“And He showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there: they need no lamp nor light of the sun; for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever. Then He said to me, ‘These words are faithful and true.’ And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things which must shortly take place. ‘Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.’ ”
The study of the saints’ trip to heaven, considering the anticipated wonders of heaven, is enjoyable for us all. However, we also must spend time considering the judgments of God that are to fall upon the lost. All of the wicked have made their decision in the great controversy, and the time has arrived in which the judgments of God are with man as well as with angels. “ ‘A noise will come to the ends of the earth—for the Lord has a controversy with the nations; He will plead His case with all flesh. He will give those who are wicked to the sword,’ says the Lord.” Jeremiah 25:31
“For six thousand years, the great controversy has been in progress; the Son of God and His heavenly messengers have been in conflict with the power of the evil one, to warn, enlighten, and save the children of men. Now all have made their decisions; the wicked have fully united with Satan in his warfare against God. The time has come for God to vindicate the authority of His downtrodden law. Now the controversy is not alone with Satan, but with men.” The Great Controversy, 656
This is the time when those with the slaughtering weapons will go forth, and their work of destruction will begin with those who have been the spiritual guardians of the people. “The mark of deliverance has been set upon those ‘that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done.’ Now the angel of death goes forth, represented in Ezekiel’s vision by the men with the slaughtering weapons, to whom the command is given: ‘Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at My sanctuary.’ Says the prophet: ‘They began at the ancient men which were before the house.’ Ezekiel 9:1–6. The work of destruction begins among those who have professed to be the spiritual guardians of the people. The false watchmen are the first to fall. There are none to pity or to spare. Men, women, maidens, and little children perish together.” Ibid.
It is of interest to note that it is by the strife of men and the wrath of God that the wicked are slain.
“For behold, the Lord comes out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; the earth will also disclose her blood, and will no more cover her slain.” Isaiah 26:21
“And this shall be the plague with which the Lord will strike all the people who fought against Jerusalem: Their flesh shall dissolve while they stand on their feet, their eyes shall dissolve in their sockets, and their tongue shall dissolve in their mouth. It shall come to pass in that day, that a great panic from the Lord will be among them. Everyone will seize the hand of his neighbor, and raise his hand against his neighbor’s hand.” Zechariah 14:12, 13
Commenting on these two scriptures, the Spirit of Prophecy states, “In the mad strife of their own fierce passions, and by the awful outpouring of God’s unmingled wrath, fall the wicked inhabitants of the earth—priests, rulers, and people, rich and poor, high and low. ‘And the slain of the Lord shall be at that day from one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth: they shall not be lamented, neither gathered, nor buried.’ Jeremiah 25:33.” The Great Controversy, 657
“At the coming of Christ the wicked are blotted from the face of the whole earth—consumed with the spirit of His mouth, and destroyed by the brightness of His glory.” The Faith I Live By, 353
Since the wicked have identified themselves with sin, they will die in the destruction of sin. “To sin, wherever found, our ‘God is a consuming fire.’ Hebrews 12:29. In all who submit to His power the Spirit of God will consume sin. But if men cling to sin, they become identified with it. Then the glory of God, which destroys sin, must destroy them.” The Desire of Ages, 107
And how is this accomplished? The wicked are slain by His glory. “The glory of His countenance, which to the righteous is life, will be to the wicked a consuming fire. Because of love rejected, grace despised, the sinner will be destroyed.” Ibid., 600
This death by God is an act of mercy. “Could those whose hearts are filled with hatred of God, of truth and holiness, mingle with the heavenly throng and join their songs of praise? Could they endure the glory of God and the Lamb? No, no; years of probation were granted them, that they might form characters for heaven; but they have never trained the mind to love purity; they have never learned the language of heaven, and now it is too late. A life of rebellion against God has unfitted them for heaven. Its purity, holiness, and peace would be torture to them; the glory of God would be a consuming fire. They would long to flee from that holy place. They would welcome destruction, that they might be hidden from the face of Him who died to redeem them. The destiny of the wicked is fixed by their own choice. Their exclusion from heaven is voluntary with themselves, and just and merciful on the part of God.” The Great Controversy, 542, 543
“God destroys no one. The sinner destroys himself by his own impenitence.” Testimonies, Vol. 5, 120
Thus, the wicked are responsible for their own death.
“Christ takes His people to the city of God, and the earth is emptied of its inhabitants. …
“The whole earth appears like a desolate wilderness. The ruins of cities and villages destroyed by the earthquake, uprooted trees, ragged rocks thrown out by the sea or torn out of the earth itself, are scattered over its surface, while vast caverns mark the spot where the mountains have been rent from their foundations.” The Great Controversy, 657
“Here is to be the home of Satan with his evil angels for a thousand years.” Early Writings, 290
It is at this time that the sins of the people are placed upon the scapegoat.
Justice demands that Satan bear the penalty for all the sins which he caused God’s people to commit. “When Christ, by virtue of His own blood, removes the sins of His people from the heavenly sanctuary at the close of His ministration, He will place them upon Satan, who, in the execution of the judgment, must bear the final penalty.” The Great Controversy, 422
“And as the scapegoat was sent away into a land not inhabited, so Satan will be banished to the desolate earth, an uninhabited and dreary wilderness.” Ibid., 658
“… Satan, bearing the guilt of all the sins which he has caused God’s people to commit, will be for a thousand years confined to the earth, which will then be desolate, without inhabitant, and he will at last suffer the full penalty of sin in the fires that shall destroy all the wicked.” Ibid., 485, 486
“The revelator foretells the banishment of Satan and the condition of chaos and desolation to which the earth is to be reduced, and he declares that this condition will exist for a thousand years. After presenting the scenes of the Lord’s second coming and the destruction of the wicked, the prophecy continues: ‘I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, and cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.’ Revelation 20:1–3.” Ibid., 658
Turning our attention to what takes place as the saints of God meet the Lord in the sky, Mrs. White writes, “There stands the risen host. The last thought was of death and its pangs. The last thoughts they had were of the grave and the tomb, but now they proclaim, ‘O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?’ …
“Here they stand and the finishing touch of immortality is put upon them and they go up to meet their Lord in the air.” Sons and Daughters of God, 359
As the saints ascend to the holy city, consider what takes place. “Friends long separated by death are united, nevermore to part, and with songs of gladness ascend together to the city of God.
“On each side of the cloudy chariot are wings, and beneath it are living wheels; and as the chariot rolls upward, the wheels cry, ‘Holy,’ and the wings, as they move, cry, ‘Holy,’ and the retinue of angels cry, ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty.’ And the redeemed shout, ‘Alleluia!’ as the chariot moves onward toward the New Jerusalem.” The Great Controversy, 645
“How glorious it will be to see Him and be welcomed as His redeemed ones! Long have we waited, but our hope is not to grow dim. If we can but see the King in His beauty we shall be forever blessed. I feel as if I must cry aloud: ‘Homeward bound!’ ” Testimonies, Vol. 8, 253
Oh friend, what a journey this will be for it will take seven days. “We entered the cloud together, and were seven days ascending to the sea of glass.” Early Writings, 16
“Before entering the city of God, the Saviour bestows upon His followers the emblems of victory and invests them with the insignia of their royal state. The glittering ranks are drawn up in the form of a hollow square about their King, whose form rises in majesty high above saint and angel, whose countenance beams upon them full of benignant love. Throughout the unnumbered host of the redeemed every glance is fixed upon Him, every eye beholds His glory whose ‘visage was so marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men.’ Upon the heads of the overcomers, Jesus with His own right hand places the crown of glory. For each there is a crown, bearing his own ‘new name’ (Revelation 2:17), and the inscription, ‘Holiness to the Lord.’ In every hand are placed the victor’s palm and the shining harp. Then, as the commanding angels strike the note, every hand sweeps the harp strings with skillful touch, awaking sweet music in rich, melodious strains. Rapture unutterable thrills every heart, and each voice is raised in grateful praise: ‘Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father; to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever.’ Revelation 1:5, 6.” The Great Controversy, 645, 646
What a glorious sight that will be!
As the saints receive their crown, a very touching event takes place, for many will thank their mothers. “The day of God will reveal how much the world owes to godly mothers. …
“When the judgment shall sit, and the books shall be opened; when the ‘well done’ of the great Judge is pronounced, and the crown of immortal glory is placed upon the brow of the victor, many will raise their crowns in sight of the assembled universe, and pointing to their mother say: ‘She made me all I am through the grace of God. Her instruction, her prayers, have been blessed to my eternal salvation.’ ” Maranatha, 308
Can you imagine the joy of parents? “With joy unutterable, parents see the crown, the robe, the harp, given to their children. The days of hope and fear are ended. The seed sown with tears and prayers may have seemed to be sown in vain, but their harvest is reaped with joy at last. Their children have been redeemed.” Ibid.
Isn’t that thrilling to consider?
Then our loving Saviour, having led the entire company across the sea of glass to the holy city, “raised His mighty, glorious arm, laid hold of the pearly gate, swung it back on its glittering hinges, and said to us, ‘You have washed your robes in My blood, stood stiffly for My truth, enter in.’ ” Early Writings, 17
“ ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’ ” Matthew 25:34
But let us not forget for a moment the joy that will be found in the heart of Christ. “Within the city there was everything to feast the eye. Rich glory they beheld everywhere. Then Jesus looked upon His redeemed saints; their countenances were radiant with glory; and as He fixed His loving eyes upon them, He said, with His rich, musical voice, ‘I behold the travail of My soul, and am satisfied. This rich glory is yours to enjoy eternally. Your sorrows are ended. There shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain.’ I saw the redeemed host bow and cast their glittering crowns at the feet of Jesus, and then, as His lovely hand raised them up, they touched their golden harps and filled all heaven with their rich music and songs to the Lamb.” Early Writings, 288, 289
And now the time has come. Adam is to again meet Him with whom he once walked and talked in his innocence. Try to catch the celestial excitement. “As the ransomed ones are welcomed to the city of God, there rings out upon the air an exultant cry of adoration. The two Adams are about to meet. The Son of God is standing with outstretched arms to receive the father of our race—the being whom He created, who sinned against his Maker, and for whose sin the marks of the crucifixion are borne upon the Saviour’s form. As Adam discerns the prints of the cruel nails, he does not fall upon the bosom of his Lord, but in humiliation casts himself at His feet, crying: ‘Worthy, worthy is the Lamb that was slain!’ Tenderly the Saviour lifts him up and bids him look once more upon the Eden home from which he has so long been exiled.” The Great Controversy, 647
Gazing upon its beauty, Adam views once again the very same Eden in which he and Eve had worshiped and praised God before sin entered the earth. “Transported with joy, he [Adam] beholds the trees that were once his delight—the very trees whose fruit he himself had gathered in the days of his innocence and joy. He sees the vines that his own hands have trained, the very flowers that he once loved to care for. His mind grasps the reality of the scene; he comprehends that this is indeed Eden restored, more lovely now than when he was banished from it. The Saviour leads him to the tree of life and plucks the glorious fruit and bids him eat. He looks about him and beholds a multitude of his family redeemed, standing in the paradise of God. Then he casts his glittering crown at the feet of Jesus and, falling upon His breast, embraces the Redeemer. He touches the golden harp, and the vaults of heaven echo the triumphant song: ‘Worthy, worthy, worthy is the Lamb that was slain, and lives again!’ The family of Adam take up the strain and cast their crowns at the Saviour’s feet as they bow before Him in adoration.” Ibid., 648
Try to envision the feelings of the redeemed as they behold the tree of life and the throne of God, and the moment when the saved will actually eat of the tree of life.
And now, we see the 144,000 standing on the crystal sea before the throne. These are they who:
have gotten the victory over the beast, his image, and his mark;
were translated from among the living at the second advent and are, therefore, the firstfruits;
came out of great tribulation, for they have passed through the time of trouble;
went through Jacob’s trouble;
stood without an intercessor after the close of probation;
and were without fault before God.
“With the Lamb upon Mount Zion, ‘having the harps of God,’ they stand, the hundred and forty and four thousand that were redeemed from among men; and there is heard, as the sound of many waters, and as the sound of a great thunder, ‘the voice of harpers harping with their harps.’ And they sing ‘a new song’ before the throne, a song which no man can learn save the hundred and forty and four thousand. It is the song of Moses and the Lamb—a song of deliverance. None but the hundred and forty-four thousand can learn that song; for it is the song of their experience—an experience such as no other company have ever had. … ‘These are they which came out of great tribulation’ … . But they have been delivered, for they have ‘washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’ ” Ibid., 648, 649
When considering heaven’s blessings, it is difficult to contain our yearnings for we long to experience the joy of such salvation. “Henceforth they are to be ever with the Lord. They stand before the throne clad in richer robes than the most honored of the earth have ever worn. They are crowned with diadems more glorious than were ever placed upon the brow of earthly monarchs. The days of pain and weeping are forever ended. The King of glory has wiped the tears from all faces; every cause of grief has been removed.” Ibid., 650
Our understanding of the plan of salvation will forever enlarge with the coming of eternal ages for we shall be ever learning more and more about the tremendous price God paid to save us. “In this life we can only begin to understand the wonderful theme of redemption. … The plan of redemption will not be fully understood, even when the ransomed see as they are seen and know as they are known; but through the eternal ages new truth will continually unfold to the wondering and delighted mind. Though the griefs and pains and temptations of earth are ended and the cause removed, the people of God will ever have a distinct, intelligent knowledge of what their salvation has cost.” Ibid., 651
“Language is altogether too feeble to attempt a description of heaven. As the scene rises before me, I am lost in amazement. Carried away with the surpassing splendor and excellent glory, I lay down the pen, and exclaim, ‘Oh, what love! what wondrous love!’ The most exalted language fails to describe the glory of heaven or the matchless depths of a Saviour’s love.” Maranatha, 319
For more than fifty years, Pastor Lawrence Nelson served the Seventh-day Adventist Church as a pastor, evangelist, and then in Conference, Union, and General Conference leadership. When God laid upon him the responsibility to “tell it like it is” to alert the people how the church was leading them into the worldwide ecumenical movement, he was forbidden to preach in any church within the Oregon Conference. Though nothing could be found in his preaching that was contrary to the doctrines of the church, he was considered divisive. As a result, Keep the Faith Audio Tape Ministry was born. Pastor Nelson passed to his rest on April 18, 2012.