My Grandad used to tell the story of an older woman who came up to him after he preached a message on heaven, and she was distraught. My Grandad asked, “Aren’t you glad we have the hope of heaven?” “Oh, yes,” she said, “but I’m just afraid all of my friends who’ve gone on before me will think I haven’t made it!”
We long for heaven, but in the waiting we should bring a little heaven to earth. “Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” said our Savior.
Every time I ask a friend of mine how he’s doing, he answers, “Never better!” After getting slightly annoyed at his interminable optimism, I asked him why he keeps saying that. His response? “Because every day I’m a little closer to heaven.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about heaven the past couple of weeks. After hearing about several untimely and unrelated deaths, I’m reminded that, to quote the words of C. S. Lewis, “Nature is mortal; we shall outlive her” (The Weight of Glory).
If asked, most people would say they believe in heaven and want to go there. They just don’t want to go through the portal of death to get there. Death is the only guaranteed human experience that everyone will encounter but about which no one can testify. That particular testimony would require someone to die and stay dead long enough to be a trustworthy witness, and then come back and tell us about it.
Oh, and that would be . . . Jesus.
Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25, ESV).
In facing death and hoping for heaven, we have three options. We can deny its existence and hang our hat on the hope of death having the final word. We can fear its existence and hang our hat on the hope that our moral scale has tipped just enough to the good side that we make it in. Or we can embrace its existence and hang our hat on the living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Peter 1:3).
I’ll go with option three. Why? Because I’m going to stick with the Guy who “has been there, done that” and come back to show us the way to glory. And one day, “The door on which we have been knocking all our lives will open at last” (C. S. Lewis).
“In the resurrection scheme of things, this has to happen: everything perishable taken off the shelves and replaced by the imperishable, this mortal replaced by the immortal. Then the saying will come true: `Death swallowed by triumphant Life! Who got the last word, oh, Death? Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now?’ It was sin that made death so frightening and law-code guilt that gave sin its leverage, its destructive power. But now in a single victorious stroke of Life, all three—sin, guilt, death—are gone, the gift of our Master, Jesus Christ. Thank God!” (1 Corinthians 15:53-57, MSG).