Dr. S. Lewis Johnson gives exposition on eternal life for the believer in Christ.
[Message] This is the last in our series of studies on Basic Bible Doctrine, and I think it’s natural that we come to the final subject of, “The Eternal State.” And if we have time, we’ll mention a few facts concerning eternal punishment. When we think about eschatology, for this is really the climax eschatology, we think of both personal eschatology and general eschatology, personal eschatology having to do with the future of the individual, and general eschatology having to do with the future of entities as a whole, for example, the future of the church or the future of Israel.
So far as individuals are concerned, we look into the future, and we see certain things as our own physical death. The Bible speaks of death in three ways. It speaks of spiritual death, of physical death and of eternal death. And so far as life after death is concerned, when we think about that great subject, both reason, as seen in history, and intuition and logic, and in thoughts concerning moral order, and revelation testify to life after death.
In the final analysis, for most of us in this auditorium, of course, we are interested in what the Bible says, and so the Bible does say that there is life after death. All the dead, all who die are conscious in their life after death state. They are either believing, or they are unbelieving, as is mentioned in the story of the rich man and Lazarus. There is life after death, and there is conscious life after death, and there is conscious life both for the believing and for the unbelieving, both for Lazarus and for the rich man who was one of the unbelieving dead.
The Apostle Paul speaks of three states of men. He speaks of men as being clothed. And he looks at us as being clothed. We are clothed in a physical body. We are spirits. We are living souls, but we have a physical body. The apostle speaks of being unclothed. And by that he refers to the fact that when we die our body is placed in the grave, and our spirits go to be with the Lord. We do not have a body when we are in the presence of the Lord until the resurrection. And then Paul refers to that event as a clothing upon, so that we are given a resurrection body of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, or at our resurrection, which occurs at the Second Advent of the Lord Jesus Christ.
When we pass from this life into the life that is to come, we face a judgment. Believers face the judgment seat of Jesus Christ. We have already been judged as sinners at the cross of Christ, and our sins have been taken by the Lord Jesus. But nevertheless, in the future we shall be judged as servants at the judgment seat of Jesus Christ. And our life shall be passed in review by the Lord before us, and we shall receive rewards for those things that have been done in his will, and those things that have not been in his will shall be destroyed or burned up. We might also add that as sons of God in this life, we are constantly being judged too, and that pertains to our discipline and our instruction as sons of God at the present time.
For the believing dead, there are events that follow that. There is the Second Advent of the Lord Jesus Christ, and there is the kingdom in which we participate. For the unbelieving there is the Great White Throne Judgment. Our last study in Revelation chapter 20 verse 11 through verse 15 had to do with that final event for the unbelieving. But what of the ultimate future of the believers? Well that brings us to the subject of Eternal State. Isn’t it interesting that men are quite willing to accept the idea of an eternal state, or a heaven, but they often rebel against the idea of eternal punishment?
One of the great students of the Doctrine of Sin, Muller said, “No one is surer of applause than the man who discovers some new method of evading justice under the pretext of humanity.” It’s not unnatural at all for people to think there is to be a heaven, but the idea of a hell is rejected. What does the Bible say about the eternal state so far as believers are concerned? Well there are snatches of things here and snatches of things there, but if we are looking for one passage that tells us more than anything else about the eternal state, we would just naturally turn, I think, to the Book of Revelation and chapters 21 and 22. The apostle, in the preceding chapter, as we saw in our last study, has looked at the doom of the damned in hell. And he has spoken about the second death and the lake of fire. He’s not said anything about the eternity of that death, but nevertheless, he has said, “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” But now he turns to discuss the bliss of the blessed in the new heavens and in the new earth. It is probably true to say that most of the things that we know about heaven, we know about heaven from this particular passage.
When I was in Scotland many years ago, twenty years ago to be exact, I was in a Bible conference, and it was in Glasgow, Scotland in what they call the half yearlies. Twice a year a number of the churches in Scotland come together for a Bible conference, and that year they had ask me to be one of the speakers. I was listening to Mr. Arnold Pickering, of Stockport in Scotland, and he made the comment which I thought was pretty good. I wrote it down. He said, “Our hymn books tell us more about heaven than our Bibles.” And I think he was right because the Bible really doesn’t tell us a whole lot about heaven. Our hymn books and the imagination of the hymn writers do supposedly tell us a great deal about heaven, but strictly speaking, the Bible does not give us a great deal about heaven. That’s why you find very few books written about heaven because when a man sits down to write a book about heaven, he soon discovers that the Bible doesn’t really have a whole lot to say about heaven.
Now I don’t want you to get the wrong impression. The Bible mentions heaven many, many times. There is no question about its existence, about its general character. But I’m speaking about the details, and the details are largely kept from us, and no doubt simply, because we’re not prepared to understand them. We’re not prepared because we don’t have the faculties with which to understand heaven and understand the brightness of the glory that shall be ours there. The apostle, in Romans chapter 8 when he says that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us, does not go on to tell us a whole lot about the glory. He just says it’s so great that one cannot compare our sufferings with the blessings that we shall enjoy.
But if we’re looking for one passage, here it is. And we want to spend our few moments in reading through Revelation chapter 21 verse 1 through chapter 22 and verse 5 and making a few comments about The New Heavens and The New Earth, then The New Jerusalem, and finally, what I’m calling, just for the sake of a heading, The New Paradise. So, let’s begin reading at verse 1 through verse 8, and I’ll read those eight verses and come back and make just a few comments on that section. The apostle writes, and this is one of his final visions, “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 groom adorned for his bride.” That’s the ERA translation of that particular text, [Laughter] I thought I would put it in for you, [Laughter] that demonic idea came to me this afternoon [Laughter] as I was just reading through this passage reflecting upon it, so we’ll go back and read it like the Holy Spirit wrote it. I had been reading Christianity Today, which this issue is devoted to women, and so they were on my mind. Sometimes they are. [Laughter] John writes,
“Prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”
John’s vision is a vision of the new heavens and the new earth and the dream of a new, you’ll notice he does not say another heaven, but the dream of a new, or a fresh, heaven and a fresh earth witnesses to several things that are universal. One is man’s immortal longings. It’s not surprising that Shakespeare should write about them. And it’s not surprising that we should find someone thinking about a new or a fresh heaven and a new earth because this is one of the dreams of man. And it witnesses to that. It witnesses also to man’s inherent sense of sin. He reflects upon this creation in which we live, and he realizes, as he reflects upon it, that this cannot be the final end of the work of God in creating. It also is a testimony to man’s faith in God. And as John was given this vision, no doubt, the faith that he had in God was confirmed as this beautiful vision unfolded of a fresh heaven and a fresh earth.
Eric Sauder, the German commentator, has said, “The other side becomes this side, and eternity transfigures time.” The new heavens and the new earth, it’s a magnificent picture. John sees the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. So, he thinks of the new Jerusalem as a city beautifully decked out in finest garment waiting for her husband, which is, of course, the new creation made possible by the virtue of the death and burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now when that is unfolded, John says he, “Heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men.” I think this is really the climax of the whole of the biblical story. If you go back in the Bible and read of man’s creation and then of man’s fall in Genesis chapter 3, everything in the Bible from that 3rd chapter on leads up to this great climax of, “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 I know this, too, that if you will think of the covenants of the Old Testament, particularly the unconditional covenants, the Abrahamic covenant, the Davidic covenant, the new covenant, you will find in each one of these covenants there is this note of God being the God of a certain people and the people being the people of this triune God. In other words, all of the story of the Bible is designed to lead up to this relationship that exists between the triune God and his people. “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.” In other words, to put it in theological terms, the unconditional covenants have all been fulfilled when this particular time is reached in the program of God.
Now, there is something else in verse 3 that I think is extremely interesting. You know when you begin the New Testament, the 1st chapter of the Gospel of Matthew begins with the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, and it is said there that the Messiah is to be born, according to the prophesy of Isaiah, from a virgin. “And his name shall be called Immanuel.” Now if you reflect upon that a moment, you’ll remember, as you go through in your mind the New Testament, that never is Jesus Christ ever called Immanuel, and yet that prophesy, which is so prominent right at the beginning of the New Testament that we have in English (that is, the arrangement of the books, incidentally, is something arranged by editors long after the apostles time, of course, but arranged very well, in my opinion, it’s proper that Matthew should be the first of the Gospels) but at any rate, that great prophesy says, “His name shall be called Immanuel,” God with us, but we never read of our Lord being called Immanuel. It’s true in the Gospel of Matthew. We come close to that when, in the last chapter, the Lord Jesus said, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age.” And he’s prefaced that by the statement, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” So the combination of, “All power being given unto me in heaven and in earth,” suggestive of his deity, with, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age,” does suggest God with us. But nevertheless, he’s not called Immanuel.
Now it’s striking that in the original text of some of the manuscripts of the Book of Revelation, this particular statement near the end of verse 3, “And God himself shall be with them,” may, in these manuscripts, be something of a title. And in these manuscripts, one of which is probably the finest manuscript of the Book of Revelation, manuscript Alexandrinus, in that manuscript it is possible to render that text this way, “And God with them, himself shall be there God.” Let me read it that way, “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 with them himself shall be with them and be their God.” Or to put it in another way, to bring out the connection with Matthew chapter 1, “And Immanuel himself shall be with them and be their God.” So we may have here, then, a reference really to the Lord Jesus Christ as Immanuel reserved for this climatic time in the Book of Revelation when the people of God associated with him become one great people of God with him their God and they his people.
Well it’s a magnificent statement, and we go on to read, “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 then John hears three utterances, “And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new.” That’s utterance number one. “And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.” That’s utterance number two. That is they are things that we can count upon. And finally, he said, “It is done.” That reminds us of the statement made on the cross when Jesus said, “It is finished.” Well, that was a reference to the work of redemption. This is a reference to the whole program of God. It has come to be. We reach the climax of the program as it has touched this finite existence, and then the one speaking says, “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.” These are great terms of deity. “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.”
Now the preceding here in verse 6, “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end,” might have suggested to us that we are nothing but flies on the window pane so far as this great God is concerned. He is the Alpha and Omega. He’s the beginning and the end. But nevertheless, this great sovereign God is interested in us. As Mr. Spurgeon liked to say, “Divine sovereignty is not opposed to the most generous promises of the gospel.” And there is no more generous promise of the water of life freely, free of charge. It is something that is given by grace, and those preceding words, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end,” guarantee that the one that receives life from him truly receives life because he is the sovereign God. So his deity is the support, the foundation of this great promise of life. But notice it is freely, it’s not for anything that we do. This reminds us, does it not, of Romans chapter 3 and verse 24, “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus?” Our salvation is salvation that is free. It is not accomplished by any work on our part.
Well, now after this new vision of the new heavens and the new earth, John is given a further vision, and this time it’s a vision of a city. This might seem surprising because who was the one who built the first city? Well Cain was the one who built the first city. One might think from that that cities are not really so good because cities, and particularly one built by Cain, suggest independence of God. Man innately desires to have a common life, which is good, but his cities generally are failures because God is forgotten. But the fact that there is to be a new Jerusalem testifies to the fact that inherently the idea of a city is all right. But characteristic of most of our cities is failure and sin. The great German chancellor Bismarck declared on one occasion, “The great cities are great soars upon the body politic.” If that’s so, the body politic is in bad shape because everybody is leaving the country to go into the cities. And so now what we have is primarily cities, and certainly they are sores on the body politic.
Now beginning at verse 9, the new Jerusalem is described, and I’m going to read through verse 21, and I want you to notice, as I read, the word glory because that’s what we’ll say a little bit about in a moment.
“And there came unto me one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come here, I will show thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife. And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal; And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written on the gates, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” (That’s the only foundation of the city, the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, he really, of course, is the only foundation of the city.) “And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates of it, and the wall. And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal.”
That is, it is fifteen hundred miles long, fifteen hundred miles wide, fifteen hundred miles high, or three billion, three hundred and seventy-five million cubic miles in size. What that means, I don’t know. That means that Hunt can get all of his silver in it, for one thing [Laughter] But what it probably is intended to mean is that this is a giant city, and in the light of the fact that at the end of the age the world shall come to the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, it’s a large city with a large number of people that are going to be in it. Calvinists don’t believe that a new Jerusalem is to be peopled by just a few people. The Bible makes it very plain that when all of the redeemed are brought into the city, well, we know that those that come out of the great tribulation alone are so great a multitude that no man can number them. God’s program encompasses that many people.
Now John says further, “And he measured the wall of it, an hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel.” Two hundred and fifty feet high, the wall is. That doesn’t mean that Arminians can’t get in. [Laughter] It’s not done for that reason because the Arminians who believe in Jesus Christ will be in there too. “And the building of the wall of it was of jasper:” That’s diamond probably. “And the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass.” I’d like for you to notice that expression, “was pure gold, like clear glass.” Now that tells us something rather important about it. I’ll say something about it in just a moment.
“And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald; The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolyte; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls: every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.”
Now let’s stop right there for just a moment. That’s the description of the new Jerusalem. This metropolis of the new creation, the new heavens and the new earth is a literal city. John is not suggesting to us by these beautiful figures and the beautiful use of the jewels and the precious stones that the new Jerusalem is not a literal city. But he is describing it in such a way that it is clear that language is unable to describe it properly. For example, he uses the term glory with reference to it. He says in verse 11, “Having the glory of God.” He says in verse 23, “For the glory of God did lighten it.” That gives us a clue, I think, to the nature of this city. It is a literal city, but it is a glorified city. So, therefore, we are to understand that this is described symbolically.
Notice verse 11 again. It says, “Having the glory of God,” then notice verse 18, “And the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass.” Now do you know of any gold that is like clear glass? No you don’t because gold is not like clear glass. So it is clear from this that while he is describing it in terms of precious stones, he’s describing it in such a way as to let you know that it is not like the gold that we know down here. In verse 21 he repeats. He says, “The street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.” So what he is saying is this city is precious. It is valuable. It is something that is to be looked at like one giant jewel, but it is different from anything that we know. It is a glorified city. It is a magnificent city, and that is all he can say because we are unable to take in everything that undoubtedly this city is like. So what he is saying then, it seems to me, is he is giving us a symbolical picture of the city. It’s a magnificent, glorious, majestic, precious city. It’s like jewels. But it’s beyond our greatest imagination. We have no idea of what it is really like.
Now I want you to notice for a moment this use of the term glory because I think this will help us to understand what John maybe referring to. Some of the earliest fathers, Irenaeus, for example, who lived in the 2nd Century, made reference to this in his exposition of this part of the Divine Revelation. He said that the city was going to be like a glorified city. And he likened it to the glorification that we experience in our body. For example, now remember that when man sinned in the Garden of Eden, as a result of his sin, God pronounced a curse upon the creation so that Adam after he sinned lived in a cursed creation. Now Adam soon came to the possession of spiritual life. He was given new life, but the creation of which he was a part was a cursed creation. It was still under the curse.
Now that is true of us today. We live in a creation that is under the curse, but our spirits have been redeemed. We look forward to the event of the resurrection when the Lord Jesus comes, and we’re caught up to meet him in the air. We’re going to be given a resurrection body. So that the process that we go through is: we are fallen individuals, and then we are redeemed in our spirit, and then, ultimately, at the resurrection, we are redeemed completely, receiving a body.
Now the creation is always one step behind us because the creation is under the curse now, but we have been redeemed. Our spirits are redeemed. So when the Lord Jesus Christ comes and we’re caught up and given glorified bodies, the creation is released from the curse of the creation. The prophets of the Old Testament describe this. It’s the millennial age. It’s not a glorified creation yet, but it is a redeemed creation. And so the thorns and thistles no longer are the products of the plants and other things testify to the beauty of the millennial age. But what John seems to be saying is that at the conclusion of the millennial age, and then the creation itself shall enter into its glorification, just as our body is continuous with our resurrection body that we received. It is the same body, though so different. It could be described as the difference between a seed and a plant, as Paul does in 1 Corinthians 15. So the creation in the millennial age will be so different that it could be described similarly. And even though the millennial age, we see a creation released from the bondage of the curse pronounced upon it because of man’s sin, in the new heaven and the new earth, we shall see the creation enter into its resurrection, and it is so glorious that we cannot even possibly understand what it is like. And that’s why Paul describes it in symbolical fashion.
I’m sure that when we get to heaven we’ll have much the same attitude that a young girl had once who had been born blind. A noted surgeon was secured, and this noted surgeon, after the girl had lived for some length of time, preformed an operation on her eyes, and it was successful. And as the entrancing glories of the earth rolled into her vision she is said to have run into her mother’s arms and cried out, “O Mama, why didn’t you tell me that it was so beautiful!” And the mother, wiping away the tears of joy from her face, said, “Why, my precious child, I tried to tell you, but I couldn’t do it.” and so I think it will be alright with John the apostle when you reach heaven and you enter into the new heavens and into the new earth and into the new Jerusalem if you run up to John and say, “Why didn’t you tell us it was so beautiful?” Well, he’ll say the same thing, “I tried my best to tell you when I wrote the 21st and 22nd chapters of the Book of Revelation but after I got my vision, how could I really tell you what it was like?” Probably he would say, “I didn’t even know myself what it was like.”
So it’s going to be a glorious new creation. Now in the last verses of the section, beginning with verse 22 and going through the 5th verse of the 22nd chapter, John describes life in this great city of the new Jerusalem in or on the new heavens and the new earth. Listen to what he says, beginning at verse 22 of chapter 21, “And I saw no temple in it: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.” In other words, worship is direct, the Lord God and the Lamb, and there is no need for a system of priests because all are priests. We are a kingdom of priests. In fact, all are Enochs, and we walk with God.
“And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the lamp of it. And the nations of them who are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there.” (That is repeated twice, no night there.) “And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it. And there shall in no way enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
It’s almost impossible to expound this magnificent section. What we have is the perfection of all worthwhile things here. There’s the perfection of worship. There is the perfection of knowledge and the perfection of almost everything. So, who could possibly expound that? We go on to read that we shall see him,
“And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve kinds of fruits, and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”
I would assume that this is something like a symbolic representation of the preservation of life by constant dependence upon the Lord God though out the ages of eternity. We are always created beings, always dependent upon God for life. He’s the only self existent being in this universe. “And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: And they shall see his face;” I think that must mean that we shall truly look into the face of the Lord Jesus Christ. And I don’t think that he is simply saying you shall look into his face. That is, you will see him. But I think the expression is undoubtedly intended to mean that we shall look into his face and we shall understand some of the great things about him. That is we shall see him and understand something about his heart. We shall see his face and understand something of what he has undergone in his redeeming work for us. So to see him has more significance than simply to look upon his face as we look upon a photograph. It means to look upon him and understand something about him.
“No night there,” suggests that there is no darkness there and darkness suggests ignorance. And so characteristic of the new heavens and the new earth is the knowledge of God. I believe that in five minutes in heaven, we shall know more about theology than we have managed to learn in all of our years here upon the earth.
Now that’s very humbling for a teacher, but nevertheless, I think that that is true. In fact, when you think of some of the great masters of theology, there was John Owen, maybe the greatest English theologian who ever lived. And there is John Calvin, perhaps the greatest Protestant theologian who ever lived. And Augustine, surely the greatest Roman Catholic theologian who ever lived who, as someone has said, came to the very door of the great secret of God, but the simplest little child who has been in heaven for an hour will know more about theology than Owen, Calvin and Augustine did when they were here upon this earth. We shall see his face. And not only that, we shall see his face, and we shall serve him.
Now I think that’s one of the greatest things that John says here, because life here, what is life here like? Well sometimes we’re very near the throne. We have these precious moments in which we, often upon our knees, enjoy a very close relationship with the Lord. It’s possible even for us to experience the presence of God in an unusual way in the preaching of the word, or the teaching of the word, or in the witnessing or in the other forms of Christian service. But then it seems that so often a few moments later or a few days later or a week or two later, we are filled with indifference to the things of the Lord God. Sometimes we’re bright like the angels, and then, we’re dull as clods. Sometimes we’re hot with love for Christ, and then at other times, we don’t seem to have anything but coldness in our heart. And one of the greatest things about heaven, to me, is that when we get there, there will be constancy in our relationship that is not like our relationship down here. Verse 5, “And there shall be no night there; and they need no lamp, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign forever and ever.”
I was reading a story this afternoon about Mr. Moody, and in one of his books, he, speaking of the glory of God and what it means to die, was talking with a friend of his to whom he had said, “The righteous have no fear in their death.” And this man said, “How can you talk like that? I’ve seen many people die, and there is no difference between the death of the saint and the sinner. They all die alike.” And Mr. Moody said he didn’t have anything to say to this person, but not too long after that the war of 1861 broke out, and it was part of his work to work among the wounded and the dying in the civil war. And he saw plenty of deaths.
And he said, “Now I know there is a difference between the latter end of the righteous and the latter end of the sinners.” He said, “I’ve seen men cursing and calling upon God to damn their souls as they die.” He said, “I’ve seen other men cold and sullen as they were facing eternity, not caring whatever became of their soul. And still others in conscious agonies of the lost who felt that their days on earth were ended and they were not saved.” He said, “He had heard screams of despair from those who were without hope.” And he had also witnessed scenes of death of saved people, and he said, “There is a great difference.”
And then he went on to tell the story of one day coming down the Tennessee River after the battle of Pittsburg landing, and there were about four hundred and fifty wounded on the boat that was coming down the river, and he was seeking to minister to them, and they were in various stages of dying. He went to the Dr. of the boat who was in charge, who was, he said, a godly man, and he said, “The great cry of these men is for water. Let’s go and give them water, and as we pour into their parched lips earthly water, let’s seek to speak to them of the water of life.” He said, “The Dr. said alright.” So he went off, and he commenced doing that. He would give the men some water, and he would talk to them about their soul. And he said he looked as he was passing by among the cots and he saw one young man, and as he described it, he said, “I think he was the finest young man I have ever seen, calm, noble look upon his face, was so grand. He was unconscious.” So Moody ran to the Dr. He said, “Can nothing be done to arouse this young man?” The Dr. said, “Well, we’re had to amputate one of his legs, and he’s lost so much blood that it’s certain that he is going to die.” He said, “It’s possible if you gave him some stimulant, he might come to.”
He said he went over and he put some water on his lips, and he turned to the man next to him and he said, “Do you know this man?” He said, “Know him, yes, I certainly do know him.” He said, “We grew up in the same village, and we were the closest of friends. We joined the army together.” “Does he have any parents?” “Well, his father died a long time since. His mother’s still living. He’s her only son.” “Any sisters?” “Yes he has one.” “Is his mother a good woman?” “Yes, she’s a real Christian and so is his sister.” He said, “I paused, I trembled to ask the next question, I was so afraid he might be dying without hope. And his dear mother and sister had been praying for him.” At last I said, “Can you tell me if he’s a Christian?” “A Christian? Why, bless you sir, he was the best man in the regiment. He was the one who was praying, and he put us all to shame. He was so good.” He said he was thankful to hear that, and he hoped before he died he would recover consciousness sufficiently to send a message to his mother and sister.
He said his comrade told him his name and he said, “I put my mouth down near his ear and I said, Henry do you know where you are?” He said after a bit he opened his eyes and looked about him and said, “Yes I know now I’m going home to my mother.” I said, “I’m afraid you will never see her in this world, you are dying.” The young man looked up in my face and the recollection of the battle and of his wounds came back to him. “Have you any message that I can send home to your mother?” Mr. Moody asked. At the word home he looked up again and said, “Tell my mother that I died trusting in the Lord that I’m going home.” He was then sinking fast Mr. Moody said, but repeated feebly, “Tell my mother, tell my sister, I died trusting in the Lord, I’m going home. Tell them to follow me, to come home.”
There is a difference between the death of the righteous and the death of the wicked. Even Balaam, the unsaved prophet, spoke about the fact that he wished that his death might be the death of the righteous and that his last end might be like theirs. We surely have a great future, the eternal state, the resurrection, the new heavens, the new earth. Well it’s really going home, that’s what it is, going home for Christians. That’s our place, the new Jerusalem.
If you’re here tonight and you have never believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, that’s what you’re missing. May God help you to realize your need, and that Christ has offered the atoning sacrifice by which you may have life. May you come and receive the gift freely of the water of life. Let’s bow in prayer.
[Prayer] Father, we are so grateful to Thee for these wonderful sections of holy Scripture, surely beyond us, but nevertheless, which create within us great hope and anticipation as we look to the future…