Home At Last!
by J.C. RyleThere shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life. —Rev. 21:27
Brethren, there can be no question about the place described in our text: it is heaven itself, that holy city, the new Jerusalem, which is yet to be revealed.
I begin this my last Sunday among you by speaking of heaven. Before I depart and leave you in the wilderness of this world, I would dwell a little on that Canaan God has promised to them that love Him; there it is the last and best wish of my heart you may all go; there it is my consolation to believe I shall at all events meet some of you again.
Brethren, you all hope to go to heaven yourselves. There is not one of you but wishes to be in happiness after death. But on what are your hopes founded? Heaven is a prepared place; they that shall dwell there are all of one character. The entrance into it is only by one door. Brethren, remember that.
And then, too, I read of two sorts of hope: a good hope and a bad hope; a true hope and a false hope; a lively hope and a dead hope; the hope of the righteous and the hope of the wicked; of the believer and of the hypocrite. I read of some who have hope through grace, a hope that maketh not ashamed, and of others who have no hope and are without God in the world. Brethren, remember that.
Surely it were wise and prudent and safe to find out what the Bible tells you on the subject, to discover whether your confidence is indeed well founded; and to this end I call your attention to the doctrine of my text.
The Lord grant you may consider well your own fitness for heaven. There must be a certain meetness for that blessed place in our minds and characters. It is senseless, vain, and absurd to suppose that all shall go there, whatever their lives have been. May God the Holy Ghost incline you to examine yourselves faithfully while you have time, before that great day cometh when the unconverted shall be past all hope and the saints past all fear.
The Place Itself
There is such a place as heaven. No truth is more certain in the whole of Scripture than this: “There remaineth … a rest to the people of God” (Heb. 4:9). This earth is not our rest; it cannot be; there breathes not man or woman who ever found it so.
Go, build your happiness on earth, if you are so disposed; choose everything you can fancy would make life enjoyable. Take money, house, and lands; take learning, health, and beauty; take honor, rank, obedience, troops of friends; take everything your mind can picture to itself or your eye desire. Take all, and yet I dare to tell you even then you would not find rest. I know well that a few short years, and your heart’s confession would be, it is all hollow, empty, and unsatisfying; it is all weariness and disappointment; it is all vanity and vexation of spirit. I know well you would feel within a hungering and famine, a leanness and barrenness of soul; and ready indeed would you be to bear your testimony to the mighty truth: This earth is not our rest.
Oh, brethren, how faithful is that saying, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (1 Cor. 15:19). This life, so full of trouble and sorrow and care, of anxiety and labor and toil; this life of losses and bereavements, of partings and separations, of mourning and woe, of sickness and pain; this life of which even Elijah got so tired that he requested he might die; truly I should be crushed to the very earth with misery, if I felt this life were all. If I thought there was nothing for me beyond the dark, cold, silent, lonely grave, I should indeed say it would be better never to have been born.
Thanks be to God – this life is not all! I know and am persuaded there is a glorious rest beyond the tomb; this earth is only the training-school for eternity, these graves are but the stepping-stone and half-way house to heaven. I feel assured this my poor body shall rise again; this corruptible shall yet put on incorruption, and this mortal immortality, and be with Christ forever. Yes, heaven is truth and no lie. I will not doubt it. I am not more certain of my own existence than I am of this: There does remain a rest for the people of God.
And, brethren, what sort of a place shall heaven be? Before we pass on and consider its inhabitants, let us just pause an instant and think on this. What sort of a place shall heaven be? Heaven shall be a place of perfect rest and peace. They who dwell there have no more conflict with the world, the flesh, and the devil; their warfare is accomplished, and their fight is fought; at length they may lay aside the armor of God; at last they may say to the sword of the Spirit, “rest and be still.”
They watch no longer, for they have no spiritual enemies to fear; they fast and mortify the flesh no longer, for they have no vile earthy body to keep under; they pray no more, for they have no evil to pray against. There the wicked must cease from troubling; there sin and temptation are forever shut out; the gates are better barred than those of Eden, and the devil shall enter in no more. Oh, Christian brethren, rouse ye and take comfort; surely this shall be indeed a blessed rest.
There faith shall be swallowed up in sight, and hope in certainty, and prayer in praise, and sorrow in joy. Now is the school-time, the season of the lesson and the rod; then will be the eternal holiday. Now we must endure hardness and press on, faint yet pursuing.
Then we shall sit down at ease for the Canaanite shall be expelled forever from the land. Now we are tossed upon a stormy sea, then we shall be safe in harbor. Now we have to plough and sow, then we shall reap the harvest; now we have the labor, but then the wages; now we have the battle, but then the victory and reward. Now we must needs bear the cross, but then we shall receive the crown. Now we are journeying through the wilderness, but then we shall be at home. Oh, Christian brethren, well may the Bible tell you, “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord” (Rev. 14:13). Surely you must feel that witness is true.
But again. Heaven shall be a place of perfect and unbroken happiness. Mark what your Bible tells you in the very chapter which contains my text, “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” (Rev. 21:4). Hear what the prophet Isaiah says:
He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the Lord hath spoken it. And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation. Isa. 25:8–9
Brethren, think of an eternal habitation in which there is no sorrow. Who is there here below that is not acquainted with sorrow? It came in with thorns and thistles at Adam’s fall; it is the bitter cup that all must drink; it is before us and behind us; it is on the right hand and the left; it is mingled with the very air we breathe. Our bodies are racked with pain, and we have sorrow; our worldly goods are taken from us, and we have sorrow; we are encompassed with difficulties and troubles, and we have sorrow; our friends forsake us and look coldly on us, and we have sorrow; we are separated from those we love, and we have sorrow; those on whom our hearts’ affections are set go down to the grave and leave us alone, and we have sorrow. And then, too, we find our own hearts frail and full of corruption, and that brings sorrow; we are persecuted and opposed for the Gospel’s sake, and that brings sorrow; we see those who are near and dear to us refusing to walk with God, and that brings sorrow. Oh, what a sorrowing, grieving world we live in!
Blessed be God! There shall be no sorrow in heaven. There shall not be one single tear shed within the courts above. There shall be no more disease and weakness and decay; the coffin, and the funeral, and the grave, and the dark-black mourning shall be things unknown. Our faces shall no more be pale and sad; no more shall we go out from the company of those we love and be parted asunder—that word, farewell, shall never be heard again. There shall be no anxious thought about tomorrow to mar and spoil our enjoyment, no sharp and cutting words to wound our souls; our wants will have come to a perpetual end and all around us shall be harmony and love.
Oh, Christian brethren, what is our light affliction when compared to such an eternity as this? Shame on us if we murmur and complain and turn back with such a heaven before our eyes! What can this vain and passing world give us better than this? This is the city of our God Himself, when He will dwell among us Himself. The glory of God shall lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. Truly we may say, as Mephibosheth did to David, “Yea, let [the world] take all, forasmuch as my lord the king is come again in peace unto his own house” (2 Sam. 19:30).
Such is the Bible heaven, there is none other; these sayings are faithful and true, not any of them shall fail. Surely, brethren, it is worth a little pain, a little laboring, a little toil, if only we may have the lowest place in the kingdom of God.
Who Shall Not Enter Heaven?
Let us now pass on and see that great thing which is revealed in the second part of our text. You have heard of heaven, but all shall not enter it. And who are the persons who shall not enter in?
Brethren, this is a sad and painful inquiry, and yet it is one that must be made. I can do no more than declare to you Scripture truth. It is not my fault if it is cutting and gives offense. I must deliver my Master’s message and diminish nothing. The line I have to draw is not mine, but God’s. The blame, if you will lay it, falls on the Bible, not on me. “There shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie” (Rev. 21:27). Verily these are solemn words; they ought to make us think.
“Nothing that defileth.” This touches the case of all who are defiled with sins of heart, and yet feel it not, and refuse to be made clean. These may be decent persons outwardly, but they are vile and polluted within. These are the worldly-minded. They live to this world only, and they have no thought of anything beyond it. The care of this world, the money, the politics of this world, the business of this world, the pleasures of this world, these things swallow up their whole attention—and as for St. James’ advice to keep ourselves unspotted from the world, they know not what it means.
These are the men who set their affections on earthly things. They each have their idol in the chamber of their imagination, and they worship and serve it more than God. These are the proud and self-righteous, the self-honoring and the self-conceited. They love the praise of men, they like the good opinion of this world, and as for the glorious Lord who made them, His honor, His glory, His house, His Word, His service—these are all things which in their judgment must go down, and take the second place. Such people know not what sorrow for sin means.They are strangers to spiritual anxiety. They are self-satisfied and content with their condition. And if you attempt to stir them up to zeal and repentance, it is more than probable they are offended.
Brethren, you know well there are such people. They are not uncommon; they may be honorable in the eyes of men, they may be wise and knowing in this generation, admirable men of business; they may be first and foremost in their respective callings, but still there is but one account of them; they bring no glory to their Maker; they are lovers of themselves more than of God, and therefore they are counted as defiled in His sight and nothing that is defiled shall enter heaven.
But again: “Nothing that worketh abomination.” This touches the case of all who practice those sins of life which God has pronounced abominable and take pleasure in them and countenance those who practice them. These are the men who work the works of the flesh, each as his heart inclines him. These are the adulterers, fornicators, and unclean livers; these are the drunkards, revelers, and gluttons; these are the blasphemers, swearers, and liars. These are the men who count it no shame to live in hatred, variance, wrath, strife, envyings, quarrelings and the like. They throw the reins on the neck of their lusts; they follow their passions wherever they may lead them. Their only object is to please themselves.
Brethren, you know well there are such people. The world may give smooth names to their conduct. The world may talk of them as light and affable, and loose and wild, but it will not do. They are all abominable in the sight of God and, except they be converted and born again, they shall in no wise enter heaven.
Once more: “Nothing that maketh a lie.” This touches the case of hypocrites. These are the false professors; the lip-servants. They say that they know God, but in works they deny Him. They are like barren fig-trees, all leaves and no fruit. They are like tinkling cymbals, all sound, but hollow, empty and without substance. These have a name to live while they are dead, and a form of godliness without the power. They profess what they do not practice; they speak what they do not think; they say much and do little; their words are most amazing; their actions are most poor. These men can talk most bravely of themselves. No better Christians than they are, if you will take them at their own valuation. They can talk to you of grace, and yet they show none of it in their lives. They can talk to you of saving faith, and yet they possess not that charity which is faith’s companion. They can declaim against forms most strongly, and yet their own Christianity is a form and no more. They can cry out loudly against Pharisees, and yet no greater Pharisees than they are themselves. Oh, no; this religion is of a sort that is public, and not private; plenty abroad, but none at home; plenty without, but none within; plenty in the tongue, but none in the heart. They are altogether unprofitable, good for nothing, they bear no fruit.
Brethren, you must know well there are such miserable persons. Alas! The world is full of them in these latter days. They may deceive ministers; they may deceive their neighbors; they may even deceive their friends and family; they may try hard to deceive themselves; but they are no better than liars in God’s sight, and except they repent, they shall in no wise enter heaven.
Brethren, consider well these things: The sin-defiled, the abominable, the hypocrite, shall in no wise enter into heaven. Look well to your own souls. Judge yourselves that ye be not judged of the Lord. I call heaven and earth to witness this day, they that will live these bad lives, whether they be Churchmen or dissenters, old or young, rich or poor, they shall in no wise enter in. Go, cleave to the ways of the world if you are so determined; stick to your sins if you must needs keep them. But I warn you solemnly this hour, they that will have these things shall in no wise enter into heaven.
Oh, blame me now for speaking sharply to you—think I am too particular if you like it. But, oh! remember if you ever stand outside the gates, crying, “Lord, open to us,” in vain. Remember there was a time when I told you, the worldly-minded and the evil livers shall in no wise enter in. Brethren, I have told you before, and I tell you now again for the last time: If you cling to the things God hates, you shall in no wise enter into heaven.
Who Shall Enter Heaven?
Brethren, we must pass on. The text has told you who shall not enter heaven. Oh! what a mighty crowd those words shut out! But, it tells you something more: Who are they that shall.
Short is the account and simple: “They only that are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” And who are written in this precious book? I do not know their names, but I do know their characters, and what those characters are I will endeavor to tell you shortly, for the last time.
They are all true penitents. They have been convinced of their own unworthiness in God’s sight; they have felt themselves to be sinners in deed and in truth; they have mourned over their sins, hated their sins, forsaken their sins—the remembrance of them is grievous, the burden of them intolerable. They have ceased to think well of their own condition and count themselves fit to be saved. They have confessed with their whole heart: “Lord, we are indeed unclean.”
Again: they are all believers in Christ Jesus. They have found out the excellency of the work He did to save them, and cast on Him the burden of their souls. They have taken Christ for their all in all: their wisdom, their righteousness, their justification, their forgiveness, their redemption. Other payment of their spiritual debts they have seen none; other deliverances from the devil they have not been able to find. But they have believed on Christ and come to Christ for salvation; they are confident that what they cannot do Christ can do for them and, having Jesus Christ to lean on, they feel perfect peace.
Once more: they are all born of the Spirit and sanctified. They have all put off the old man with his deeds, and put on the new man, which is after God. They have all been renewed in the spirit of their minds; a new heart and a new nature has been given to them. They have brought forth those fruits which only are the proof of the Spirit being in them. They may have slipped and come short in many things. They may have mourned over their own deficiencies full often. But still, the general bent and bias of their lives has always been toward holiness—more holiness, more holiness, has always been their hearts’ desire. They love God and they must live to Him.
Such is the character of them that are written in heaven. These, then, are the men whose names are to be found in the Lamb’s book of life. Once they may have been as bad as the very worst—defiled, abominable, liars. What matter? They have repented and believed and now they are written in the book of life.
They may have been despised and rejected of this world, poor and mean and lowly in the judgment of their neighbors. What matter? They had repentance and faith and new hearts and now they are written in the glorious book of life.
They may have been of different ranks and nations. They may have lived at different ages and never seen each other’s faces. What matter? They have one thing at least in common: they have repented and believed and been born again, and therefore, they stand all together in the Lamb’s book of life.
Yes, brethren, these are the men and women that enter heaven. Nothing can keep them out.
And now, men and brethren, in conclusion, let me press upon you my old question. How is it with yourselves? What? No answer? Are you ready to depart? Again, no answer? Is your name written in the book of life? Once more, have you no answer?
Oh, think! Think! Unhappy man or woman, whoever thou art, think what a miserable thing it is to be uncertain about eternity. And then consider, if you cannot give your heart to God now, how is it possible you could enjoy God’s heaven hereafter? Heaven is unceasing godliness; it is to be in the presence of God and His Christ for evermore. God is the light, the food, the air of heaven. It is an eternal sabbath. To serve God is heaven’s employment; to talk with God is heaven’s occupation.
Oh, sinners! Sinners! Could you be happy there? To which of all the saints would you join yourselves? By whose side would you go and sit down, with whom of all the prophets and apostles would you love to converse? Surely it would be a wearisome thing to you; surely you would soon want to go forth and join your friends outside. Oh, turn ye, turn ye while it is called today! God will not alter heaven merely to please you; better a thousand times to conform to His ways while you can. You must love the things of heaven before your death, or else you cannot enter heaven when ye die.
Christian, look up and take comfort. Jesus has prepared a place for you, and they that follow Him shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of His hands. Look forward to that glorious abode He has provided. Look forward in faith, for it is thine.
Oh, Christian brethren, think what a glorious meeting that shall be! There we shall see the saints of old, of whom we have so often read. There we shall see those holy ministers whose faith and patience we have admired. There we shall see one another round the throne of our common Savior and be parted and separated no more. There we shall labor and toil no more, for the days of mourning shall be ended. Oh, but my heart will leap within me, if I see there faces I have known among you; if I hear the names of any of yourselves! The Lord grant it, the Lord bring it to pass. The Lord grant we may, some of us at least, come together in that day, when there shall be one fold and one Shepherd and with one heart and voice join that glorious song,
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing … Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. —Rev. 5:12–13