyond calculation. That this may be easily conceived, we have only to remember the number who are living at present in the world and all the children of God who have lived, and died, and gone up into heaven, during the thousands of years which have rolled over the world since the creation of man.
I cannot describe or even imagine the appearance of the redeemed in heaven. We must be content with the consideration that they now bear the image of Jesus, while He is the image of the invisible God, the Perfection of Beauty
Angels, together with the redeemed who have come out of every nation and tribe and people and tongue, make up the family of God. And they constitute one family. They are watched over and loved by the same Father. They are ministered to, guided, and instructed by the same Saviour, their Lord and Master. They are gladdened and refreshed by the same Holy Spirit.
They are the happy members of the same home of love. They walk together through the garden of the Lord, or sit together there. They travel in larger or smaller groups through the valleys that are stretching around. They sing, as the united and affectionate members of the same family, heaven’s song of praise. Their voices rise and mingle in one harmonious stream of melody to Him who is on the throne. Heaven, in short, is their home; and it is a home of peace and love.
Again, as in the members of a family on earth, there is a family likeness apparent in the midst of individual traits, features, complexion, and form. So there is a family likeness existing among all the members of the family of God, both in heaven and on earth. Love, to God, to Jesus, to the Holy Spirit, and to all the members, is one feature. I address myself to you who are the children of God, followers of the Lord Jesus.
Do you love God? Has the love of God been poured out in your heart by the Holy Spirit, who was given to you? (Romans 5:5.) Suppose Jesus at this moment spoke to you from the throne of heaven, to break the silence of eternity, and put the question to you which He once did to Peter, “Do you love Me?” Could you look up to Him whose eyes are as a flame of fire, and could you say, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You” (John 21:15).
Do you love the Holy Spirit who has kindled His own love-breathings in your soul, as one fire kindles another, or as one candle lights another? Allow me then to ask you this question. How does the love of God in your soul show its presence? Is it a mere glow, only showing itself in words, and never flowing forth in a stream of warm, active deeds?
You may be able to answer the question by studying the nature of some earthly love. If you are a man, consider a woman who responds to your affection, and from whose eyes come those demonstrations of pure feeling which fall warm and glowing on your heart. You will quickly realize that your affection to her is leading you to love everything connected with her. You love the home where she lives. You never feel happier than when your footsteps are on the path that leads you to it. Above all, you love to be in her company, to see her smile, to hear her voice, and to feel your heart delighted in the sunshine of her presence.
Have you this evidence that the love of God is in your heart? Do you possess this trait of the family likeness of God’s children? Do you not only love God, but all connected with Him? Do you love the Lord’s Day? During its calm, when the din of labour is hushed and you are set free from the distractions of earth, do you feel on your spirit a holy calm, as if heaven was descending on you? While its holy and peaceful hours are passing over you, are they to you a foretaste of those joys that are at God’s right hand, and of those pleasures that shall endure for evermore?
Do you love the Lord’s house, and long to be there that you may meet with Jesus, sit under His shadow, listen to His voice speaking to you through that of His ministering servant who is an ambassador for Christ to you, and in His name beseeches you to be reconciled to God?
While wending your way peacefully and thoughtfully towards the gates of Zion, do these words give expression to your holy, heavenly desires? “How lovely is Your tabernacle, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God” (Psalm 84:1).
“Oh, send out Your light and Your truth! Let them lead me; let them bring me to Your holy hill and to Your tabernacles. Then will I go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy; and on the harp I will praise You, O God, my God. Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God” (Psalm 43:3-5).
Do you love the Lord’s Word? Do you love it because it is the gift of God to you, the revelation of His holy will, as David did when he says of it: “Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97). “Your word is very pure; therefore your servant loveth it” (Psalm 119:140). “Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb” (Psalm 19:10).
Do you read the Bible with the same feelings of delight and pleasure with which the young man reads over and over the letter which he receives from the girl who is the love of his heart? And do you go to the Bible daily as the hungry man goes to his meal, as the weary and thirsty traveller turns aside to the spring of cooling and refreshing waters which he meets at the side of his path?
Is God’s Word your message of salvation, your desire, the guide of your life? Do you follow its leadings as the Israelites in the wilderness followed the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, so that you may learn from it the path in which you are to walk to reach your Father’s home? Do you keep your eye on the Bible with the same anxiety and care as the sailor who looks on his compass while on the ocean?
It appears that even God’s children in heaven delight to observe God’s Word: “Now I, John, saw and heard these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things. Then he said to me, ‘See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God’” (Revelation 22:8-9).
This clinging of the soul to the Word of God, and holy longing after its sweet and heavenly revelations is another trait in the family likeness of God’s children, both in heaven and on earth. It is to be hoped you possess this feature of the child of God.
Do you love the Lord’s people? Do you love all who bear the image of Jesus, whose life is hid with Christ in God? If you have love for the father of a child, you love that child for its father’s sake. This sympathy of love is a universal law, not confined to man but extending to the higher creation. So should you love the children of God for their Father’s sake. This love to other Christians is the very foundation of what is termed the communion of saints.
This, I believe, is taking place now among the members of God’s great family in the heavens. They dwell together in their Father’s home. They speak with each other in the language of heaven. Their communion and fellowship is with God and with His Son Jesus Christ. They have fellowship also with each other. They have their walks of holy friendship, during which they will speak to each other of all God’s dealings with them in preparing them for home. They will naturally refer to the past journey of life, and to what happened to them along the way which their heavenly Father led them, and at last conferred on them the unspeakable blessing of meeting and living together for ever.
Perhaps the telescope, on earth, is an example of the natural power of vision which God’s glorified children possess. They may scan the heavens and gaze not merely on what is existing before them and around them, but look also everywhere onwards on the great universe and talk together of what they see.
And who shall try to follow that vision, even in imagination? This will lead them to speak with each other, not merely about God’s providence in the past, but also about all that they can see going on around them, both in heaven and throughout the boundless universe of God.
Knowing Our Friends in Heaven
“Then shall I know just as I also am known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).
Knowing our Friends in Heaven
The recognition of friends in heaven follows from the two facts: heaven is a home. Also, all who are in it constitute one family. It would be a frigid home whose members were entire strangers to each other, and knew nothing of each other’s present state and past lives.
Few matters can possess an interest equal to that which is involved in this question. Will friends, who have associated with each other on earth, recognize each other when they meet in heaven?
It is of the deepest interest to all parents, to children, to partners, to brothers and sisters, to ministers, to their people, to friends, to neighbours. Without this recognition, heaven would not be a home of love. True, the present relationships in which we stand to each other on earth will not necessarily be perpetuated in heaven. When an architect finishes his building, he takes down his scaffolding.
These present relationships are a part of the flesh and blood, which the apostle Paul tells us cannot inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 15:50). Jesus Himself tells us that the children of the resurrection -- the glorified in heaven -- neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God (Matthew 22:30, Mark 12:25 and Luke 20:35). But this does not mean that all human relationships will be abolished in heaven, and I believe we will know those there when we rise and meet our beloved friends and family before God unveiled.
It is somewhat strange that this doctrine of the recognition of friends in heaven should ever have been called in question. Strange as it may appear, there are some individuals who doubt it, and there are others who deny it. This at least cannot be denied: that in most Christian hearts there exists the wish that the doctrine were true. Who, indeed, would like to part with those near and dear to them at death, never to see them more, so as to recognize them again?
It has been questioned what would be gained by the non-recognition of our friends in heaven. It would be difficult to say, but I can tell what we would lose by it. We would lose the delight of meeting those loved ones from whom we were parted in our bereavement and sorrow. We would be deprived of the joy of dwelling with them again.
There is something dreary and desolating and blighting to the heart in the very supposition that we may not, in a future state, recognize those we loved on earth. If the hope is to bear no fruit, then I do well to bid them farewell at death. For if there is to be no recognition of friends in heaven, then I am never to meet them so as to recognize them, and in other words I am parted from them for ever. They may exist, but they are lost to me -- absolutely, eternally lost.
Several arguments lead people either to doubt or positively discredit this doctrine of the recognition of friends. Those who have married a second time are apt to think that were a first wife to meet and recognize the second, she would scarcely be able to look with heavenly love on her successor. She would, they say, feel that she was not merely soon forgotten, but that her memory was injured by her husband’s taking another to her bed. To avoid this, to them, disagreeable meeting and recognition, such individuals take refuge in an entire disbelief of the doctrine. Their wish becomes the proof that what they wish does not exist.
Some individuals live with some of their friends such unholy lives on earth that they feel convinced that the remembrance of these lives, and the future recognition of their friends, will not contribute to their happiness above. Thus these also reason themselves into a disbelief of the doctrine.
Others again, whose devotion has too much of the transcendental about it, think that the saints in glory will be so occupied in the contemplation of God, in the worship of God, and in the enjoyment of the beatific vision, that the question, “Are our friends here in the same home of love with us?” will have no interest to them. I have already shown this view to be both unscriptural and wrong.
Others imagine that the resurrection body will be so changed from what it was during life, that we will be no more able to recognize it than we could recognize a drop of water when changed into a flake of snow, or the little crawling grub when changed into the winged butterfly that floats with its rainbow-colours amid the beams of the summer’s sun.
Such individuals I believe to be wrong in their understanding of the change that the body is to undergo when it is raised from the grave on the resurrection morning. Jesus is the pattern in all things for His people. When He rises from the tomb, He is not so changed that Mary Magdalene and the other women and His disciples do not know Him -- they recognize Him at once.
Before setting forth the proofs that have led me to believe firmly in the view that friends will recognize each other in heaven, I ask a question. May we not infer that, since the recognition of friends exists on earth, which is God's, it is more than probable -- apart from the proofs which demonstrate it -- that recognition exists also in heaven, which is God's? Much of what exists on earth should be looked on by us as a symbol and visible representation of what is in heaven; and this is a natural inference because the same God made both worlds, and reigns over them.
What is the Christian Sabbath, with its holy rest and its hallowed associations? It is a symbol of the Sabbath of eternity. What is God’s public worship on His own holy day within the gates of Zion? It is a symbol of the high and everlasting public worship of God in heaven, in which all the hosts of glory join.
What is prayer, in which we look up to God, and make a direct address to Him who is our Father in heaven? It is a symbol of the vision which saints in glory enjoy, and of the inestimable privilege of speaking to God face to face, which those in heaven possess.
What is the Lord’s Supper and Christ’s banqueting house on earth, in which the Master meets us and breathes on our souls the Holy Spirit, and puts into our hands the cup of salvation, and feeds our souls with the bread of life? It is a visible representation of what one day we will be enjoying, seated in Christ’s banqueting house above, in His own presence.
What is a Christian family, with its sympathy and love and open fellowship existing among its members? It is the foretaste of God’s great and happy family in heaven. On the same principle I argue that the recognition of friends, after a short parting from them in this world, is just an illustration or symbol of that which is taking place among friends when they rise at their death from earth, and meet in heaven beneath God’s presence, and under the light of God’s love.
The recognition of friends in heaven is a basic belief of natural religion. Even those who do not enjoy the light of Christian faith believe in it. However, the resurrection of the body is not a doctrine of natural religion.
Apart from the revelations of Scripture, the thought that the buried bodies of the dead are to be raised seems never to have entered the human mind. Paul is stigmatised as a babbler because he preached at Athens the resurrection of the dead. The view which unenlightened reason takes, of the destiny of the body of man, is that when it is committed by sorrowing friends to the cold bed of the grave, it is to remain there for ever.
The thought of a coming resurrection morning, when the bodies of all the dead are to awake and to rise at the call of Jesus, never gleamed in with its ray of comfort -- apart from revelation -- on the dark and sorrowful heart of the bereaved. The heathen philosophers saw the nights successively pass over them. They saw the morning dawn, but the thought that a morning was coming to the grave never once entered their minds. The spring came and breathed on the earth with its generative warmth and the flowers sprang up around the human family. But the expectation of a spring coming to the grave never suggested itself to the thoughts of man. It is different in reference to the soul. Apart from divine revelation, people have in all ages believed in the existence of the soul after death. Man’s immortality is a doctrine of natural religion. People in every age and in every clime have believed that the soul survives the shock of death, and lives after the body in which it once dwelt goes to sleep. Further, people have almost as universally believed in the doctrine of the recognition of friends in their disembodied state. Immortality and this recognition are the almost universal response of humanity.
The Scriptures both assume and teach the doctrine of recognition. I may here allude to the amount of proof which we may reasonably suppose the Scriptures will afford in support of this belief. There is a principle on which God seems generally to proceed when giving us evidence in confirmation of any doctrine from the Bible. Those doctrines that we feel indisposed to receive and believe, or which are calculated to crush the pride of man, are explained in detail and much insisted on: such as those of sin; the incarnation of the Lord Jesus; the personality of the Holy Spirit and His work of grace on the soul of man; salvation by faith through Christ alone; the resurrection of the body; the fullness and distinctness of the Last Judgment; the final and eternal separation of the righteous and the wicked; the exile of the lost into hell for ever; and the rising of the saved to enter heaven to dwell there in a home of love for eternity.
Those doctrines which we have a predisposition to receive and believe, are not so fully and distinctly set forth: such as the existence of God -- a doctrine, in fact, which the Scriptures do not teach but assume; the immortality of the soul; the full and unveiled view of God above in His glory; the communion of saints and of angels in heaven through eternity as the members of the same family; our body after our resurrection bearing the exact and holy image of Jesus; and the recognition of our friends in heaven.
There are many passages both in the Old and also in the New Testaments in which the doctrine is assumed. “Then Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people” (Genesis 25:8). “So Isaac breathed his last and died, and was gathered to his people, being old and full of days” (Genesis 35:29). “And when Jacob had finished commanding his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed and breathed his last, and was gathered to his people” (Genesis 49:33). To Moses, God says, “Go up … and die on the mountain … and be gathered to your people, just as Aaron your brother died in Mound Hor and was gathered to his people” (Deuteronomy 32:49-50).
The expression, “gathered to his people,” does not refer to the bodies lying in the family tombs of those alluded to, but to the souls of their ancestors. The two mounts on which Aaron and Moses respectively died and were buried, were not the graves of their ancestors. The cave where Abraham was buried was not the grave of his ancestors. David says of his dead child, “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me” (2 Samuel 12:23).
Without quoting any more passages from the Bible in which the doctrine of recognition is merely assumed, I will now outline a few in which it is directly and distinctly taught.
It is perhaps proper to make the remark that even one direct statement made by God in the Bible is quite sufficient to prove the doctrine of recognition to the satisfaction of everyone who accepts the Bible as the inspired Word.
In Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus the beggar, Abraham said, “Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted, and you are tormented” (Luke 16:25). This passage plainly teaches us that Abraham recognizes Lazarus and associates with him in the world of glory, speaks of him by name, and is familiarly acquainted with his earthly history.
Christ’s transfiguration scene teaches the doctrine of the recognition of friends. Moses and Elijah, two glorified saints from heaven, appear there in companionship. The same subject occupies the thoughts of both. They speak to Jesus of the death which He was to accomplish at Jerusalem.
The apostle Paul addresses his Thessalonian converts: “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?” (1 Thessalonians 2:19). These converts could only become the apostle’s joy by his recognition of them in Christ’s presence.
Jesus addresses His disciples who were sorrowing at the thought of His departure: “Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you” (John 16:22).
Jesus here gives the intimation that the disciples were to see Him and associate with Him in glory, and consequently they were to associate with each other. The apostles knew Jesus when they met Him after His resurrection. “The men of Nineveh”, “the queen of the South”, will be known and recognized at the Judgment throne, when they appear there as witnesses against those who despised and rejected Jesus (Matthew 12:41-42). It is not necessary to bring more Scripture proofs for this doctrine. This source of evidence is open to all who have the Bible in their hands.
Heaven a Home proves Recognition
The fact that heaven is a home proves, as I have already said, recognition.
Those who live in the same home on earth are not strangers. They have a knowledge of each other, and an acquaintanceship and fellowship exists among them. It is the same in heaven. Those who are there are the members of the same family, and as such have free communication. They are in possession of language; they can speak to each other; they can sing; they can both put and answer questions.
“Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, ‘Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?’ And I said to him ‘Sir, you know’. So he said to me, ‘These are the ones who came out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple’” (Revelation 7:13-15).
“Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to that certain one who was speaking, ‘How long will the vision be, concerning the daily sacrifices and the transgression of desolation, the giving of both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot?’” (Daniel 8:13).
Those who are in heaven are in possession of their memories. They remember the earth, and the death they endured on it, as well as the means by which they were redeemed -- the blood of Christ. Those in heaven, as is clear from many passages of Scripture, have a full remembrance of the past. With this faculty, I ask -- granting that we will not have an intuitive recognition -- how long will we live with them after our meeting there till we come across those who once had fellowship with us in the bonds of friendship on earth?
Further, angels know each other, and they appear from the narratives set before us in the Bible to have a very distinct knowledge of the members of the human family -- not those in heaven merely, but those also who are dwelling far beneath them, and distant from them, on our planet. Why should the glorified not have a similar acquaintanceship with all the children of God in glory, as well as with those who still live down in the world? Have they not become perfected in knowledge, and like unto the angels? "Nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection" (Luke 20:36).
The angel who released the apostle Peter from prison had no difficulty in distinguishing him from all the rest of the prisoners who were confined in its different cells. The angel who breasted the fury of the Adriatic sea, and lighted on the deck of that vessel in which Paul was sailing, and around which the waves were rolling mountain high, had no difficulty in singling him out from the rest of the passengers and in making this announcement: “Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you” (Acts 27:24).
The angel who appears to Cornelius has a distinct knowledge of the apostle Peter’s movements, and of the house in which he was lodged, as is evident from this command: “Now send men to Joppa, and call for Simon whose surname is Peter. He is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea. He will tell you what you must do” (Acts 7:5-6).
If angels know the members of the human family so minutely, as the facts I have referred to clearly demonstrate, why should the members of the human family not know each other and recognize each other when they meet in a higher and more perfected state of knowledge, and become like to those angels in love and wisdom?
In Luke 16:19-31, Abraham shows in his words to the rich man in Hades that he had a distinct knowledge both of his previous life, and of the life of Lazarus. We are not told how Abraham gained this knowledge; but surely the same source of communication and of information to which he had access is open to all the children of God. Moreover, Jesus during His life here was a representation of the life which the glorified of God are living in heaven -- His humiliation, pains and sorrows excepted. Did the Lord Jesus, while here in the world, live in a state of isolation and estrangement from those who were round about Him? Did He discountenance friendship, and frown on it? The very reverse is the case. Jesus came down from heaven into this world to destroy sin, not to annihilate friendship from the hearts of His people.
The disciples were the companions and friends of their Lord and Master. He who is God over all, blessed for ever, condescended to speak to them and with them, in all the familiarity of the most loving, holy and intimate friendship.
The members of the family at Bethany were the special objects of the Redeemer’s regard: “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus” (John 11:5). The apostle John was known as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 19:26). Mary Magdalene met Jesus after His resurrection, near to the tomb in which He had been laid, and became conscious that it was He by the tone of endearment with which He pronounced her name.
If you deprive Christ’s followers in heaven of their social affections, you strip them in a great measure of their religion; for love is a social feeling, and if you take away love from the hearts of the saved, what kind of a heaven will you leave?
Believers at their death enter heaven openly and triumphantly; and this must be the source of recognition.
I believe that a great misconception exists in the minds of many Christians over the way in which the children of God enter heaven. If they think about the matter at all, they have some way or another come to cherish the vague and undefined view that God’s children ascend into heaven at death as silent, unperceived, and unnoticed as a current of air flows into a room, or as a new thought glides into our minds while we are sitting in the middle of a large company, without, of course, anyone around us being at all aware of what is taking place.
This is not how believers enter into glory at their death. I believe that the way in which the Lord Jesus entered heaven at His triumphant ascension, to take possession for eternity of the glory which He had with the Father before the world was, is an example of what takes place when a child of God enjoys that privilege.
What were the circumstances in which Jesus left this world at His ascension, and rose and entered into His kingdom? He left it as a conqueror leaves the battlefield, where he has overthrown his formidable foes and returns home in the midst of the praise and shoutings of assembled multitudes. And did those who were in heaven not expect Christ’s ascension and make preparation for it?
These passages of Scripture show to us that Jesus entered heaven openly, triumphantly and gloriously; observed and welcomed by all who were there; attended by many of its exulting inhabitants who had come out to receive Him with the welcome of a joyous greeting to hail Him home.
“God is gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet” (Psalms 47:5). “Lift up your heads, O you gates! And be lifted up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O you gates! And lift them up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, He is the King of Glory” (Psalm 24:7-10).
“I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him” (Daniel 7:13). “And when He had spoken these things, while they watched He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven’” (Acts 1:9-11).
Look again at what takes place when Stephen dies. This is the description which Luke gives us of his death. “But he, being full of the Holy Spirit gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, ‘Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!’” (Acts 7:55-56).
Stephen’s soul does not rise and slip into heaven unnoticed by those who are there. Jesus, who is on the throne, rises to welcome His faithful servant up into the joys of his Lord, and stretches out His arms to receive Stephen. Nor can it be asserted that no one in heaven, with the exception of Jesus, noticed Stephen at his entrance there. I believe, on the contrary, that there was not one, whether angel or glorified saint, who did not share in the interest which Christ Himself showed, and who did not join in the open acknowledgment which Christ Himself vouchsafed to Stephen, the first martyr of the Cross.
What, then, happens when a believer dies, trusting Jesus? We may again use an earthly analogy. When a child is born, coming into the circle of a family where love and union reign, does no one in the house know of such an event? Do the doctor and the midwife who act the part of attending assistants, know nothing about the matter? Are they asleep? Does the little stranger arrive and increase the number of the home circle without observation, until, by something like mere accident, someone in the house happens to look and sees the stranger dressed in white, lying asleep?
The mother knows about the arrival of the little one, and I suspect there is not one individual in the home who does not anticipate the event and share in the general excitement. Truly the same thing takes place in our Father's home above when a child of God rises at the hour of death from earth, enters into heaven, and becomes a member -- not for a time, but for eternity -- of God's great and glorious family.
Again, death to the believer is his coronation. From the state of many trials and troubles he goes to receive a kingdom, to ascend a throne and wear a crown -- a crown that shall never fade away. "Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life" (Revelation 2:10). "To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne" (Revelation 3:21).
It surely would seem strange for a sovereign to be crowned without any of his people either seeing or hearing of a ceremony which from time immemorial has been attended with such demonstrations of worldly grandeur and exultation. And how much more illustrious is that high day in heaven when a child of God rises from earth more than a conqueror through Him who loved him, and enters into His kingdom, that he may be diademed with the crown of glory that is never to fade.
Memory in Heaven
The condition or state in which God’s children enter heaven at death must secure their recognition by family and former friends who are there. What is that state? I will first mention what it is not. God’s children do not enter heaven at their death inanimate and deprived of the power of thought. They do not enter heaven leaving their memories and their intellectual faculties behind them. They do not enter heaven stripped of their love, and thus rendered unfitted for the companionship of God’s children who are already there. They do not enter heaven selfish and careless about their once dear friends who fell asleep in Jesus before them.
What then is the state in which the children of God enter heaven? They do so living, and with all the faculties of their souls retained and in full operation. It is only the body that may be said to die at death. The soul lives and even acquires new powers and susceptibilities while death is taking place. To the departed, death is jubilee, being free from sin and suffering and sorrow.
God’s children enter heaven, even as we may suppose an affectionate child that has been some time absent enters his or her father’s home to join the family who are dwelling there. They enter with the same interest about their past journey in life, and about the events that happened to them by the way, that the traveller feels when he returns and gives an account of all that he has passed through.
They enter with the same eager curiosity that the emigrant feels when he lands on the shore of a country to which his father and mother, and wife and children, and brothers and sisters, and many other acquaintances and neighbours, sailed before him, and in which they are settled.
Above all, God’s children enter heaven at death with their memory in full exercise, and with a full remembrance of their past lives, and consequently of their former friends.
This is evident from various passages of Scripture. The rich man mentioned in Luke 16 remembers his five brothers, his and their former life; and in the exercise of judgment joined with memory he infers that his five brethren are in danger of coming into the same place of torment. The whole of the passage connected with the rich man and Lazarus proves that those who are in the great world of eternity have a full and distinct remembrance of the past.
To the lost this remembrance is a source of misery, for they remember their day of grace squandered; the offer of salvation put away from them; God trifled with while He called them to repentance and waited to be gracious and wished to save them; Christ and His great salvation being rejected and lost for ever.
To the saved, this remembrance of the past is a source of joy. Lazarus can compare his riches in heaven with his poverty on earth; his exaltation in heaven with his outcast condition in life; his misery and wretchedness at the rich man’s gate with the delights and joys of his Father’s home.
It is difficult to say why the rich man made the request that Lazarus should leave heaven and visit his father’s house on a special mission of warning to his brothers. It might be made in sympathy. He might retain so much of the feelings of humanity, even in Hades, as to lead him to pity the case of his five brothers who had been, during his life, encouraged in their path of guilt by his evil example. So he might honestly wish that they could be delivered from the awful doom to which he had been subjected.
The request might also be made through a selfish motive. These brothers were perhaps seduced and led into sin through his example, and thus he might dread the sight and the presence of them with him in Hades, lest this should add fuel to the fire with which he was consumed. The request of the rich man plainly implies that the lost remember the past. They have not lost their memories. Have the saved in heaven lost theirs? Abraham remembers the past and reminds the rich man of his former good things which he had lost for ever. He remembers also the poverty of Lazarus on earth, which had been exchanged for the riches of glory.
The passage in the Book of Revelation which I have already quoted, and in which the souls of the martyrs put this question, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Revelation 6:10), plainly proves that the glorified in heaven have not forgotten the scenes of earth. These martyrs, who appeal to the truth and to the holiness of God, remember the earth where they suffered, and the death which they endured on it at the hand of their murderers.
If those who have been cruelly put to death for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ, remember so vividly in heaven the violent scenes of their death on earth, do the rest of the glorified not remember their peaceful deathbed, the friends who surrounded them there and tried with all the attentions which experience and love could suggest, to mitigate the sufferings of their last hours?
Every song which the redeemed in glory sing, commemorating in the praises of eternity the finished work of Jesus, and the power of His shed blood, shows that they have a remembrance of the past, that they are in full possession of memory. Hence the praise to Jesus which they raise before the throne: “You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9); “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Revelation 7:10).
Can the glorified forget what they once read in the Word of God about the shedding of Christ's blood on earth, as they stand with Jesus in white on the hill of the heavenly Zion? Do those who stood with the apostle John on the hill of Calvary, and who saw the blood of Emmanuel crimsoning the cross, now forget what they witnessed there? Do all in heaven forget the time when the blood of Jesus was sprinkled by the Holy Spirit -- if I may so express myself -- on their souls when they obtained redemption, the forgiveness of sin through the riches of God's grace?
It is said that a somewhat strange effect happens to a person in the act of drowning. The events and actions of the individual’s whole past life flash in a full array on the memory, as if a life-panorama were suddenly held up to view by an invisible hand. Could this be a foreshadowing of what takes place to every individual for some moments before death, and through eternity after?
Is it not possible that as the soul at death leaves the fallen and motionless body, leaves the weeping bereaved relatives, it rises and enters heaven with a far stronger memory, a clearer and far more vivid recollection of the whole past of his life than was ever possessed before?
In heaven we are to be made perfect in knowledge. Memory is the storehouse in which our knowledge is chiefly deposited. If we are deprived of our memory, we would be led to wonder why it is that Christ has conferred on us a reward, and why there are differences in glory among the saints in heaven.
The children of God enter heaven with all their reasoning powers. Surely no one supposes that God’s glorified children are like those hibernating creatures who during winter live in a dormant state, and that the resurrection morning must first usher in the spring that is to be followed by an eternal summer, before they awake fully to life and intelligence. Those who are in heaven have entered it in the full possession of all their intellectual powers, and they are using them.
The spouse in the Song of Solomon went into the midst of the city in search of Him whom her soul loved. She went up and down its crowded streets. She inquired at the watchman for her Beloved. She used all the means that were within her reach to discover Him, until at last she met Him. Then with a heart glowing in love, she held Him, and would not let Him go.
And will you wander in sad disappointment for ever through the streets of the heavenly Jerusalem, and inquire from all the glorified whom you meet if they have seen your family and friends, and will your search for them be all in vain? The aspirations of the spirit say No.
We are surely entitled to suppose that God the Father will show our friends to us when we come to stand before Him in glory; that Jesus our Saviour will say in those high courts what He said to John, as he stood at the foot of the cross, “Behold your mother” (John 19:27); that the Holy Spirit will impart to us an intuitive knowledge of our friends, and bring us to their presence, that we may recognize them and speak with them; that angels will reveal to us where our mothers or fathers, sisters or brothers, sons or daughters are; that those around us in heaven will listen to our inquiries. But apart from this, can it be denied that I may succeed myself, by virtue of memory and intelligence?
Again, God’s children enter heaven in possession of all their love. This proves recognition. We know that God has implanted in our hearts a longing for immortality, a dread and recoil at the very thought of annihilation. So He has provided the realization of the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
We need have no fear of death. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Psalm 116:15).
The Judgment Day
According to the Bible, the heavens over the earth will rend asunder at the return of Jesus; the gates of glory will be thrown open; the everlasting doors will be lifted up; the Lord Jesus Christ will be seen by all the assembled hosts rising in His glory from the right hand of the throne of God, about to descend for the judgment of the world.
“Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousand of His saints, to execute judgment on all” (Jude 14). “Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, and they also who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him” (Revelation 1:7).
“I watched till the thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of Days was seated; His garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head was like pure wool. His throne was a fiery flame, its wheels a burning fire; a fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him; ten thousand times ten thousand ministered to Him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The court was seated, and the books were opened” (Daniel 7:9-10).
“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and the books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books” (Revelation 20:12).
Heaven will be emptied for a little time and silence will reign for a season in its previously crowded courts. Jesus will burst on the view of the startled nations with all the mighty hosts around Him. He will appear in His own glory, in the glory of the Father, and in the glory of all His holy angels.
Jesus left the world at His ascension to heaven, seated on a white cloud. He is about, in bodily presence, to revisit the world seated on the great white throne. He will come with the trumpet of God proclaiming that an eternal jubilee has come to the prisoners of the grave. The moment the glad sound of that trumpet is heard, the living and the dead will rise.
Thus, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, there will be seen one rising, moving, wide-spread mass gathering themselves together, numerous as the sands of the sea, from the east, and from the west, from the north, and from the south to the Judgment throne.
There are two opposite views which Christians have taken over the procedure Christ will adopt in judging the members of the human family. One view is that there will be no such thing as a personal and individual Judgment at all, and no exposure of every person’s name and life before the mighty hosts of the assembled universe.
Those living on the earth at the return of Jesus will also be there. When the Lord Jesus takes His seat, some think that He will simply separate the righteous from the wicked into two great throngs. The righteous will assemble and gather together in one rejoicing mass to take their position at once on the Judge’s right hand. The wicked will at the same moment move on from their graves and take their position at the Judge’s left hand. The Judge turns His face towards those at His right hand and addresses them, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34). Then, turning to those on His left hand, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).
The righteous will then instantly rise with singing and gladness, and will follow the Lord of glory upwards and enter the final heaven. The wicked will at the same time, with failing and throbbing hearts, take the last look of the rising and ascending assembly, and in the hearing of the burst of praise that is rolling down from heaven they will depart to the punishment that awaits them.
According to this view, the whole procedure of the Judgment Day will not occupy more than a few minutes, or a few hours at most, for the moment the sentence is pronounced, the two assemblies on the right and left hands of the Judge will go at once to enter their appointed but very different dwellings.
(See my Editor’s Note at the end of this chapter regarding William’s Branks’ conclusion that follows, as this is a view shared by very few Christians.)
I believe, however, that the Judgment of the great day will be a very different process from that which those who hold this view imagine. The great Judge is not merely to separate the righteous from the wicked, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. The Books are to be opened -- the Book of God's Omniscience -- the Book of God's Providence with each individual -- the Book of Conscience. The opening of these Books will show to the whole vast assemblages the principle of "justice with mercy”, on which the righteous are acquitted, and that of “justice without mercy”, on which the wicked are condemned.
This is the nature of the Judgment that awaits us. We must prepare for it now. Live above the world. Live to God. Live for eternity. Walk in Jesus. “Therefore let us lay aside every weight and ensnaring sin; run with endurance the race that God has set before us, ever looking to Jesus as the only rescue” (Hebrews 12:1).
The Holy Spirit gives us this startling view of the great and last Review. “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether it is good, or whether it is evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).
Every believer and sinner, then, may now say this. “I shall be judged as minutely as if Christ had come down from heaven and the Judgment had been appointed to sit, for my trial alone. My whole life will be passed in review by Christ, before the assembled universe. Every action I have performed, every word I have spoken, every thought that has passed through my mind, will be made known in that great and terrible day.”
We have already seen that Paul looks forward to the Judgment Throne with the anticipation that he will meet his Thessalonian converts there and recognize them, and experience them to be his crown of joy and rejoicing. If Paul is to recognize these Thessalonians, when their way of life, their acts of friendship are revealed, will you not recognize your friends with whom you have associated, when your lives are passed in review? You will meet your friends at the Judgment Throne -- that is certain.
[_ Let us consider briefly William Branks' view of a final judgment where every single sin -- thought, word and deed -- we have committed will be revealed to the whole of heaven. I have discussed this with several evangelical theologians and Bible students. Two of them have previously heard this view stated, but not one can find support in Scripture for this form of judgment, since it is clear that our sins are washed away by the blood of the Lamb. However, I have left the main thrust of William Branks' argument here as this is his book, and it was part of his understanding of heaven and the final judgment. As I stated in the Foreword, we may not agree with every point that William Branks makes, but we can carry out our own study of Scripture on his conclusions. _]
We can be confident that whatever form the final Judgment of Christians takes, Jesus is not going to embarrass and humiliate those He came to save. Our place in heaven is secure. As we look forward to the day when we will see Him, we do not need to live in fear, but joyfully live our lives now to prepare a good report for Him. “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God” (Romans 8:28).
Heaven and Earth
“Likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:7).
Heaven and Earth
There is teaching, and there are also certain events referred to in the Bible, which plainly show that those who are in heaven do feel an interest in us who are dwelling on the earth.
The doctrine of Our Redemption
Redemption is a monument built for eternity to prove the interest which Father, Son and Holy Spirit have in us. On that monument is seen the inscription: “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).
It is the work of redemption which most strikingly demonstrates the interest of the Godhead in His children. “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him” (1 John 4:9).
“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1). “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
Try to realize for a moment that unsearchable love. When God the Father not only covenanted with Jesus, the Son of His love for our salvation, but when He actually bestowed on the world that wonderful gift, did the Father love Jesus little? Was this why He gave up His only begotten and well-beloved Son? No! He loved the world and its sinful inhabitants much. And thus, “When the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5).
And so the fullness of the time came. The prophecies that for ages had foretold a promised Deliverer were about to be fulfilled. Those who were waiting were engaged in prayer day and night that God would remember His covenant, fulfil His promise, and visit and redeem His people.
And not only the Lord’s children here, but angels and the whole of the redeemed who were standing in their white robes before the throne, were on the tiptoe of expectation.
If we ask why Jesus came to earth on the mission of our salvation, the answer can be nothing else than that it is because of the interest which both the Eternal Father and the Eternal Son feel in our ultimate destiny. We are fallen and perishing and lost: and God pities us and does not wish us to perish.
Nor has He any other way to save us but this: the incarnation and humiliation and death of His only begotten and well-loved Son. Indeed, so great is His love, so great His desire that we should be saved, that He does not withhold, but freely gives up for us the Son of His love, to suffer and to die, to deliver our souls from death, our eyes from tears, and our feet from falling -- to surround us with songs of deliverance, to put a new song into our mouth, even salvation.
We may suppose what would be the effect on us who are now in the world, competitors for a crown of glory that is never to fade, if was saw the Father, Son and Holy Spirit constantly looking out from heaven on us by day as visibly as we see the sun in its splendour, and were to observe the eyes of angels fixed on us by night with a brilliancy equal to that of the stars looking down on us from the clear frosty night. Surely the view of the great heavenly assembly looking on, witnesses of what we are doing, should lead us to lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and run with endurance the race that is set before us (Hebrews 12:1).
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). Some readers of this book will have a different understanding of this verse. It starts with the word “Therefore” and belongs to Hebrews 11 where there is a list of godly people of the Old Testament. It was not until the thirteenth century that the Bible was divided into chapters, and the verses were only added in the sixteenth century. Neither chapters nor verses are part of the original Bible text.
The Greek word translated into English as “witnesses” in 12:1 is “μαρτύρων” or “martyrs”, and the writer seems to be referring to the people of the Old Testament mentioned in chapter 11 being an example to us, because we are surrounded by the faith of people who have given up everything as a witness for God. If this is so, Hebrews 12:1 cannot be seen as a reference to people looking down on us from heaven. But whether the Old Testament saints and others in heaven are watching us or not, the lives of the godly should certainly be seen as an encouragement to us to persevere.
The men of the world have but a dreamy view of heaven and its inhabitants -- so dim and shadowy that they can scarcely be said to have realized their existence at all. To speak to such people about the interest which those in heaven feel in the people of earth is to talk to them in an unknown tongue.
Even many Christians have generally the vaguest idea of heaven and those who dwell in it. They believe in the existence of heaven, it is true, but it can scarcely be said that they realize it. In the view of these believers, heaven is more a name than a home; it is more a flitting unsubstantial vision than a world.
I wish to remind such individuals that heaven exists as truly as the earth does. The family of God is there, living, active, interested -- not only in what is taking place among themselves, but in every act, thought and feeling in the human race, just as there are members of your family circle who feel interested in what is occurring within your limited sphere.
Nor are you to imagine that space or time have anything to do with this question. Look at the various inventions of our day which have been the means of bringing the people of distant nations near to each other. Not only are the inhabitants of the earth better known to each other, they now feel far more interest in what is going on in every part of its surface. It may be that this increase of interest is a visible symbol of that interest which the inhabitants of heaven feel in all that is going on throughout the whole wide and boundless domains of God’s great universe.
What is the degree and the extent of this interest? The Scriptures alone can determine this question. Accordingly, it is the announcements made in the Word of God on which we must chiefly rest. Yet even if the Scriptures had been altogether silent on the subject, there are some considerations constituting what may be termed the philosophical argument which must naturally lead us to infer, not only the existence of that interest, but also its degree.
The same God presides over both worlds.
God created, and He also reigns over, both heaven and earth. “The Lord has established His throne in the heavens and His kingdom rules over all” (Psalm 103:19). “Heaven is My throne and earth is My footstool” (Acts 7:49). “And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, ‘Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns’” (Revelation 19:6).
“I blessed the Most High and praised and honoured Him who lives for ever: dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to him, ‘What have You done?’” (Daniel 4:34-35).
The inhabitants of heaven and God’s children on the earth constitute one family.
“For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named” (Ephesians 3:14). “For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross” (Colossians 1:19-20).
The Holy Spirit is dwelling within all God’s children, both in heaven and on earth, as the Spirit of adoption. God is their Father, Jesus is their elder Brother, the connecting link, making the children of God one, both those who are in heaven and those also who are still on earth.
Do former family and friends who are now in heaven not return this interest? If you say that they do not, where is this set forth, I ask, and what is it that prevents them from doing this? It is quite natural for the members of a family to feel for each other. Indeed, it would be unnatural were they not to do so. The great mistake which many individuals commit when thinking of this subject is this: they do not view God’s children now in heaven as a part of His family, with the other part still living in the homes on earth. Avoid this mistake. Do not separate what God by His Spirit joins together and makes one. The whole children of God, both in heaven and on earth, are one in Christ Jesus. Those who are up with God, if they feel their relationship through Jesus to their younger brothers and sisters who are still below, must feel a loving care for them. Do not imagine that those who are in heaven are incapable of thinking, or that they never think about the earth.
Those who are in heaven have a greater understanding and knowledge, far superior to that of the children of God who are still dwelling on earth.
Their increased knowledge will make them feel an increased interest towards all the members of the great family of God. Take as an illustration the case of a totally uneducated person who is unacquainted with geography, and who can neither read the Bible to learn what is going on in heaven above him, nor the newspapers to learn what is happening on the earth around him.
The world is almost a blank to such a person, and its doings make no impression on him. His interest is centred in his own little locality, in the gossip of the village in which he lives, in the last tale of scandal that has been set in circulation by some busybody through the parish. What the world is to that man, so is heaven to the earthly-minded Christian.
But where we find an enlarged understanding and increased intelligence, there we also find an increased interest in the world’s doings. The views of such a person are not confined by the boundaries of his own little locality, and his interest is not totally absorbed in its transactions. What the learned are to the unlearned, so are the now glorified to these still on earth. Remember, the whole of the saved who are now in heaven were once the inhabitants of this very earth on which we now dwell.
It is from this earth they have entered the kingdom above. They are now there, but they were once here. Yes, here they were born; here they lived the shorter or the longer periods. Here, too, they were born again through the quickening operations of the Holy Spirit and became the new creation of God in Christ Jesus.
Here they spent their day of grace, while the Sun of Righteousness was shining on them from God’s sometimes bright, and at other times cloudy firmament. Here they passed their lives with those who were near and dear to their hearts.
So it was from here that their immortal and redeemed spirits rose and entered into heaven where they now dwell, and are as happy as even God can make them. And can we deem it possible that those members of the human family -- and there are multitudes in this position whom no man can number -- who have left God's green earth and gone up into His home, feel no interest in those they have left behind them, whose salvation they felt so much interest in when here?
Heaven is the home in which angels permanently live. “In heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 18:10). “The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of thousands, the Lord is among them as in Sinai, in the Holy Place” (Psalm 68:17).
“Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels round the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands” (Revelation 5:11). “And all the angels stood around the throne, and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshipped God” (Revelation 7:11).
The Word “angels” means “messengers”, and they receive their names, not because they make their way through the heavens to carry out God’s commands, but because they visit the earth to perform on behalf of its people His messages and will.
Angels came from heaven like a number of rejoicing friends assembling in a home where a child has been born, and sang together creation’s birth-song while this earth arose at God’s command in its beauty and sinlessness and took its place in the circle as one of the orbs in the system of the sun.
An angel from heaven announced to the shepherds of Bethlehem Christ’s advent to the world. An angel announced to Joseph in a dream Herod’s murderous instructions for the young child. In the garden of Gethsemane, while Jesus was stretched in His agony with His face on the ground, an angel from heaven strengthened Him.
An angel rolled away the stone from the door of the tomb where Jesus lay sleeping coldly and silently among the dead. Two angels appeared to the bereaved and sorrowing friends of Jesus.
Then on the mount of Olives at the very moment that Christ’s ascension was taking place, and just at the time that He was disappearing from their view behind the veil of the intervening cloud, two angels said to the disciples, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).
On the great Day of Judgment, angels are to gather together His elect: “From the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven” (Mark 13:27).
I believe that what Jacob saw at Bethel (Genesis 28), is still taking place in a mystical way. The ladder of Christ’s mediation rests on the earth, with the top of it reaching to the heavens. The angels of God are ascending and descending on it in their missions of watchfulness and love on our behalf. “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 14). This shows us their interest in the earth.
The Bible gives us a description of God’s dealings with this world during the long period of human history, and during the whole of that long time we are reminded of the intense concern which angels feel in what is going on, not in heaven merely, but in the earth also. These missions of God’s angels are not to be looked on by us as their banishment from heaven, enforced on them by Him who is Lord both of angels and of men. They are, on the contrary, willing bearers of joy.
Since the pages of the New Testament were completed, have angels ceased to take any interest in the affairs of earth? Because their missions of love to the world on behalf of man are no longer recorded by Scripture, are they no more taking place, and are these angels not coming to visit us now?
Have angels retired to their holy places to take their ease, and fold their hands in idleness, to sit motionless in their seats of honour, ever since John wrote these words: “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning star” (Revelation 22:16)? Have they ceased to feel any interest in what is going on among the children of the valley? It cannot be.
Angels are not all-knowing. They are not like God who is seated on the throne, the Lord of both angels and men. But I have already alluded to certain circumstances which plainly intimate that their knowledge is very great. It is as the ocean, while ours is as a pond. It is as the sun, while ours is as a candle that burns for a while and goes out. The youngest angel in heaven must be, at the least, many thousands of years old, while man on the earth is but the creature of a day. Angels can travel through the whole glorious realms of heaven, the whole boundless universe, as well as up and down among the nations and the homes of earth, while we are confined by the boundaries of time and space.
Angels see the heavens spread around them in all their glory and magnificence. They know about, and they probably see from afar, the regions of that terrible hell into which some of their number have fallen -- the smoke of whose torment ascends upwards full in their view for ever. They see the earth spread out like a visible panorama beneath them as they look down on it out of heaven, or as they fly over it even as the eagle flies and turns its eye on the plains. They see the earth's people, and know that through Jesus they constitute a part of the family of God.
Angels know the value of the soul of man, which they witnessed being formed in the image of God, and which is capable of being transformed through grace into the holy image of the glorified Redeemer. They know the preciousness of Christ's blood, and the fruits that result from a participation in His great salvation. They know that Christ is their Head for eternity, "that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth -- in Him" (Ephesians 1:10). They thus feel that they belong to the same family in which believers are numbered.
Children of God
A sinner’s repentance is an event that awakens an interest in all who are in heaven, and stirs up deep emotion in Christians.
Here are the words of Jesus in reference to this important fact: “I say unto you that there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:7). “Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10).
Paul’s repentance and conversion was an event hailed as a triumph by all the followers of Jesus, and afterwards thousands of believers have sung for joy and lifted the voice of thanksgiving to the God of their salvation.
The father of the prodigal son was moved with joy and tenderness when he saw from afar the well-known figure of his now penitent child on his way back to the home of his youth, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit; for he exclaims, “It was right that we should make merry and be glad: for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found” (Luke 15:32).
The Lord’s people on earth raise anthems of praise and thanksgiving when they see converts coming to Jesus, when they see troops of pilgrims pressing onwards towards the celestial city, and weeping prodigals on their way back to their Father’s home through faith in Jesus, the author and finisher of their faith.
In the verses of Scripture from Luke that I have already quoted, Jesus announces that this interest in a sinner’s repentance is not confined to earth; it embraces and fills a much wider sphere. In fact it vibrates upwards from rank to rank, throughout the world of glory. There is joy in heaven over one sinner who repents.
The assertion which Jesus makes is that at the moment in which the godly sorrow for sin is flowing through the heart of the penitent sinner, there is a new joy circulating through all who are in heaven. At the very moment that the tax collector is in the temple, not daring to lift his face to heaven but is smiting his breast with downcast eyes, and is exclaiming, “God be merciful to me a sinner!” (Luke 18:13); at the very moment that Paul is asking, struck down and stretched on the ground, beneath the glory of Christ’s unveiled presence, “Lord, what do you want me to do?” (Acts 9:6); at the very moment that Mary Magdalene is standing behind her Lord, with her tears running down her cheeks in such a stream that with them she actually washes her Redeemer’s feet, and wipes them with the hair of her head (Luke 7:38); at the moment that Jesus, seated in glory at the Father’s right hand, opens the windows of heaven and pours forth the Holy Spirit on the multitudes who are assembled in the temple of Jerusalem, listening to Peter preaching to them the Gospel in the Name of his exalted Redeemer, and while three thousand are crying in the agonies of conviction, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?’ (Acts 2:37); at the very moment that the earthquake is shaking the prison and a soul-quake is moving the heart of the Philippian jailor and he is putting the question to Paul and Silas, “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30); at the very moment that the poor, humbled, downcast sinner, wherever he is, and whoever he is, is led by the Holy Spirit to feel that he has a soul that needs to be saved, and who is crying to God for help -- that individual is the object of a deep and engrossing attention, and of a deep and excited interest to all the inhabitants of heaven.
The words Jesus uses when He tells us that there is an interest felt in heaven over the repentance of every sinner, at the very moment it is taking place on earth, reminds us that there is a communication such as we too seldom realize between the inhabitants of earth and those above. Such a declaration proves that however we may dream about the far-off kingdom, nevertheless the earth is next door neighbour to heaven. What is taking place on its surface is not only known, but is felt in the world of peace.
Let it not be objected that the words which I have quoted are the only two passages in the Scriptures which expressly assert that there is joy awakened, and consequently an interest excited, among the inhabitants of heaven over every returning wanderer on earth. Even one distinct announcement made by God Himself in His Word is enough to establish, to the satisfaction of every believer, any one doctrine or tenet. Besides, God did not give us the Bible to gratify a vain and never-satisfied curiosity about heaven, and about what is going on in it; but to instruct us in the mystery of salvation and to point out to us the path that will, through Jesus, lead us to it.
The Bible is our spiritual chart on the sea of life. The compass of the sailor gives him no description of the country towards which he is sailing. It merely points silently in the direction in which the poles lie. This enables him to sail on in the right course that leads to his wished-for haven. And when Jesus leaves the Father and the throne of glory, and comes down on the earth and mingles among the children of this world and speaks face to face with men -- it is but seldom, I admit, that He draws aside the veil of eternity and speaks of what is going on in yonder home.
Instead of speaking of heaven, Jesus employs Himself almost constantly in announcing to the lost what they must do to be saved. He does not minister to the insatiable cravings of an idle and wondering curiosity, but He soothes and satisfies the emotions of the penitent’s heart by assuring him, through two distinct and emphatic announcements, that his condition at the moment of his repentance is the cause of a new joy and awakens a holy interest among all the inhabitants of heaven, and he will never be turned away.
Your repentance, as you come to God through faith in Christ Jesus, is the Holy Spirit’s work. This of itself shows that it is no triviality. Your repentance is your translation from death into life; it is your spiritual passage from a state of nature into a state of grace; from darkness into light; from the kingdom of Satan into the kingdom of God’s Son.
In the momentous hour of your new birth, Satan loses a subject who was previously led captive by him; God gains a once lost child; Jesus receives a new subject into His kingdom of grace. Satan’s kingdom to some extent totters and gives way; Christ’s kingdom is advanced.
Your new birth is an event which you may reasonably believe is known in hell as well as in heaven and on earth. Fallen angels roam the earth and strive to gain the mastery over our souls. “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:1-2).
Take care to: “Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:11-12).
When Satan and his fallen legions are dispossessed of the citadel of your soul and driven from the garrison of your heart, and are vanquished and overcome and thrown back by mighty and divine influences of the Holy Spirit; then the tidings of such an event, which these lost and now discomfited spirits will assuredly carry to the place of woe, will spread a deeper gloom over all the dark caverns of the lost.
But, child of God, the tidings of your repentance spread a very different feeling, and creates a very different interest among the inhabitants of heaven. Over your repentance, heaven rings jubilee; and multitudes without number pour forth their voices in this hallelujah acclaim: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and blessing” (Revelation 5:12). “For there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10).
You see up yonder Jesus, the Lamb of God, reigning not merely in glory but in love also, and in the sovereignty of His grace. And your comfort, under a sense of guilt, is that His blood cleanses from all sin. You are polluted. You feel that your sin has not only made you guilty, but that it has also made you impure in the sight of a pure and holy God. But look up in prayer and in supplication.
“For by grace you have been saved by faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). There is a home yonder already prepared and furnished and made ready for you. It is the home of your Father. It is the home into which Jesus is certain to receive you, where you will dwell in His presence for ever. “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1). God is showering down the bounties of His providence. Few, perhaps, on earth feel the slightest interest in you, but it is not so with those who are in heaven.
God your Father, God your Saviour, God the Holy Spirit -- the Godhead Three in One -- is even now bending over you in love from the throne and feels the deepest interest in you, and is ready to hold you in the embrace of everlasting love.
Angels are gladdened that you are now saved from the wrath to come, and are delivered from the agonies of the second death. “Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10).
The glorified multitudes of the human family, those who have through much tribulation entered the kingdom of glory, indeed all who are in heaven, feel deeply in your life and are rejoicing over your repentance and return to God: “I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:7).
The Lost and the Found
Jesus said, “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home he calls together his friends and neighbours, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost.’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15. 4-7).
All who are in the shepherd’s house, together with the family and friends who assemble there, share in the joy that is felt when that sheep is brought back to the fold.
There is the same all-embracing joy among those who are in the woman’s house when, after a careful search, she recovers her lost piece of money. This is graphically illustrated in the following parable.
“What woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbours together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost.’ Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:8-10).
The same sharing of joy among all who are in the home is illustrated and taught us in the parable of the prodigal son who, turning from his sinful indulgence in the land of the stranger, returns to his home and is received by his father with joy. Nor does the father alone rejoice over his son’s return. Look in, and see what is passing in that home over the return of the young man who is shaking hands with all who are around, and who is now arrayed with the best robe, with a ring on his hand, and with shoes on his feet.
“And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring forth the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry” (Luke 15:21-24).
If heaven is a home, and if there is now a great family in it, surely I am entitled to infer that the same love and care, that the same communication and interchange of thoughts and feelings that pass and re-pass and circulate among the members of an affectionate family on earth, are existing and circulating among all the members of God’s great family above.
Angels constitute merely a part of that family. They are one, through Jesus, with the departed who are there. All who are in heaven constitute one family, living in love in the same home.
Thus, whatever the cause of it, a new joy in one part of that family will be shared in and felt by all who are continually rejoicing in the presence of God above.
If you are even now a child of God, forgiven through the Blood of Jesus, the joy that is felt in heaven over your repentance is surely not confined to one part of heaven’s exulting inhabitants. It will run and stream from heart to heart, from rank to rank, until it floods through the whole family in earth and heaven.
Under the Spirit-breathing influences from the risen Saviour, are you now born from above? Have you become spiritually alive, truly and sincerely a penitent in the presence of God? There may be a tide of sorrow for sin circulating through your heart; but over you and above you and towards you, there is joy in heaven. Jesus will never turn you away. He loves you too much to do that. You belong to Him now.
Your departed family and friends had a deep interest in your salvation while they remained with you. Have they lost that interest now that they are in heaven? Have they become so selfish and so careless about your salvation that the tidings of your spiritual deliverance produces no emotion in their hearts, even while the whole population of heaven are rejoicing over your repentance? It cannot be.
But perhaps you do not truly belong to God. Perhaps you have not yet come to receive the free gift of salvation and forgiveness. Arise in the strength of the Lord God Almighty. Return to your Father. Go to Him who is ready and willing to receive you to Himself. Shake off at once and for ever the lethargies of your spiritual slumber. Jesus died so that you can be received as you are, and your sins be freely forgiven.
“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).
Heavenly-mindedness is one feature in the spiritual image of every believer. “Our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is sitting on the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above” (Colossians 3:1-2).
"But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ -- by grace you have been saved -- and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 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” (Ephesians 2:4-9).
I hope that this book may, by the blessing of God, lead Christians to lift their thoughts to heavenly things, to talk about the home which Jesus is preparing for them, and in which they are to meet and spend their eternity.
The belief that we are to meet our friends and know them in heaven, must act as a check on all sinful actions with them, and also as a powerful motive to walk with them here in love and holiness. We look forward and look upward to the time when we will meet and walk with each other through heaven, and follow Jesus the Lamb wherever He goes.
Finally, I hope that the views I have given of heaven as a home may prove a source of comfort to your souls who are the people of God.
Are you poor, even homeless? Like Jesus once, have you no home on earth? Do not despair. Look up in hope. You have a home in heaven. Soon you will be in it, and the remembrance there of your present homeless wanderings will make its rest and its riches appear, if possible, more delightful in your estimation.
Are you in bereavement? Have you lost dearly loved ones who have fallen asleep in Jesus? Have you, in your present state of separation, the good hope through grace that they are now in your, and in their, Father’s home? Your present separation from these friends of yours is not for ever. You will meet them again in an eternal home of love, and recognize them, and speak with them in the language of heaven, and walk with them in white through its courts of glory.
What is death to you, believers? It is going home. God’s home of glory is up yonder. Its door of love is open. There you will see your risen Lord, and meet your friends in His home of love, and be with them for ever.
It will, of course, be thrilling to be in heaven and receive news of the conversion of our family or even perhaps to watch God’s Kingdom advancing on earth. What a privilege to share in the joy over each sinner who repents.
But consider the greater joy from taking part in that work -- the joy to be gained from leading the lost into the kingdom. The view from heaven will be all the sweeter for the knowledge that there are those with us for whom we wrestled in prayer and then brought to Jesus, our own Friend and Saviour.
The field is before us now. The harvest is ready. Where are the labourers? “Go and make disciples of all the nations,” says Jesus (Matthew 28:19).
For nearly two thousand years Christians have been obeying this Great Commission. Yet heaven is not full. There is always room. There is room for us, our families, neighbours, friends, people of all nations. Let us therefore pass on the Good News with confidence that He who calls us also promises: “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
“For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1).
More books from White Tree Publishing are on the next pages, many of which are available as both eBooks and paperbacks:
White Tree Publishing publishes mainstream evangelical Christian literature in paperback and eBook formats, for people of all ages. We aim to make our eBooks available free for all eBook devices. (Unfortunately, Kindle currently insists that our e-Books are listed at a small price.) We rely on our readers to tell their families, their friends and churches about our books. Social media is a great way of doing this. Take a look at our books on the following pages and pass the word on. Also, please write a positive review if you are able.
Four short books of help in the Christian life:
So, What Is a Christian? An introduction to a personal faith. Paperback ISBN: 978-0-9927642-2-7, eBook ISBN: 978-0-9933941-2-6
Starting Out -- help for new Christians of all ages. Paperback ISBN 978-1-4839-622-0-7, eBook ISBN: 978-0-9933941-0-2
Help! -- Explores some problems we can encounter with our faith. Paperback ISBN 978-0-9927642-2-7, eBook ISBN: 978-0-9933941-1-9
Running Through the Bible — a simple understanding of what’s in the Bible — Paperback ISBN: 978-0-9927642-6-5, eBook ISBN: 978-0-9933941-3-3
Bible Words of Peace and Comfort
There may come a time in our lives when we want to concentrate on God’s many promises of peace and comfort. The Bible readings in this book are for people who need to know what it means to be held securely in the Lord’s loving arms.
Rather than selecting single verses here and there, each reading in this book is a run of several verses. This gives a much better picture of the whole passage in which a favourite verse may be found.
As well as being for personal use, these readings are intended for sharing with anyone in special need, to help them draw comfort from the reading and prayer for that date. Bible reading and prayer are the two most important ways of getting to know and trust Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.
The reference to the verses for the day are given, for you to look up and read in your preferred Bible translation.
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-9932760-7-1
116 pages 5×7.8 inches
e-Book ISBN: 978-0-9933941-4-0
A Previously Unpublished Book
The Simplicity of the Incarnation
J Stafford Wright
Foreword by J I Packer
“I believe in … Jesus Christ … born of the Virgin Mary.” A beautiful stained glass image, or a medical reality? This is the choice facing Christians today. Can we truly believe that two thousand years ago a young woman, a virgin named Mary, gave birth to the Son of God? The answer is simple: we can.
The author says, “In these days many Christians want some sensible assurance that their faith makes sense, and in this book I want to show that it does.”
In this uplifting book from a previously unpublished and recently discovered manuscript, J Stafford Wright investigates the reality of the incarnation, looks at the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, and helps the reader understand more of the Trinity and the certainty of eternal life in heaven.
This book was written shortly before the author’s death in 1985. The Simplicity of the Incarnation is published for the first time, unedited, from his final draft.
Paperback ISBN: 9-780-9525-9563-2
160 pages 5.25 × 8 inches
Available from bookstores and major internet sellers
eBook ISBN 13: 978-0-9932760-5-7
Bible People Real People
An Unforgettable A-Z of Who is Who in the Bible
In a fascinating look at real people, J Stafford Wright shows his love and scholarly knowledge of the Bible as he brings the characters from its pages to life in a memorable way.
Read this book through from A to Z, like any other title
Dip in and discover who was who in personal Bible study
Check the names when preparing a talk or sermon
The good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly – no one is spared. This is a book for everyone who wants to get to grips with the reality that is in the pages of the Bible, the Word of God.
With the names arranged in alphabetical order, the Old and New Testament characters are clearly identified so that the reader is able to explore either the Old or New Testament people on the first reading, and the other Testament on the second.
Those wanting to become more familiar with the Bible will find this is a great introduction to the people inhabiting the best selling book in the world, and those who can quote chapter and verse will find everyone suddenly becomes much more real – because these people are real. This is a book to keep handy and refer to frequently while reading the Bible.
“For students of my generation the name Stafford Wright was associated with the spiritual giants of his generation. Scholarship and integrity were the hallmarks of his biblical teaching. He taught us the faith and inspired our discipleship of Christ. To God be the Glory.” The Rt. Rev. James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool
This is a lively, well-informed study of some great Bible characters. Professor Gordon Wenham MA PhD. Tutor in Old Testament at Trinity College Bristol and Emeritus Professor of Old Testament at the University of Gloucestershire.
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-9525956-5-6
314 pages 6×9 inches
eBook ISBN: 978-0-9932760-7-1
Note: This book is not available in all eBook formats
Christians and the Supernatural
J Stafford Wright
There is an increasing interest and fascination in the paranormal today. To counteract this, it is important for Christians to have a good understanding of how God sometimes acts in mysterious ways, and be able to recognize how he can use our untapped gifts and abilities in his service. We also need to understand how the enemy can tempt us to misuse these gifts and abilities, just as Jesus was tempted in the wilderness.
In this single volume of his two previously published books on the occult and the supernatural (Understanding the Supernatural and Our Mysterious God) J Stafford Wright examines some of the mysterious events we find in the Bible and in our own lives. Far from dismissing the recorded biblical miracles as folk tales, he is convinced that they happened in the way described, and explains why we can accept them as credible.
The writer says: When God the Holy Spirit dwells within the human spirit, he uses the mental and physical abilities which make up a total human being … The whole purpose of this book is to show that the Bible does make sense.
And this warning: The Bible, claiming to speak as the revelation of God, and knowing man’s weakness for substitute religious experiences, bans those avenues into the occult that at the very least are blind alleys that obscure the way to God, and at worst are roads to destruction.
Paperback ISBN 13: 9-780-9525-9564-9
222 pages 5.25 × 8 inches
Available from bookstores and major internet sellers
eBook ISBN 13: 978-0-9932760-4-0
A Previously Unpublished Book
Locked Door Shuttered Windows
A Novel by J Stafford Wright
What is inside the fascinating house with the locked door and the shuttered windows? Satan wants an experiment. God allows it. John is caught up in the plan as Satan’s human representative. The experiment? To demonstrate that there can be peace in the world if God allows Satan to run things in his own way. A group of people gather together in an idyllic village run by Satan, with no reference to God, and no belief in him.
J Stafford Wright has written this startling and gripping account of what happens when God stands back and Satan steps forward. All seems to go well for the people who volunteer to take part. And no Christians allowed!
John Longstone lost his faith when teaching at a theological college. Lost it for good -- or so he thinks. And then he meets Kathleen who never had a faith. As the holes start to appear in Satan’s scheme for peace, they wonder if they should help or hinder the plans which seem to have so many benefits for humanity.
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-9927642-4-1
206 pages 5.25 × 8.0 inches
Available from bookstores and major internet sellers
eBook ISBN 13: 978-0-9932760-3-3
His Own Story
Foreword by J. Stafford Wright
eBook ISBN: 978-0-9933941-9-5
Howell Harris was brought up to regard the Nonconformists as “a perverted and dangerously erroneous set of people.” Hardly a promising start for a man who was to play a major role in the Welsh Revival. Yet in these extracts from his writings and diaries we can read the thoughts of Howell Harris before, during and after his own conversion.
We can see God breaking through the barriers separating "church and chapel", and discover Christians of different denominations preparing the country for revival. Wesley, Whitefield, Harris. These great 18th century preachers worked both independently and together to preach the Living Gospel. This book is a vivid first-hand account of the joys, hardships and struggles of one of these men -- Howell Harris (1714-1773).
From the Streets of London
to the Streets of Gold
The Life Story of
Brother Clifford Edwards
A True Story of Love
Brother Clifford Edwards
eBook ISBN: 978-0-9933941-8-8
This is the personal story of Clifford Edwards, affectionately known as Brother Clifford by his many friends. Going from fame to poverty, he was sleeping on the streets of London with the homeless for twenty years, until Jesus rescued him and gave him an amazing mission in life. Brother Clifford tells his true story here in the third person, giving the glory to Jesus.
The Gospel of John
Published to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the Authorized King James Version of the Bible, this book contains the full text of Bagster’s assembled work for the Gospel of John. On each page in parallel columns are the words of the six most important translations of the New Testament into English, made between 1380 and 1611. Below the English is the original Greek text after Scholz.
To enhance the reading experience, there is an introduction telling how we got our English Bibles, with significant pages from early Bibles shown at the end of the book.
Here is an opportunity to read English that once split the Church by giving ordinary people the power to discover God’s word for themselves. Now you can step back in time and discover those words and spellings for yourself, as they first appeared hundreds of years ago.
Wyclif 1380, Tyndale 1534, Cranmer 1539, Geneva 1557,
Douay Rheims 1582, Authorized (KJV) 1611.
[_ English Hexapla -- The Gospel of John _]
Published by White Tree Publishing
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-9525956-1-8
Size 7.5 × 9.7 inches paperback
Not available as an eBook
Roddy Goes to Church
Church Life and Church People
No, not a children’s book! An affectionate, optimistic look at church life involving, as it happens, Roddy and his friends who live in a small town. Problems and opportunities related to change and outreach are not, of course, unique to their church!
Maybe you know Miss Prickly-Cat who pointedly sits in the same pew occupied by generations of her forebears, and perhaps know many of the characters in this look at church life today. A wordy Archdeacon comes on the scene, and Roddy is taken aback by the events following his first visit to church. Roddy’s best friend Bushy-Beard says wise things, and he hears an enlightened Bishop . . .
Bishop David Pytches writes: A unique spoof on church life. Will you recognise yourself and your church here? … Derek Osborne’s mind here is insightful, his characters graphic and typical and the style acutely comical, but there is a serious message in his madness. Buy this, read it and enjoy!
David Pytches, Chorleywood
Paperback ISBN: 978-09927642-0-3
46 pages 5.5 × 8.5 inches paperback UK £3.95
Available from bookstores and major internet sellers
eBook ISBN: 978-0-9935005-0-3
eBook due February 2016
I See Men As Trees, Walking
Roger and Janet Niblett
Roger and Janet Niblett were just an ordinary English couple, but then they met the Lord and their lives were totally transformed. Like the Bethlehem shepherds of old, they had a compulsion to share the same good news that Jesus Christ had come into the world to save sinners. Empowered by the Holy Spirit they proclaimed the gospel in the market place, streets, prisons, hospitals and churches with a vibrancy that only comes from being in direct touch with the Almighty and being readily available to serve Him as a channel of His grace and love. God was with them and blessed their ministry abundantly. Praise God! (Pastor Mervyn Douglas, Clevedon Family Church)
The story of Roger Niblett is an inspiration to all who serve the Lord. He was a prolific street evangelist, whose impact on the gospel scene was a wonder to behold. It was my privilege to witness his conversion, when he went forward to receive Christ at the Elim Church, Keynsham. The preacher was fiery Scottish evangelist Rev’d Alex Tee. It was not long before Roger too caught that same soul winner’s fire which propelled him far and wide, winning multitudes for Christ. Together with his wife Janet, they proceeded to “Tell the World of Jesus”. (Des Morton, Founder Minister of Keynsham Elim Church)
I know of no couple who have been more committed to sharing their faith from the earliest days of their journey with the Lord Jesus Christ. Along the way, at home and abroad, and with a tender heart for the marginalised, Rog and Jan have introduced multitudes to the Saviour and have inspired successive generations of believers to do the same. It was our joy and privilege to have them as part of the family at Trinity where Janet continues to serve in worship and witness. Loved by young and old alike, they will always have a special place in our hearts. (Andy Paget, Trinity Tabernacle, Bristol. Vice President, International Gospel Outreach)
eBook ISBN: 978-0-9935005-1-0
Available now as an Amazon paperback
(published by Gozo Publishing Bristol)
paperback ISBN: 978-1508674979
eBook due March 2016
First Published 1889
e-Book ISBN: 978-0-9935005-2-7
You may have heard of the clergyman who was converted while preaching his own sermon! Well, this is man -- William Haslam. It happened in Cornwall one Sunday in 1851. He later wrote his autobiography in two books: From Death into Life and Yet not I. In Leaves from my Notebook, William Haslam writes about events and people not present in his autobiography. They make fascinating and challenging reading as we watch him sharing his faith, one to one or in small groups, with dramatic results. Haslam was a man who mixed easily with titled gentry and the poorest of the poor, bringing the message of salvation in a way that people were ready to accept. This book has been lightly edited and abridged to make reading easier today by using modern punctuation and avoiding over-long sentences. William Haslam’s amazing message is unchanged.
The Lost Clue
Mrs. O. F. Walton
A Romantic Mystery
With modern line drawings
E-book ISBN: 978-0-9932760-2-6
Living the life of a wealthy man, Kenneth Fortescue receives devastating news from his father. But he is only able to learn incomplete facts about his past, because a name has been obliterated from a very important letter. Two women are vying for Kenneth's attention -- Lady Violet, the young daughter of Lady Earlswood, and Marjorie Douglas, the daughter of a widowed parson's wife.
Written in 1905 by the much-loved author Mrs. O. F. Walton, this edition has been lightly abridged and edited to make it easier to read and understand today. This romantic mystery story gives an intriguing glimpse into the class extremes that existed in Edwardian England, with wealthy titled families on one side, and some families living in terrible poverty on the other.
Mrs. O. F. Walton
A Romantic Mystery
with modern line drawings
E-book ISBN: 978-0-9932760-0-2
Doctor Forester, a medical man only twenty-five years old, has come to a lonely part of Wales to escape from an event in his recent past that has caused him much hurt. So he has more on his mind than worrying about strange noises behind his bedroom wall in the old castle where he is staying.
A young woman who shares part of the journey with him is staying in the same village. He is deeply attracted to her, and believes that she is equally attracted to him. But he soon has every reason to think that his old school friend Jack is also courting her.
Written and taking place in the early 1900s, this romantic mystery is a mix of excitement and heartbreak. What is the secret of Hildick Castle? And can Doctor Forester rid himself of the past that now haunts his life?
Mrs. O. F. Walton was a prolific writer in the late 1800s, and this abridged edition captures all of the original writer’s insight into what makes a memorable story. With occasional modern line drawings.
Ghosts of the past kept flitting through his brain. Dark shadows which he tried to chase away seemed to pursue him. Here these ghosts were to be laid; here those shadows were to be dispelled; here that closed chapter was to be buried for ever. So he fought long and hard with the phantoms of the past until the assertive clock near his bedroom door announced that it was two o’clock.
Was I Right?
Mrs. O. F. Walton
A Victorian Romance
With modern line drawings
E-book ISBN: 978-0-9932760-1-9
May Lindsay and her young stepsister Maggie are left penniless and homeless when their father the local doctor dies. Maggie can go to live with her three maiden aunts, but May at the age of nineteen is faced with a choice. Should she take the position of companion to a girl she doesn’t know, who lives some distance away, or accept a proposal of marriage from the man who has been her friend since they were small children?
May Lindsay makes her decision, but it is not long before she wonders if she has done the right thing. This is a story of life in Victorian England as May, who has led a sheltered life, is pushed out into a much bigger world than she has previously known. She soon encounters titled families, and is taken on a tour of the Holy Land which occupies much of the story.
Two men seem to be a big disappointment to May Lindsay. Will her Christian faith hold strong in these troubles? Was she right in the decision she made before leaving home?
Books for Younger Readers
Mary Jones and Her Bible
An Adventure Book
The true story of Mary Jones’s and her Bible
with a clear Christian message and optional puzzles
(Some are easy, some tricky, and some amusing)
Mary Jones saved for six years to buy a Bible of her own. In 1800, when she was 15, she thought she had saved enough, so she walked barefoot for 26 miles (more than 40km) over a mountain pass and through deep valleys in Wales to get one. That’s when she discovered there were none for sale!
You can travel with Mary Jones today in this book by following clues, or just reading the story. Either way, you will get to Bala where Mary went, and if you’re really quick you may be able to discover a Bible just like Mary’s in the market!
The true story of Mary Jones has captured the imagination for more than 200 years. For this book, Chris Wright has looked into the old records and discovered even more of the story, which is now in this unforgettable account of Mary Jones and her Bible. Solving puzzles is part of the fun, but the whole story is in here to read and enjoy whether you try the puzzles or not. Just turn the page, and the adventure continues. It’s time to get on the trail of Mary Jones!
Paperback ISBN 978-0-9525956-2-5
5.5 × 8.5 inches
156 pages of story, photographs, line drawings and puzzles
eBook ISBN: ISBN: 978-0-9933941-5-7
An Adventure Book
Travel with young Christian as he sets out on a difficult and perilous journey to find the King. Solve the puzzles and riddles along the way, and help Christian reach the Celestial City. Then travel with his friend Christiana. She has four young brothers who can sometimes be a bit of a problem.
Be warned, you will meet giants and lions -- and even dragons! There are people who don't want Christian and Christiana to reach the city of the King and his Son. But not everyone is an enemy. There are plenty of friendly people. It's just a matter of finding them.
Are you prepared to help? Are you sure? The journey can be very dangerous! As with our book Mary Jones and Her Bible, you can enjoy the story even if you don’t want to try the puzzles.
This is a simplified and abridged version of [_ Pilgrim's Progress -- Special Edition ], containing illustrations and a mix of puzzles. The suggested reading age is up to perhaps ten. Older readers will find the same story told in much greater detail in [ Pilgrim's Progress -- Special Edition _] on the next page.
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-9525956-6-3
5.5 × 8.5 inches 174 pages £6.95
Available from major internet stores
eBook ISBN 13: 978-0-9933941-6-4
This book for all ages is a great choice for young readers, as well as for families, Sunday school teachers, and anyone who wants to read John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress in a clear form.
All the old favourites are here: Christian, Christiana, the Wicket Gate, Interpreter, Hill Difficulty with the lions, the four sisters at the House Beautiful, Vanity Fair, Giant Despair, Faithful and Talkative -- and, of course, Greatheart. The list is almost endless.
The first part of the story is told by Christian himself, as he leaves the City of Destruction to reach the Celestial City, and becomes trapped in the Slough of Despond near the Wicket Gate. On his journey he will encounter lions, giants, and a creature called the Destroyer.
Christiana follows along later, and tells her own story in the second part. Not only does Christiana have to cope with her four young brothers, she worries about whether her clothes are good enough for meeting the King. Will she find the dangers in Vanity Fair that Christian found? Will she be caught by Giant Despair and imprisoned in Doubting Castle? What about the dragon with seven heads?
It’s a dangerous journey, but Christian and Christiana both know that the King’s Son is with them, helping them through the most difficult parts until they reach the Land of Beulah, and see the Celestial City on the other side of the Dark River. This is a story you will remember for ever, and it’s about a journey you can make for yourself.
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-9525956-7-0
5.5 × 8.5 inches 278 pages
Available from major internet stores
E-book ISBN: 978-0-9932760-8-8
Zephan and the Vision
An exciting story about the adventures of two angels who seem to know almost nothing -- until they have a vision!
Two ordinary angels are caring for the distant Planet Eltor, and they are about to get a big shock -- they are due to take a trip to Planet Earth! This is Zephan's story of the vision he is given before being allowed to travel with Talora, his companion angel, to help two young people fight against the enemy.
Arriving on Earth, they discover that everyone lives in a small castle. Some castles are strong and built in good positions, while others appear weak and open to attack. But it seems that the best-looking castles are not always the most secure.
Meet Castle Nadia and Castle Max, the two castles that Zephan and Talora have to defend. And meet the nasty creatures who have built shelters for themselves around the back of these castles. And worst of all, meet the shadow angels who live in a cave on Shadow Hill. This is a story about the forces of good and the forces of evil. Who will win the battle for Castle Nadia?
The events in this story are based very loosely on John Bunyan’s allegory The Holy War.
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-9525956-9-4
5.5 × 8.5 inches 216 pages
Available from major internet stores
E-book ISBN: 978-0-9932760-6-4
Agathos, The Rocky Island,
And Other Stories
Once upon a time there were two favourite books for Sunday reading: Parables from Nature and Agathos and The Rocky Island.
These books contained short stories, usually with a hidden meaning. In this illustrated book is a selection of the very best of these stories, carefully retold to preserve the feel of the originals, coupled with ease of reading and understanding for today’s readers.
Discover the king who sent his servants to trade in a foreign city. The butterfly who thought her eggs would hatch into baby butterflies, and the two boys who decided to explore the forbidden land beyond the castle boundary. The spider that kept being blown in the wind, the soldier who had to fight a dragon, the four children who had to find their way through a dark and dangerous forest. These are just six of the nine stories in this collection. Oh, and there’s also one about a rocky island!
This is a book for a young person to read alone, a family or parent to read aloud, Sunday school teachers to read to the class, and even for grownups who want to dip into the fascinating stories of the past all by themselves. Can you discover the hidden meanings? You don’t have to wait until Sunday before starting!
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-9525956-8-7
5.5 × 8.5 inches 148 pages £5.95
Available from major internet stores
E-book ISBN: 978-0-9927642-7-2
(Return to Contents)
"I go to prepare a place for you." This well-known promise from Jesus must cause us to think about the reality of heaven. Heaven is to be our home for ever. Where is heaven? What is it like? Will I recognize people there? All who are Christians must surely want to hear about the place where they are to spend eternity. In this abridged edition of William Branks' classic work of 1861, we discover what the Bible has to say about heaven. There may be a few surprises, and there are certainly some challenges as we explore a subject on which there seems to be little teaching and awareness today.