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What and Whence Are These?
A Sermon Delivered on Lord's Day Morning, February 25th, 1872, by C. H. SPURGEON, At the Newington
"And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." Revelation 7:13-14 .
TOWARDS SOME SUBJECTS even the best of men need that their attention should be drawn. Certain themes need an introduction to our contemplations. We often see and yet do not see: we see that which upon the surface attracts the eye, but we fail to penetrate into the inner and more precious truth. Even in heaven, it would seem that the mind needs directing, and wants a friend to suggest inquiry; he who sees the whiterobed host may yet need to be led to the consideration of who and what they are. It is very gracious on the part of our heavenly Father that he condescends to send us messengers of different kinds to awaken our attention, to guide our inquiry, and to lead us to search deeper than we might otherwise have done. John looked at the long ranks of triumphant spirits and admired their glory, but his thoughts had not penetrated deep enough, and therefore an elder was sent to speak with him. That personage asked him a question, and this he did that John might confess his ignorance, might feel a desire to know more, and might be led to inquire upon the point which it was most needful for him to consider. While we are dwellers here below our minds are very apt to be engrossed with the things which surround us, and we want some one to direct our thoughts to the upper world; and in the same way the mind of a person dwelling above would naturally be most occupied with the things around it in the glory land, and it might be needful to bid him remember facts concerning the lower world. We generally take that view of a matter which is most consistent with our own present circumstances, whereas to see a thing completely we need to view it from many angles. Hence the elder suggests to John that he should see these glorified spirits from another point than that which naturally suggested itself to him. He was led to consider them, not as they then were, but as they had been. The question was therefore suggested him, "Who are these, whence came they? What was their earthly character? What manner of men were they in the days of their pilgrimage? Were they cherubim, or children of men? Did they come hither on wings of fire, or came they hither as do the sons of Adam? Who are these that now have attained to such dignity and bliss, as to be now wearing the white robe of innocence, and waving the palm of victory?" To that enquiry I hope to lead your attention this morning; may it be as profitable to you as doubtless it was to John. Our sermon on this occasion will consist of an answer to these two questions, "Whence come they?" for though that was the second question asked, it was the first answered; and, secondly, "Who are these?" Our third point shall be, "What of all this?" 1. They were then like ourselves, for, in the first place, they were tried like others. They came out of great tribulation. Note, then, that the saints now glorified were not screened from sorrow. I saw to-day a number of lovely flowers they were as delightful in this month of February as thee would have been in the midst of summer; but I did not ask, "Whence came they?" I know very well that they were the products of the conservatory; they had not been raised amid the frosts of this chill season, else they had not bloomed as yet. But when I look upon God's flowers blooming in heaven, I understand from the voice of inspiration that they enjoyed no immunity from the chill breath of grief; they were made to bloom by the master hand of the Chief Husbandman, in all their glory, amid the afflictions, and adversities, and catastrophes which are common to men. God's elect are not pampered like spoiled children, neither are they like "the tender and delicate woman who would not adventure to set the sole of her foot upon the ground for delicateness." They are, it is true, secured from all fatal injury, but they are not protected from the rough winds and rolling billows which toss every barque which bears a son of Adam. Turn over the roll of the worthies of the Lord from the first hero of faith to the last, and you shall not meet with a sorrowless name. Great are their privileges, but immunity from trouble is not among them. Was Adam God's elect? We hope he was, but certainly in the sweat of his face he ate his bread, and through his tears he saw the mangled body of his second son. Did God honor Abraham, and call him his friend? He was not without family afflictions, among the chief of which was the call to take his son, his only son, and offer him up for a sacrifice. Moses was king in Jeshurun, but his yoke, as a servant of the Lord, was a very heavy one; for all the day long was he vexed with the rebellions of a wayward people. Was David, the man after God's own heart? You know how deep called unto deep, while all God's waves and billows went over him. Speak ye of the prophets; which of them escaped without trial? Come ye to the apostles; which of these enjoyed a life of ease? Did they not all of them but one pass through the gates of death, wearing the martyr's crown? And he who died of old age, had not he been an exile in Patmos? Where, from their day down to this, among the elect of heaven do you find a single child of God unchastened, a solitary branch of the heavenly vine unpruned, or one ingot of precious gold untried with fire? Through flood, and through the fire, lies the pathway of the chosen. Through troops we must cut our way, and over walls we must leap, for to none is there a luxurious path to heaven. We must fight if we would reign. Note, next, that they were not even screened from temptation. To the child of God, temptation to sin is a greater grievance than the suffering of pain. The saint has often said, "I could endure adversity, but it is misery to be day after day solicited to evil, to have the bait perpetually dangling before me, and to feel something in my soul which half consents to sin, and would altogether surrender were it not for watchful grace." Brethren, temptation to the pure mind is very grievous; to be sifted in Satan's sieve is a sore trial. Storms on any sea are to be dreaded; but a whirlwind raised by Satan on the black sea of corruption is horrible beyond conception. Yet do not say you cannot enter heaven because you are tempted, for all those snowwhite bands attained their glorious standing through much temptation, as well as through much affliction. They, like their Master, were tempted in all points as you are. Let me take you again to the old records, and ask you whether you find a single saint untempted? Oh, ye young men, who lament that you are so often allured to evil, have ye forgotten Joseph in Potiphar's house? Ye who dread the persecutor's frown, have ye forgotten Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego? Ye of riper years, who feel your feet almost gone, do ye not remember David, and how he was tempted; ay, and worse, how he fell, and with broken bones had to limp his way to heaven? Which of the saints has been unassailed by the fiery darts of the wicked one? Has not the fowler spread his nets to entangle every one of them? Has he not laid snares for every faithful soul? Review all the ranks of the white-robed squadrons, and enquire of every glorified spirit. Say to each one, "And thou? wert thou also tempted? Did the world seek alternately to fascinate and frighten thee? Hadst thou a body of sin and death to drag thee down? Hadst thou foes among thine own household? Didst thou also cry, 'Woe is me, for I dwell in Meshech?'" To such questions each one of the perfected saints would reply that their perils were such as ours, and had it not been for Almighty grace, they would have utterly perished from the way. The shields of the mighty, which are now so highly exalted, were once battered by the blows of temptation, even as ours are at this hour. But, perhaps, it may be thought by some that those holy men who now wave the palm-branch were spared some of the keener and more refined tribulations; to which I reply, it certainly was not so. David especially appears to have compassed the whole round of affliction. He could say, "all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me." From all quarters his trials arose; and from his youth to his death they assailed him. Let me remind you of that special grief which came upon him when his darling son excited rebellion against him, and his own chosen friend and counsellor, Ahithophel, betrayed him, and to this add the scene when that same darling son was slain in red-handed rebellion against his father, and David cried aloud, "O Absolom, my son, my son! would God I had died for thee! O Absolom, my son, my son!" I should not feel that I had ventured too far if I said that there is no trouble known to any person in this audience which would not find its parallel in the case of the afflicted writer of the Psalms. But, perhaps, you tell me that yours is a spiritual grief, and that such a wound is the deepest of all. Turn, then, to the life of the apostle Paul, and, as far as he unveils his experience, you shall find him to be the subject of internal strifes and spiritual contentions of the sharpest kind. Remember, especially, when with the thorn in his flesh he prayed thrice to God to have it taken away, but it was not removed; sufficient grace was given him, but he had to bear the inward smart; for, through much tribulation even of that kind must the chief of the apostles follow his Lord. What need of multiplying words? It is plain to every man that understandeth, that the children of God have been tried like others, and they who have won the victory fought a real battle, armed only as we may be, and assailed neither more nor less as we are, by the same enemies and the same weapons. As the church militant we claim indisputable kinship with the church triumphant. We are their companions in tribulation. 3. Again, the children of God who are in heaven in their trials had no other support than that which is still afforded to all the saints. A miracle was here and there wrought I grant you; but then there are other things to be said on our side, for the Spirit of God was not given then as fully as we possess him now, and Christ had not then brought life and immortality to light through the gospel so that what little advantage they had in miracle is far outweighed by the advantage we have in the gospel dispensation. What was it that upheld the saints of old who are now before the throne? Their faith was sustained by the promise of God, but we have the promise too. They rested on God's faithful word; that word is faithful still. We have more promises by far than most of them had received. They had but here and there a word of inspiration, we have the whole volume of consolation; yea, we have a double portion, for we have two books full of choice and gracious words. We have, therefore, more to cheer us than they had. They had the Spirit of God, you say; but, I reply, so have we. They had him with them, we have him in us. He visited them occasionally; he dwelleth in us; he never removeth from his people but abideth in them for ever. You will tell me that God worked with them: God works with us. Providence was on their side; and is not providence on our side also? All things worked together for their good; they work together for our good in the same manner. The Lord who was at the helm of their vessel when storms assaulted it, still stands at the helm for us and holds the tiller with a strong hand. He who walked the waves of Gennesaret, and came to the rescue of the storm-tossed disciples, still saith to us, "It is I; be not afraid." I see no point in which they had superior resorts to those which are open to ourselves, for the Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Their rest lay where our rest still lies; their peace and comfort were the same as our own. The Prince of Wurtenberg on one occasion in the midst of certain kings and great men heard them boasting, one of the mines which enriched his dominions, another of his forests, another of his vineyards. Now the Prince of Wurtenberg was poor, but he said, "I have a jewel in my country which I would not exchange for all your wealth," and, when they questioned him, he said, "If I were lost in any forest of my territory, or could not find my way along a lonesome road, if I said to the first peasant that I met that I was his king, I could lean my head upon him and lie down to sleep, and sleep securely there, feeling certain that he would watch over his king as he would over his child." So we feel, and so the saints of old felt a delightful security any where beneath the blue heavens of God. If we have not riches, if we have not honor, if we have nothing that flesh could desire, we can lie down anywhere and feel that we are perfectly safe in the divine keeping. The angels watch over us and protect us, for we are the children of God: all things work for our good; the beasts of the field are our friends, and stones of the field are in league for our defense. This was the portion of those who are now above; it is our portion still. II. I will not detain you longer on that point, though there is much to be said, but I must take you to the second, and that is, WHAT ARE THESE? John beheld them all in white robes; and the question to be answered was, "Who are these, these in heaven?" The reply was "They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb;" from which we gather, first, that all those in heaven were sinners, for they all needed to wash their robes. No superfluity would have been written down in this book; but had the robes been perfectly white, there had been no necessity to cleanse them, certainly not to cleanse them in, Jesus' blood. They were sinners then, those glorious ones were sinners like ourselves. Look up at them now! Observe their ravishing beauty! See how guiltless they are! And then, remember what they were. Oh, ye trembling sinners, whose bruised hearts dare not indulge a hope of the divine favor, those fair ones were once like you, and you are to-day what they were once. They were all shapen in iniquity as you were: they were everyone of them of woman born, and, therefore, conceived in sin. They were all placed in circumstances which allured them to sin; they had their temptations, as we have shown, and they lived in the midst of an ungodly generation, even as you do. What is more, they all sinned, for mere temptation would not have soiled their robes, but actual sin defiled them. There were thoughts of sin, there were words of sin, there were acts of sin in all of them. Did you observe that bright one who sang most sweetly of them all? Shall I tell you a part of his earthly history? He was one of the chief of sinners; he takes rank now amongst the chief of choristers, because he has most to sing about, since he had most forgiven and loved most. He will not tell you that he was naturally a saintly spirit, and that by mortification, and self-denial, and diligent perseverance he won his place in heaven. No, he will confess that his salvation was all of grace, for he was like others a sinner, and had transgressed above many. You will say, perhaps, that none of the saints had committed sins like yours, but there I must flatly contradict you. Amongst that illustrious company there are those who were once sinners of the deepest dye the adulterer, the thief, the harlot, the murderer; some who were such are now glorified, for we have such characters mentioned in infallible Scripture as having been forgiven, sanctified, and at length glorified. Whatever your sin may be, and I will not mention it, for the mention of sin does not help to purify us from it; whatever it is, all manner of sin and blasphemy have been forgiven unto men, and the precious blood of Jesus has brought into eternal glory men stained with every form of sin. Jesus has cleansed crimson sinners, deep ingrained with iniquity, and scarlet sinners, whose crimes were of the most glaring hue. They all in heaven were sinners, such as we are. You will further notice that the saints in haven realised the atonement in the same way as we must do. They washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. The act which gave them the virtue which lies in the atonement was the act of faith. They did not bring anything to the blood, any merit, or feeling, or preparation; they only brought their filthy garments to the blood, and nothing else. They washed and were clean. That was all. They did not give, they took; they did not impart, but they received. In this same way I have realised the merit of my Savior's passion, and I know that every believer here will confess that this is his hope, he has washed and he is clean. There is nothing to do, and nothing to feel, and nothing to be, in order to forgiveness; we have but to wash and the filth is gone. Every child of God in heaven whether he were king or prophet, or seer, or priest, came there through simply relying and depending upon the blood of Jesus Christ, the Lamb, and that is all, all. You must not dare to add to it, or you will sin against the all-sufficient sacrifice. III. Now, beloved, WHAT OF ALL THIS? Why, first of all, we must not draw the conclusion that trouble and temptation are any argument that a man will get to heaven. Perhaps I may be misunderstood this morning and therefore I add a caution. There is a groundless notion abroad, that those who are badly off in this world will certainly have it made up to them in the world to come; and I have heard the parable of Lazarus and Dives quoted as though it taught that those who are poor here will be rich hereafter. There is not a shadow of reason for any such belief. You may go through much tribulation to hell as well as to heaven; and as a man may have two heavens, here and hereafter, by living near to God, so may a man have two hells, the hell which he bringeth upon himself in this life by his extravagances, his wickedness, and his lust, and the hell that shall be his punishment for ever in the world to come. Believe me, many a ragged, loathsome beggar has been damned; he was as poor as Lazarus, but not as gracious as he, and therefore no angels carried him to Abraham's bosom. There is no efficacy in the tongues of dogs to lick away sin, neither can a hungry belly atone for a guilty soul. Many a soul has begged for crumbs on earth, and has afterwards craved in vain for water in hell. You must take care not to suck poisonous error out of the flowers of truth. I was led to these reflections this morning by the remembrance of the few short days ago since our beloved brother, Mr. Dransfield, whose mortal remains we committed to the tomb last Monday, was among us. You remember his accustomed seat, just here, at the prayer meeting; you remember how there was never an empty seat just over yonder at any of our public services. He was always among us, and he was just like ourselves. I am sure we all felt at home in his presence. He did not walk among us at all as a stilted personage or a supernatural being; he was a father among us; we loved him, esteemed him, revered him, but he was a man of men among us. I have tried to realize the same spirit before the throne of God, and I think I have been able to grasp the thought. I know he was like ourselves; I am equally certain that he is yonder, and that he is rejoicing in Christ; none of us doubt that. Now let us make a practical, common sense use of that fact and feel, I, too, resting, where he rested for, oh, how sweetly did he rest in his dying Lord I, too, hoping as he hoped, shall bear up under troubles as he did during his painful illness, and I, too, shall have a joyful death as he did, for his soul triumphed in his God beyond measure. Why should not all of us, his brethren, enter where he is gone? Dear sister, why should not you? You who are consumptive, you who know that death is drawing near to you, because you carry a disease about you which will take you home? Just realize the fact now before us. Our dear and well-known friend is really gone to the better land. You shook hands with that dear brother a few days ago, and now he is with God, and is waving the palm and wearing the white robe. It is not a dream, a fiction, or a fancy. It is not the delusion of high-blown fanaticism. It is not a wondrous attainment for some few special and renowned saints. Oh, no, it is for every one of us who believe in Jesus. They in heaven are those who came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. It is not said, "These are they that were emperors," not "These are they who were reared in marble halls," not "these are they who were great scholars," not "These are they who were mighty preachers," not "These are they who were great apostles," not "These are they who lived spotless lives;" no, but these are they who came through the tribulation of life, and were cleansed from their sins, as others must be, in the precious blood of Jesus; therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple. "Dear brother Dransfield, thou wast bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh, and yet thou art perfected before the throne. We thy brethren are on the way and shall be with thee soon. Amen.
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON Revelation 14:1-20
As a very large number of friends from a distance desire occasionally to attend the Tabernacle, but do not like to encounter the crowds at the doors, the deacons have resolved to issue early admission tickets, which will admit the holder before the general public, during the month of issue. They will be purchasable at the price of one shilling, and can be had by letter, enclosing twelve penny stamps, and one half-penny stamp for postage, of Mr. C. Blackshaw, Tabernacle, Newington Butts.
The Bliss of the Glorified
A Sermon Published on Thursday, February 17th, 1916. Delivered by C. H. SPURGEON, At the Newington. On Lord's-day Evening, August 13th, 1871.
"They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more, neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat." Rev_7:16 .
WE cannot too often turn our thoughts heavenward, for this is one of the great cures for worldliness. The way to liberate our souls from the bonds that tie us to earth is to strengthen the cords that kind us to heaven. You will think less of this poor little globe when you think more of the world to come. This contemplation will also serve to console us for the loss, as we call it, of those who have gone before. It is their gain, and we will rejoice in it. We cannot have a richer source of consolation than this, that they who have fallen asleep in Christ have not perished; they have not lost life, but they have gained the fullness of it. They are rid at all that molests us here, and they enjoy more than we as yet can imagine. Cheer your hearts, ye mourners, by looking up to the gate of pearl, by looking up to those who day without night surround the throne of their Redeemer. It will also tend to quicken our diligence if we think much of heaven. Suppose I should miss it after all! What if I should not so run that I may obtain! If heaven be little, I shall be but a little loser by losing it; but if it be indeed such that the half could never be told us, then, may God grant us diligence to make our calling and election sure, that we may be certain of entering into this rest, and may not be like the many who came out of Egypt, but who perished in the wilderness and never entered into the promised land. All things considered, I know of no meditation that is likely to be more profitable than a frequent consideration of the rest which remaineth for the people of God. I ask, then, for a very short time that your thoughts may go upward to the golden streets. I. A DESCRIPTION OF THE BLESSEDNESS OF THE GLORIFIED. While we take this physically, there is no doubt that it is to be understood mentally. Our minds are also constantly the victims of hungerings and thirstings. There are on earth various kinds of this hunger and thirst in a measure evil, in a measure also innocent. There are many men that in this world are hungering after wealth, and the mouth of avarice can never be filled. It is as insatiable as the horse-leech, and for ever cries, "Give, give!" But such hunger was never known in heaven, and never can be, for they are satisfied there; they have all things and abound. All their enlarged capacities can desire they already possess, in being near the throne of God and beholding his glory; there is no wealth which is denied them. Here, too, some of the sons of men hunger after fame, and oh! what have not men done to satisfy this? It is said that breaks through stone walls; certainly ambition has done it. Death at the cannon's mouth has been a trifle, if a man might win the bubble reputation. But in heaven there is no such hunger as that Those who once had it, and are saved, scorn ambition henceforth. And what room would there be for ambition in the skies? They take their crowns and cast them at their Saviour's feet. They have their palm-branches, for they have won the victory, but they ascribe the conquest to the Lamb, their triumph to his death. Their souls are satisfied with his fame. The renown of Christ has filled their spirit with everlasting contentment. They hunger no more, nor thirst any more, in that respect. And oh! what hunger and thirst there has been on earth by those of tender and large heart for a fit object of love! I mean not now the common thing called "love," but the friendship which is in man's heart, and sends out its tendrils wanting something to which to cling. We must we are born and created for that very purpose we must live together, we cannot develop ourselves alone. And oftentimes a lonely spirit has yearned for a brother's ear, into which to pour its sorrows; and doubtless many a man has been brought to destruction and been confined to the lunatic asylum whose reason might have been saved had there been some sympathetic spirit, some kind, gentle heart that would have helped to bear his burden. Oh! the hunger and the thirst of many a soul after a worthy object of confidence. But they hunger and they thirst, up there, no more. Their love is all centred on their Saviour. Their confidence, which they reposed in him on earth, is still in him. He is their bosom's Lord, their heart's Emperor, and they are satisfied, and, wrapped up in him, they hunger and they thirst no more. But, dear friends, surely the text also means our spiritual hungering and thirsting. "Blessed is the man that hungers and thirst to-day after righteousness, for he shall be filled." This a kind of hunger that we ought to desire to have; this is a sort of thirst that the more you have of it will be the indication of the possession of more grace. On earth it is good for saints to hunger and to thirst spiritually, but up there they have done even with that blessed hunger and that blessed thirst. Today, beloved, some of us are hungering after holiness. Oh! what would I not give to be holy, to be rid of sin, of every evil thing about me! My eyes ah! adieu sweet light, if I might also say, "Adieu sin! "My mouth ah! well would I be content to be dumb if I might preach by a perfect life on earth! There is no faculty I know of that might not be cheerfully surrendered if the surrender of it would deprive us of sin. But they never thirst for holiness in heaven, for this excellent reason, that they are without fault before the throne of God. Does it not make your mouth water? Why this is the luxury of heaven to be perfect. Is not this the heaven of heaven, to be clean rid of the root and branch of sin, and not a rag or bone, or piece of a bone of our old depravity left all gone like our Lord, made perfect without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing. And here, too, brethren and sisters, we very rightly hunger and thirst after full assurance and confidence. Many are hungering after it; they hope they are saved, and they thirst to be assured that they are. But there is no such thirst as that in heaven, for, having crossed the golden threshold of Paradise, no saint ever asks himself, "Am I saved?" They see his face without a cloud between; they bathe in the sea of his love; they cannot question that which they perpetually enjoy. So, too, on earth I hope we know what it is to hunger and thirst for fellowship with Christ. Oh! when he is gone from us if he do but hide his face from us, how we cry, "My soul desires thee in the night"! We cannot be satisfied unless we have the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost. But in heaven they have no such thing. There the shepherd is always with the Sheep, the King is ever near them, and because of his perpetual presence their hungering and their thirsting will be banished for ever. Thus much upon those evils, then, that would arise from within. As they are perfect, whatever comes from within is a source of pleasure to them, and never of pain. We have thus opened up as well as we could the words of the text on the felicity of the saints. Now, very briefly: Well, it is quite clear that they did not come to it because they were very fortunate people on earth, for if you read another passage of the Word of God you will find, "These are they that came out of great tribulation." Those that have had trial and suffering on earth are amongst those that have the bliss of heaven. Encourage yourselves, you poor and suffering ones. It is quite certain they did not come there from their own merit, for we read, they have "washed their robes" they wanted washing. They did not keep them always undefiled. There had been spots upon them. They came there not because they deserved to be there, but because of the rich grace of God. How did they come there then? Well, first, they came there through the lamb that was slain. He bore the sun and the heat, and, therefore, the sun doth not light on them, nor any heat. The hot sun of Jehovah's justice shone full upon the Saviour scorched, and burned, and consumed him with grief and anguish; and because the Saviour suffered, therefore we suffer it no more. All our hopes of heaven are found at the cross. And besides, they have the love of God to enjoy, for the last word of the chapter is, "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." The blood of Jesus applied, the presence of Jesus enjoyed, and the love of God fully revealed these are the causes of the bliss of the saved in heaven. But we must close our meditation with the last point, which is: First, the bliss of the saved in glory teaches us to long for it. It is legitimate to long for heaven not to long to escape from doing our duty here. It is idleness to be always wanting to have done with this world it is clear sloth but to be longing to be where Jesus is, is only natural and gracious. Should not the child long to go home from the school? Should not the captive pine for liberty? Should not the traveller in foreign lands long to see his native country? Should not the bride, the married wife, when she has been long away from her husband, long to see his face? If you did not long for heaven, surely you might question whether heaven belonged to you. If you have ever tasted of the joys of the saints, as believers do on earth, you will sing with full soul:
"My thirsty spirit faints To reach the land I love The bright inheritance of saints, Jerusalem above."
You may long for this. Our first lesson, then, is, long for this, and then be patient in waiting. But our next lesson is to be, wait your appointed time. And now the next instruction is, make much of faith. They entered heaven because they had washed their robes in blood. Make much of the blood and much of the faith by which you have washed. Dear hearers, have you all got faith? It is, as it were, the key of blessedness. "But all men have not faith," says the Apostle. Hast thou faith? Dost thou believe in Christ Jesus? In other words, dost thou trust thyself alone with him' Can you sing with our poet:
"Nothing in my hand I bring Simply to thy cross I cling; Naked, come to thee for dress, Helpless, look to thee for grace. Foul, I to the fountain fly, Wash me, Saviour, or I die"?
Make much of the faith that will admit you to heaven. Then next, it appears, if you read the connection of our text, that those who enjoy heaven serve God day and night in his temple. If you want heaven on earth, serve God continually day and night. Having washed your robe first, then put it on, and go out to serve God. Idle Christians are often unhappy Christians I have met with many a spiritual dyspeptic always full of doubts and fears. Is there a young man here full of doubts and fears who has lost the light he once possessed, and the joy he once had? Dear brother, get to work. In cold weather the best way to be warm is not to get before a fire, but to work. Exercise gives a healthy glow, even amidst the frost. "I am doing something," says one. Yes, with one hand; use the other hand. "Perhaps I should have too many irons in the fire," says one. You cannot have too many. Put them all in, and blow the fire with all the bellows you can get. I do not believe any Christian man works too hard, and, as a rule, if those who kill themselves in Christ's service were buried in a cemetery by themselves, it would be a long while before it would get filled. Work hard for Christ. It makes happy those who are in heaven to serve God day and night, and it will make you happy on earth. Do all you can. Another way is to have fellowship with Christ here. Read again this chapter. "He that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them he shall feed them." Oh! if you want to be happy, live near to Jesus. Poor men are not poor when Christ lives in their house. Truly, sick men have their beds made easy when Christ is there. Has he not said, " I will make his bed in all his sickness"? Only get fellowship with Jesus, and outward circumstances won't distress you. The sun will not light on you, nor any heat. You will be like the shepherd on Salisbury Plain, who said it was good weather, though it rained hard. "It is weather," said he, "that pleases me." "How so?" said a traveller to him. "Well, sir," he said, "it pleases God, and what pleases God pleases me." "Good day!" said one to a Christian man. "I never had a bad day since I was converted," said he. "They are all good now since Christ is my Saviour." Do you not see, then, that if your wishes are subdued, if you do not hunger any more, or thirst any more as you used to do, and if you always live near to Christ, you will begin to enjoy heaven on earth. Begin, then, the heavenly life here below. The Bible says, "For he hath raised us up, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." The way to live on earth, according to many, is to live on earth, but to look upward to heaven. That is a good way of living, but I will tell you a better, and that is to live in heaven, and look down on earth. The Apostle had learned that when he said, "Our conversation is in heaven." It is good to be on earth, and look up to heaven; it is better for the mind to be in heaven, and to look down upon earth. May we learn that secret. The Lord lead us into it. Then when faith is strong, and love is ardent, and hope is bright, we shall sing, with Watts:
"The men of grace have found Glory begun below; Celestial fruits on earthly ground From faith and hope may grow."
"The Lord grant you a participation in this bliss, beloved, and an abundant entrance into that bliss for ever, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.
No Tears in Heaven
August 6, 1985 (1834-1892)
C. H. Spurgeon
© Copyright 2001 by Tony Capoccia. This updated file may be freely copied, printed out, and distributed as
long as copyright and source statements remain intact, and that it is not sold. All rights reserved.
Verses quoted, unless otherwise noted, are taken from the HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION © 1978
by the New York Bible Society, used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
A copy of this sermon, Preached by Tony Capoccia, is available
on Audio Tape Cassette or Audio CD at
“God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”--Revelation 7:17
It is a sad thing to be always grieving, moaning, and complaining concerning the present. However dark things may seem to be, we can surely remember some fond memories of the past. There were days of happiness, there were times of refreshment in the presence of the Lord. O, dear believing soul, don’t be slow to confess, that the Lord has been your ever-present help! And though now your burden is very heavy, you will find added strength when you remember pleasant times of the past, when the Lord lightened your load, and made your heart leap for joy. Yet it will be even more pleasant to anticipate the future. The night is dark, but the morning comes. Over the hills of darkness the day breaks forth. It may be that the road is rough, but its end is almost in view, you have been climbing up the steep sides of the mountain, and from the top of it you can view your glorious inheritance. True the grave is still before you, but your Lord has snatched the sting from death, and the victory from the grave. Do not, O burdened spirit, limit yourself to the confining miseries of the present hour, but let your eye gaze with fondness on the enjoyment of the past, and view with equal love the infinite blessings of eternity past, when you did not exist, but when God chose you for himself, and wrote your name in his book of life; and then let your glance flash forward to eternity future, to see the mercies which will be yours even here on earth, and the glories which are stored up for you beyond the skies. I will be greatly rewarded this morning if I can minister comfort to one person whose spirit is heavily burdened by leading that person to remember the glory which is yet to be revealed.
Coming to our text, we will observe, in the first place, that as God is to wipe away every tear from the faces of the glorified, we can infer that their eyes will be filled with tears till then; and in the second place, it is worthy of reflection that since God never changes, even now he is engaged in drying tears from his children’s eyes; and then, coming right into the heart of the text, we will dwell on the great truth, that in heaven Divine Love removes all tears from the glorified saints; and then we will close, by asking some questions as to whether or not we belong to that happy family of the redeemed.
I. Our first subject for consideration is the inference that TEARS ARE TO FILL THE EYES OF BELIEVERS UNTIL THEY ENTER THE PROMISED REST.
There would be no need to wipe them away if there were none remaining. The saints come to the very gates of heaven weeping, and accompanied by their two companions, sorrow and groaning; the tears are dried, and sorrow and groaning disappear. The weeping willow does not grow by the river of the water of life, but it is a tree that is plentiful here on earth; nor will it disappear until we exchange it for the palm-branch of victory. Sorrow’s teardrop will never cease to fall until it is transformed into the pearl of everlasting bliss.
“The path of sorrow, and that path alone,
Leads to the place where sorrow is unknown.”
Christianity brings deliverance from the curse, but not exemption from trial.
The ancients were accustomed to use bottles in which to catch the tears of mourners, I think I see three bottles filled with the tears of believers.
1. The first is a common bottle, the contents are the ordinary tears shed by all men and women, for believers suffer just like the rest of the human race.
The servants of God are not, by any means, spared physical pain.
Their nerves, and blood vessels, and limbs, and inner organs, are as susceptible of disease as those of unregenerate men and women. Some of the holiest saints have laid a long time on beds of sickness, and those who are dearest to the heart of God have felt the heaviest blows of the rod of discipline. There are pains, which, despite the efforts of patience, compel the tears to wet the cheeks. The human body is capable of a fearful degree of agony, and there are only a few who have not, at some time or other, watered their beds with tears because of the severity of their pains. Coupled with this, there are the losses and crosses of daily life. Which of you Christians lives without occasional difficulties and serious losses? Do any of you have so easy a life that you have nothing to grieve over? Are there no crosses at home? Are there no troubles in your world? Can you travel from the first of January to the last of December without feeling the weariness of the way? Have you no destroyed dreams, no bad debts, no slandered name, no harsh words, no sick child, no suffering wife to bring before the Lord in weeping prayer? You must be an inhabitant of another planet if you have had no griefs, for man is born to trouble as surely as the sparks fly upward. No ship can navigate the Atlantic ocean without encountering storms, it is only on the ocean of heaven that all is calm forevermore. Believers must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of heaven. “Trials must and will happen.” Death contributes to our sadness; the heirs of immortality are often summoned to gather around the grave. Who has not lost a friend? If Jesus wept, then do not expect that we will escape the tears of grief; the much beloved Lazarus died, and so will our closest friends. Parents will go before us, infants will be snatched from us, brothers and sisters will fall when touched by the hand of death. Death is the impartial foe of everyone, it spares neither goodness nor wickedness, holiness nor sin; with equality it crushes all of our cherished loved ones!
The Christian also knows disappointments as bitter and as intense as other men and women.
Judas betrays Christ, Ahithophel is a traitor to David. We have had our Ahithophels, and we may yet meet with our Judas. We have trusted in friends, and we have found their friendships fail. We have leaned on what seemed to be a staff, and it has pierced us like a spear. You cannot, dear friends, pass through the wilderness of this world without discovering that thorns and thistles grow abundantly in it, and that, step as you may, your feet must sometimes feel the sudden and unexpected wound. The sea of life is salt to all men. Clouds hover over every landscape. We may forget to laugh, but we will always know how to weep. As the saturated clouds must drip, so must the human race, cursed by the fall, weep out its frequent griefs.
2. I see before me a second bottle, it is black and foul, for it contains tears distilled by the force of the fires of sin.
This bottle holds more than the first, and is filled on a more regular basis. Sin is more frequently the mother of sorrow than all the other pains of life put together.
Dear brothers and sisters, I am convinced that we endure more sorrow from our sins than from God’s darkest providence. Note our rebellious nature! When a trouble comes, it is not the trial which makes us groan so much as our rebellion against it. It is true the ox goad is thrust into us, but we kick against it, and then it hurts us far more. Like men with naked feet we kick our foot against the goads. We head our ship against the stream of God’s will, and then murmur because the waves violently beat upon us. A resistant will is like a wild person’s hand which tears itself on the nearest sharp object. The chastisements which come directly from our heavenly Father are never so hard to bear as all the agitations and ragings of our stubborn self-will. Just like the bird that slams itself against the wires of its cage and breaks its own wing, we do the same thing. If we would take the cross as our gracious Father gives it, it would not irritate our shoulders, but since we rebel against it and hate the burden, our shoulders grow raw and sore, and the load becomes intolerable. If we were more submissive, then we would have fewer tears.
There are the tears, too, of wounded, injured pride, and how hot and scalding they are!
When a man has been ambitious and has failed, he will weep loudly instead of learning from the experience, or gathering up his courage for a wiser venture. When a friend has spoken of us in a derogatory manner, or an enemy has falsely accused us, we have had to struggle to hold back the tears, and have felt wretched inside. Ah, these are cruel and wicked tears. God wipe them away from our eyes now! Certainly he must do it before we will be able to enter heaven.
How numerous, too, are the tears of unbelief!
We manufacture trouble for ourselves by anticipating future problems which may never happen, or which, if they do occur, may be full of mercy and blessings. We start imagining what we would do if a certain dreadful thing occurred, which, in reality, is a thing that God has determined never will happen in our lives. We imagine ourselves in positions where Providence never intends to place us, and so we end up feeling a thousand trials. This bottle should never carry within it a single tear from a believer’s eyes, and yet it has had whole floods poured into it. Oh, the wickedness of the sin of mistrusting God, and the bitterness with which that distrust is made to curse itself. Unbelief makes a rod for its own back; distrust of God is its own punishment; it brings such unrest, such anxieties, and such tribulation of spirit into the mind, that he who loves himself and loves pleasure, had better seek to walk by faith and not by sight.
Nor must I forget the scalding teardrops of anger.
The tears of anger against our fellowmen, and the crabbiness and irritation, because we cannot have our own way with them; these are black and horrid tears, as foul as the fires of hell. May we always be saved from such unholy tears.
Sometimes, too, there are streams of tears which arise from depressed and despondent spirits because we have neglected the means of grace and the God of grace.
Seldom do we experience the comforts of God because seldom do we have secret prayer; we have lived at a distance from the Most High, and we have fallen into a sad state of mind. I thank God that there will never come another tear from our eyes into that bottle when eternal love will
take us up to live with Jesus in his kingdom.
3. We would never overlook the third bottle, which is the true crystal tear bottle into which holy tears drop, tears like the tears of Jesus, so precious in the sight of God.
Even these tears will cease to flow in heaven. Tears of repentance, like glistening dewdrops fresh from the skies, are stored in this bottle; they are not of the earth, they come from heaven, and yet we cannot carry them there with us. The godly preacher, Rowland Hill, used to say, repentance was such a sweet companion that the only regret he could have in going to heaven, was in leaving repentance behind him, for he could not shed the tears of repentance there. Oh, to weep over sin! It is so sweet a sorrow that I want to be a constant weeper! Like a dripping well, my soul would always drop tears of grief because I have offended my loving, tender, gracious God. Tears for Christ’s injured and neglected honor glisten in the crystal of our third bottle. When we hear Jesus’ name blasphemed among men, or see his cause driven back in the day of battle, who will not weep then? Who can restrain his weeping? Christ sees such tears as diamonds; blessed are the eyes which flow with such royal treasure. If I cannot win crowns I will at least give tears. If I cannot make men love my Master, yet I will weep in secret places for the dishonor which they do to him. These are holy drops, but they are all unknown in heaven. Tears of sympathy are greatly esteemed by our Lord; when we “weep with those that weep” we do well; these are never to be restrained this side of the Jordan. Let them flow! the more of them the better for our spiritual health. Truly, when I think of the griefs of men and women, and above all, when I have communion with my Savior in his suffering, I would cry with George Herbert who said,
“Come all you floods, you clouds, you rains,
Dwell in my eyes! My grief has need
Of all the watery things that nature can produce!
Let every vein suck up a river to supply my eyes,
My weary, weeping eyes, too dry for me,
Unless they get new conduits, fresh supplies,
And with my state agree.”
It would be good to go to the very uttermost of weeping if it were always of such a noble kind, as fellowship with Jesus brings. Let us never cease from weeping over sinners as Jesus did over Jerusalem; let us endeavor to snatch the firebrand from the flame, and weep when we cannot accomplish our purpose.
These three containers of tears will always be more or less filled by us as long as we are here on earth, but in heaven the first bottle will not be needed, for the wells of earth’s grief will all be dried up, and we will drink from living fountains of water unsalted by a tear: as for the second, we will have no depravity in our hearts, and so the black fountain will no longer yield its nauseous stream; and as for the third, there will he no place among celestial occupations for weeping even of the most holy kind. Till then, we must expect to share in human griefs, and instead of praying against them, let us ask that they may be sanctified to us; I mean of course those of the former sort. Let us pray that trials may produce patience, and patience produce experience, and experience produces the hope that I will never be ashamed of. Let us pray that as the sharp edge of the carving tool is used on us it may only remove our warts and shape us into images of our Lord and Master. Let us pray that the fire may consume nothing but the dross, and that the floods may wash away nothing but defilement. Let us thank God that though before we were afflicted we went astray, but now we obey his word; for we now see it to be a blessed thing, a divinely wise thing, that we would tread the path of sorrow, and reach the gates of heaven with tear drops glistening in our eyes.
II. Secondly, EVEN HERE ON EARTH, IF WE WANT TO HAVE OUR TEARS WIPED AWAY WE MUST GO TO OUR HEAVENLY FATHER.
He is the great tear wiper. Observe, brothers and sisters, that God can remove every trace of grief from the hearts of his people by granting them complete acceptance of his will.
Our ego is the root of our sorrow. If self were perfectly conquered, it would be the same to us whether God’s love ordained our pain or comfort, gave us wealth or poverty. If our will was completely in line with God’s will, then pain itself would be attended with pleasure, and sorrow would yield us joy for the sake of Christ. As one fire puts out another, so the master passion of love to God and complete absorption in his sacred will quenches the fire of human grief and sorrow. Enthusiastic acceptance of God’s will puts so much honey in the cup of bitterness that the sourness is forgotten. Just as death is swallowed up in victory, so are trials swallowed up in contentment and delight in God.
He can also take away our tears by causing our minds to dwell with delight on the end which all our trials are working to produce.
He can show us that they are working together for good, and as people of understanding, when we see that we will be essentially enriched by our losses, we will be content with them; when we see that the medicine is curing us of mortal sickness, and that our sharpest pains are only saving us from pains far more terrible, then will we kiss the rod and sing in the midst of the trial, “Sweet affliction!” sweet affliction! since it yields such peaceful fruits of righteousness.
Moreover, God can remove every tear from our eye, in the time of trial, by abundantly pouring the love of Jesus Christ into our hearts.
He can make it clear to us that Christ is afflicted in our affliction. He can indulge us with a delightful sense of the divine goodness which dwells in his sympathy, and make us rejoice to be co-sufferers with our Savior. The Savior can make our hearts leap for joy by reassuring us that we are engraved on the palms of his hands, and that we will be with him where he is. Sick beds become thrones, and slums ripen into palaces when Jesus fills our heart and soul with his eternal love and presence. My brothers and sisters, the love of Christ, like a great flood, rolls over the most rugged rocks of afflictions, so high above them that we can float in perfect peace where others are a total wreck. The rage of the storm is all hushed when Christ is in the boat. The waters saw you, O Christ, the waters saw you and were silenced at the presence of their king.
The Lord can also take away all present sorrow and grief from us by providentially removing its cause.
Providence is full of sweet surprises and unexpected turns. When the sea has ebbed its uttermost it turns again and covers all the sand. When we think we are locked up in a dungeon for the rest of our lives, and the lock on the door is rusted shut, God can make the door fly open in a moment. When the river rolls deep and black before us he can divide it with a word, or bridge it with his hand. How often have you found it so in the past? As a pilgrim to Canaan you have passed through the Red Sea, in which you once were afraid that you would be drowned; the poisoned wells were made sweet by God’s presence; you fought the enemy, you went through the terrible wilderness, you passed by the place of the fiery serpents, and still you have been kept alive, and so you will be. As the clear sunshine comes after the rain, so will peace come after your trials. As the dark clouds fly away before the compelling power of the wind, so will the eternal God make your griefs fly away before the energy of his grace. The smoking furnace of trouble will be followed by the bright light of comfort.
Still, the best method of getting rid of present tears, is communion and fellowship with God.
When I can crawl under the wing of my dear God and nestle close to his chest, let the world say what it wants, and let the devil roar as he pleases, and let my sins accuse and threaten as they may, I am safe, content, peaceful, rejoicing, and happy.
“Let earth against my soul engage,
And hellish darts be hurled;
Now I can smile at Satan’s rage,
And face a frowning world.”
To say, “God, My Father,” to put myself right into his hand, and feel that I am safe there; to look up to him though it is with tears in my eyes and feel that he loves me, and then to put my head right on his chest as the prodigal son did, and sob my griefs out there into my Father’s heart, oh, this is the death of grief, and the life of all comfort. Isn’t Jehovah called the God of all Comfort? You will find him so, beloved. He has been “our help in ages past;” he is “our hope for years to come.” If he had not been my help, then my soul would have utterly perished in the day of its suffering and its heartache. Oh, I bear testimony for him this day that you cannot go to God and pour out your heart before him without finding a wonderful comfort. When your friend cannot wipe away your tears, when you yourself with your best reasoning powers, and your most courageous efforts, cannot overcome your grief; when your heart beats fast, and seems as if it would burst with grief, then as God’s child you will pour out your heart before him. God is a refuge for us. He is our fortress, our refuge and defense. We only have to go to him and we will find, that even here on earth, God will wipe away every tear from our eyes.
III. Now we will have to turn our thoughts to the actual teaching of the text, namely, THE REMOVAL OF ALL TEARS FROM THE BLESSED ONES IN HEAVEN.
There are many reasons why glorified spirits cannot cry in heaven. These are well known to you, but let us just hint at them.
All outward causes of grief are gone.
In heaven, the redeemed will never suffer the grief associated with attending funerals of their friends and loved ones. The grave digger and the casket don’t exist there. The horrid thought of death never enters the mind of an immortal spirit. They are never separated; the great meeting has taken place and God’s children will never seperate again. In heaven they have no losses and crosses in business. “They serve God day and night in his temple.” There are no broken friendships there. There are no broken hearts, no shattered dreams. They know fully, even as they are fully known, and they love even as they are loved. No pain can ever come on them; for their resurrected bodies will be raised from the grave and will be glorified, thus they will not be capable of grief. The tear gland will not exist; although much of the human body remains, at least the tear gland will be gone, they will have no need of that organ; their bodies will be unable to experience grief; they will rejoice forever. Poverty, famine, distress, helplessness, danger, persecution, slander, all these will have ceased. “The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat.” “Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst,” and therefore tears will never flow again.
Again, all hidden evils will have been removed by the perfect sanctification brought about in them by the Holy Spirit.
No evil heart of unbelief will trouble them in Paradise; there will be no temptations from Satan to try to prompt their inner wickedness since neither exist in heaven. The redeemed will never be led to forget God, for their hearts will be full of love towards Him; sin will have no sweetness to them, for they will be perfectly purified from all depraved desires. There will be no lusts of the eye, no lusts of the flesh, no pride of life to be snares to them. Sin is shut out, and they are shut in. They are forever blessed, because they are without fault before the throne of God. What a heaven it must be to be without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing! Clearly those who have ceased to sin will cease to mourn.
All fear of change has also been forever shut out.
They know that they are eternally secure. Saints on earth are fearful of falling, some believers even dream of falling away; they think God will forsake them, and that men will persecute them and take them captive. No such fears can trouble the blessed ones who see their Father’s face. Despite the amount of time spent in eternity, eternity will never be exhausted, and while eternity endures, their immortality and blessedness will coexist with it. They live within a city which will never experience a storm, they bask in a sun which will never set, they drink from a river which will never run dry, they pick fruit from trees which will never wither and die. Their blessedness cannot even think the thought that it might, perhaps, pass away and cease to be. They cannot, therefore, weep, because they are perfectly secure, and positively assured of their eternal blessedness.
Why should they weep, when their every desire is gratified? They cannot wish for anything which they will not have. Eye and ear, heart and hand, imagination, hope, desire, will, every faculty will be satisfied. All they could ever wish or imagine will continually be enjoyed. Though “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him,” yet they know enough, by the revelation of the Spirit, to understand that they are supremely blessed. The joy of Christ, which is an infinite fullness of delight, is in them. They bathe themselves in the bottomless, spacious sea of Infinite Bliss.
Still, dear friends, this does not quite account for the fact, that every tear is wiped away from their eyes. The text which I like the best is the one which tells us that God will do it. I want you to think with me, of fountains of tears which would exist even in heaven, tears that the glorified saints would inevitably weep if God did not, by a perpetual miracle, take away those tears. It strikes me, that if God himself did not interfere by a perpetual outflow of abundant comfort, the glorified would have many good reasons for weeping. You say, “How is this?”
Why, in the first place, if it were not for God’s gracious intervention, what tremendous regret they would have for their past sins.
The more holy a person is, the more they hate sin. It is a proof of growth in sanctification, not that repentance becomes less acute, but that it becomes more and more deep. Surely, dear friends, when we are made perfectly holy, we will have a greater hatred of sin. If on earth we could be perfectly holy, why, I think we would do nothing else but mourn, to think that so foul, and dirty, and poisonous a thing as sin had ever stained us; that we would have offended such a good, and gracious, and tender, and richly loving God, Why, the sight of Christ, “the Lamb in the midst of the throne,” would make them remember the sin from which he purged them; the sight of their heavenly Father’s perfection would be blinding to them, if it were not that by some sacred means, which we know nothing about, God wipes away all these tears from their eyes; and though they can’t help but regret that they have sinned, yet perhaps they know that sin has been made to glorify God by the overcoming power of Almighty grace; that sin has been made to be a black background, a sort of setting for the sparkling jewel of eternal, sovereign grace, and it may be that for this reason they shed no tears over their past lives. They sing, “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood:” but they sing that heavenly song without a tear in their eyes; I cannot understand how this can be, for I know I could not do it in my present condition; let this be the best reason, that God has wiped away every tear from their eyes.
Again, don’t you think, beloved, that the thought of the vast amount of shame and anguish which the Savior endured for their redemption, must, in the natural order of things, be a constant source of grief?
We sometimes sing that hymn which reminds us of the angelic song before the throne, and in one of its verses it says:
“But when to Calvary they turn,
Silent their harps abide;
Suspended songs a moment mourn
The God that loved and died.”
Now, that is natural and poetical, but it is not true, for you know very well that there are no suspended songs in heaven, and that there is no mourning even over Christ “that loved and died.” It seems to me, that if I were thoroughly spiritualized and in such a holy state as those are in heaven, I could not look at the Lamb without tears in my eyes. How could I think of those five wounds; that bloody sweat in Gethsemane; that cruel crowning with the thorns; that mockery and shame at Golgotha--how could I think of it without tears? How could I feel that he loved me and gave himself for me, without bursting into a passion of holy affection and sorrow? Tears seem to be the natural expression of such sacred joy and grief,
“Love and grief my heart dividing,
With my tears his feet I’ll bathe.”
I would think that it have to be so in heaven, if it were not for that glorious way, which I don’t know how, that God will wipe away even those tears from their eyes. Doesn’t it need the interference of God to accomplish this wonder?
Isn’t there another reason for grief in heaven, namely, wasted opportunities on earth?
Beloved, when we ascend into heaven, there will be no more feeding of Christ’s hungry people; no more giving of drinks to the thirsty; no more visiting his sick ones, or his imprisoned ones; no more clothing of the naked; there will be no more instructing of the ignorant; no more preaching of the Word of God among “a crooked and depraved generation.” It has been often and truthfully said, that if there could be regrets in heaven, those regrets would be, that we have wasted so many opportunities of honoring Christ on earth, opportunities which will then be gone forever.
Now in heaven the hearts of the saints are not cold and hardened, so that they can look back on sins of omission without sorrow. I believe that in heaven the conscience will be extremely tender, for perfect purity would not be consistent with any degree of hardness of heart. If they are sensitive and tender in heart, it is inevitable that they would look back with regret on the failures of the life below unless some greater emotion overwhelms the emotion of regret. I can say, beloved, if God would take me to heaven this morning, and if he did not intervene, by a special act of his omnipotence and dry up that fountain of tears, I would almost forget the glories of Paradise in the midst of my own shame, that I have not preached more earnestly, and have not prayed more fervently, and have not labored more abundantly for Christ. The apostle Paul tells the Christians to, “Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.” This text is one that none of us can read without shame and tears; and in heaven, I think, if I saw the Apostle Paul, I would burst into tears, if it were not for this text, which says that “God will wipe away every tear.” Who but the Almighty God could do this!
Perhaps, another source of tears may suggest itself to you; namely, sorrow in heaven for our mistakes, and misrepresentations, and unkindness towards other Christian brothers and sisters.
How surprised we will be to meet some saints in heaven whom we did not love on earth! We would not fellowship with them at the Lord’s table. We would not acknowledge that they were Christians. We looked at them suspiciously if we saw them in the street. We were somewhat wary of all their actions. We suspected their zeal as being nothing better than a show and an exaggeration, and we looked on their best efforts as having sinister motives at the heart. We said many unkind things, and felt a great many more than we said. When we see these unknown and unrecognized brothers and sisters in heaven won’t their very presence naturally remind us of our offenses against Christian love and spiritual unity? I can’t imagine a perfect man, looking at another perfect man, without regretting that he ever treated him in an unkind manner: it seems to me to be the trait of a gentleman, a Christian, and of a perfectly sanctified man above all others, that he would regret having misunderstood, and misconstrued, and misrepresented one who was as dear to Christ as himself. I am sure as I walk among the saints in heaven, I cannot (in the natural order of things) help feeling “I did not assist you as I ought to have done. I did not sympathize with you as I ought to have done. I spoke a harsh word to you. I was alienated from you;” and I think you would all have to feel the same; inevitably you must, if it were not that by some heavenly means, and I don’t know how, the eternal God will so overshadow believers with the abundant bliss of his own self that even that cause of tears will be wiped away.
Has it never struck you, dear friends, that if you go to heaven and see your dear children left behind unconverted, it would naturally be a cause of sorrow?
When my mother told me that if I perished in hell, that she would have to say “Amen” to my condemnation. I knew it was true and it sounded awful, and had a good effect on my mind; but at the same time I could not help thinking, “Well, you will be very different from what you are now,” and I didn’t think she would be much improved. I thought “Well, I love to think of your weeping over me far better than to think of you as a perfect being, with a tearless eye, looking on the damnation of your own child.” It really is a very terrible spectacle, the thought of a perfect being looking down in hell, for instance, as Abraham did, and yet feeling no sorrow; for you will remember that, in the tenor in which Abraham addressed the rich man, there is nothing of pity, there is not a single syllable which indicates any sympathy with him in his dreadful woes; and one does not quite comprehend that perfect beings, God-like beings, beings full of love, and everything that constitutes the glory of God’s complete nature, would still be unable to weep, even over hell itself; they cannot weep over their own children lost and ruined! Now, how is this? If you will tell me, I will be glad, for I cannot tell you. I do not believe that there will be one bit less tenderness, that there will be one fraction less of friendliness, and love, and sympathy--I believe there will be more--but that they will be in some way so refined and purified, that while compassion for suffering is there, hatred of sin will be there to balance it, and a state of complete equilibrium will be attained. Perfect acceptance of the divine will is probably the secret of it; but it is not my business to guess; I don’t know what handkerchief the Lord will use, but I do know that he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and these tears are among them.
Yet, once again, it seems to me that redeemed spirits standing before the throne, taking, as they must do, a deep interest in everything which concerns the honor of the Lord Jesus Christ, must feel deeply grieved when they see the cause of truth compromised, and the kingdom of Christ, for a time, set back. Think of Luther, or Wickliffe, or John Knox, as they see the advances of Roman Catholicism in our century. Take John Knox first, if you will. Think of him looking down and seeing Catholic Cathedrals rising in Scotland, dedicated to the service of the Catholic Church and the devil. Oh, how the stern old man, even in glory, I think, would begin to tremble; and the old lion hit his sides once more, and half wish that he could come down and pull the nests to pieces that the cheats and swindlers might fly away. Think of Wickliffe looking down on this country where the gospel has been preached so many years and seeing monks in the Church of England, and seeing spring up in our national establishment everywhere, not disguised Catholicism as it was ten years ago, but stark naked Catholicism, downright Catholicism that without shame talks about the “Catholic Church,” and is not even Anglican any longer. What would Wickliffe say? Why, I think as he leans over the walls of heaven, unless Wickliffe has really changed a lot, and I cannot suppose he is (except for the better, and that would make him more tender-hearted and even more zealous for God), he must weep to think that England has gone back so far, and has beat a retreat. I don’t know how it is they don’t weep in heaven, but they don’t. The souls under the altar cry, “How long? How long? how long?” There comes up a mighty intercession from those who were slaughtered in the days gone by for Christ: their prayer rises, “How long? how long? how long?” and God still does not avenge his own elect though they cry day and night to him. Yet that delay does not cost them a single tear. They feel so sure that the victory will come, they anticipate even a more splendid triumph because of its delay, and therefore they both patiently hope and quietly wait to see the salvation of God. They know that without us they cannot be made perfect, and so they wait until we are taken up, that the whole family will be united into one complete body, and that then the soul may receive its new glorified body, and they may be perfected in their bliss: they wait but they do not weep. They wait and they call out, but in their voices there is no sorrow. Now I don’t understand this, because it seems to me that the more I long for the coming of Christ, the more I long to see his kingdom extended, the more I will weep when things go wrong, when I see Christ blasphemed, his cross trampled in the mire, and the devil’s kingdom established; but the reason is all found in this, “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
I thought I would just indicate to you why it says that God does it.
It strikes me that these causes of tears could not be removed by an angel, could not be taken away by any form of spiritual enjoyment apart from the direct intervention of Almighty God. Think about all these things and wonder about them, and you will remember many other springs of grief which would have flowed freely if Omnipotence had not dried them up completely; then ask how can it be that the saints don’t weep and you cannot get any other answer than this--God has done it in a way unknown to us, forever taking away from them the power to weep.
IV. And now, beloved, WILL WE BE AMONG THIS HAPPY REDEEMED FAMILY?
Here is the question, and the context enables us to answer it. “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” There is their character. “Therefore they are before the throne of God.” The blood is a sacred argument for their being there, the precious blood. Observe, “they have washed their robes.” It was not merely their feet, their worst parts, but they washed their robes, their best parts. A man’s robes are his most honored attire, he puts them on, and he does not mind our seeing his robes. There may be filthiness beneath, but the robes are generally the cleanest of all. But you see they washed even them. Now it is the mark of a Christian that he not only goes to Christ to wash away his foul sins, but to wash away his religious activities too. I would not pray a prayer that was not washed with the blood of Jesus; I would not like a hymn I have sung to go up to heaven unless it had first been bathed in blood; if I wanted to be clothed with zeal as with a robe, yet I must wash the robe in blood; though I were sanctified by the Holy Spirit and wear imputed righteousness as a robe, yet I must wash even that in blood.
What do you say dear friends? Have you been washed in the blood? The meaning of this question is, have you trusted in the atoning sacrifice? “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin.” Have you taken Christ to be your everything in every way? Are you now depending on him? If so, out of deep distress you will yet ascend leaning on your Beloved to the throne of God, and to the bliss which awaits his chosen ones. But if not, “there is no other name,” there is no other way. Your damnation will be as just as it will be sure. Christ is “the way,” but if you will not walk that way then you will not reach the end; Christ is “the truth,” but if you will not believe in him, you will not rejoice; Christ is “the life,” but if you will not receive him you will live among the dead in hell, and be cast out among the wicked. From such a doom may the Lord deliver us, and give us a simple confidence in the divine work of the Redeemer, and to him will be the eternal praise. Amen.
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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Revelation 7". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20