"His whole family in heaven and on earth."
The words which form the title of this paper ought to always
stir some feelings in our minds. There is not a man or woman on
this earth who is not a member of some "family." The poorest as
well as the richest has his relative and kin, and can tell you
something of his "family."
We all know, that family gatherings at certain times of the
year, such as Christmas, are very common. Thousands of homes are
crowded then, if at no other time of the year. The young man in
town snatches a few days away from business, and takes a run
down to visit his parents at home. The young woman gets a short
holiday, and comes to visit her father and mother. Brothers and
sisters meet for a few hours. Parents and children look one
another in the face. There is so much to talk about! So many
questions to be asked! So many interesting things to be told! It
is indeed a happy home which sees "the whole family" gathered in
it at Christmas.
Family gatherings are natural, and right, and good. I approve of
them with all my heart. It does me good to see them kept up.
They are one of the very pleasant things which has survived the
fall of man. Next to the grace of God, I see no principle which
unites people so much in this sinful world as family sentiments.
Community of blood is a most powerful tie. It was a fine saying
of an American naval officer, when his men insisted on helping
the English sailors in fighting the Taku forts in China, "I
cannot help it: blood is thicker than water." I have often
observed that people will stand up for their relatives, merely
because they are their
relatives, and refuse to hear a word against them, even when
they have no sympathy with their tastes and ways. Anything which
helps to keep up the family sentiment ought to be commended. It
is a wise thing, when it can be done, to gather "the whole
family" together at Christmas.
Family gatherings, nevertheless, are often sorrowful things. It
would be strange indeed, in such a world as this, if they were
not. Few are the family circles which do not show gaps and
vacant places as years pass away. Changes and deaths make sad
havoc as time goes on. Thoughts will rise up within us, as we
grow older, about faces and voices no longer with us, which no
Christmas merriment can entirely keep down. When the young
members of the family have once began to launch forth into the
world, the old heads may long survive the scattering of the
nest; but after a certain time, it seldom happens that you see
"the whole family" together.
There is one great family to which I want all the readers of
this paper to belong. It is a family despised by many, and not
even known by some. But it is a family of far more importance
than any family on earth. To belong to it entitles a man to far
greater privileges than to be the son of a king. It is the
family of which Paul speaks to the Ephesians, when he tells them
of the "whole family in heaven and earth." It is the family of
I ask for the attention of every reader of this paper while I
try to describe this family, and recommend it to his notice. I
want to tell you of the amazing benefits which membership of
this family conveys. I want you to be found as a member of this
family, when it is finally gathered together in the end--a
gathering without separation, or sorrow, or tears. Hear me
while, as a minister of Christ, and friend to your soul, I speak
to you for a few minutes about "His whole family in heaven and
I. First of all, what
is this family?
II. Secondly, what
is its present position?
III. Thirdly, what
are its future prospects?
I wish to unfold these three things before you, and I invite
that you seriously consider them. Our family gatherings on earth
must one day come to an end. Our last earthly Christmas must
come. Happy indeed is that Christmas which finds us prepared to
I. What is that
family which the
Bible calls "His whole family in heaven and on earth"? Of whom
does it consist?
The family before us consists of all real Christians--all who
have the Holy Spirit living within them--all true believers in
Christ--all the saints of every age, and Church, and nation, and
language. It includes the blessed company of all faithful
people. It is the same as the Elect of God--the household of
faith--the mystical body of Christ--the bride--the living
temple--the sheep that never perish--the Church of the
firstborn--the holy universal Church. All these expressions are
"the family of God" only using other names.
Membership in "the family of God," does not depend on any
earthly connection. It does not come by natural birth, but by
new birth. Ministers cannot impart it to their hearers. Parents
cannot give it to their children. You may be born in the
godliest family in the land, and enjoy the sweetest fellowship
of grace that any Church can supply, and yet never belong to the
family of God. To belong to it you must be born again. No one
but the Holy Spirit can make you a living member of this family.
It is His special function and prerogative to bring into the
true Church all those who will be saved. Those who are born
again are born, "not of natural descent, nor of human decision
or a husband's will, but born of God." [John 1:13]
Do you want to know the reason that the Bible gives this name to
all true Christians? Would you like to know why they are called
"a family"? Listen and I will tell you.
(a) True Christians are called "a family" because they all have one
They are all children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. They are
all born of one Spirit. They are all sons and daughters of the
Lord Almighty. They have received the Spirit of adoption,
whereby they cry, "Abba Father." [Galatians 3:26; John 3:8; 2
Corinthians 6:18; Romans 8:15] They do not regard God with a
cringing kind of fear, as they would to a harsh Being, that is
always ready to punish them. They look up to Him with tender
confidence, as a reconciled and loving parent--as one forgiving
evil and sin, to all who believe in Jesus--and full of pity even
to the least and feeblest. The words, "Our Father in heaven,"
are no mere form of prayer in the mouth of true Christians. No
wonder they are called God's "family."
(b) True Christians are called "a family," because they all rejoice
in one name.
That name is the name of their great Head and Elder Brother,
even Jesus Christ the Lord. Just as a common family name is the
uniting link to all the members of a clan, so does the name of
Jesus tie all believers together in one vast family. As members
of outward visible Churches they have various names and
distinguishing classifications. As living members of Christ,
they all, with one heart and mind, rejoice in one Savior. Every
heart among them feels drawn to Jesus as the only object of
hope. Every tongue among them would tell you that "Christ is
all." Sweet to them all is the thought of Christ's death for
them on the cross. Sweet is the thought of Christ's intercession
for them at the right hand of God. Sweet is the thought of
Christ's coming again to unite them to Himself in one glorified
fellowship forever. In fact, you might as well take away the sun
out of heaven, as take away the name of Christ from believers.
To the world His Name may not mean much, but to believers, it is
full of comfort, hope, rest, and peace. No wonder they are
called "a family."
(c) True Christians, above all, are called "a family" because
there is so strong a
family resemblance among
They are all led by one Spirit, and are marked by the same
general features of life, heart, taste, and character. Just as
there is a general bodily resemblance among the brothers and
sisters of a family, so there is a general spiritual resemblance
among all the sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty. They all
hate sin and love God. They all rest their hope of salvation on
Christ, and have no confidence in themselves. They all endeavor
to "come out and be separate" from the ways of the world, and to
set their affections on things above. They all naturally turn to
the same Bible, as the only food for their souls and the only
sure guide in their pilgrimage toward heaven: they find it "a
lamp to their feet and a light for their path." [Psalm 119:105]
They all go to the same throne of grace in prayer, and find it
as needful to speak to God as to breathe. They all live by the
same rule, the Word of God, and strive to conform their daily
life to its precepts. They all have the same inward experience.
They all are, in varying degrees, acquainted with repentance,
faith, hope, love, humility, and inward conflict. No wonder they
are called "a family."
This family likeness among true believers is a thing that
deserves special attention. To my own mind it is one of the
strongest indirect evidences of the truth of Christianity. It is
one of the greatest proofs of the reality of the work of the
Holy Spirit. Some true Christians live in civilized countries,
and some in the midst of heathen lands. Some are highly
educated, and some are unable to read a single letter of the
alphabet. Some are rich and some are poor. Some are old and some
are young. And yet, despite all these differences, there is a
marvelous oneness of heart and character among them. Their joys
and their sorrows, their love and their hatred, their likes and
their dislikes, their preferences and their aversions, their
hopes and their fears, are all most curiously alike. Let others
think what they please, I see in all this the finger of God. His
handiwork is always one and the same. No wonder that true
Christians are compared to "a family."
Take a converted Englishman and a converted Hindu, and let them
suddenly meet for the first time. I will ensure you, if they can
understand one another's language, they will soon find common
ground between them, and feel at home. The one may have been
brought up at Oxford, and enjoyed every privilege of English
civilization. The other may have been trained in the midst of
gross heathenism, and accustomed to habits, ways, and manners as
unlike the Englishman's as darkness compared to light. And yet
now in half an hour they feel that they are friends! The
Englishman finds that he has more in common with this Hindu
brother than he has with many of his old college companions. Who
can account for this? How can it be explained? Nothing can
account for it but the unity of the Holy Spirit's teaching. It
is "one touch" of grace (not nature) "that makes the whole world
family." God's people are in the brightest sense "a family."
This is the family to which I wish to direct the attention of my
readers in this paper. This is the family to which I want you to
belong. I ask you this day to consider it carefully, if you
never considered it before. I have shown you the Father of the
family--the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. I have
shown you the Head and Elder Brother of the family--the Lord
Jesus Himself. I have shown you the features and characteristics
of the family. All its members have great marks of resemblance.
Once more I say, consider it well.
Outside this family, remember, there is no salvation. No one but
those who belong to it, according to the Bible, are on the road
that leads to heaven. The salvation of our souls does not depend
on union with one Church or separation from another. They are
miserably deceived who think that it does, and will find it out
to their loss one day, unless they wake up. No! the life of our
souls depends on something far more important. This is eternal
life, to be a member of "the whole family in heaven and earth."
II. I will now pass on to the second thing which I promised
to consider. What
is the present position of
the whole family in heaven and earth?
The family to which I am directing the attention of my readers
this day is divided into two great parts. Each part has its own
residence or dwelling place. Part of the family is in heaven,
and part is on earth. For the present the two parts are entirely
separated from one another. But they form one body in the sight
of God, though resident in two places; and their union is sure
to take place one day.
Remember, two places, and only two, contain the family of God.
The Bible tells us of no third habitation. There is no such
thing as Purgatory, despite what some may falsely teach! There
is no house of purifying, training, or probation for those who
are not true Christians when they die. Oh no! There are only two
parts of the family--the part that is seen and the part that is
unseen, the part that is in "heaven" and the part that is on
"earth." The members of the family that are not in heaven are on
earth, and those that are not on the earth are in heaven. Two
parts, and only two! Two places, and only two! Let this never be
Some of God's family are safe in
heaven. They are at rest in that place which the Lord Jesus
expressly calls "Paradise." [Luke 23:43] They have finished
their course. They have fought their battle. They have finished
their appointed work. They have learned their lessons. They have
carried their cross. They have passed through the waves of this
troublesome world and have reached the harbor. As little as we
know about them, we know that they are happy. They are no longer
troubled by sin and temptation. They have said goodbye forever
to poverty and anxiety, to pain and sickness, to sorrow and
tears. They are with Christ Himself, who loved them and gave
Himself up for them, and in His company they are indeed very
happy. [Philippians 1:23] They have nothing to fear in looking
back to the past. They have nothing to dread in looking forward
to things to come. There are only three things lacking that
would make their happiness complete. These three are the Second
Coming of Christ in glory, the resurrection of their own bodies,
and the gathering together of all believers.
Some of God's family are still on
the earth. They are scattered everywhere in the midst of a
wicked world, a few in one place and a few in another. All are
more or less occupied in the same way, according to the measure
of their grace given them. All are running a race, doing a work,
fighting a warfare, carrying a cross, striving against sin,
resisting the devil, crucifying the flesh, struggling against
the world, witnessing for Christ, mourning over their own
hearts, hearing, reading, and praying, however feebly, for the
life of their souls. Each is often disposed to think no cross is
so heavy as his own, no work so difficult, no heart so hard. But
each and everyone is steadfast in their way--a wonder to the
ignorant world around them, and often a wonder to themselves.
But, however divided God's family may be at the present time, on
the earth, it is still one family. Both parts of it are still
one in character, one in possessions, and one in relation to
God. The part in heaven does not have as much superiority over
the part on earth as at first sight may appear. The difference
between the two is only one of degree.
(a) Both parts of the family love the same Savior, and delight
in the same perfect will of God. But the part on earth loves
with much imperfection and weakness, and lives by faith, not by
sight. The part in heaven loves without weakness, or doubt, or
distraction. It walks by sight and not by faith, and sees what
it once believed.
(b) Both parts of the family are saints. But the saints on earth
are often poor weary pilgrims, who find that the "sinful nature
desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is
contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each
other, so that they do not do what they want." [Galatians 5:17]
They live in the midst of an evil world, and are often sick of
themselves and of the sin they see around them. The saints in
heaven, on the contrary, are delivered from the world, the
flesh, and the devil, and enjoy glorious liberty. They are
called "the spirits of righteous men made perfect." [Hebrews
(c) Both parts of the family are equally God's children. But the
children in heaven have learned all their lessons, have finished
their appointed tasks, have begun an eternal holiday. The
children on earth are still in school. They are daily learning
wisdom, though slowly and with much trouble, and often needing
to be reminded of their past lessons by chastisement and the
rod. Their graduation day is yet to come.
(d) Both parts of the family are equally God's soldiers. But the
soldiers on earth are still engaged in the battle. Their fight
is not over. Every day they need to put on the whole armor of
God. The soldiers in heaven are all triumphant. No enemy can
hurt them now. No fiery dart of Satan can reach them. They have
laid aside both helmet and shield. They can at last say to the
sword of the Spirit, "Rest and be still." They can finally sit
down, and not have to watch and stand on their guard.
(e) Last, but not least, both parts of the family are equally
safe and secure. As wonderful as this may sound, it is true.
Christ cares as much for His family members on earth as His
family members in heaven. You might as well think to pluck the
stars out of heaven, as to pluck one saint, however feeble, out
of Christ's hand. Both parts of the family are equally secure by
"an everlasting covenant, arranged and secured in every part?"
[2 Samuel 23:5] The members on earth, through the weakness of
their flesh and the smallness of their faith, may neither see,
nor know, nor feel their own safety. But they are safe, though
they may not see it. The whole family is "shielded by God's
power until the coming of the salvation." [1 Peter 1:5] The
family members still on the road to the Fatherís house are as
secure as the members who have already made it home. On the last
day no one will be found missing. The words of the Christian
poet will be proved true:
"More happy, but not more secure,
The glorified saints in heaven."
Now before I leave this part of my subject, I ask every reader
of this paper to thoroughly understand the present situation of
Godís family, and to form an accurate estimate of it. Do not
measure its numbers nor its privileges by what you see with your
eyes. You see only a small body of believers at the present
time. But you must not forget that a great number has already
made it safely to heaven, and that when all are assembled at the
last day, there will be a great multitude that no one could
count." [Revelation 7:9]
You only see that part of the family which is struggling on
earth. You must never forget that the greater part of the family
has already made it home and is resting in heaven. You see the
militant part, but not the triumphant. You see the part that is
carrying the cross, but not the part that is safe in Paradise.
The family of God is far more rich and glorious than you
suppose. Believe me, it is no small thing to belong to the
"whole family in heaven and on earth."
III. I will now move on to the last thing which I promised to
consideróWhat are the future prospects of
the whole family in heaven and on earth?
The future prospects of a family! What a vast amount of
uncertainty these words open up when we look at any family we
now see in the world! How little we can tell of the things
coming on any of us! What a mercy it is that we do not know the
sorrows and trials and separations which our beloved children
may have to experience, after we have left the world! It is a
mercy that we do not know "what a day may bring forth," and a
far greater mercy that we do not know what may happen in the
next twenty years. [Proverbs 27:1] Surely, foreknowledge of the
future prospects of our household would spoil many a family
gathering, and fill the whole party with gloom!
Think how many a fine boy, who is now the delight of his
parents, will in time follow the path of a reckless son, and
never return home! Think how many a fair daughter, the joy of a
motherís heart, will in a few years follow her own stubborn
will, and insist on some miserably mistaken marriage! Think how
disease and pain will often lay low the loveliest of a family
circle, and make her life a burden and wearisome to herself, if
not to others! Think of the endless disagreements and divisions
that will arise out of money matters! Yes, there is many a
life-long quarrel over a small sum of money, between those who
once played joyfully together in the same nursery! Think of
these things. The "future prospects" of many a family which
meets together every Christmas are a solemn and serious subject.
Hundreds, to say the least, are gathering together for the last
time: when they part they will never meet again.
But, thank God, there is one great family whose "prospects" are
very different. It is a family of which I am speaking in this
paper, and commending your attention. The future prospects of
the family of God are not uncertain. They are good, and only
good; happy and only happy. Listen to me, and I will try to set
them in order before you.
(a) The members of Godís family will all be brought
safely home one
Here on earth they may be scattered, tried, tossed with storms
of life, and bowed down with afflictions. But not one of them
will perish. [John 10:28] The weakest lamb will not be left to
perish in the wilderness: the feeblest child will not be missing
when the roll call is called out at the last day. In spite of
the world, the flesh, and the devil, the whole family will get
home. "For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to
him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been
reconciled, shall we be saved through His life!" [Romans 5:10]
(b) The members of Godís family will
one day all
have glorious bodies.
When the Lord Jesus Christ comes the second time, the dead
saints will all be raised and the living will all be changed.
They will no longer have a vile mortal body, full of weaknesses
and infirmities: they will have a body like that of their risen
Lord, without the slightest vulnerability to sickness and pain.
They will no longer be clogged and hindered by an aching frame,
when they want to serve God: they will be able to serve Him
night and day without any weariness, and to attend to Him
without any distraction. The former things will have passed
away. That word will be fulfilled, "I am making everything new!"
(c) One day, the members of Godís family will all be gathered
into one company.
It does not matter where they have lived or where they have
died. They may have been separated from one another both by time
and space. One may have lived in tents, with Abraham, Isaac, and
Jacob, and another traveled by the modern transportation of our
day. One may have his bones laid to rest in an Australian
desert, and another may have been buried in an English
churchyard. It makes no difference. All will be gathered
together from north and south, and east and west, and meet in
one happy assembly, never to part again. The earthly partings of
Godís family are only for a few days. Their meeting is for
eternity. Little does it matter where we live. It is a time of
scattering now, not of gathering. Little does it matter where we
die. All grave are equally near to Paradise. But it does matter
whether we belong to Godís family. If we do we are sure to meet
again in the end.
(d) One day the members of Godís family will all be united
in mind and judgment.
They are so divided now about many little things. About the
things needful to salvation there is a marvelous unity among
them. About many speculative points in religion, about forms of
worship and church government, they often sadly disagree. But
one day there will be no disagreement among them at all. Ephraim
will no longer disturb Judah, nor Judah Ephraim. Partial
knowledge and dim vision will be ended forever. Divisions and
separations, misunderstandings and misinterpretations, will all
be buried and forgotten. Since there will only be one language,
so there also will be only one opinion. At last, after thousands
of years of strife and clashing, perfect unity and harmony will
be found. A family will finally be shown to angels and men in
which all are of one mind.
(e) One day the members of Godís family will all be perfected
They are not now literally perfect, although they "have been
given fullness in Christ." [Colossians 2:10] Though they are
born again, and renewed after the image of Christ, they stumble
and fall short in many things. [James 3:2] No one knows it
better than they do themselves. It is their grief and sorrow
that they do not love God more heartily and serve Him more
faithfully. But one day they will be completely freed from all
corruption. They will rise again at Christís Second Coming
without any of the disorders and sicknesses which now cleave to
them in their lives. Not a single evil temper or corrupt
inclination will be found in them. They will be presented by
their Lord and Husband to the Father, without spot, or wrinkle,
or any such thingóperfectly holy and without blemishófair as the
moon, and clear as the sun. [Ephesians 5:27, Song of Solomon
Grace, even now, is a beautiful thing, when it lives, and
shines, and flourishes in the midst of imperfection. But how
much more beautiful will grace appear when it is seen pure,
unmixed, unmingled, and alone! And it will be seen so when
Christ comes to be glorified in His saints at the last day.
(f) Last, but not least, one day, the members of Godís family
will be eternally
When the affairs of this sinful world are finally wound up and
settled, there will be an everlasting reward for all the sons
and daughters of the Lord Almighty. Not even the weakest of them
will be overlooked and forgotten. There will be something for
everyone, according to their faithfulness. The smallest vessel
of grace, as well as the greatest, will be filled to the brim
with glory. It would be pure folly to pretend to describe the
precise nature of that glory and reward. It is a thing which "no
eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has conceived." [1
Corinthians 2:9] It is enough for us to know that each member of
Godís family, when he awakes from the grave to his Masterís
likeness, will be "satisfied." [Psalm 17:15] Above all, it will
be enough to know that their joy, and glory, and reward will be
forever. They will never lose what they will receive in the day
of the Lord. The inheritance reserved for them, when they come
of age, is "an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or
fade." [1 Peter 1:4]
These prospects of Godís family are great realities. They are
not vague shadowy talk of manís invention. They are real true
things, and will be seen as such before long. They deserve your
serious consideration. Examine them well.
Look around the families of earth with which you are acquainted,
the richest, the greatest, the noblest, and the happiest. Where
will you find one among them all which can show prospects to
compare with those of which you have just heard? The earthly
riches, in many a case, will be gone in a hundred years or so.
The noble blood, in many a case, will not prevent some
disgraceful deed from staining the family name. The happiness,
in many a case, will be found hollow and illusive. Few, indeed,
are the homes that do not have a secret sorrow, or a "skeleton
in the closet." Whether for present possessions or future
prospects, there is no family so well off as "the whole family
of God in heaven and earth." Whether you look at what they now
have, or what they will have in heaven, there is no family like
the family of God.
My task is done. My paper is drawing to a close. It only remains
to close it with a few words of practical application. Give me
your attention for the last time. May God bless what I am going
to say for the good of your soul!
(1) I ask you a simple question. Take it with you to every
family gathering which you join at any season of the year. Take
it with you, and amidst all your happiness make time for
thinking about it. It is a simple question, but a solemn one, Do
you really belong to the family of God?
To the family of God, remember! This is the point of my
question. It is no answer to say that you are a Protestant, or
belong to so-and-so denomination, or are an Evangelical. I want
to hear of something more and better than that. I want you to
have some soul-satisfying and soul-saving religion. A religion
that will give you peace while you live, and hope when you die.
To have such peace and hope you must be something more than a
Protestant, or a member of so-and-so denomination, or an
Evangelical. You must belong to "the family of God." I firmly
believe that thousands around you do not belong to the family.
But that is no reason why you should not.
If you do not yet belong to Godís family, I invite you this day
to join it without delay. Open your eyes to see the value of
your soul, the sinfulness of sin, the holiness of God, and the
present danger of your present condition, the absolute necessity
of a mighty change. Open your eyes to see these things, and
repent this very day. Open your eyes to see the great head of
Godís family, even Christ Jesus, waiting to save your soul. See
how he has loved you, lived for you, died for you, risen again
for you, and obtained complete redemption for you. See how he
offers you free, full, immediate pardon, if you will only
believe in Him. Open your eyes to see these things. Seek Christ
at once. Come and believe in Him, and commit your soul to His
keeping this very day.
I know nothing of your family or past history. I do not know
where you go to spend your holidays, or what company you are
going to be in. But I am bold to say, that if you join the
family of God you will find it the best and happiest family in
(2) If you really belong to the whole family in heaven and
earth, count up your privileges, and learn
to be more thankful. Remember what a mercy it is to have
something which the world can neither give nor take
awayósomething which makes you independent of sickness and
poverty--something which is your own forevermore. The old family
home will soon be empty and up for sale. The old family
gatherings will soon be past and gone forever. The loving faces
we now delight to gaze on are rapidly leaving us. The cheerful
voices which now welcome us will be silent in the grave. But,
thank God, if we belong to Christís family there is a better
gathering yet to come. Let us often think of it, and be
The family gathering of all Godís people will make up for all
that their religion now costs them. A meeting where none are
missingóa meeting where there are no gaps and empty placesóa
meeting where there are no tearsóa meeting where there is no
partingósuch a meeting as this is worth a fight and a struggle.
And such a meeting is yet to come to "the whole family in heaven
In the meantime let us strive to live worthy of the family to
which we belong. Let us labor to do nothing that may cause our
Fatherís house to be spoken against. Let us endeavor to make our
Masterís name beautiful by our disposition, conduct, and
conversation. Let us love as brethren, and abhor all quarrels.
Let us behave as if the honor of "the family" depended on our
So living, by the grace of God, we will make our calling and
election sure, both to ourselves and others. So living, "we will
have the sure hope of receiving a rich welcome into the eternal
kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." [2 Peter 1:11] So
living, we will recommend our Fatherís family to others, and
perhaps by Godís blessing induce them to say, "We will go with