Glimpses of Heaven
“Sue, you won’t believe this place!” were words I dreamed I heard from my friend, Betty. She lost her fight for life after a brief illness and is joyfully home with our Lord. Her cheerful voice made me long to be in Heaven too. Although no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him; he has revealed it to us by his spirit, (1 Cor. 2:9). At creation God made everything with eternity in mind. Even though our earthly bodies will die someday, death will not hold us any more than it held Jesus. We will rise from our graves with glorified bodies to be with Him in Heaven, (1 Thes. 4:13-18).
Imagine seeing God walking in the cool of the day as He did in the Garden of Eden, (Gen. 3:8). Think what life would be like without sin, death or suffering, (Rev. 21:4). Visualize the New Jerusalem with jeweled walls and streets of gold, (Rev. 21:15-10). The tree of life will bear twelve different kinds of fruit; one for every month of the year. It will stand by the river of life that flows from the throne of God, (Rev. 22:2). Before Jesus returned to His Heavenly home He said, “I am going to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me,” (Jn. 14:2-4).
Heaven is Real (Possible Sidebar)
The following scriptures reveal that Heaven is a physical place with real people:
“I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands,” (Rev. 7:9).
“The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean,” (Rev. 19:14).
“To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life which is in the paradise of God,” (Rev. 2:7).
“There is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents,”
He is Making All Things New
Jesus said, “I am making all things new,” (Rev. 21:5). He didn’t say He was making all new things. The Bible is filled with stories of His forgiveness and restoration. In my life He brought renewal when He replaced feelings of loneliness and failure with His love and purpose. When we see all things made new, everything that has breath will praise God, (Ps. 150:6). Imagine the animals singing praises! They have breath!
Why wouldn’t we expect to see animals in Heaven? Animal life was part of God’s original intent in creation and He preserved it through the flood during Noah’s time. A golden age is coming when we will have harmony with all creation. “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them,” (Is. 11:6).
The gates of Heaven are opened wide for those who believe, who let God love them and who learn to love and trust Him. Jesus said, “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me,” (Jn. 14:6), and “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die,” (Jn. 11:25).
Our Work for God is Eternal
Life in Heaven is a continuation of life on earth. Whatever we do for God will last forever. Although it will have a profound affect on people before and after we are gone from earth, it will continue to be part of God’s plan in Heaven. Randy Alcorn discussed an interesting concept in his book HEAVEN that man’s creativity and technological advancement will not be lost in Heaven. He says, “The God who gave people creativity surely won’t take it back, will he? The gifts and calling of God are irrevocable (Rom. 11:29) . . .Something in the human constitution loves to create, tweak, experiment, and play with machinery. This isn’t a modern development; it was true of ancient people as well. It’s inherent in exercising dominion over creation.”
The decisions we make and the things we do on earth matter for eternity. The Bible describes the New Jerusalem, a city as high and wide as it is long (from San Francisco to Chicago--cubed). A city of this size requires workers; people with real skills, abilities and creativity. It requires engineering, technology and administration. The work we do on earth could be preparing us for what we will do in Heaven. Some of us, including me, may not look forward to an eternity in our current vocations. Maybe Heaven will have no need of certain businesses or maybe God is teaching us something in the process that He can use in His kingdom. Whatever Heaven holds, I believe we will find pleasure in the work He has for us to do, just as we enjoy using our spiritual gifts today.
Be Imitators of God
Even though God is interested in our work, He is more interested in how we live. He calls us to be imitators of God, as dearly loved children, and live our lives with love, light and wisdom, (Eph. 5:1-2) “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us,” (1 Jn. 3:16).
A few years ago my friend, Shirley, modeled Christ’s love to me when I fell at work. At the time I didn’t know the fall broke my hip. I tried to get up but couldn’t. Tears of frustration and fear welled up in my eyes. I will never forget what Shirley did. She risked embarrassment, and lay down next to me. Patting her outstretched arm she said, “You just lay your head here. Don’t worry about a thing!” Because she demonstrated Christ-like love to me, I am motivated to find ways to show God’s love to others through similar acts of kindness.
Be Watchful, Faithful and Merciful
How can we be ready when Jesus comes? Three parables in Matthew 25 teach us how we can be watchful, faithful and merciful. The five wise virgins were ready when the bridegroom came at midnight, but the foolish ones were left outside. We don’t know the hour of our Lord, but we can be ready for the trumpet sound by trusting God and being watchful.
Two out of three tenants heard the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” These are words I want to hear when I come into God’s presence. Yet I am often overwhelmed with my projects and experience frustration with priorities. My friend, Dianne Butts, asked me one question that clarified things for me. She said, “If you knew Jesus was coming next year, which project would you want to lay at His feet?” Without hesitation I knew the answer.
When Jesus comes again with His angels, He will separate people as a shepherd separates sheep from goats. He will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me,” (Matt. 25:31-39).
They didn’t know they had ministered to their Lord but out of their love for God, they loved and served others. He will say to them, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me,” (Matt. 25:40). However, because those on His left had no mercy, He will say to them, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels,” (Matt. 25:41).
Set Your Mind on Things Above
The end of all things as we know it is near, so “Set your mind on things above,”
(Col. 3:2). Let us pray for sound and clear minds. Let us love each other deeply. Let us offer hospitality to each other without complaint and let us use whatever spiritual gifts we have to serve each other faithfully, (1 Pr. 4:7-10). While we are longing for our Lord’s appearing, He is making all things new, and we have a lot of work to do.