We're turning in our Bibles this evening to John's gospel - we have a few readings of the word of God - John's gospel and chapter 14. It is a passage of scripture where the Lord Jesus Christ is speaking - and we have learnt, I hope, after three nights of our mission thus far that we have to listen when the Lord Jesus speaks.
John chapter 14, and this is a passage where Jesus speaks on the subject that you've been hearing about just now, in the word in song, about His coming again and about the place that He wants to bring you and me to. Verse 1 of chapter 14: "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 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 unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me".
Then Revelation chapter 21, the last book of the Bible that speaks about the Lord's return, and indeed about the place called 'heaven'. Revelation 21 and reading at verse 1: "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of 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 shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death".
Verse 22: "And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it. And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life".
Just three verses from chapter 22, verse 14: "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie", verse 17, "And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely".
Let's bow our heads in a moment's prayer as we ask God's help. If you're a believer in this place this evening, you pray too that God may bless our effort in the gospel. Our Father, we thank Thee for the revelation, Thy revelation to us, the word of God. Lord, we can know nothing about the hereafter, we can know nothing about Thee, or about salvation, or about the way to be saved, if it were not for Thy word. So Lord, we thank Thee for it. We know that it's sharper than a two-edged sword, it's like a hammer that breaks the broken heart. We pray this evening that Thy Spirit may come upon these pages, but more importantly that He may come upon the lives of them in this place that are without Christ - therefore without hope in this world, or in the world to come. We pray that time would break way to eternity this evening, and that the atmosphere of God may be able to be cut with a knife. Fill me, I pray in Jesus' name. Amen.
You can take an atlas down from the shelf at home and open it up, and you can even look down the index at the back, and you will see many beautiful places described - countries, places that you may feel are near to paradise, they are idyllic. It may be the tropical sands of the seashore, it may be the forests of the Amazon, it may be the mountains of the Alps, it may be the mountains of the Mournes. Many places on earth - luxurious, exotic resorts - and many of them, if we had a choice to live in a place, we would say: 'Well, I want to live there. I've been there on holiday', or 'I've seen photographs of it', or 'I saw a programme on the television about it, and if I could live anywhere I'd love to live there'.
But I'm sure that none of us would say that we wanted to live there forever. Is that not true? There's no place on earth that I would want to live forever. Because, you see, the problem with no matter what part of the world you go to, no matter how beautiful it is, the problem is that we can never change what's in our hearts and we can never, fundamentally, change the environment that surrounds us. No matter what place we go to on God's earth we find what the Bible calls 'sin', we find lawlessness, crime, abuse, addictions, selfishness. We find these awful things that mar the beautiful creation no matter where we go.
But the Bible says that there is a place, that there is a country, where there is no crime, where there is no violence, where there is no sickness, no sadness, no more tears. A country where there are no more heartaches, no more pain or death or burdens, free from war, free from bloodshed. There's no rich, there's no poor, there's no bond, there's no prison. People never grow tired, never grow old. No-one ever says: 'Goodbye' there. There are no disappointments there, no failures, no wrong, no accidents. You can travel for miles along its roads and you'll never encounter a funeral procession, you'll never find a cemetery, you'll never find a hospital or a doctor or a nurse. There's no chemists, there's no medicine, because there's no-one sick! There's no drunkards, no rapists, no terrorists or child-abusers. There's no broken homes, there's no death. No dumb people, no blind, disabled, homeless. What a place!
My friend, you better believe it this evening: this place is as real, if not more real than, Kilkeel. This is what the word of God calls 'heaven'. You might say: 'Well, that's all rubbish, isn't it? It's all in your head, preacher. It's all out of that little book that you read too much of - and it's beginning to confuse you, and you're believing in pie in the sky when you die. That's not what I want. I want reality - this thing that you talk about, 'heaven', that's just to salve the problems that you have in your life. It's just to give you some kind of hope that all down here that you're living in, that it's all going to be worth all the pain, all the stress and the sickness and the problems - that there's something, some light of the end of the tunnel. You're just deluding yourself!'.
Can you prove to me that there's no heaven? Can you? The Bible says that eye has not seen, nor ear ever heard in the human race, neither has it entered into the heart of man - we cannot conceive, the word of God says, what He has prepared for them that love Him. Heaven! A place of perfection, a place of satisfaction, a place - praise God - where there will be no more sin at all!
'How do you know there's a heaven?', you say. I'll give you a couple of reasons. First of all: the human soul has always longed for such a place. If you look into the history books, and you can go 3000 years BC and look at the Egyptian race - and they were wrong in their perception of heaven, but they believed in an afterlife even way back then. Right from the beginning of time men have always looked to a better land called 'heaven'. Secondly: the human soul has always felt that there is such a place. Now, you can deny it, and you can tell me - I'll not believe you - but you can tell me that you have no desire of a place called heaven, neither do you feel it in your own soul - but I'm telling you, you do. Every day of your life you yearn for something better - that's heaven.
It's like the wee lad who was flying the kite out on a cloudy day, and he lost the kite behind the clouds and he couldn't see where it was - but he could feel that it was there, because it was tugging, the wind was pulling it. You know what I'm talking about - you maybe wouldn't admit about believing it, but you know there's a tug on your heart that there must be something more to this life, there must be something at the end of it all worth living for and toiling for. We must have a purpose down here - you're right!
Thirdly: the human soul needs such a place. You're right in asking the question: 'Is it worth it all?', for some of you have it far tougher than I'll ever have, some of you have gone through things that I could never enter into - problems in your home, and family, and business, and all sorts of things that you probably couldn't even share with people here. Oh, it has to be worth it all somehow - the human soul needs a place at the end of it all, that it will be worth it all!
Fourthly: justice demands a place called 'heaven', because there's been people like me and the Pastor who have preached the Gospel and have lost their heads for it. There are people in Eastern Europe at this moment, and in China, who believe what I believe in the word of God - and they're being tortured for it! Some of them are being crucified upside-down, and why would they do it if there wasn't a place called heaven, if they didn't know that they would go to a place where everything would be fine and God would be there?
Fifthly, and this is the most important, listen to this one: God says there's a heaven, and Jesus Christ said it too. Now, I've asked this question night after night and I still haven't got an answer, but yet nobody's got saved - it surprises me, that one. None of you will say that Christ was a liar, none of you! None of you are saying that He's a lunatic. When He said: 'I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go I will come again and receive you unto myself' - you must believe what He said, because none of you have denied it, none of you have questioned me at the door, yet none of you have got saved!
Jesus says there's a heaven, my friend, and I want to speak to you this evening on this subject of heaven: 'Heaven And How to Get There'. You ask me: 'What's heaven like?'. In John chapter 14, that we read, the Lord Jesus described heaven, first of all, as a home. Now what conjures up into your mind when you think of a home? Maybe it's good memories, memories of Daddy and Mummy and your brothers and sisters together as a family, before they were all broken up. Memories of the good old days, memories of family times, happy round the fire on a Sunday night or something like that. Good memories, around the meal table, of home.
Maybe home hasn't such a good memory for you - home meant a father chucking over the step, drunk. Home meant a mother being beaten, maybe it was you beaten or abused. Home, oh to think of home, an awful picture! You dreamt as a wee child what you would love a home to have been. Well, Jesus says this: that this place heaven is such a home, a home that you could ever want - a home of good memories, a home of good things, a home that is permanent. So many homes in these days are not permanent, they're broken, and children don't know who their real father or mother is they swap around that many times! But this is a place, Jesus says, beyond and above all our imagination.
He said it's a home, He says it's a happy place. I don't know what storms you're going through this evening in your life, in your home, in your own mind and heart there's storms that are raging - and you know all about storms here. In the book of Revelation and chapter 21 we read this: that heaven is a place where there is no more sea. You can't have a storm without the sea - there's no sea in heaven, there's no more storms, no more heartaches, no more problems, no more perplexities, no more distress, no more arguments, no more fights, no more break-ups, no more walk-outs, no more disasters! A place that is happy.
My friend, sea also speaks of separation. You can't get from here to Scotland because the sea separates us, we have to take a boat. Let me say this: heaven will be a happy place for me, because there's loved ones that have gone on before me and they're there. It'll be happy because I'll be reunited with them, I'll see them again - loved ones I loved long ago will be there! People ask the question: 'Well, will you know them when you get to heaven?' - of course you'll know them! Do you think you'll be dafter up in heaven than you are down here? We'll see them, and we'll be reunited with them!
Is there a vacant chair in your home? Is there a quiet voice? Is there someone that you have loved, and you have lost, and they've gone on to heaven? A mother, a father, a son, a daughter - and they've been saved? Or a little child that has gone to glory - God has taken it up in His arms at birth and brought it there? They are there waiting for you! But you will never be there. My friend, is there that separation? Will you miss them? Will they miss you? Are you like the missionary who, in India, lost her twins, and when she was laying them down to the ground - they died of diphtheria - she laid them down there and whispered to God: 'Only separated for a short time'. How long will you be separated? My friend, the word of God teaches this: that if we die in our sin, that if we die without Christ, if we do not know salvation, if we're not washed in His blood, if we've never repented of our sin - it says that we will have part in the lake of fire!
Oh, if you took a poll in Kilkeel today, most of them will believe in heaven - but few of them will believe in hell. We all like nice things, don't we? Of course we do, it's natural - but hell is real, my friend, hell is in the word of God. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself preached on hell, talked about hell, mentioned hell more than He did about heaven - because He wanted to warn people of the doom and the danger if they were damned!
Will you be separated in hell? The tragedy is this: that the word of God teaches about two men - one was a rich man and one was a pauper, Lazarus. They both died and it says that the rich man lifted up his eyes in hell, and Lazarus was taken into heaven. But it says that the rich man, when he was in hell, was able to see Lazarus in heaven! He was able to see Father Abraham, he could talk with him! And the hell for you, my friend, after this life - if you don't trust Christ - will be ten times the hell for you because you'll see that loved one in heaven! You'll not be able to talk with them, they'll not hear you, they'll not see you in your torture, they'll not hear your weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth! They'll not hear it, but you'll be able to see them in their glory, in their happiness, in their satisfaction - and you'll wish you could be there, but you can't!
Jesus says that it's not just a home, a happy place, but it's holy. He said in the book of Revelation: 'Nothing that defiles shall enter in' - that means sin. If you're a sinner - and you are a sinner because we're all sinners, who do you think you are? Do you think God made you on your own, and you're special, and you're some kind of perfect person, everybody's worse than you are? Come on! Waken up! We're all sinners, we've all done wrong, we've all made mistakes, we've all regrets - but Jesus says that nobody will get in there with a sin. The whoremonger sleeping around, the drunkard, the boozer, the gambler - all those sins, and the self-religious and self-righteous that think they're pious as a pope, they'll not get in either!
So how do you get in? Have you ever seen a dog chained to a pole? You know what I'm talking about, you go into the bank or into the Post Office when you're out for walk with the dog, and you tie it up. All of a sudden it sees you through the window, and it jumps at you but [the chain] catches it. You've seen that - but it's stupid, it jumps again, it keeps on jumping, thinks it can get at you because it can see you. We're all like that, aren't we? We're all jumping at heaven - and let's face it, who doesn't want to go to heaven? Everybody wants to go to heaven, and we'll all jump after it, we'll all strive after it - some will even live after it: deny themselves things, go to special places, join a special religion, become a nun or a priest or a minister just to get to heaven! But no matter how much we pull after it, like the wee dog, there's something that keeps us back, and it's our sin.
My friend, a wee child on one occasion said this: 'Heaven is where you get everything you want, but if you want everything you'll not get there'. There was a rich man, a young rich man, came to Jesus and said: 'Look, how can I inherit eternal life?' - do you know what he was saying? What you're maybe saying: 'How can I get to heaven?'. Jesus said: 'Well, have you kept the commandments?'. 'Oh, yes, I'm a good religious fellow you know. I kept the commandments'. But Jesus knowing his heart - and Jesus Christ knows your heart this evening, He knows what sin will keep you out of heaven - Jesus said: 'Well, what I want you to do now is to sell all your goods, everything that you have, give them to the poor, and come and follow Me'. The Bible says that that man looked very very sad because he was very very rich.
You see salvation is free, my friend, in one sense: that Jesus Christ at the cross has done all that is needed to be done for you to go to heaven and to be saved - but it costs you your life. You've got to give everything, you've got to forsake your sin, and you've got to throw yourself into the hands of the Lord Jesus Christ - and the big problem that stops us getting to heaven is our sin. Just as the devil needs all of you to take you to hell, Jesus needs all of you to take you to heaven.
Our world today says that, 'Just like all roads lead to Rome' - remember they used to say that? - 'all roads lead to God. All roads lead to heaven, and as long as you're sincere, as long as you have some kind of god, and that you're moral and you live to love your neighbour and to do your best - how could God close you out of heaven when you die and get to the pearly gates?'. That's what the world says, but do you know what God says? Do you know what Jesus said? 'I am the way, the truth, and the life - no man, or woman, comes to the Father, gets to heaven, but by me'. There is one road to heaven, and it's the way of the cross. The wee hymn says:
'The way of the cross leads home,
The way of the cross leads home'.
Another hymn says:
'On the golden streets of heaven,
All men hope to walk some day' - of course they do!
'But so many are not willing
To accept the living way.
And while others stand on good works
and opinions as they may:
I'm depending on the blood'.
You see when Jesus was hanging on that tree at Calvary, and when His blood was dripping down to the ground. When men were crying to Him: 'Ach, look at You! You saved others, Yourself You cannot save! Why don't You get down and save Yourself if You are who You say You are?'. Do you know why He didn't come down, my friend? Listen: because He wanted you in heaven. He wanted you never to look at a corpse again, He wanted you never to shed a tear again, never to have another doctor's appointment again, never to have another heartache, never to have another sleepless night! He wanted you over there with Himself in the glory of His glorious being and light. So He endured the cross, He endured your shame and your sin, and the punishment that God poured on Him there instead of pouring it upon you in hell - He took it all! Why? The children's chorus puts it well:
'Jesus loves me, this I know
For the Bible tells me so'.
He did it because He loves you. What kind of a man are you that could spurn a love like that? What kind of a mother are you? You would give your child everything, but when the nail-pierced hand of the Saviour is knocking on your door you would shut it in His face - yet He loved you enough to bleed and to die for you! You can be sure, if you reject Him, you'll never be in heaven.
There was a little negro boy lying on his deathbed in the mission field, and he had a longing desire to go to be with the Lord Jesus. He looked into the eyes of his Sunday School teacher, the missionary, and he said: 'I'm going soon to heaven, and then I'll be with Jesus forever'. The missionary wanted to question little boy - I don't know why, but he said: 'What if Jesus were to leave heaven? What would you do?'. He said: 'Oh, I would follow Him'. The missionary said: 'What if Jesus were to go into hell? What would you do?'. That wee negro boy was smarter than that Sunday School teacher, and he said: 'Sir, where Jesus is there is no hell'.
Let us bow our heads. I believe God has been speaking to your heart sir, madam, young man, young woman. Maybe it's because there's someone there that you love, and you'll never see them again. Maybe it's because you know that you've shut Jesus Christ out too many times. Maybe it's because you're going through the toil of life down here on the earth, and you want something better at the end of it all. My friend, you need to trust the Saviour. You can do it now where you sit, you can pray to God silently and say: 'Lord, I am a sinner. I repent, I turn away from my sin and turn to Thee. I know that Jesus died for me, and that His blood can cleanse me from all my sin. Lord, save me and take me to heaven one day. I give You my life, in Jesus' name. Amen'.
Now let me say that, if God has spoken to your heart this evening, I will be at the door - and if you have trusted the Lord you need to tell me, you need to tell someone. The Lord says we need to confess with our mouth. If you want to talk to me I'll be at the door. Now listen: God is talking to some one of you tonight - talk to me! Get this thing settled and put to bed - make sure, my dear friend, that you're going to heaven.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at Kilkeel Baptist Church, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the tape, titled "Heaven And How To Get There" - Transcribed by Preach The Word.
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