Where There Is No Night
Revelation 21:1-5, 10-25
Do you know the term “near-death experience”?
It refers to those instances where a person comes very near to death, or perhaps, to some degree, crosses over into the beyond, and then for some unexplainable reason returns to this life and is able to tell of the experience.
Now the most remarkable such experience is recounted in the research of Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. She tells of a man who was driving to a championship soccer match in England, and he was involved in a terrible accident. After the initial shock of the crash, he found himself somehow floating in the air above his demolished automobile. Looking down, he could see the medics working feverishly on his body beside the car. As he floated above this scene, he became aware of lots of cursing and angry shouting, and he realized that people in the other cars were upset because the accident had jammed the traffic, preventing them from getting to the game. Then suddenly he became aware of some people praying for him. He followed the sound of the prayer to a particular car in the traffic jam and he actually noted in his memory the car’s license tag number. He then found himself moving forward toward a bright and beckoning light. He had a sensation of warmth and dazzling beauty. Then the process of going forward stopped—and reversed. The next thing he knew, he wakened in a hospital bed.
He had been grievously injured and was in the hospital for several months. When at last he was released, with the help of a friend in the Department of Motor Vehicles, he located the owners of the car whose license number he had remembered. He went to visit them and asked if they remembered what they were doing such-and-such a day. They replied that they attended a soccer game. He asked if they remembered anything unusual happening that day. Of course, they told him about the terrible automobile accident. He then asked: “Do you remember what you did while you waited for the accident to be cleared away?” They said: “Certainly, we were praying for the one who had been injured.”
That is a true story, and I cannot possibly explain it. Can it be true that this man had a “near-death experience” and somehow caught a glimpse of heaven and the life that is beyond this life? I do not know. But what I do know is this: what the Bible has to say about heaven and the life to come is infinitely more magnificent than any “near-death experience” can describe. So let us work that theme together today…
The first thing I want you to do is…
Take your Bible and turn to Revelation 21, beginning at verse 10, and walk through it with me. I want to suggest to you that John had a “near-death experience” of his own. He had a vision of the kingdom of heaven given to him by God, and he recorded the details of that vision in symbolic language which is difficult for us to understand now, even though it would have been perfectly clear to the first century Christians.
John says, for example, heaven has a “radiance like a most rare jewel.” Radiance, shimmering jewel-like glory, is the symbol for holiness. John says that the walls of the heavenly city are “high,” which means it is a place of ultimate security, a place where there is never any fear. He says that the walls of the city have “twelve gates,” three pointing to each of the four directions of the compass, which means that people are welcomed into that city from all quarters, no matter what their circumstances or background might be. He says that the city is “foursquare” and that each side of the square is “twelve thousand stadia.” Now the square in the first century was considered to be the most perfect of geometric forms, so the message is that heaven is a place of perfection. Twelve thousand stadia is fifteen hundred miles that makes for a big city. In other words, heaven is large enough to accommodate all those who truly want to go there.
Then John says that the city is made of “pure gold,” polished as “clear as glass.” Gold does not tarnish or stain. God does not wear away. Heaven then is both unblemished and eternal. He says that the city rests on a “foundation…adorned with every jewel.” What is interesting here is that the stones John lists are the same stones which appear in the signs of the Zodiac, the astrological formula—except that as John presents them, they are in reverse order. It is as if John is saying: “Astrology is wrong and astrological speculations are misdirected. It is God, not the stars, who controls our destiny.”
Next John says that each of the twelve gates is made of a single pearl. The pearl was considered to be the most precious gem in the ancient world—diamonds were not known then. Jesus, remember, compared the kingdom of heaven to a pearl of great price. I think the most despicable act of queenly self-indulgence in all of history was when Cleopatra took a pearl worth millions, dissolved it in a glass of wine, and drank it! So pearls were of great value, but remember also that the pearl is the tear of the oyster—it is the pain of the oyster wrapped round and round until it is transformed into something beautiful. What John is saying is that heaven is entered by the gateway of having gone through the pain and the difficulties and the challenges of life—but what a priceless reward is waiting on the other side! And then John says there is “no temple in the city.” You will not have to stand in line or rush for a seat to worship God. The presence of God is everywhere in heaven. You are in contact with His full content in every single aspect of that life which is eternal. And the joy you will know will be like no joy you have ever known. Yet, as glorious as all of this is, John does not stop there, nor should we.
So the second thing I want you to do is…
Look with me at the climax of John’s description of heaven. He says, beginning in verse 23: “The city has no need of sun or moon to shine upon it for the glory of the Lord is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb…and there shall be no night there.” There are two beautiful thoughts wrapped in those words.
One is that God illuminates heaven by His very presence. There is no need for sun or stars or moon or other heavenly bodies. You know, our astronomers have discovered what are called “quasars.” A quasar is the brightest object in the universe. They are violent, inexpressibly brilliant orbs of energy. One quasar, for example, gives out more light than 10 trillion stars of which our sun is only one! But John is saying here that the God of the quasar is even more brilliant than they are. And it is that light of God that bathes the kingdom of heaven in glory.
There is a little children’s story about how once the sun noticed that the animals down on the earth seemed agitated and so the sun came down and asked: “What’s wrong?” They replied: “One of the animals went down into a hole and he got to a cave and it was dark there and he was frightened.” The sun said: “What’s ‘dark’? What does that mean?” The animals said: “Well, stick your face in that hole and you’ll see.” So the sun went over and looked into the hole. Of course, it wasn’t dark there anymore, for wherever the sun goes there is no darkness. That is John’s point. Wherever God and God’s son, Jesus Christ, are, there can be no darkness and no fear. “There is no night there.”
There is another thought here. John is saying that heaven is full of people who are full of the light of God. In other words, God’s light shines through the lives of the believers who are gathered in heaven. I love the story of the little boy who was being shown some stained glass windows. After they explained to him what they were, he said: “What you are telling me is that in the stained glass windows we have pictures of the saints, and we put those pictures on glass because saints are people who let the light shine through!” Yes, heaven is full of saints, people who let God’s light shine through their lives.
So heaven is illuminated by the brilliance of God and by the brilliance of God as it is reflected in the lives of those who believe in Him. No other source of light is needed. There will be no night there. In heaven, it is always morning. That is what the Bible says and what a wonderful thought that is.
But that leads to the third thing I want you to do…
I want you to confront a serious question. If heaven is always morning, why is it that sometimes we try to hold our loved ones back from going there.
Do you know that studies show that most people who die in hospitals die between one and four o’clock in the morning? Do you know why that is? It is virtually impossible to die in a hospital at noon. I mean, the nurses are coming in and out to take your temperature and check your blood pressure; the maintenance people are scrubbing the floors and washing the windows, the doctors with their charts are popping in to ask all kinds of questions; the emergency team is right down the hall ready to rush to your aid should you make an honest attempt at dying; your family is hovering about telling you how much they love you and need you, which means, “we don’t want you to go.” Consequently, it’s only between one and four in the morning when the staff is limited in numbers and your family is at home and even the emergency team is getting some rest that you can successfully take your leave!
You get the point, don’t you? When our loved ones are ready to move on to the kingdom of eternal light and life, when their time on earth is done and when their faith is sure, why not let them go to the place where it is always morning?
You see, one of the lessons death teaches us is that time is limited. That means that we must use it to the fullest to look after each other and to love each other and to talk with each other and to touch each other and to genuinely care for each other. For you see, if we have done that as we should, then when the time comes for our loved ones to go off to where it is always morning, we can say “goodbye” with hope and confidence—so take advantage of the time you have.
In the graveyard of St. John’s Church in Toronto, Canada there is a stone which has carved upon it the name of a boy and the fact that he had died at age 18. At the bottom of the stone there is etched a single line. The story behind that line is that this boy and his father had an awful relationship. They fought constantly. One night after an argument, the boy grabbed the car keys, tore out of the driveway, within a few blocks was involved in an accident, and he was gone. When the father had the gravestone put in place, he had carved on it a line from a poem by William Butler Yeats. This is the way the line reads: “Tread softly for a dream lies buried here.” You see, that father stood beside his son’s grave with his arms and his heart full of a dream for a loving relationship with his boy. But he had not given that love when he could have given it—and now the chance was gone. The dream was buried.
If I could tell you with certainty that the world will end before you sleep tonight, would there be any phone calls you would wish to make between now and then? Would there be somebody you would want to call and tell them how much you love them? Would there be some forgiveness you wanted to grant or some forgiveness you wanted to ask for? Well, probably the world will not end before you sleep tonight, but still you ought to make that call. Love your loved ones while you have the time.
But then remember that death for the Christian is not the end. Death does not mean separation from those you love. In this life, there is separation. In this life, the press of everyday tasks cuts away at our affection. In this life, there is hardly time to take a cherished hand into your own and say “I love you.” In this life, circumstances and pressures tear us away from the arms of our loved ones. In this life, we are detached and separated. But in death, through Jesus Christ, we gain reunion. We are joined forever to our Lord and to those we love in the kingdom of heaven. Remember these things and when the time comes for your loved ones to become astronauts of the spirit and to go soaring off to the place where it is always morning, you will have no regrets, for you will have loved them as you ought to have loved them when they were yours to love, and you will know that one day in heaven you will love them again.
My friends, the darkness of death will come to each of us. But when our time comes, Jesus Christ has promised to be there and the light of the Lamb will drive the darkness away. And we will experience in heaven light and life and love forevermore.
They have triumphed who have died;
They have passed the portals wide;
They have moved from the house of night
To the splendid lawns of eternal light.
You know it is recorded that in the first century, Christians who were going to be parted for a while, used to say—not knowing when they might lose their lives for Christ’s sake—they used to say to one another: “I will meet you in the morning.” That was well said.
Good morning, up there,
Where Christ is the light.
Good morning, up there
Where cometh no night.
When we pass from this earth
To God’s heaven so fair,
We will say “Good night” here,
But “Good morning” up there.
“And the city had no need of sun or moon to shine upon it for the glory of the Lord is its light and its lamp is the Lamb…And there shall be…no night…there…” When you belong to Jesus Christ, and when you confront the reality of death for yourself or for those you love, you can say, and know it will be true: “I will meet you in the place where it is always morning!”