+ In Nomine Jesu +
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
There is an old Norwegian catechism that says God our Father called us aside one day in the home palace of heaven and sent us out to this "island colony called the earth." After describing what our life would be like here, our Lord ends by saying, "The greatest danger is that you may fall in love with this island so that you will not care to return to the home kingdom. Love the island because it is My possession, but do not love it because it is your home. It is not your home. Your home is here in the palace with Me."
So familiar with this world and so unfamiliar with heaven, the question we ask is what is heaven like? The answer, of course, to be correct, has to come from God's Word. John, writing from his secluded little Island called Patmos, tells us some of the things that will be absent in heaven, which then helps us to understand what it will be like. We'll come to John's letter in just a moment. First, lets see how we'd answer the question about heaven if we didn't have God's Word to enlighten us.
College students on a mid-west campus were asked what heaven would be like. One student said, "Heaven is a bar filled with all of your best friends and their friends too. Your wallet is never dry. The band is great, the dance floor is something wicked, and there is no last call. . . . . . . Or at least this is what I hope heaven looks like."
"I'm not afraid to die (the student goes on to say). I'm pretty well acquainted with the fact that we live and we die. It's all part of this "journey." I don't know what comes after death - If anything at all, but I won't live out of fear."
"If heaven and hell exist (he says) I'm relying on my hope to get me in the right door." What is the young man's hope you may wonder. Well, he goes on to tell us. "I think I'm a relatively good person in a world full of evil and temptations. I try to have good intentions. I mean if heaven denies me simply because I was never baptized and I don't go to church that's pretty (expletive). That's an elitist club (he says) that I don't even wanna be a member of!"
I used to say heaven is going to have the most beautiful golf coarse you've ever seen. Every time you play you shoot a 59. For you non-golfers that's a really really good score! That was my tongue in cheek answer to what heaven was going to be like, that is, until I gave up golf. Now I don't much care if heaven even has a golf coarse.
Our nature, so corrupted by sin, keeps us from being able to comprehend something as perfect and eternal as heaven. I mean, even though eternity is set in our hearts and we know that something lies beyond the grave, it is hard for us to imagine eternity itself, much less an eternity that is filled with bliss and joy. The question a golfer would ask about shooting a 59 each time they played heaven's coarse is, wouldn't that get kind of boring? In fact, that concern is one that many people express when it comes to contemplating heaven...how can you do anything throughout eternity without being bored to tears?
Sometime, in the deep recesses of your heart and mind, you've probably experienced a bit of fear when thinking about what heaven will be like. Will I experience heartache because someone I knew and loved in life isn't there? If James and John end up being seated on Jesus' left and right in the great celestial banquet, will I be disappointed? If there isn't a golf coarse in heaven, will I miss it?
It is fitting that, as John closes out the final book of the Bible, he address heaven, our home for all eternity. In his vision in chapter 21 he sees a new heaven and a new earth. The new heaven is Jerusalem, the holy city, the Church, the people of God, redeemed and cleansed of sin by the blood of Christ. She is adorned as a bride prepared for her husband. She is beautiful and perfect, without spot or blemish.
Throughout this life, she longed to see her groom face to face. He loved her unto death, even death on a cross. She knew that was true. He came to her with letters of love that no husband, save He, could be pure enough and self-less enough to pen. He served her with His body and blood that she might be strengthened in her love for Him, knowing the depth and the height and breadth of His love for her.
And now, in the new Jerusalem, God dwells with her. In this world, having seen her groom only dimly, as in a mirror, now, she sees Him face to face. She is overwhelmed by joy, joy not unlike that experienced by Adam and Eve when God walked among them in the garden in the cool of the day.
Because she came to Him through suffering and pain, God wipes the tears from her eyes. And when He wipes away her tears, they fall no more, for the first order of things has passed away.
Finally, she knows what it means to be perfectly and eternally content! Her heart's desire is to live with her groom, with Christ, forever. She doesn't conceive of hurt or of loss, because her sin, the source of all her suffering and pain, the source of all her discontent, is no more. What she longed to be in life, she now is in eternity, pure, holy, righteous, everything God created her to be.
At the end of that old Norwegian catechism, God said, "your home is here in the palace with Me." Really, heaven isn't so much a place to be imagined as it is Person to be enjoyed. John says, "God will dwell among them." That is the essence of heaven, to be in the presence of Christ, and to know His love for His bride in perfect contentment. Sin is no more, as is everything attendant to sin, sorrow, mourning, crying, pain, and yes, even death are all gone.
While it is hard for us to imagine exactly what heaven will be like, the One who receives us there, the Lamb of God, slain for the sins of the world, moves us, nonetheless, to long to be with Him.
"O Christ, do Thou my soul prepare
For that bright home of love
That I may see Thee and adore
With all Thy saints above."
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.
+ Soli Deo Gloria +
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