In 1 Corinthians 2:9 we are told, "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." Now, to me that is a promise without parallel. There is nothing quite like it in all the Bible. When it says that I have never seen anything to compare with heaven, that is great enough, because I have seen some wonderful things in this world.
I have visited many countries and seen things that I have felt to be absolutely unsurpassed. I saw the beautiful Taj Mahal in India. I have seen the towering mountains of Switzerland and the lovely tulip gardens of Holland, but heaven will be immeasurably more beautiful than any of those sights. Some of my friends went up into the vale of Kashmir, over the great passes of the Himalaya Mountains. I wanted to go there, too, while living in India but there was no opportunity. They tell me that nothing on earth can compare with those beautiful valleys!
Some friends of mine in Pakistan went out into the Shangri-La country of Hunza, and they told me about the placid lakes and the beautiful mountains. It sounded wonderful; but, listen - the Bible says we have never heard about anything that would give us even the faintest idea of what heaven is really like.
The text goes on to say that we have never even imagined the true beauty of it. It has not entered into the heart of man. I have a fertile imagination and I can imagine things that are just out of this world; but still the Bible says it won't even begin to approach the beauty and glory of heaven.
One of the most pleasing aspects of that holy habitation is that it will be a clean city and a clean country. "And there 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." Revelation 21:27. Can you picture an entire city, much less a planet, in which no foul smell of stale cigarette smoke will ever be known? In that day God will have a limitless universe where no chemical poison can exist. The golden streets will never know the litter of beer cans and tobacco butts. Defiling the body, defiling the air, and defiling the street will be unknown in God's royal capital city.
I grew up near Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and the noisome smell of tobacco hung in the air of those city streets. As one of the world's largest markets for the filthy weed, it exuded the familiar, permeating odor of aging tobacco. What a joy it was to get away from the area where so much natural beauty was negated by the miasma of nicotine pollution.
Later I responded to a mission call to India, and our family located in the beautiful city of Bangalore. After settling into our cozy rented bungalow, an east wind sprang up and we found out what lay on the other side of the red wall across the street. A tobacco factory! For a few more years we had to endure the unpleasant odor of the processed poison.
After returning to the United States I responded to an invitation to pastor a church in Louisville, Kentucky. Just as we crossed over the city line our nostrils were assailed by a very familiar smell. Tobacco again! But this time it was combined with the stench of fermented alcohol. Louisville, we discovered, was famous for its tobacco and distilleries. I am now convinced that there can be no real relief from these corrupting influences until I take up residence in that clean city of New Jerusalem.
We have alluded to many of the dramatic changes in life style that will mark those who inherit the new earth. We have tried to portray in human language the joy and delight of dwelling in a perfect environment, free from all sin and its despoiling influence. Each circumstance has been challenging and exciting. It makes us eager to leave this vale of tears as soon as possible.
Our senses are stirred by the prospect of such physical benefits as no sickness, no pain, and no death. Yet the very highest pleasure reserved for the redeemed will have nothing to do with their life style, their food, or their immortal nature. The sweetest delight of heaven will be to see Jesus face to face and to live with Him throughout eternity. What a prospect! To see the nail prints in His hands, and to open our minds to His own divine instruction in the science of salvation.
Now the question I want to leave with you is this: When that day dawns and the saints of God march into that city, will you be among them? Abraham will be there; Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Peter, and Paul will march inside the gates. When they are inside, will you be inside, too? We can make a reservation now if we so desire.
During World War II a lot of Americans were caught in Singapore, and even though the American government provided a means of helping them, they had difficulty getting out because of the vicissitudes of war. One day a very fine, well-dressed man walked into the American Embassy and said, "Book me out of here; I want to get out as quickly as possible." The ambassador said, "All right, where is your passport?" The man said, "I don't have a passport." The ambassador asked, "Aren't you a citizen?" He said, "Well, no, I really never did take out any papers, but I've lived there all my life. I have a business over there, and my bank account is there, and I love America. I'm an American." The ambassador said, "I'm sorry, but I can't do a thing for you. If you are not a citizen, I can't help you." The man went away sick with disappointment.
A little while later another man came walking in, dressed in old, shabby clothes. He spoke with a heavy accent as he asked to be booked up to leave on the next plane. The ambassador asked, "Where are your papers?" The man replied, "Here they are. I had them taken out just before I left America." And the ambassador put out his hand and said, "All the power of the United States government will stand behind you in getting out to safety."
Both of those men loved America very much. Both of them claimed to be Americans, but only one of them had his papers; only one had his passport. Only one of them could make a reservation. And you can make reservations if you want to, but you must be a citizen of that heavenly kingdom before you can do it. If you want to do it, you can make your reservation right now. When that day comes, you can join with God's people of all the ages and dwell in this beautiful city under the ideal conditions which we have described. You must not miss it.