THE BEAUTY OF HEAVEN based on Rev. 21:9-21
By Glenn Pease
Among the world's famous short stories is the one called, The Lost Words Of Love, by the French writer, Mendes. It is the fascinating tale of how an evil spirit sought to ruin man by stealing three words out of his vocabulary. The three words were, I love you. The spirit succeeded in this vicious vocabulary vanishing trick, and the results were tragic. Friends drifted apart, couples broke up, and quarreling and depression spread like a plague. People stopped singing, poets stopped writing, and it appeared that hell on earth would soon be a reality. The story ends happily, however, because the spirit himself falls in love, and the world recovers the lost words of love.
It may sound weird, but it does have a message of profound truth. For if you destroy man's love he is as good as in hell, and without love there can be no heaven. In verse 8, John lists for us those who are excluded from heaven and cast into the lake of fire. They are all products of hatred. They hate God, and do not believe; they hate man and thus they murder; they hate what is pure, and thus they pollute and corrupt the beauty of human love; they hate the truth and thus they are habitual liars. Hatred on earth is the beginning of hell, just as love on earth is the beginning of heaven. Love and hate--heaven and hell, are almost parallel phrases.
The ugliness of hate is what will determine the environment of hell. Earl Panzram murdered 23 people, and was executed in 1930. His last words were, "I wish the whole human race had one neck and I had my hands around it." God will cleanse the new heaven and the new earth of all such hate. The world itself will be cleansed by fire, and all that blots the beauty of God's creation will be eliminated. Love only, will be allowed in heaven, and they result will be beauty beyond our wildest dreams. Love will reign supreme and no evil spirit will be able to rob men of it. D. L. Moody recognized the connection of love and beauty in heaven. He wrote, "Heaven is the only place where the conditions of love can be fulfilled." Then he quotes the poet-
Beyond these chilling winds and gloomy skies;
Beyond death's cloudy portal,
There is a land where beauty never dies-
Where love becomes immortal.
Heaven began in the beauty of God's love. John 3:16 begins with God's love, and ends with God's heaven--everlasting life. In between is the gift that links us to both His love and His heaven--God's Son. He is the source of all that is beautiful in both time and eternity. Just looking at the beauty of this fallen and this sin stained world, is enough to make us marvel at what the beauty of heaven must be. Someone looking up at the stars said, "If the suburbs are so beautiful, how beautiful the city of heaven must be. All of our enjoyment of the beauty of this world is a mere faction of the creative work of God. Much is never seen by anyone.
Full many a gem of purest ray serene
The dark, unfathomed caves of ocean bear;
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen
And waste it's fragrance on the desert air.
Since we know this to be true, we know by God's own handiwork that He is a lover of beauty. This means, even if the Bible had nothing in it about heaven, we would still know that James Montgomery spoke true theology when he wrote--
If God hath made this world so fair,
Where sin and death abound,
How beautiful, beyond compare
Will paradise be found!
The Bible tells us much about the beauty of heaven. John was caught up to see it for himself, and he tells us much of what he saw. First of all, he compares the holy city to a bride in verse 9. Back in verse 2 he had stressed the beauty of the bride by saying she was adorned for her husband. The bride adorned is the universal symbol of beauty. She represents not only the beauty of love, but the beauty of the physical. Her gorgeous gown and magnificent jewelry set her apart as the object of adoration.
All commentators agree that the bride represents the church in it's ideal state. This being the case, the beauty of this heavenly bride is relevant to all believers. They will be a part of the beauty of heaven just as the lost will be a part of the ugliness of hell. The eternal destiny of all men is either beauty or ugliness. It is safe to say that every Christian will be eternally beautiful. The Bride of Christ will be without spot or wrinkle. No Christian will bear any defect of any kind. Paul will not longer have his thorn in the flesh, and every physical problem will cease to exist, when we receive our resurrected bodies. Joni stresses her hope of being rid of her wheel chair and dancing with the angels. There is no reason to doubt that her hope will be fulfilled.
Imagine what this hope must have meant to the first readers of the book of Revelation. Christians were of the poor class. Many were slaves, whose bodies revealed the lack of adequate food and care. The hard life of millions of Christians left them scarred and maimed. Like Lazarus at the gate of the rich man, the only medical care they had was that of the dogs, who came and licked their sores. What a glorious hope heaven was to them. Even with all our progress in medical care, we still experience enough of the problems of the flesh to appreciate John Mason Neal's joyful poem of heavenly expectation--
O how glorious and resplendent,
Fragile body, shalt thou be,
When endued with heavenly beauty,
Full of health and strong and free,
Full of vigor, full of pleasure,
Thou shall last eternally.
No one in the Old Testament was allowed into the presence of God who had any bodily defect. No sacrifice was acceptable that had even the slightest blemish. All of this was to stress that God is a God of beauty and perfection. Nothing short of perfect beauty can please Him. This being the case, all who love His Son are assured of being perfectly beautiful forever. If Christ is our Savior, we will be a part of this lovely bride adorned for her heavenly husband. We may not always appreciate our photograph now, but we shall all be satisfied when we awake in His likeness. Meanwhile, with all of our defects, we can still let the beauty of Jesus be seen in us, if we heed the wisdom of Paul and focus our minds on what is true, noble, and lovely. Christian people should have the highest standards in every realm of life. Quality and beauty should characterize all that they appreciate. Margerie Holmes writes,
Lord, let me take time for beauty.
Time for a jug of flowers on the table, or a plant if flowers
arn't in bloom. Time for a dap of lipstick or a fresh blouse
before the family comes home. Don't let me settle for the
dingy, the shabby, the ugly--either with myself or with my
house, just because I'm too lazy to make the effort.
Give me the energy and the will to provide a bit of beauty.
You've made the world so beautiful, Lord, let me take time
to see it. Even as I'm rushing to the market or driving children
to their destinations, let me be aware of it: The glory of hills
and woods and shining water. The colors of traffic lights and
yellow buses, of fruit stands and lumberyards, of girls wearing
bright scarves that dance in the breeze.
She goes on to describe the beauty in her own back yard, the beauty of her children, the beauty they see in nature, and the beauty everywhere that we tend to ignore. She closes with this prayer--
Dear God, to live at all is such a miracle--whether as bug
or bird or creature of any kind. To come into existence upon
this planet and be able to witness it's beauty is such a
privilege, especially for human beings.
Help us to cherish and be a part of that beauty.
Let me take time for beauty, God.
What you focus upon, is what you become, and this is preparation for being a part of the beautiful bride of heaven. All the beauty of nature, family, marriage, and all of life that we can experience in time is a taste of heaven. We are not to wait until heaven, but we are to start living a life of beauty in all areas now.
The next thing we want to notice is that the environment of heaven is beautiful. The beautiful people will have a beautiful place in which to dwell. In verse 11 John says the holy city has the very glory of God. It radiates with the brightness of beautiful jewels--like Jasper, as clear as crystal. In verse 18 we see that the whole city was pure gold, and verse 19 says the walls were adorned with every jewel, and verse 21 says the gates were of solid pearl. Whatever else this description may mean, all agree that it means the dwelling place of the Bride of Christ--the Church--will be a place of unmatchable beauty. All the splendor of the royal courts of Babylon, Egypt, and Rome cannot match the magnificent marvels that will surround the saints in heaven.
Again, can you imagine what this meant to the poor and persecuted Christians of the first centuries? They lived in poverty and were often oppressed by the wealthy. The only time they ever saw the glory of gold and precious stones in when they were brought before royalty to be condemned. The message to them, from Jesus, was to be faithful even unto death, and they would receive the crown of life. This crown of life involved a quality of life the was far superior to that of Caesar himself.
Their is no way to escape the physical appeal of heaven. Christians long to have nice things, and to live on the level of the highest quality. They do all they can to beautify their environment. They carpet their floors, put art on their walls, and decorate with things of beauty. They enjoy the plush motel as much as anyone. The desire for beauty is natural and is a part of the image of God in us. It can easily be perverted and become idolatry, but in itself, it is a good thing to love beauty. God dwells in glory and splendor. Jesus said he was going to prepare a place in the Father's house for the redeemed. Can you imagine the work of this divine architect being less plush than that of the best on earth? Can you imagine some of the saints in heaven saying, "This is nice, but I stayed in a luxury motel in Florida that was even nicer." What Jesus has gone to prepare will be beyond comparison with the best of time.
Billy Graham, in a sermon on heaven said, "Very few people have their homes as beautiful as they would like to have them, but everyone in heaven will find it beautiful beyond every imagination. Heaven could not help but be so, because God is a God of beauty." Christians were the underdogs, who first read this book, and many have been that all through the ages, but their destiny is to be eternal dignity and wealth. Christians will be rich beyond measure, with none of the vices that go with riches in this life.
This truth about heaven is to have practical effects in time. We are not to grieve as those who have no hope, when we lose the treasures of time. We are to lay up treasure in heaven that can never be lost. D. L. Moody tells of how John Newton, author of Amazing Grace, once called on a family that lost all in a fire. He said to the mother, "I have you joy madam." She was surprised, and said, "What? Joy that all my property is consumed?" He replied, "O no, but joy that you have so much that fire cannot touch." He was urging her not to forget he tremendous treasure in heaven just because she lost her trivial treasure in time. We all tend to do this because of our thoughtlessness about the riches of heaven.
The great saints of the Bible kept their eyes on the things above. Hebrews chapter 11 tells us that faith in God's ultimate reward is what made the great men of God great. Abraham was rich, and could have built a city, but he dwelt in tents and was satisfied. Heb.11:10 says, "For he looked forward to the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God." Moses has the chance to dwell in the royal palace of Egypt, and to enjoy the riches of royalty, but he gave it up to lead the slaves to freedom. Heb.11:26 says, "He considered abuse suffered for the Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he looked to the reward." We so often try to be more spiritual than the Bible. We fail to appeal to man's God-given nature which desires riches and reward. It is true, this can be a dangerous appeal to what is perverted, but you can't escape the fact that it can also be an honest appeal to what is God-like in man. Heaven appeals to our desire for the very best.
Jesus promised his disciples that they would receive ten times whatever they gave up to follow and serve him. Heaven is pictured as so beautiful, to encourage God's people to be willing to make sacrifices for Christ, so as to lay up treasure in the New Jerusalem. We only deceive ourselves if we pretend we have no desire to be rich, and to dwell in great splendor. God is the author of our nature, and the expert on psychology, and he appeals to our love of beauty and wealth. If our hearts have no desire for God's best, then their is something wrong with our hearts, and we will not be looking for the coming of our Lord to take us to the mansion he has prepared.
The good, the true, and the beautiful are three goals man has always sought. All three will be achieved and fulfilled completely in the Holy City. H.C. Stanton said, "Christ loves beauty, otherwise He would not be forever creating it." If we lack a love for beauty, their is something wrong with our love for the author of all beauty. Love and beauty go together, and they will for all eternity.
An old English story tells of how the Lord of Burleigh found and won the heart of a simple village maiden. She had no idea of his position and wealth. After the wedding she expected to be taken to his cottage. They passed one beautiful dwelling after another until--
......a gateway she discerns
with armorial bearings stately,
And beneath the gate she turns,
Sees a mansion more majestic
Than all those she saw before;
Many a gallant gay domestic
Bows before him at the door.
And they speak in gentle murmur,
When they answer to his call,
While he treads with footstep firmer,
Leading on from hall to hall.
And while now she wonders blindly,
Nor the meaning can divine,
Proudly turns he round and kindly
"All of this is mine and thine."
She was suddenly, by marriage, Lady of Burleigh, a women of great dignity and wealth. So it will be for all who are a part of the Bride of the Lamb. Every dream, and every fantasy of having all the resources possible for happiness, will suddenly be a reality in the mansion Jesus has gone to prepare. This means, the ugliest thing a person can do is to refuse to receive Jesus as Savior, and the most beautiful thing a person can do is to receive him as Savior. This is the only way to be a part of that Bride who will enjoy unmatched glory forever, in the beauty of heaven.