Home Sweet Home

Title: Home Sweet Home

Bible Book: Revelation 21 : 1-4

Author: Johnny L. Sanders

Subject: Home in Heaven; Heaven



Since beginning this series, this is the chapter I have been looking forward to more than any other. You know what keeps coming to my mind as I begin this 21st chapter of Revelation? There was a little chorus a minister of music used once when I was preaching in revival services in Greenville, MS. This was something of a forerunner to the modern contemporary music movement. Over and over, we sang, “It gets better and better and better and better again.” In our series from Revelation, we have often wondered, can it get any worse than this? At other times, we asked, can it get any better than this. I can assure you - it cannot get any better than this! This is heaven. This is paradise. It just cannot get any better than this.

All that we have seen in America and the world have not changed my mind about this. Not the war in Iraq. Not the war in Afghanistan, not the rising oil prices, not the hurricanes in Florida. Not even the devastation left by hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, south Louisiana, south Alabama, and the wide path that covered most of the state of Mississippi. The destruction in the city of New Orleans and across the coasts of Louisiana and Mississippi defy description. What we have witnessed in indescribable. Southern Baptist Convention president Bobby Welch made arrangements to fly over Mississippi with leaders from the Mississippi Baptist Convention, and then with Dr. David Hankins, Executive Director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, and my long time friend Fred Luter, pastor of the Franklin Avenue Baptist Church of New Orleans he flew over New Orleans. These first hand witnesses assured us that the pictures we have seen on TV do not tell even half of the story. Mississippi caught the brunt of the hurricane on the coast and then it swept through the state from north to south, leaving power outages, wind and water damage, and death. Twelve were killed in Laurel alone.

In New Orleans, there were three catastrophes. First, the city was hit by the western side of Katrina. Second, the levy, designed for a category three hurricane, was hit by a category five hurricane and the levy broke, flooding almost the entire city with water from a few inches deep to as much as twenty to thirty feet in places. Third, there was another catastrophe - not a natural catastrophe, but a shocking testimony to just how low fallen human nature can get, just how depraved human beings can get - depraved human beings living in the inner city of a society which thought itself civilized.

At one point, some feared that as many as 10,000 people might have been killed in New Orleans. It seems now that this figure was greatly exaggerated (revised figures place the death count at a little over 1,000). On top of that, uncivilized thugs were looting, raping, and killing people. They were shooting at rescue workers. They were shooting at doctors who are trying to evacuate patients from a hospital. Has anyone ever heard of anything like that in the entire history of America? One wonders, can it get any worse than this? It can. As we have seen in chapter 19, there is coming a time when the birds of the air will invited to a great feast - that feast will be on those slain by the returning King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Sadly, in this flood in New Orleans, rescue workers have had to push aside bodies floating in the streets to get to the living who needed to be rescued.

One man told how he and a friend went into a nursing home through the roof and rescued a number of patients. They had to push aside those who already drowned in order to save the ones who were still living. Managers of the nursing home refused an offer to evacuate patients, and let 34 drown. There is one horror story after another, and we will continue to hear them. There are also some incredible stories of how the Lord protected and delivered many of His servants, including the miraculous evacuation of the entire security force of 24 from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

Hurricane Katrina, the flood, and the violence and looting have been bad - but not even a token of what it to come. My purpose today, however, is not to dwell on how bad things will get, or how shocking the judgment is. My purpose to day is to tell you that it is going to get better and better - and better and better again. When we read our text today, you can finally say, “It can’t get any better than this!”

Now, right on the heels of Katrina, Hurricane Rita has hit the southwest corner of Louisiana and the southeast corner of Texas. It didn’t stay there. I have been in touch with Charles Roberts, pastor of Denman Avenue Baptist Church in Lufkin, Texas. They have had all sorts of problems with the evacuees in Lufkin. Right now they are waiting to get back into the Golden Triangle to assess the damage. Some areas should get 25-30 inches of rain. We are going to be paying high prices for gas and heating oil for months to come. There is a lot of bad news out there, but let me assure you, none of this can diminish the hope and glory of heaven.


“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea existed no longer. I also saw the Holy City, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband.”

A. Look at Some of the Things Make Heaven So Heavenly.

In the first place, heaven will be heavenly because of what is not there. At this point, all the lost of all ages are in the lake of fire - forever. They are never coming back to threaten, contaminate, pollute, and tempt believers. Not only are all the lost of all ages in the lake of fire, they are there with the beast and the false prophet - and Satan and all the demons. God has done everything necessary - no, far more than necessary - to keep people out of hell. Those in hell are there, not because they did not do enough good deeds, not because they did too many bad things, but because they rejected Jesus Christ and rebelled against God. One thing everyone in hell has in common is that they looked God in the face and said, “I don’t want you!” Let me stress this: The worst thing any one can possibly to is to look the Creator in the face and say, “I don’t want you!” Or, “I don’t need You.” Or, “I don’t believe in You.”

B. There Is a New Heaven and a New Earth.

There was a need for a new heaven and a new earth because “for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.” This is not what the networks call a new Alert. The Holy Spirit inspired Peter to write this at least thirty years earlier:

“But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief; on that day the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, the elements will burn and be dissolved, and the earth and the works on it will be disclosed. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, it is clear what sort of people you should be in holy conduct and godliness as you wait for and earnestly desire the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be on fire and be dissolved, and the elements will melt with the heat. But based on His promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness will dwell” (2 Peter 3:10-13).

Didn’t I tell you it cannot get any better than this? - for the righteous, that is. The righteous and the unrighteous will forever be separated. The universe as we know it will melt with fervent heat. The old universe, so stained and scarred by sin, is destroyed and replaced by a new creation where all the redeemed will live forever. The destruction of this world was prophesied centuries before this was revealed to Peter and John:

“Long ago You established the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You will endure; all of them will wear out like clothing. You will change them like a garment, and they will pass away” (Psalms 102:25-26).

“For I will create a new heaven and a new earth; the past events will not be remembered or come to mind” (Isaiah 65:17).

John is not making this up as he goes along! This was revealed through Isaiah, one of the four great 8th century B.C. prophets who prophesied in the Golden Era of Prophecy.

C. There Is No More Sea.

Since one message in this series has been devoted to this subject, I will simply highlight it today. In the 4th chapter of the Revelation, in the scene from the throne room of heaven, we see God the Father seated on His eternal throne. The Lamb is by His side. There are four and twenty elders seated on thrones. The seven Spirits denote the presence of the Third Person of the Trinity. Before the throne there is a sea, like glass or crystal. In apocalyptic literature, I am told, a sea stands for separation (or than which can be an obstacle). Even those of us who have been born again by the grace of God, cannot enter fully into the presence of our holy God.

At this point, in chapter 21, the sea is gone, removed, abolished. All the lost are in hell and all the redeemed are perfected and glorified. Now we see through that glass darkly, but then we will see Him face to face! We will know Him as we have never known Him before. We will know Him as Moses never knew Him. We will know Him as Elijah never knew Him. It just doesn’t get any better than that!

D. New Jerusalem Comes Down From God.

Listen to the words again: “I also saw the Holy City, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband.” Now, I have a confession. I was tempted to spend a lot of time trying to identify and explain the new Jerusalem. I had gone to the commentaries, read them, and planned to share what I had read. But, after some thought and meditation, I have decided to go in a different direction. May I simply say that the new Jerusalem will be the capitol of the new heaven and the new earth. Commentaries take off in various directions. Since it is not created on the spot, but is seen as “coming down out of heaven from God,” it pre-existed this time. Some have pointed out that while the earthly Jerusalem was often condemned for being less than what God desired, the new Jerusalem reflects the character of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Some believe that the new Jerusalem is the place Jesus is preparing for believers (John 14:1ff).

I would like to call your attention to something else. God told Jeremiah to tell the people of Judah that they should not rebuild the Ark of the Covenant when they returned from the Babylonian Captivity. From that time on, Jerusalem itself would be the symbol of God’s presence with His people. Think about it! Earthly Jerusalem was a symbol of God’s presence with His people. The new Jerusalem testifies of God’s real presence with His people. Now, let us go on and see what that means. He is present in the world today, He is present with His people, but then we will reside in His residence.


“Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look! God’s dwelling is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes .Death will exist no longer; grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer, because the previous things have passed away.”

A. John Heard a Loud Voice, 21:3a.

“Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look!”

It would be easy enough to pass over this - but it would be a mistake. Every time there is a new revelation - within the Revelation - there is a loud voice, a voice like thunder, or maybe a sound like a trumpet What John is about to hear is important, urgent, true, and it is from the throne, which means that it was from God. At this point, no one else would presume to speak for Him - unlike some false prophet or egotistical religious nut, or fanatical preacher who might be so presumptuous. God wants John’s undivided attention. The Revelation has been moving toward this point for a long time. God would not have John miss the great truth which follows. And, He would not have you and me to miss it. I can still remember times when my father wanted my attention. To my father, yes meant yes, no meant no - and right now meant RIGHT NOW! There was a family that lived on our place, worked with us, worshiped with us, and played with us. I can still hear an adult speak to a child, “I mean RAT NOW!” When you heard that, you knew it was serious.

B. God Will Dwell With Us, 21:3b.

“God’s dwelling is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.”

I hope you remember the last message in this series. Catherine Marsh was a special lady. She loved the Lord but she could not worship with us because she was in the advanced stages in a battle with cancer. Catherine had an amazing testimony. She had owned and operated a bar. When anyone talked with her about her need for the Lord, she remembered all those church members who frequented her bar every Saturday night. There was one argument, however, for which she had no answer. She told me that every Sunday when she got up she went outside for the newspaper she would look up and down the street and see families getting into their car to go to church. These men had not been in her bar the night before. These men were with their families. These men were good neighbors. These men loved their families. These men and their families did not go to church only on special occasions. Those families were going to church every Sunday. That was a testimony she could not overlook. Church members had been a stumbling block for Catherine, but committed Christians continued to bear a witness which the Holy Spirit used to bring her to the Lord.

In those days, before churches had high speed duplicators, we had a sound room with a bank of jacks and the sound man would plug in a number of tape recorders. The services were recorded and the tapes delivered to shut-ins. I was amazed when Catherine or another shut-in would begin talking about what I had said the previous Sunday. Catherine remembered it better than I did! What this means is that if you have forgotten the other sermon on these verses, I will summarize it here. That is, if I can recall it.

1) God walked with Adam and eve in the Garden of Eden in fellowship no one else has ever known.

2) The Fall broke that fellowship.

3) God loves us and provides for our redemption.

4) His presence is symbolized by the Tabernacle, the Ark of the Covenant, and by the Temple.

5) His presence was symbolized by Jerusalem (He was there, but they could not see him).

6) Jesus was literally, God with us (Immanuel).

7) The Holy Spirit takes up residence in the hearts of believers.

8) In Rev. 4, there is a sea before the throne (signifying separation).

9) In Rev. 21 there is no more sea. The significance of that is that when we are glorified we will enter into His presence as never before. If anyone had touched Mount Sinai when Yahweh came down to speak with Moses, they would have been killed for touching that which is holy with unholy hands. When David’s servant touched the Ark he was killed because he touched that which was holy, that which symbolized the presence of God with His people (and His covenant with them) in manner not prescribed by God.

At this point, “God’s dwelling is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.” It just cannot get any better than that. Finally, His presence is fully realized. He will be with us - fully and completely, and forever. He will be our God and we will be His people - His chosen people, not as ancient Israel who constantly rebelled against Him, but in perfect fellowship with Him.

We are not talking about religion here! We are talking about a relationship. I get so tired of hearing people speak of religious things, but either do not know about a personal relationship with the Lord, or they are ashamed to sound - well, too religious. Molly Henninburg reported on the evacuees from Hurricane Katrina from Baton Rouge for Fox News. She did a commendable job and I appreciate her for it, but someone commented to me that they believed she was a Christian because she referred to those who were involved in religious exercises. I did not fully agree with that conclusion. You see, to me Molly Henninburg was reporting on something she was observing as a reporter and a spectator. I did not sense that she was used to seeing people gather together in prayer as many of those evacuees were. I did not sense that Molly fully understood what was going on - not from personal experience. She never once mentioned Jesus Christ, Christians, or God the Father. It is possible that this was her way of calling attention to them without having this part edited out by the network. I love her work and I trust that she does know the Lord. There are some people who are used to a more formal worship service who are uncomfortable with an informal service.

Religion has to do with man’s quest for a god, His attempt to gain the favor of a god, or his attempt to appease an angry god. Christianity focuses on a personal relationship with our great Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer. We cannot accomplish that, only God can. Only the one true God can do that. He is one and there is no other besides Him. He is a jealous God and will not tolerate those who worship gods which do not, and cannot exist. My dear friend, if you do not follow this, you must call on Jesus Christ for His great salvation today!

C. Consider Just a Few of the Blessings of Life in Heaven, 21:4

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will exist no longer; grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer, because the previous things have passed away.”

1) There will be no more tears - “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” This world is filled with tears, and I thank God for tears. Tears express both sorrow and joy, but even tears of sorrow serve a purpose. The shortest verse in the Bible, “Jesus wept,” reveals that when He was on earth He was fully human. Some of the saddest words in the Bible to me are the simple, prophetic words, “Rachel, weeping for her children.”

Just as there is a pressure release valve on a pressure cooker, tears may be the pressure release we need. A child falls an skins his knee. A spouse is unfaithful. A child is abused. Some deranged pervert molests a child. There is a financial disaster. Hurricane Katrina, though not the most deadly hurricane ever (the Galveston Hurricane a century ago killed over 10,000 people), was the most destructive storm to hit America. Hurricane Rita at this moment is headed toward Galveston. This world has seen a lot of , from a Pearl Harbor, to a Nine-Eleven, to an earthquake. War comes and soldiers are killed fighting for their country. A husband is abusive. Vile, evil young men on the Island of Aruba drug an American teenager, rape her and kill her - and the police bungle the job so badly that those young men are still walking free (even after reportedly confessing the crime).

I sat in the semi-annual meeting of the board of trustees for LifeWay Christian Resources, September 12 (2005) and listened to the other trustee from Louisiana, Fred Luter, share his experiences as an evacuee from New Orleans. Fred is pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, a church I often attended when I was in seminary, mostly for pray meeting. When Fred became the pastor they had 65 members and when Katrina hit he had 8,000 members. Fred said, “I have located fewer than200 of my members. They need me and I don’t know where they are. I have cried for two weeks.” A million people could share their story of survival - loss, grief, confusion, even anger. A lot is determined by what is going on inside one’s mind and heart. Some Katrina survivors are condemning the government, blaming everyone they can think of for their situation. Others are praising the Lord and thanking rescue workers. Some weep for themselves, others weep for others.
In heaven, there will be no more tears. There will be no need for tears! All things which cause tears of sorrow and pain will have been abolished.

2) There will be no more death - “Death will exist no longer.” May I just mention one more time of tears. Death. Death has been an inescapable fact of life since the Fall. Adam and Eve sinned and they died. They died spiritually when they sinned and from that time forth physical death has reigned as the reality medical science, biology, and philosophy have never been able to alter. Arrogantly, some scientists boast that they can create life in a test tube, they can clone a sheep, they can extend life through embryonic stem cell research. Every discovery evolutionists make that they believe confirms their ungodly theory - and theory is exactly what it is - is proclaimed in bold headlines in the nations paper. When it is disproved or questioned it never makes the paper, or if it does it is buried somewhere with the used car ads.

Picture with me the headline you will never read: SCIENCE ABOLISHES DEATH! But, someone may say, science is increasing our life expectancy. Compared with what, 1900, or the times of Methuselah? Of Noah, or even Abraham? The fact remains that one’s life is still like a vapor that appears for a little while and then it is no more. Death is reigns universal as the one obstacle no one has ever hurdled. In the entire history of the world only Enoch and Elijah have avoided physical death. Back when children and young people played more Bible trivia one question always amused me: He was the oldest man who ever lived, yet he died before his father. Who was he? Of course Bible students knew it was Methuselah - whose father, Enoch, did not die physically.

Hope of heaven is what comforts believers when a love-one dies. Let me add one other word here: Please be very careful when you say to a grieving wife or mother, “I know how you feel.” I have lost a mother and father, but I have never lost a child, a wife, or a brother or sister. Tears may be exactly what some need to deal with the grief. The promise of heaven for the believer makes the separation bearable. For the lost you have to turn to the philosophies and wisdom of the world - Time heals all wounds, they say.

Death is the necessary conclusion to this life, the gateway to eternity - both for the lost and the saved. I do not fear death - I just don’t want to rush it! I know what it is like to lie in ICU knowing you might die (that was over nine years ago). I did not fear death, but neither did I believe I was going to die, even though I had had a serious heart attack. I well remember the night before my bypass surgery. The nurse wheeled in a TV and VCR and told me I could watch the tape and see how the surgery was performed. I remember two thoughts. First, I am not the one who needs to know how it is done, just tell me my surgeon knows what he is doing. Second, that is not the last thing I want to witness before going to sleep!

I am not afraid of death. However, dying is another matter. My mother fought a battle with cancer, radiation, and chemo-therapy for eight years before her death. My father battled back from heart attacks and strokes for eight years. I pray that the Lord will spare me that. However, if I have to face something like that I can only pray that I will handle it as well as my mother did - she was a witness to the very end. Given a choice, we would all prefer to face death as William Cullen Bryant expresses it in verse:

So live that when thy summon(s) comes
to join (that) innumerable caravan
(Which) moves to that mysterious realm,
where each shall take his chamber
In the silent halls of death, thou go, not like
the quarry slave at night, Scourged to his dungeon;
But sustained and soothed by an unfaltering trust,
approach thy grave like one who wraps
The drapery of his couch about him,
and lies down to pleasant dreams.

William Cullen Bryant
- Thanatposis

3) There will be no more grief - “grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer.” If there is one thing I know, it is pain. Pain in my feet caused me to have to sit on a bar stool to preach for 25 years before the Lord gave me the recovery I needed to stand. I know the pain of a severe heart attack. I know the pain of a shoulder and neck injury. I know the pain of a teenager playing football on two sprained ankles. I know the pain a persimmon limb can cause when it falls out of a tree and hits a kid on the head. I know pain, but then, so do you. In fact, a lot of people live with pain every day.
I thank God there is coming a day when there will be no more pain - no more grief, sorrow, pain, sickness, weakness, or restrictions.

There have been very few people in my lifetime whom I have admired more that Joni Erickson Tada. I love that lady, I love her faith, I love her courage, I love her testimony. When you see that beautiful smile and listen to her marvelous testimony it is easy to dismiss the pain, suffering, agony, and the restrictions with which she has lived for all these years. Joni is looking forward to going to heaven. She wants to walk and dance on the streets of glory.

Dr. Irene Steward, our Miss Mickey, has been a care giver most of her life. For the past fifteen years she has taken care of Alzheimer’s patients. Forty eight patients have died in her home during that time. She knows death, but she also knows all stages of this horrible disease that brings torture to minds of many of her patients. For months, Miss Gracie cried, “My children are in the other room and they are hungry and they won’t let me feed them.” One lady begs for her husband, others grieve for family members. One lady confused me with her son and asked when I was coming back. There is a lot of confusion with this disease. Miss Mickey has had two serious heart attacks herself. She has cancer and she is diabetic. She has had surgery to block nerves to reduce pain - and she still takes care of others. Miss Mickey lost two sons in Viet Nam. A daughter was killed by a drunk driver. Her husband was killed when the plane he was flying exploded. She watched her son Bobby die of lung cancer. She is watching with her son Charlie walk through the valley of the shadow of death right now. This lady knows grief, but she lives in hope.

When we are called home to heaven, there will be no more pain, sorrow, sickness, or grief - forever. That is going to make heaven really heavenly. It just cannot get any better than that - or can it? We have been looking only at the bad things that we will not experience. Think of the good things that will be ours. We will dwell with our Creator, our Redeemer. Forever!

4) There will be no more mortal restrictions - “because the previous things have passed away.” All the things that cause grief, pain, and suffering will have passed away. That is heaven! When we are glorified, there will be no more sin, no more temptation to sin - and there will be no consequences to pay.


The more I read the Revelation the more I look forward to the blessings of heaven. Joni Erickson Tada will walk the streets of glory. My mother has no cancer. My father has no heart problems - and neither will I! There are no diabetics in heaven. No plagues, no famine, no floods, no war.

The more I know of the life of heaven and the glory of our Lord, the more I appreciate John Milton’s Sonnet on His Blindness:

When I consider how my light is spent,
Err half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death do hide
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve to serve with my Maker, and present
My true account, lest He returning chide;
“Doth God exact day labor, light denied?”

I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, “God does not need
Either man’s work or His own gifts. Who best
Bear His mild yoke, they serve Him best. His state
Is kingly: Thousands at His bidding speed,
And post over land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait.

Whether you are speeding over land and ocean without rest to reach lost people for Jesus Christ, serving evacuees from a hurricane, or simply praying for those who go and serve, remember to trust God and continue in fellowship with Him. “They also serve who only stand and wait.”

If you are lost and undone without God or His Son, this is the day of decision for you. There it is before you: it is either heaven or hell. It would be easy to say that it is up to you, but that would not be the full truth. You see, it is all up to God. He paid the price and He does all of the saving - He just does not save anyone against his will!

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:16-18).

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