Tears in Heaven?

WHEN GOD WIPES AWAY OUR TEARS

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Revelation 21:1-7

7-21-63    10:50 a.m.

When God Wipes Away Our Tears

On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas.  This is the pastor bringing the eleven o’clock morning message entitled When God Shall Wipe Away Our Tears.  In our preaching through the Bible, after many, many years, we have come to the Revelation.  In our preaching through the Revelation, we have come to chapter 21.  If you would like to turn in your Bible to the text, you can easily follow the message this morning.  It is an exposition of verses 3 through 7.  And I read verses 1-7, Revelation 21:

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 water of life freely.  He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be My son.

[Revelation 21:1-7]

 Just to read the passage is a benediction to our souls.  It is a comfort to God’s saints in this pilgrimage through this weary world.

Contrary to everything that I had thought, I had supposed that when I came to prepare these sermons on heaven, that they would be the easiest of all of the discourses I would deliver.  I have found it just the opposite.  In my studying for this message this week, in my reading, I came across a sentence from a world-famed expositor, and the sentence is this.  He said, “Out of all of the subjects in the Bible, the most difficult to speak of is the subject of heaven.”  That is so different from anything I had supposed.  I thought these chapters in the Revelation, back there numbers 7, and 8, and 9, and 12, and 13, and on, I thought they would be very difficult.  But when I came to the subject of heaven, I thought the sermons would be easy to prepare.  It is not easy to prepare.  Heaven is a most difficult subject to preach about.

You can find that difficulty illustrated in the experience of the men of God who have written this Book, who, under the Spirit of Jesus, have penned these words in our Bible.  For example, the apostle Paul says – and he describes his experience in the twelfth chapter of the 2 Corinthians letter – the apostle Paul says that he was taken up into paradise, into the third heaven, the heaven of heavens where God is, this heaven.  Does Paul describe his experience?  Does he say what he heard and what he saw?  No!  All the apostle says is this; that having been taken up into the paradise of God, into the third heaven, that he heard words that are unspeakable and that are not lawful for a man to say [2 Corinthians 12:4].

Poor, weak language could not bear the weight of the glory, the experience, nor could sentence and syllable say the words that he heard uttered in heaven.  You have another like illustration of that in the experience of Moses, who upon a day asked of the Lord that he might behold His glory.  And the Lord said to Moses:

 

You come and stand by Me on this rock.  And in a cleft of the rock, I will hide you and cover you with My hand until My glory shall pass by.  And then I will take away My hand and you can see My back parts, but no man can see My face and live.

 [Exodus 33:20-23]

 How would a mortal describe the presence of God, and how could he enter into the glory of the great Jehovah?  For no man can look upon His face and live.  You have another instance of that in what Paul writes in the second chapter of the 1 Corinthians letter, “Eye hath not seen, and ear hath not heard, neither have entered into the heart of a man, the things God hath prepared for those who love Him” [1 Corinthians 2:9]. We cannot enter into it.  Our very minds and souls cannot imagine it, this creation that God calls our heavenly and eternal home.

The next verse in the second chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul says: “But the Spirit hath revealed them unto us.”  These things that eye cannot see and ear cannot hear and heart cannot imagine, God has revealed unto us by His Spirit.  He will say that there is a language of the soul, and there are eyes of faith.  And we can feel these things, and we can sense these things, and we can experience these things, though a man cannot describe them in language, and he cannot adequately present them in a sermon.

You can find that difficulty of describing the glories of heaven and preparing a sermon commensurate with what God hath prepared for us; you can see that difficulty illustrated here in what John has written in the text:

And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, (look,) the skene of God is with men, and He will skenoo with them.  They shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God.

[Revelation 21:3]

Skene, “the tabernacle of God,” and He will skenoo, “tabernacle with them”; the dwelling place, the pavilion, the house of the Lord is with us – men.  How could you imagine that?  By what language would you describe the very pavilion of the Lord, the tabernacle, the tent of God, cast, set up among men?

The Lord dwelt with our parents in the garden of Eden:  He walked with them.  He talked with them.  He visited with them [Genesis 3:8].  God tabernacled with the patriarchs:  He spake to Abraham as a man would talk to his friend, face-to-face [Exodus 33:11].  The Lord cast His tabernacle among His children of Israel, and His Presence there was seen above it in a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day [Exodus 13:21].  In the days of the temple, the Lord dwelt in the darkness of the Holy of Holies.  In [John 1:14], the author of this Revelation says, “And the Word was made flesh, and skenoo,” the same identical word here, “and skenoo – and dwelt among us,” and tabernacled among us – “and we saw His glory, the glory as of the only [begotten] of God the Father.”

And the Lord tabernacles today in His church by the Holy Spirit, and lives in our hearts, but how shall it be and with what words could you describe it when God Himself shall live in our midst, and our eyes shall see Him, and our ears shall hear Him speak, and we shall behold the glory and beauty of the Lord God Jehovah Himself?  You can’t say those words.  You can’t describe those realities.  There is a sensitivity of the soul that can enter into them, but for a man to preach about it in the reality that it is, it is beyond him whatever poetry he might quote, and whatever song he might sing, or however eloquent peroration by which he might seek to describe the indescribable, infinitely celestial, unimaginable glory of the dwelling of God among us.

You find it again in the description here of the re-establishment, the redemption, the re-birth, the regeneration of this universe: “I saw a new heaven and a new earth,” and I spake of that last Sunday morning, “for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea” [Revelation 21:1].

“And there was no more sea.”  What does that mean – in this new creation of God, “and there was no more sea”?  Now, a spiritualizer will read that, and he will say that refers to the tearing down of all political and national and social barriers, and it refers to the great common brotherhood of all of the families and nations of the world.  Well, that’s all right for a spiritualizer.  I don’t expect them to come up with anything particular, so when he says that, that’s just fine.  He could have been discoursing on Shakespeare or Milton or Thucydides or Plato, and come up with the same thing.  It doesn’t matter.

Now, a symbolizer would say that that refers to the fact that John is trying to say for us that in heaven there is no more separation.  Well, that’s – there is a basis for a symbolizer, a man who sees in these things in the Revelation symbols of great spiritual truths.  I can understand that.  For example, in the Revelation when it says the Lamb of God, that’s a symbol I know of our blessed Redeemer, the Lord Jesus.  And a man who is looking upon this Revelation as being symbols of spiritual realities, I could see how he could read that: “And there was no more sea.”  It was a symbol.  The sea was a symbol of separation.  John, on a lonely isle in exile, sent there to die of starvation and exposure, and across that waste of the sea were those he loved, his church in Ephesus, all of the friends and the saints of the household of God.  And here he is, and that dark sea rolling in between.  I can see how as a symbol John could say, “but up there in glory, there will be no more exile and no more separation.”

There is a dark sea that rolls between time and eternity.  There is a dark river of death, a flood that rolls between us and our loved ones gone before.  “And there was no more sea.”  I can see how symbolically John might mean, “and there’s no separation in between.”  We shall be together, world without end, in God’s holy and heavenly tomorrow.  I can understand that.

“Well, pastor, what do you think that means, “And there shall be no more sea”?  Well, one of two things.  The lesser of the two, I think, is this: it could refer, of course, to the annihilation of the sea.  There would be no more bodies of water in heaven.  In the new creation, I can see that very easily.  However, I am persuaded – and this is just something of intuitive response – I feel in my heart that what that actually means is the same kind of a thing that it means when it referred to the new heaven and the new earth.  That does not mean, in my understanding, that there is going to be an annihilation of what God has done in His creative majesty.  This glorious firmament of God and this paradise of the Lord in the earth was here before sin and the curse came, and God says it shall still be here when the curse is taken away.  It shall be a redeemed earth, it shall be a redeemed heaven, it shall be a redeemed and regenerated creation!  And sin and Satan and the curse all shall be cast out!  God shall make it new and beautiful and lovely for us.

Now, I have the same feeling about the great sea.  One of the reasons I feel that way is because to an ancient – those who lived in John’s day – to an ancient, the sea was a frightful and a fearsome and an awesome monster!  They had no compasses, for example, and when the cloudy day came, their ships were absolutely lost on the vast bosom of the deep; and their frail barks were subject to destruction in those fearful storms that could arise, and the loss of life in the sea was beyond measure and innumerable.  To the ancient, the sea was a horrible monster and a fearsome and awesome thing.  And yet, when God makes the new heaven and the new earth, shall it be like the psalmist said? “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures,” in the paradise of God, and “He leadeth me beside the still waters” [Psalm 23:1-2].

No more angry, turbulent, fearsome, awesome disaster, God has made it new.  And the sea as we know it, with its tempestuous and raging madness and destructive waves, is no more.  The sea is gone like that, and in its place are the still waters beside which God shall shepherd His holy and celestial and heavenly flock.  Well, those are just some things that I feel in my heart as I read the Book.  I’ve already told you I cannot describe it, nor can I enter into it fully; just have to wait and see in God’s time.

Now the Lord writes:

 

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 all are passed away.

[Revelation 21:4]

 

I can know from this passage, then, that as long as we’re in this life, and in this earthly pilgrimage, there shall be tears in our eyes.  Until we come to the gates of heaven itself, God’s people shall know how to cry.  We may forget how to laugh; we shall never forget how to cry.  Until we come to the pearly gates that enter the New Jerusalem, it is not until then that God shall wipe away the tears out of our eyes.  Our pilgrimage in this world is like the pilgrimage of the children of Israel to the Promised Land.  We are delivered in the grace of God from so much of the hurt and trial of the curse, but we are not delivered from the heartaches, and the diseases, and the afflictions, and the trials of this life.

It is a common denominator and experience of all of God’s people.  Jesus wept, bowed His head in sorrow, in strong crying and tears, and poured His soul out unto God.  Time and again, Paul will speak of his many tears.   As long as we’re in this pilgrimage, until we come to the gates of glory themselves, God’s people shall know how to cry.  It is only there, beyond the pearly gates and the jasper walls, that the Lord shall wipe away our tears.

There’s another thing to be said about this passage before we look at the actual words themselves: we are not to forget, in our pilgrimage with its burden and its trial, its losses and its crosses, we are not to forget that our crying and our sorrow and our bereavement, that these yield for God’s people a marvelous and heavenly increase on the other side of the river.  For example, Paul will say: “For our light afflictions,”  However, the weight of our sorrow and the burden of life in this world, he calls it “a light affliction.”  He’s just been describing them: “Our light affliction, which is but for a moment,” but for a moment, “worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” [2 Corinthians 4:17].

Paul says these things that we suffer down here – the agony, and the tears, and the burden, and the heartache, and the disappointment of our lives – these things but work for us a far more and exceeding weight of glory.

Oh, there again, how do you put it in language?  As most you know, I read Spurgeon so very much – our great and incomparable Baptist preacher of London of the last century.  Do you remember one time I said – after having read through part of Spurgeon – I said, “Spurgeon has said here the most unusual, most unusual thing.”

Spurgeon said, “If I had my choice between being raptured at the coming of the Lord and taken up into glory and changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump – if I had my choice between being raptured to the Lord and dying and resurrected,” Spurgeon said, “I would choose to die the agonies of death, for,” said the great preacher, “my Savior suffered, and my Savior died, and my Savior experienced the power of God in His resurrection.”  He said, “I would like to follow the sufferings of my Lord, the pangs of death, to know what it is to convulse and to die and to be buried.  And I also might experience the power of the resurrection of God when He raises me up from the grave.”  Well, that’s a tremendous thing, so different from anything that I ever felt for myself.  I always thought, O Lord, to be raptured, to be here when Jesus comes, just in a moment, like that song:

 

Oh, joy!  Oh, delight!

That we go without dying,

No sickness, no sadness,

No dread and no crying,

Caught up to the clouds

With our Lord into glory,

When Jesus receives His own.

 [“Christ Returneth,” H. L. Turner]

 I’ve always felt like that.  I never had thought about that thing Spurgeon says; to suffer as the Lord suffered, to die as the Lord died, to be buried that I might know the power of His resurrection.  Well, that same kind of a sentiment is spoken here by the apostle Paul:  Our sufferings in this life, and our Lord suffered, “A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” [Isaiah 53:3].  Our Lord suffered, and [Paul] says, in the first chapter, [verse 5], of the 2 Corinthians letter, “We who have known the sufferings of God shall also know the consolation of the Lord.”  Like this, God says here heaven is a place where there are no more tears [Revelation 21:4]:  what would that mean to someone who had never cried?  “God shall wipe away our tears”:  what would that mean to someone who had never wept?  It says, “There shall be no more death”:  what would that mean to someone who never stood by the side of an open grave, seen somebody you love like your own soul and heart, laid beneath the sod?  “Neither sorrow”: what would that mean to someone who had never bowed under the weight of care?  “Nor crying, nor pain”: it’s because we have known these things in this life that heaven is sweet!  “For our light afflictions,” says Paul, “which is just for a moment, worketh for us a far more and exceeding weight of glory” [2 Corinthians 4:17].  That’s what heaven is!  Having suffered here, and wept here, and cried in agony here, and died here, heaven is God’s release from this bondage of death.

Now, in the few moments that remain, to look at it – “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.”  Here’s a bereavement: Jesus wept, with Mary and Martha at the tomb of their brother [John 11:35]; tears of bereavement, tears of misfortune and poverty, as Lazarus who was laid at the door of Dives [Luke 16:20-21]; tears of lamentation, like the cry of Jeremiah: “Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughters of my people!” [Jeremiah 9:1]; tears of despair and agony and disappointment.  “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.”

“And there shall be no more death” [Revelation 21:4]: can you conceive of a world without the sight and the stroke and the dreadsome visit of that pale horseman?  “And there shall be no more death.”  There is no home without its shadow – in the circle of your family, a mother, a father, a wife, a husband, a daughter, a son, a child, a friend.  There is no flock, however watched and tended, but one dead lamb is there.  There is no fireside, howsoever defended, but that has one vacant chair.  In a little plot in Southwestern Oklahoma, there is a little grave with a little inscription on the headstone – my baby sister who died before I was born.  I never mentioned that; I suppose this is the first time I have ever referred to it in my life, save in my mind.  Oft and often I have wondered: what shall it be like over there?  And that little baby girl, what will she be like?  Does she grow?  Is she still a child?  Oh, there is so much that’s not revealed – we’re not told.

Just this: that there are no stonecutters chiselling epithets in glory; there are no wreaths on the mansion doors in the sky; there are no graves on the hillsides of heaven; there are no obituary columns in the newspapers; no funeral procession.  All that we can hear is the glad and triumphant refrain from God’s holy redeemed, when they say, “Death is swallowed up in victory” [1 Corinthians 15:54], and there shall be no more Death.  He is cast, with the false prophet and Satan that deceives us, he is cast into the lake of fire; Death [Revelation 20:1914].  “And there shall be no more sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain.”  Sorrow follows us like a shadow; every heart knows it bitterly.  How many pillows at night are wet with the teardrops that this world never sees and never knows, known and seen only by our Lord?  Sorrow, sorrow.

We had a great preacher in this pulpit.  You loved that man.  Held a revival meeting here.  Oh, from the days of my teenage boyhood, I loved that marvelous, wonderful man.  When he was here holding a revival meeting, he began telling me about the days of his childhood.  He was a mountain boy, raised in the mountains.  His father was killed when he was a little boy.  His stepfather was vile and vicious!  One day at the breakfast table, the plate of biscuits that displeased him, he picked up and he threw the biscuits and the plate and all in the face of his mother.  Then he cursed her.  Then he doubled up his fist and he beat her!  Then he stomped away from their mountain cabin.   And the little boy went over by the side of his mother and said: “Mother, let’s leave.  Let’s leave!  I don’t know how, but I’ll make a living for you,  Mother, let’s leave.”

And the mother replied: “Son, not so.  There has never been a separation in our family.  Never!  And son, I shall not live long.  Soon, I’ll be with the Lord Jesus, and God take care of you, my boy.”  According to an intuitive knowing that God revealed to her, she died soon after.  And the little boy drifted into the city, and according to the prayers of his mother, he was saved in the city and became the preacher that I loved and admired so much.

Sorrow, sorrow, grief, disappointment, sorrow and crying, these shall be no more; “God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes.”

“And he that sat upon the throne said: Behold, I make all things new” [Revelation 21:5].   New!  I make all things new – a new heaven, a new earth, a new city.  We shall dwell in a Jerusalem that shall never be stormed.  We shall bask in a sun that shall never go down.  We shall swim in a tide that shall never ebb.  We shall eat from a tree that shall never wither.  We shall drink at a river that shall never go dry.  “I make all things new!”

 

I will sing you a song of that beautiful land,

The far-away home of the soul,

Where no storms ever beat on the glittering strand,

 

You see, the author of that hymn believed that there would be a new creation by still waters –

Where no storms ever beat on the glittering strand,

While the years of eternity roll,

 

Oh, how sweet it will be in that beautiful land,

So free from all sorrow and pain,

With songs on our lips and with harps in our hands,

To greet one another again,

 

  [from “Home of the Soul,” by Ellen M.H. Gates, 1865]

At the early service, we sang this song.  Let’s all sing it now, everybody.

 

There’s a land that is fairer than day,

And by faith we can see it afar,

For the Father waits over the way,

To prepare us a dwelling place there.

In the sweet by and by,

We shall meet on that beautiful shore;

In the sweet by and by,

We shall meet on that beautiful shore.

 [“In the Sweet By and By,” Sanford F. Bennett]

 

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 all are passed away.  And He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, behold I make all things new.

[Revelation 21:4-5]

 

O blessed God, for His goodness, immeasurable, indescribable, unfathomable, celestial, to us – to us.

Now, while we sing our hymn of appeal, somebody to give his heart to Jesus, come and stand by me.  A family to put their lives in the fellowship of this dear church – would you come and stand by me?  As the Spirit of the Lord shall lead in the way, in the throng in this balcony round, in the press of people on this lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the front: “Pastor, I give you my hand, I give my heart to the Lord.”  Or as the Spirit shall lead, shall say the word, shall invite, shall open the way, would you make it now?  Make it this morning in the hush and sweet and quiet of this holy and precious hour.  Come!  Come, while we stand and while we sing.

The Rapture of the Church: Your Only Warning

By Ron English

Today is Monday, August 26, 2019. I am happy to report we had another wonderful downpour of rain early Sunday morning again watering our thirsting grass and trees. The rain was accompanied by heavy-duty lightning followed by loud claps and rumbling thunder. The temperature was reduced a bit and the evening was much more comfortable. As I write these words I don’t expect any more rain for today but I report this with a grateful heart for what the Lord provided.

I enjoyed two slices of delicious watermelon that would rival any I recall from my beloved Georgia (and most of you know how fond I am of Georgia watermelon). Now for a look at today’s Word: “”Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” Matthew 24:35. There is nothing more precious to a child of God than the blessed holy and inspired Word of God. It is eternal in its origin and breathed out of the mouth of God in its essence. This powerful Word is settled in the heavens and can not be displaced by mortals nor Satanic assault. Jesus, Himself, is said to be the very Word of God. He has died once for the sins of all mankind and He will never die again. He is eternal so is His Word and you cannot separate the Two. It is all too easy for us to think this earth upon which we walk and live will last forever. But it is not so. This earth is temporal at best and is on a collision course with God’s eternal purpose. The world was created by Jesus, the great Creator. He spoke it into existence. He created the first man and woman and from them, He has populated this earth which has grown to almost 8 billion humans.

Sadly, most of these will not be in Heaven. What does the Holy Word say? “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Matthew 7:13-14. Most people alive on the earth today have little or no interest in Heaven and no fear of Hell. Sadly, too many Christians seem to be creating wealth and substance as if they expect the earth to last forever and that their seed shall inherit what they gain.

While the preaching of the Gospel is foolishness to the world it, sadly, seems to be foolish preaching to the Christians, too. When the subject of the Rapture of the Church is preached few heed it as being factual and seem to regard it as an old wives’ tale if they give any serious thought to it at all. Too many saints look on the rapture like the people of Noah’s day as he preached the truth of the coming judgment and that God was going to make a way for the righteous to escape the damnation. Only seven humans were spared. I think the duration from the first announcement until the great ark was completed may have been 120 years. Noah is reported in the Scriptures as a preacher of righteousness. Many of the notable righteous died before the ark was completed. I have no doubt that the majority of the men and women who knew of Noah’s preaching and his family’s work in building that large boat laughed at him. Then one day some must have observed all those animals being herded into the wooden vessel. That must have been a sight and fueled no small amount of chatter around the dinner tables of the community. Then one day it was noticed the door was shut and sealed from the outside. That must have added a layer of puzzling conversation.

And then…AND THEN IT BEGAN TO RAIN! It had never rained before. Then the springs erupted from the earth gushing with more water to add to what was falling. And soon the water was filling the countryside and eventually rose to the base of the boat. I am sure a crowd soon reached the outside of the ark and beat on that big, sealed, door. But Noah had no power nor did his three sons have the power to open that door. The flood Noah had predicted was upon them and soon all who were panicking outside drowned in the floodwaters. That judgment was foretold by Noah. The people had 120 years to prepare for it. But they laughed and went about their daily routine.

The whole world was destroyed by water. You would think that devastation would have impacted the collective memory of the population that would grow from Noah’s family and the people would become holy and devout followers of God and His Word. But such was not the case. There must be several thousand men like Noah warning this generation that the Rapture of the Church is near. But do you see any rush to embrace holiness and fill our churches with people who are hungering for the Word of God? If anything we see a world rushing further and further away from God. In our country, you see the great number of men and women who are running for president pointing far away from Heaven and offering no prophetic word of danger approaching. God does not play. As He did in Noah’s day He is preparing to do in our day. The only sign you will see or hear will be the Trumpet sound and the dead in Christ being raised from the grave. That event will be so fast that if you blink your eye you will miss it. Just as fast the Christians who are still alive will be changed in that same blink and they too will disappear. Your only warning is the Word of God. What does it say?

13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” I Thessalonians 4:13-18.

No one will have an excuse for missing this great escape–the Rapture of the Church–the catching out of the earth those who have accepted and believed in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross and who have trusted in His bodily resurrection.

The time for unbelievers to repent is now. What does the Scripture say about getting ready? “(For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)” 2 Corinthians 6:2.

No other warning is coming. You have the full weight of past prophecy having been fulfilled in the life and action of Noah and his family. You have the powerful preaching and teaching and testimony of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, and the voices of all the other apostles each confirming this great event that is coming. And you have our Text Post for today:

“Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” Matthew 24:35

Your Evil Deeds Follow You

The Influence Of Evil
W. A. Criswell
Longtime Pastor of FBC Dallas
W. A. Criswell

In Amarillo, I had a friend with whom I graduated from high school. We were in the same Sunday school class and were good personal friends. We went to Baylor University together, and to my sorrow and amazement, the young fellow turned out to be an infidel, an atheist. I went to his room one night to talk to him. He was seated under a lamp reading Thomas Paine’s Age of Reason. Tom Paine had been dead for one hundred fifty years, but really dead? The influence of that evil-thinking man has extended through the decades after his body turned back into dust.

   Think of the dividend for evil that wicked people will receive at the judgment bar of Almighty God. We never escape the influence of evil in our lives.

SHADOW MINISTRIES

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Acts 5:12-16

 

 

On the radio, you are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas.  This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Shadow Ministries, the unconscious influence that always attends our lives.  Just as a man cannot rid himself of his shadow, it always follows wherever he, is so the influence of a man’s life always attends his way and finds its repercussion in eternity.  I would think that so much of what is done in the name of the Lord, such as at our church camp; those ministries are so small, they are so hidden away, but you never know what God is doing.  You never know the repercussion of the seed that you have sown.  And that is the sermon tonight.

In our preaching through the Book of Acts, we are in chapter 5.  Let us turn to it and read out loud the text together.  Acts, the Book of Acts, the fifth book in the New Testament – Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, chapter 5, and the text is verses 14 through 16.  Acts chapter 5:14-16.  Now with the pastor, read the text out loud together.  Acts 5:14-16 together:

 

And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.

Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them.

There came also a multitude out of cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one.

[Acts 5:14-16]

 

Now, you saw in it the passage of the text that gives rise to the sermon: “that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them” [Acts 5:15].

The temple area, as you know, was a great area.  It covered twenty-six acres.  And on the eastern side of the temple, on the eastern boundary of the court of the Gentiles, above the Brook Kidron and the winepress, Gethsemane, down there in the valley and then the rise of Mount Olivet on the other side.  In the porch of Solomon on the eastern side, there did the apostles gather with the multitudes and preach the gospel of the grace of the Lord Jesus.

Now there would be coming up to this temple, the fisherman Simon Peter.  There was just a certain number that he could touch out of the multitudes that thronged the preaching of the gospel.  So, finding the way that the big fisherman had of coming up to the house of the Lord, and noticing how he came into that temple area and finally to the porch of Solomon, they would bring their sick people and lay them along the way, that at least the shadow of Peter might fall upon them and they be blessed by just the passing of that tremendous man of God [Acts 5:15].  And that gives rise to the thought of the sermon tonight: Shadow Ministries – wayside ministries; unconscious ministries.  How people are influenced whom you never know, maybe never see, maybe after you are dead, maybe after you are dead a thousand years, the unconscious influence that always attends our way.

There was a great magnate, the president of a vast railroad system in America, who died.  And they announced that his service, a memorial, would be at two o’clock on a certain afternoon.  And at two o’clock on the dot, at two o’clock that afternoon, everything stopped on that vast railway system in honor and in memory of the great and famous president of the railway.  They brought everything to a halt.  Every train stopped; every wheel ceased to turn; every man stood still where he was; every workman laid down his tools.  And for three minutes the entire system shut down, and everything stopped in that vast railway corporation.  All except one thing, and that was the influence of that man in the casket.  It continued on, not stopping three minutes or five minutes or a year or a century, but it goes on forever.  So it is with every man’s life.  There is repercussion that never stops, even from the humblest life.

Sometimes the scientists tell us some of the most unusual things.  One of the things I read was this; that you could drop a pebble in the vast, illimitable ocean.  And the molecular disturbance from the dropping of that one pebble reaches out to the farthest shores of the sea.  If that could be true, think how much more is it true in the life of a man who lives in this earth.  The body dies.  It turns back to the dust of the ground from whence God shaped it and made it.  But personality and soul and influence never die.

Oh, when I look at history and think of the long and extended shadows of men who make that history, I stand in wonder and amazement before it.  There would not be volumes enough in the world to describe the influence of Alexander the Great upon human history – turning the whole world into Hellenic thinking, Hellenic architecture, Hellenic language – in which the New Testament is written – Hellenic thought, Hellenic culture.  It is the basis of our civilization today; the extended shadow of that young man who conquered the world when he was twenty-two years of age.

Did you know, one time looking at the courses taught at Oxford in England, I counted two hundred courses in Oxford on Aristotelian philosophy.  Aristotle died three hundred years before Christ.  And yet today, there will be something like two hundred courses in the great university of England in Oxford teaching Aristotelian philosophy.  And dear me, what could I say of the influence of a man like Nietzsche and Bismarck and finally Hitler?  Germany, as long as there is a Germanic people will never get over or survive the terror and the horror and the hurt of Nietzsche, and Bismarck, and Hitler.  So all of life follows a train like that; the influence that never ceases long after we are gone.

Now let’s I am going to take it two ways; one, the influence for good and the influence for bad.  Let us take the worst first.  A man does not die when he dies.  Would to God that were true with evil men, but the influence of his life lingers on and forever to the great judgment day of Almighty God [Revelation 20:11-15].  I had a friend in Amarillo with whom I was graduated from high school.  He and I were in the same Sunday school class.  We were good personal friends.  We went to Baylor University together.  And to my sorrow and amazement, the young fellow turned out to be an infidel – an atheist.  I went up to his room one night to talk to him.  And as I walked into his room, he was seated there under a lamp reading infidel Tom Paine’s Age of Reason.  Why, Tom Paine had been dead for a hundred fifty years.  Are you sure?  The influence of that evil-thinking man has extended through the decades after his body has turned back into the dust.  Think of the thousandfold dividend for evil that wicked men shall receive at the judgment bar of Almighty God.  We never escape the influence of evil in our lives.

Nathan the prophet said to David, “The sword shall never depart from thy house” [2 Samuel 12:10].  And thereafter, for the generations and the generations, the story of the household of David and the kings of Judea is written in human blood.  O God!  If it were just I, if it were just me and my house – but the families and the lives that are touched in the years and the years and the years that follow after.  The Lord God said to Manasseh, “Because of your sins, Judea will be destroyed, people carried into captivity, and the holy house of God burned down with fire” [2 Kings 21:10-15].  O Lord, the influence of a life for evil – it multiplies, it continues on forever; but enough.

Let us speak of the influence of the life for good.  You know, one of the most beautiful and precious passages, and one of the finest theological foundational truths in the Word of God, is this, written in the fifth chapter of the Book of Romans: “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, how much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by His life” [Romans 5:10].  You have heard, if you have been here in the services before, my exposition of that passage – “saved by His life.”  There are theologians who say that refers to the days of our Lord when He lived in His flesh – saved by His life.  Oh no; oh no!  If when we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son – by the death of His Son, then how much more shall we be saved by the life of the Son of God; that is, His resurrected life – His life in glory.  For the life of our Lord, poured out into this world, lives forever!

The Lord is as much alive today as He was when He walked the shores of Galilee.  The influence of the life of Jesus is a thousand times a thousand times greater now than it was when He opened the eyes of the blind [Matthew 9:27-30], and when He healed the lepers [Mark 140-42; Luke 17:11-14], and when He raised the dead [John 11:43-44].  Jesus is alive [Revelation 1:18].  The greatest truth I know in human history is Jesus is alive, and He is here.  He is in our hearts [Matthew 28:20].  He guides in the way; He leads; Jesus, saving us by His life [1 Corinthians 15:3].

So it is with the lives of every good man; all good men who ever lived.  The repercussion of the influence of their lives is forever.  I could hardly think of how it will be when Simon Peter stands at the great judgment day before the great King.  Think of the influence of his life through the years and the generations.  I think of the apostle Paul.  Oh, what an infinite reward will be his, when God unravels the skein of the influence of the great apostle to the Gentiles!  If we could speak of these mighty men of God whose names are household words.  On the tomb of Dwight L. Moody are written these words, “He that doeth the will of God shall abide for ever” [1 John 2:17] and how true that is.

But we are not Simon Peters; we are not apostle Pauls; or even Dwight L.  Moodys.  What of the humble influence of that sweet disciple of Jesus whose name you never heard of, and whose life you are not conscious of, but there is an influence that God blesses through the years and the years?  Did you ever stand at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington, just across the Potomac from Washington?  On the sarcophagus there are written these words, “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.”  And when I stand there and look at that monument and read those words, I think of that soldier – an American man who was cut down on a foreign field of battle – who lies there, but nobody knows his name.  With what multitudes of honors and words of appreciation and gratitude have been bestowed upon that man,  but nobody knows his name, or who he is.  In a thousand times and in a thousand ways are our lives just like that; influential, but known only to God.

Look, do you remember the story in the Bible of the little maid, the little girl in the household of Naaman, who was the captain of the hosts of the king of Syria?  And it was through the testimony of that little girl [2 Kings 5:3-4], that the great man was cleansed.  He was saved and became a follower of the true God of heaven.  And there is not a more beautiful story in the Bible than the story of the healing of Naaman [2 Kings 5:5-14].  What is the name of that little girl?  Nobody knows; and you won’t know until you get to heaven.  But think of the repercussion of the testimony of that little child in the household of Naaman the captain of the hosts of [Syria].

Take again, do you know the name of that little boy who was in a crowd – five thousand men – and they were, as the day passed, hungry, listening to the Word of God?  And lest they faint by the way, the Lord said, Feed them.  And the apostles said, Feed them?  Five thousand men?  Feed them?  Yes, said the Lord, feed them.  And they went through the great throng to find food for the multitudes.  And all they found was a little boy’s lunch.  He had five little biscuits and two little fishes [John 6:9].  He gave that to the Lord.  They placed it in His hands.  The Lord blessed it as He always did – saying grace at the table.  The Lord blessed that little boy’s lunch – five little pieces of bread and two little fishes.  And then the Lord broke, and He broke, and He broke, and the disciples passed the food out to the people – the bread and the fish [John 6:10-13], and the bread and the fish.  It was a marvelous miracle of God, and it was followed by one of the most magnificent sermons in the whole Bible, the message on the true manna from heaven: Christ, the bread of life [John 6:31-58].  Now you tell me, what is the name of that little boy who gave his lunch to Jesus?  What is his name?  You do not know.  Nobody knows.  And we will never know until we stand before God’s great throne of grace, at the judgment day, at the bema of Christ [2 Corinthians 5:10].

Take again, do you remember when the apostle Paul was about to be destroyed – slain, ambushed in the way in Jerusalem?  There was a plot on the part of the Jews that they were going to call for him as though they wanted to interrogate him.  And as he was going to be led before the interrogators, they were going to destroy him – to slay him, to assassinate him on the way.  And there was a little boy, Paul’s sister’s son, who overheard the plot and came to the Roman centurion and told him of the threat, and the danger to the life of God’s great apostle and missionary – and saved the life of the apostle Paul [Acts 23:12-33].  What was the name of that little boy?  Do you know?  Nobody knows.  Nor will any one know until we stand at the judgment bar of Almighty God [2 Corinthians 5:10]; the influence, the unconscious influence of these who do something good for God.

Let me ask you again.  Do you know the name of the man who in the Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago won the famous White Sox ball player named Billy Sunday to Jesus?  Do you know the name of that man?  I never heard of him.  I never heard of him.  But think of the enormous influence of that humble man who in that mission won that famous baseball player of the Chicago White Sox to the Lord Jesus, his name Billy Sunday.  Think of the name who won him.

Tell me, do you know the name of that humble layman who had in his Sunday school class, a young man, a teenager?  [He] found out that he worked in a shoe store in downtown Boston; found his way to the store, asked for the young fellow, was told he was in the stockroom.  He went back there and the young fellow was on the top of the ladder, working with those shoe boxes way up there on the shelves.  And that layman stood there at the bottom of the ladder and asked the young fellow if he would come down that he might talk to him about Jesus, and won him to the Lord.  That was the conversion of Dwight L. Moody.  Do you know the name of that layman?  Think of what God did through him – and yet his name unknown.

Or, tell me just once again – and we could multiply this for the night; tell me, do you know the name of that Moravian missionary who won John Wesley and George Whitefield to the faith?  I have no idea who he was.  His name has been lost in the world.  But oh, dear God, think of what John Wesley and the great Wesleyan revival did for England.  And think of George Whitefield who began in America the Great Awakening that swept into it the mighty intellectual preaching of Jonathan Edwards.  But who was the name of that Moravian missionary?  Nobody knows.  Shadow ministries, things that humble people do for God but nobody ever realizes, ever remembers, ever knows.  But God knows, and God blesses it through the years.

My time is gone.  May I conclude quickly? That’s the reason, that’s the reason, that when a man dies, he doesn’t receive his reward then.  You don’t receive your reward until the end of the world, until the end of time.  For you don’t die when you die.  And it is only God that can unravel the scheme through all of human life.  And when you stand at the judgment bar of the Lord Jesus [2 Corinthians 5:10], without exception those who stand there are surprised.  “Why, Lord, when did I ever see Thee sick, and ministered to Thee? Or in prison, and came to see Thee?  Or hungry, and fed Thee? Or naked, and clothed Thee?  When did I ever do these things?” [Matthew 25:37-39].  And the Lord will say, “When you did it unto one of the least of these, you were doing it unto Me” [Matthew 25:40].  And God writes it down in the Book of Life.  And that’s why your reward is never bestowed until the end of the age.  Your influence goes on and on and on, and on and only in heaven will you ever know what it means.

Hastily, may I illustrate that?  Listen to this that I have copied.  A woman, a woman whose name has been forgotten, gave a tract one day to a very bad man named Richard Baxter, who read it and was converted.  Richard Baxter became one of the great preachers of all time.  Then Baxter wrote a book, The Call of the Unconverted, which brought a multitude to God; among them, Philip Doddridge, who in turn wrote a book, The Rise and Progress of Religion, which brought tens of thousands into the kingdom; among them, William Wilberforce.  Wilberforce wrote A Practical View of Christianity, which brought a multitude to Christ, among them being Leigh Richmond, who wrote a tract entitled The Dairyman’s Daughter, which has been the means of the conversion of uncounted multitudes.  So the influence went on and on and on.

Now look how that began.  A woman whose name has been forgotten gave a tract one day to a very bad man, and the influence went on and on and on, and it stands to this day, and forever.  When that woman stands at the bema, at the judgment bar of Christ [2 Corinthians 5:10], that is a poor attempt, but God can unravel all of the influences that followed after.  And when that forgotten woman stands at the judgment bar of Almighty God, and the Lord bestows upon her her reward, think of the amazement that will overwhelm her, drown her in glory and in gratitude and in praise to God.  You don’t know what you do when you do something good for Jesus – speaking a word in His name; sowing the seed – shadow ministries; the unconscious influence of those who love Jesus.

We must sing our song of appeal.  And while we sing it, in the balcony round, and there is time and to spare, come, come.  The press of people on this lower floor, come; “Pastor, this is my family, we are all coming tonight.”  “This is my wife, the two of us are coming tonight.”  “This is my friend, I am bringing him tonight.”  As the Spirit of God shall press the appeal to your heart, make the decision now and come.  On the first note of the first stanza, down one of these stairways, down one of these aisles. “I have decided for God, pastor; and I am on the way.  Here I am.”  A child, a youth, a couple, a family, somebody you; come now, gladly, wonderfully, while we stand and while we sing.