The Place Christ Has Gone to Prepare
I go to prepare a place for you. - John xiv. 2.
A Sermon by J. M. Pendleton, 1868
I go to prepare a place for you. - John xiv. 2.
There are many places of interest which we have seen, and more that we have not seen. How numerous the localities it would be pleasant to visit! They would call up such associations as would make us feel that we were in communion with the mighty Past and the mighty Dead. There are such localities in Europe, Asia, Africa, America, and the isles of the sea.
There are places in other worlds as well as in this. And there is one place which is the select locality of the universe. That place is heaven. Heaven is a place as well as a state. One fact proves this: The glorified body of Christ is in heaven. It is, of course, a material body, for otherwise it would not be a body at all. But whatever is material is local, nor can the idea of materiality be disjoined from the conception of locality. Jesus has gone to heaven to make arrangements for the reception of followers. His going included his death, resurrection, ascension and intercession. But for these there would have been no place in heaven for any of the inhabitants of earth. It is not my purpose, however, to dwell on this fact, but to refer to some of the attractions of the place Christ has gone to prepare. Much may be said in commendation of this place. I refer to
1. Its holiness. There is no sin in the bright world of glory. This world is full of sin. We see it everywhere. Alas, we feel it. "There is no man that liveth and sinneth not." How often do the remains of depravity betray the best men into sin! There are sins of the tongue, of the lite, of the heart. What [is] so distressing as sin! Who does not sometimes say, with Paul, "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" But the Christian's conflicts with sin are confined to this life. He fights all his battles with it on this side of death. When he goes to the place Jesus has gone to prepare, he goes pure and spotless as an angel into a holy place. No sin in heaven. The believer in Christ may now, in anticipation, say:
"Sin, my worst enemy before,
Shall vex my eyes and ears no more;
My inward foes shall all be slain.
Nor Satan break my peace again."
The holiness of the place Jesus has gone to prepare is one of its most blessed attractions, and a love of holiness distinguishes all those for whom he is preparing that place.
2. Its knowledge. "That the soul be without knowledge, is not good." So said the wise man many centuries ago. There is in man a desire to know. Many kinds of knowledge answer valuable purposes in this world. "The excellency of knowledge" has reference to God and his government, to Christ and the way of salvation through him, to Providence and its wonderful mysteries. In this life there are many difficulties in the way of attaining knowledge. Owing to the infelicitous circumstances surrounding us, it is said most truly, "We know in part." We have the fragments of knowledge rather than knowledge itself. In numerous instances we draw only probable conclusions, because we can command only probable premises. Sometimes our premises and conclusions are entirely unsatisfactory, and often we reach no conclusions because premises are concealed in mysterious darkness. Referring to the heavenly state, Paul said - and we may consider him the representative of all the glorified saints - "I shall know even as also I am known." What more could be said of an archangel? We shall ever be learning. The annals of the divine empire will be open for our perusal. The divine character will be unfolded. Its perfections will be studied in their isolated glory and in their conjoint splendor. New light will be poured on the science of redemption. Providences now dark will be radiant with immortal brightness. Rich and precious will be the acquisitions of knowledge made in the place Jesus has gone to prepare. I love to think that the powers of every redeemed soul are susceptible of indefinite expansion and invigoration. I suppose there will be nowhere in the endless future a point at which it can be said to the expanding capacity of the immortal mind, "Hitherto shalt thou come, but no farther." There will be a constant increase of ability to know the things of God, and an everlasting progression in knowledge. The finite will be learning more and more of the Infinite to all eternity. Is not the knowledge as well as the holiness of heaven an attraction?
3. Its joy. There is no sorrow in the place Jesus has gone to prepare, but unspeakable joy - fullness of joy - a rich plenitude of bliss. The holiness and knowledge of which I have spoken will be productive of unutterable joy. What exultant happiness must arise from the consciousness of freedom from sin! When the Israelites stood trembling with the Red sea before them and their enemies behind them, Moses said, "The Egyptians whom ye have seen to-day, ye shall see no more forever." When the redeemed go up to heaven it may be said to them, "Ye shall see sin no more forever." In the realization of this truth there will be rapturous joy. And how will the increase of knowledge augment the joy of the saints! The greater their knowledge the greater will be their joy. There are heights of joy rising like celestial Alps, one above another, and doubtless the point will be reached by every saint when he will have enjoyed more happiness than has been experienced on earth from the creation of Adam till this day. Christians now rejoice in hope of the glory of God. What will an experimental possession of that glory be? It will create such joy as will call forth the loudest, sweetest hallelujahs - even such music as God will delight to hear. The saint going to the place Jesus has gone to prepare may say, as he ascends, Farewell to sorrow - thou shalt reach me again nevermore - welcome joy, thou art my portion forever. The joy of heaven is one of its attractions.
4. Its society. God has given us social propensities. We see in this life none of the charms that poetry has attributed to solitude. We want society here, and we shall want it in heaven. The choice society of the universe is there. The angels are an innumerable company. There are probably various orders of them, denoted by the terms cherubim, seraphim, principalities, powers, authorities, etc. What a privilege to cultivate a personal acquaintance with all these! Possibly I am now speaking to those who will in the long cycles of the glorious future hold many a colloquy with the very angels who rejoiced in their repentance and conversion to God. There will be myriads of the redeemed in the place Jesus has gone to prepare. All the saved will be there from Adam to the poor, fortunate sinner who shall have the last application of the blood of atonement to his soul. Abraham and the patriarchs will be there - Isaiah and the prophets - Paul and the apostles - Stephen and the martyrs - with all the pious of every age and every clime. Would you not love to talk to Abraham about the offering of Isaac? Would you not like to hear Daniel tell of the night he spent in the den of lions? Would you not rejoice to engage in converse with Paul about some things in his epistles, and with John about the visions of Patmos? Would you not be pleased to renew, in the paradise of God, your acquaintance with some you have known on earth? I would have you think of the place Jesus has gone to prepare as a social place; tor the society of heaven is one of its attraction.
5. The immediate presence of Christ. What does he say in the verse following the text? "That where I am there ye may be also." The inspired word of truth teaches us that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Paul desired to depart and be with Christ; and how tenderly he consoled the Thessalonian Christians by telling them that they should be ever with the Lord. The presence of Christ has more to do in making heaven what it is than any thing else. Who would not see Jesus? Who would not see the head, once thorn-crowned, wearing the brightest diadem in the universe? Who would not see the face, once disfigured with tears, and sweat and blood, radiant with celestial glory? Who would not see him, once the man of sorrows, exulting in the joy set before him, when he endured the cross, despising the shame? Who would not see him who, when on earth, had not where to lay his head, constituted heir of all things? It is heaven to be with Christ and to be like him. Both of these things arc surely to be accomplished. Jesus prayed on earth, saying, "Father, I will that those whom thou hast given me be with me where I am that they may behold my glory." The answer to this petition will secure the admittance of all the followers of Christ into his immediate presence. And they will be like him too. "We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." Yes, "as he is." How delightfully preferable is the present to the past tense here! It does not read as he was, but as he is. I would not see Jesus as he was - a weeping babe in the manger, crushed with sorrow in Gethsemane, nailed to the cross on Calvary, a mangled corpse in the tomb of Joseph. O no, I would see him as he is, exalted on the throne, crowned with glory and honor, the hosts of heaven shouting his praise, and casting their crowns at his feet. We shall be like him - like him in moral perfection, like him in his glorified body. Is not this enough, ye saints of the Lord? Will not this satisfy your largest desires? The immediate presence of Christ is heaven's supreme attraction. That presence is to fill the place he has gone to prepare.
6. The life to be enjoyed in it. What would a place be without life? The life to be enjoyed in heaven is everlasting life. How often did Jesus say while on earth that he would confer everlasting life on his disciples. "He that believeth in me hath everlasting life." "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life and they shall never perish." "Because I live ye shall live also." The life of the saints in heaven will be derived from Christ. He is their life, and they are to live forever because he lives forever. Everlasting life! Not everlasting existence merely, but everlasting well-being, including all, that can make existence desirable and glorious. Everlasting life! Advanced to a state in which there will be no death and none of the forerunners of death, infirmity, disease, suffering, and pain. Try to form a conception of this endless life. Let every leaf of every forest, and ever star that twinkles in the heavens, and every grain of sand on the shore of every sea be the representative of a century. Then add all these centuries together, and while you will have an enlarged idea of duration you will have no adequate conception of everlasting life. No finite mind can comprehend the full import of the term eternity, and therefore the phrase everlasting life is exhaustless in meaning. We only know that the life to be enjoyed in the place Jesus has gone to prepare, is a life full of glory and endless duration.
1. Christians, you ought to think more about the place Jesus has gone to prepare. We have seen that it has transcendent attractions. There is no place like it in the boundless realms of space. Some of you may have no place on earth you can call your own, and all of you who have places on earth must soon leave them. Think then more frequently of the place in preparation for you. Such thoughts will do you good.
2. Try and get others to go with you to heaven. Say to them as Moses said to Hobab: "We are journeying to the place of which the Lord hath said, I will give it you: come thou and go with us and we will do thee good." It is a much greater thing to induce an immortal creature to go to heaven than to establish an empire. Happy are those who, with God's blessing, do this thing.
3. Sinners, heaven is too glorious a place to lose. It will be a sad thing for you to have no interest in its joys. If you never see its bright glories and hear its sweet songs - if you are never admitted into the immediate presence of Christ, good were it for you had you never been born. Strive to reach the place Jesus has gone to prepare for those who love him. Begin to love him - give him your hearts - and you will be among those for whom he is preparing a place.
[From The Baptist newspaper, September 12, 1868. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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