Are We Looking For Heaven?
by Joyce Jamerson
What is the most beautiful piece of God’s creation
you’ve ever seen? The prettiest scenery? Hawaii? The Grand Canyon? A national forest? Or maybe
a sunset in your own back yard? How about a rainbow on your dream vacation! It could be the beauty of changing
leaves in the fall with the burst of color that can almost takes your breath.
Think of your most memorable experience. Was it the day you were married? The birth of
your first child? Perhaps the baptism of a friend or loved one? Maybe even a trip with a friend. The best
times in our lives are probably not the times when we’ve had a riotously good time and laughed our heads off at some
silliness - even though those times are cleansing and memorable, but the times when we could connect with the beauty of God’s
creation and feel the companionship and camaraderie of being close to God, either through study or nature.
Other notable times include being in the quiet of your own home in your
own private study of God’s Word, especially when some truth has suddenly become clearer in your mind or when the preacher
makes a point that explains a long sought solution to a spiritual puzzle. Those times are memorable; our a-ha moments.
Usually, our happiest moments involve friends, family and God. If God isn’t there, happiness will soon become
dull and temporary and our attempts to re-create happiness are futile. In the endless quest for satisfaction in life, bad
habits can be formed that are hard to overcome.
Some time ago, there was
a Disney commercial of an excited family getting ready to leave on their vacation the next day. The cute little boy is laying
on his back in his bed, talking with his sister and in a giggly little voice, says “I’m too excited to sleep!”
If we’re getting ourselves ready for a trip to heaven, why aren’t we speaking of it more? Excited about it?
Is our affection really set on heaven instead of things on earth, Colossians 3:2? Why aren’t we excited about
going? How often do we even think of it? How long has it been since you heard a sermon about heaven and God’s
glory? I have to admit I’m thinking of it more often, because my husband of 50 years, died last year. Since
he lived a life of service to God, I have every reason to believe that he is resting in Paradise, awaiting the judgment that
will take him to heaven - and I want to join him.
Heaven will be our theme
for the “Looking Within” page this year and we’ll try to put the details of heaven before us; to look at
God’s plan and look at our reasons for hope; reasons to focus on this beauty that can be ours. God promised it
even before time began (Titus 1:2) and I really want it! It’s in my heart because God set it there, Ecclesiastes
3:11. It’s in yours too, unless you are ignoring it. We could say it is “our hope” for hope is primary
in this journey.
Where is heaven and what is it like? Why did God provide
such a place? Is it worth it to go there? How can we be happy if some of our friends or family are not there?
Who is there right now? Will we know one another? Can we be assured of going? What will we be like? What
is Biblical rest? What will we do there? What does it mean to lay down our burdens? What are angels like?
How does the resurrection relate?
I guess you can tell there are plenty of areas
to study and discuss. Are you as curious as I? C.S. Lewis wrote of heaven and then said, “Guesses, of course,
only guesses. If they are not true, something better will be,” (Letters to Malcolm).
Our society doesn’t seem to pay too much attention to the prospect of either heaven or hell, although it is
said that 85% of Americans believe in heaven. I’m afraid that doesn’t mean they are all religious.
Browse the bookstore shelves to find fantastic titles of near death experiences or a medium with supposed powers who communicates
with the dead. Sensationalism sells and these titles usually have a great following, even among those who claim to be
believe in heaven but admit they rarely read their Bible. Heaven can be a profitable subject.
There are many fantasies regarding heaven and in the coming year, we’ll look into Biblical details (and the
key word here is Biblical) separating fantasy from fact. The only book needed in order to prove there is a heaven is
God has had a plan for us from the beginning and prepared
this earth, this dwelling place just for us and planned an afterlife as well; a future beyond life on this earth. His
love is beyond measure and it is our privilege to learn it through His Word and either accept or deny it. We are surrounded
by evidence of His love and we can have a relationship with Him that will only be a taste of what is to come.
As we travel this great country, we can see the works of God - the magnificent layers of color
in the rocks of the painted desert; the changing colors as the sun goes down on the Grand Canyon; the huge majestic glaciers
in the waters of Alaska; the redwoods of Northern California; the beaches of Southern Florida and wonders of the ocean.
Did I leave out the mountains? We love to plan vacations just to be outdoors and take in the beauty of these astonishing
works of God - and yet, in His great wisdom, He has even greater plans for us in a place without hospitals, cemeteries, crime,
pollution, hurricanes, floods or earthquakes; just a place of awe and holiness, peace and safety.
Our vision, our expectation of heaven will be somewhat shaped by life’s events. To those who have dealt
with accidents, illness and long term pain, perpetual health is very appealing; those who have suffered abuse and mental illness
will long for eternal peace and rest. A poor family will envision never being in need and a child who has known hunger
and loneliness can anticipate never being in need again.
our trials, whatever our burdens, whatever life has brought our way, if we obey God’s plan, heaven will be our joy.
It will be worth waiting for and we should be anticipating it daily.
not even sure of all the areas this study will cover but I really hope you’ll be traveling along with me on this exciting
“Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount
to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare,” Psalm 40:5 NIV.
~ A place of awe
by Joyce Jamerson
One of the most overused words in our society today, seems to be the word awesome.
In the New American Standard version of our Bible, the word awesome is used 31 times, all in the Old Testament. It is my personal
choice, but I try not to use the word awesome unless it can be attributed to God. Anything grand, breathtaking, splendid,
and amazing can be described as awesome, but even these words fail to capture the beauty of heaven. The descriptions of heaven
in Revelation can only be understood in physical terms that we will understand, for comprehension of the actual beauty is
not within our capabilities. Jasper walls, pearly gates and jeweled foundations of translucent semi-precious stones must be
magnificent, brilliant and dazzling. Imagine the light passing through them! We, as women, usually put important significance
to pearls and diamonds ~ usually through sentiment and romance. They’re precious to us, but no matter how big and perfect
your diamond is, it will just be a speck compared to the beauty of stones in heaven. The vision John saw was of “the
holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God,” Revelation 21:10, 11. The brilliance
was as very costly stone, crystal clear jasper.
John begins describing heaven’s beauty in Revelation
21 as a city with walls; great and high walls with twelve gates and at each of the gates, an angel. Names are written on the
gates; the name of each of the twelve tribes of Israel. There are three gates on each side of this city; east, north, south
and west. Twelve foundation stones hold the names of the twelve apostles. This city is laid out in a square and its streets
are of transparent glass. There is no need for the sun or moon, for its light comes from the glory of God. The lamp is the
Verse 24 of Revelation 21 goes on to say “the nations will walk by its light, and the kings of earth will bring
their glory into it. And in the daytime (for there shall be no night there) its gates shall never be closed; and they shall
bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; and nothing unclean and no one who practices abomination and lying,
shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the lambs book of life,” Revelation 21: 24-27.
For some reason, this Scripture gives me the mental image of the opening ceremony for the Olympic
games, when all the nations are coming into the Olympic stadium. Especially with the opening and closing ceremonies, the goal
is to make them as magnificent and enjoyable as possible; no expense is spared. All the nations enter the huge Olympic stadium
in colorful uniforms representing each country and it’s always a thrill to see the Olympic torch light the flame that
will remain constant throughout the competition. What an enjoyable scene, seeing all nations coming together for one purpose!
Can you imagine this scene in heaven, as each country is shepherded in by Jesus, with banners that read “The African
Christians, the Romanian Christians, the Chinese Christians and these Christians are from the USA!” and so on. (Maybe
that’s a little over the top, but it’s my mental image of that majesty and beauty.) Finally, we’ll be able
to meet our brothers and sisters from other lands or be reunited with ones we have had the opportunity to meet in this life.
What a time of glory.
When Paul was writing to the Christians in Rome, he said, “the sufferings of this present
time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us,” Romans 8:18. Paul looked forward to
his trip. He consistently brings heaven into his conversations. We can almost hear the hope in his voice, and his words are
even more interesting when we realize he was in prison at the time of this writing. Daily trials did not hinder Paul from
anticipating his eternal trip. He knew that any affliction would be momentary and light (2 Corinthians 4:17), and enduring
life’s difficulties would actually prepare him to enjoy heaven more!
example teaches us to look beyond any trial or temptation, any persecution or disappointment to focus on what Jesus told His
disciples. Jesus said He would go to prepare a place for them but they didn’t really understand. Thomas said, “Lord,
we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” And that’s when Jesus said, “I am the way,
the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” John 14:5,6. No one will enter the gates of heaven
without knowing Jesus.
God had a plan for us. Peter tells us in 1 Peter 1
that Jesus was “foreknown before the foundation of the world.” Throughout the Old Testament we find prophecies
of the coming Christ (a fascinating study in itself) and when the time was right, God sent His Son. We can never understand
why God would provide a place called heaven without understanding the covenants (agreements between God and man) that took
place. God has always sought to have a relationship with His people. Throughout the Old Testament there is the theme of “I
will be their God and they shall be My people.” Israel broke their covenant even though God proved to be a God of great
love and mercy. God’s sending of His Son brought a new covenant, prophesied by Jeremiah, 31:31-34. Described in the
book of Hebrews, this covenant is better, with better promises, a better sacrifice (Jesus) and a superior priesthood. If the
old covenant had been perfect, there would be no need for a new - but it wasn’t. Enter Jesus. Perfection. Grace. Truth.
Mercy. Hope. “No one comes to the Father except through me.”
No longer was physical birth into the Jewish nation required to be in God’s family. Spiritual blessings would
come to all nations through the knowledge of God and spiritual birth would be by baptism into the blood of Jesus because He
paid the price for us. He was our sacrifice and His resurrection is the corner-stone of Christianity. Without it, His claim
to be the Son of God would be nothing. Without it, what hope could we have for a resurrection? This new covenant is a choice.
We have the free will to accept it or reject it. For those who accept - heaven is prepared; for those who reject - a much
worse fate. When death comes to us, our fate will be determined after our spirits return to God to await the final judgment.
Heaven can be ours. All the things we dream of having will be ours. I’m not
speaking of personal possessions but the things for which we long. Peace. Contentment. Freedom from physical pain. Freedom
from emotional pain. Glory. Light. Beauty.
It will be awesome and I can’t wait
to explore it further.
Heaven - A Place of Safety
“For the Lamb in the center of the throne shall be their
shall guide them to springs of the water of life…”
There are many references to sheep and shepherds in Scripture.
One of the earliest references is Israel blessing Joseph in Genesis 48:15. He said, “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life
to this day….” When Joshua was appointed
as leader over Israel, it was so “the congregation
of the Lord may not be like sheep which have no shepherd,” Numbers 27:17. The Lord wants to be our Shepherd, our guide through life.
When noting uses of this word, it’s not surprising that Jesus used the term shepherd to describe elders as leaders
in the church, to guide the flock. He knows our need for guidance.
beautiful Psalm 23, probably the most memorized passage in all the Bible, shows our Lord as a shepherd. In his popular little
book, A Shepherd Looks At Psalm
23, Phillip Keller mentions many traits of a good shepherd, one of which is not ignoring the needs of his flock. Four requirements have to
be met before a sheep can lie down in rest. Sheep must be free of fear; they need a place of safety. They cannot
lie down when there is friction among the flock (external) or if tormented by flies or parasites (internal) and they must
be free from hunger. Now we can more fully understand their need for a shepherd! The writer states that nothing
calms a sheep more than to be aware of the presence of the shepherd. When are we the most calm? Is the phrase
“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures” more meaningful now?
Our Shepherd is providing a place of safety for His children. When my brother and I were children,
we could roam the neighborhood in complete safety, but today is a different time. Children have to be taught safety
rules to avoid the clutches of evil-doers. Kidnappings and shootings are common in some neighborhoods. We are
on guard against robberies and vandalism, taking precautions, locking our houses and cars when we are away. Regardless
of dangers or lack thereof in our experiences, we all can understand and appreciate the concept of safety. There is
never a better place than “Home sweet home.” We pray often for God to watch over us and keep us safe.
There is great comfort in Psalm 4:8: “In
peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord make me dwell in safety.” I read of a woman who wrote this scripture on her bedroom walls before she painted the
room. No one else would know it was there, but it was a calming influence to remember each night.
Keller also points out how one of his sheep was so discontent as to be a constant
problem. Picture having the best of green fields for grazing but constantly looking for an opening in the fence so
as to graze on the other side; a brown, bare pasture. This ewe even spread this wanderlust to her children and other
sheep were tempted to stray as well, to places where they were in danger and could be injured. She finally had to
be done away with in order to protect the flock.
may all know someone like that; someone who has had every opportunity to grow and learn; who has been instructed, not only
by the Holy Word of God, but by the best of Christian women and dedicated teachers and preachers. Yet they still prefer
to graze on the other side; the side of trashy novels, suggestive clothing and sleazy television dramas. They’ll
return to the good ground occasionally but soon tire of being good, experiencing no joy in worship and having little expectation
of heaven. They have never come to know the Shepherd, seeing obedience as a set of rules and lacking understanding
of the complete picture.
There’s a difference between serving
God because you love Him for who He is and want to honor Him, and serving just to get a reward. Our nation is in a time
of war. How much commitment would a soldier have if he only served to get a medal? Or another stripe on his uniform?
How long would that commitment last for something so superficial? My dad served in World War II and my brother and
I each share some of his medals. Daddy was proud to have been able to serve his country; there was deeper meaning
than just a few medals. True soldiers serve their country and know the value of freedom, as well as the end result
of that freedom.
Through Ezekiel’s prophecies, we
learn how God feels about selfish shepherds who are only interested in feeding themselves; they tread down good pasture
and muddy clear water in the process of satisfying themselves with the best. God through Ezekiel said He would search
for His sheep to rescue them and bring them to their own land. He would feed them with good pasture and He would treat
them as would a true and dedicated shepherd. He would first seek, then bring back those who strayed, binding up the
injured and strengthening those who were weak, Ezekiel 34. God would set David over them to be their true shepherd.
How meaningful for us that Jesus identifies Himself as our good Shepherd.
As He was teaching, He had compassion for the crowds who followed Him, because they were helpless - like sheep without a
shepherd, Matthew 9:36. He said, “I
am the good Shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep,” John 10:11. True commitment runs deep. It gave the apostles the strength needed to endure
persecution, criticism and division. They maintained that strength not only because of Jesus’ example but also
because of His promise, “My sheep hear My
voice, and I know them and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them…,” John 10:27-28a. Loving God just because He is who He is, is desired but
His promises do sweeten our dedication. Many times in Scripture, God provided safety for His people from enemies around
them. All the more precious is the reference in Revelation 7:17 when John said those coming out of the great tribulation
have made their robes white in the blood of the Lamb and the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, guiding
them to springs of living waters. What a beautiful picture of peace and safety, with God wiping tears - every tear
from the eyes of the saved.
“When the chief Shepherd appears,
you will receive
the unfading crown of glory,”
1 Peter 5:4.
Ecclesiastes tells us there's a time for all things:A time to cry – a time to sing –Time for birth – time for death
– a smile or a tear –A time to see Heaven from here. Life on earth is fleeting, ephemeral, steam –But somewhere we'll live. We're not a mere dream.In an immortal body we'll be – but where?Can YOU almost see Heaven from here? This supple skin, my house on earthGod put me in before my birth.Mortal flesh change to immortal – the Bible
is clear.I long
to see Heaven from here! Some
pass away, though years are few.Believe Christ now. Obey Him, too.You never know the day or year.So try to see Heaven from here. My father crossed over several years ago.Mother left in her sleep when her footsteps got slow.In my family, I'm next ... I'm oldest in years.I can almost see Heaven from here. I'm slowing down. My body will fade.But I won't die. Forever I'm made.My "finals" will come. To His laws I adhere,Because I'm beginning to see Heaven
from here. Growing old, meanwhile, I have
is calling. I hear His voice.I'm a Christian. My title is clear.I can almost see Heaven from here. Don't wait too late. Obey His Word.Don't be ashamed at what you've heard.Stay strong in Him, though some may sneer.And smile to see Heaven from here! The good go to Heaven. The bad go to Hell.The actions we choose will decide where
and obey so you've nothing to fear.Do you almost see Hell – or Heaven – from here? When will I cross over? There won't be a sign.I've already obeyed while I knew l had time.I still study God's Word. My hope brings
you, Jesus. I see Heaven from here!
~ by Netagene Kirkpatrick, May 8, 2012 ~
The Glory of God
From the beginning of the Bible to the end, we read of the glory of God and
the glories of Heaven. How should we define glory? Is there a Biblical description of God’s glory?
How can we wrap our minds around what this glory means to us?
If we use a dictionary definition of glory,
we find words like splendor, bliss, radiance, light, honor, fame, admiration and magnificence. We may have a glorious vacation or note the splendor of the color of autumn leaves.
19:1 tells us that “The heavens declare
the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” The hand of God can be seen in all creation
and we dream of the time when the full extent of His glory can be seen. Israel could see the comforting pillar of
cloud and the pillar of fire that God provided as He led them through the wilderness and more specifically, as He gave instruction
to Moses. As the people witnessed the pillar of cloud descending to the entrance of the tent of meeting, they would
stand at the door of their tents and worship, Exodus 33: 7-10.
Moses was in God’s favor and God
spoke to him as a man speaks to his friend, v. 11. Although Moses had this wonderful relationship, he still felt he
had not received enough instruction and asked to see God’s glory. He wanted to know God more fully, saying “show me now your ways,” v.13.
He was given distinct instructions. No man can see God’s face and live, so Moses was instructed to stand on a
rock and all of God’s goodness would pass by him but Moses would only be allowed to see God’s back, vs. 18-23.
In Isaiah’s vision of the Lord upon His throne, the train of His robe filled the
temple and the attending seraphim were saying, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts; the whole earth is full of
his glory!” (Isaiah 6:1-3). Psalm 93:1 tells us He is robed in majesty. We can hardly imagine!
There are many majestic ceremonies in our country’s history but this scene outweighs them all. Several years
ago, my husband and I were privileged to take a trip to Alaska, one week of cruise and a week on land. As our ship
entered Glacier Bay, we were both stunned at the massive magnificence of the glaciers before us and started singing, “Majesty.”
His creation shouts His glory! Scripture after scripture details His majesty. If He has robed this earth is
such majesty, just think of the majesty to be revealed to us!
The house of the Lord was filled with
brightness in Ezekiel’s vision and more detail is given in Revelation 4, when John was involved in a similar happening.
He visualized a throne in heaven, with One seated on the throne. The One sitting there had an appearance of jasper
and carnelian (sardius), both precious stones of great beauty. A rainbow that looked like an emerald surrounded the
throne. We are to expect that the glory of the Lord will be something to behold – unlike anything we (or anyone)
have ever witnessed.
Shepherds saw the glory of the Lord as it shone around the angels who were announcing
the birth of Jesus. Paul experienced this intense glory on the road to Damascus. Response to this glory differs.
Even though we are not told of Moses’ response, we are told the response of the priests when the cloud, the glory
of the Lord, filled the house of the Lord. They couldn’t stand up to do their duties, 1 Kings 8:10,11.
God reveals His own nature through His Son and is manifested when we look to Jesus, 2 Corinthians 4:6. In every step
of Jesus’ life, as He showed compassion and love, He glorified His Father. He is referred to as the radiance
or brightness of God’s glory and the exact imprint of His nature, Hebrews 1:3.
does this glory mean to us? When the shepherds learned of Jesus, instead of being filled with fear, they were glorifying
and praising God, Luke 2:8-20. When Paul became God’s chosen instrument, he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues
which was quite a surprise to many! (Acts 9).
We have been created for the very purpose
of bringing glory to God, Isaiah 43:7. Jesus is our example as He humbled Himself to bring glory to God while on earth and then asked that He might receive once again, the glory that
was His before He came to this earth. Scripture helps us understand how any struggles He experienced here on earth
were momentary, considering what would be returned to Him. When we, in spite of our struggles and trials, continue
to teach others and humbly show compassion and care for them, God’s glory is revealed to them through us. We
can make a difference when others see that glory in our lives; a living sacrifice to our Father, Romans 12:1-2.
We cannot possibly anticipate the glories of heaven without
knowing the glory of God. Paul had wonderful insight when he said, “For I consider that the sufferings of the present time are not worth comparing with the
glory that is to be revealed to us,” Romans 8:18. Regardless of its nature, every difficulty here is
“momentary light affliction,”
2 Corinthians 4:17. God’s children will be so privileged to worship Him forever.
What a delight – to dream of heaven’s glories – does it make you anxious?
Will We Know One Another In Heaven?
Previously in this series we’ve discussed looking toward heaven; finding it
to be a place of awe and a place of safety, as well as being filled with the glory of God. It’s exciting to think
of such a place being prepared for us.
In John 14, Jesus comforts and assures
His disciples about a future dwelling place:
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe
in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare
a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you
may be also,” vs. 1-3.
This is no afterthought. It
was already in the plan. Hebrews 13:14 tells us ...”we do not
have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.”
have soooooo many questions about what is to come, and many are already addressed in Scripture. Seek and ye shall find!
So it’s our task to be investigators - searching for clues to heaven’s rewards.
question frequently asked is: Will we know one another or be able to recognize one another in heaven? How will
we recognize one another if we have a different form? We know we’ll have a different form because our soul or
our spirit, the part of us that never changes, is made in likeness of God, Genesis 5:1. At death, this part of us simply
makes a transition - from one life to the next. Paul told the Philippians that when Jesus comes, He will transform our
humble bodies to be like His glorious body, 3:21.
Scripture, there are many references to the death of the patriarchs and the mention of “being gathered to his people.”
Abraham in Genesis 25: 8,9; Isaac in Genesis 35:29; Jacob in Genesis 49:33; Moses in Deuteronomy 32:50; and Josiah in 2 Kings
22:20 all contain this reference. The sequence in all these passages
is: Death, being gathered to his people, and burial. It indicates the transition of the soul being gathered to
the souls of his people. If there were no recognition, how could that be a comfort?
New Testament in Luke 16, speaks of the beggar, Lazarus, being carried by angels into Abraham’s bosom. Death had
come to this beggar, as well as to a rich man, who had mistreated Lazarus when they were alive. It was a great comfort
for the beggar to be with Abraham, one of his greatest ancestors. The rich man, unfortunately, was sent to the part
of Hades reserved for the wicked. (Hades is a resting place, where both righteous and wicked await final judgment.
Verse 26 tells us there is a great gulf between the two. Be sure to read the entire story - verses 19-31). The
rich man could see Abraham and Lazarus and called out for mercy, asking only for a drop of water to cool his tongue.
This tells us our new bodies will be recognizable and past events will be remembered. Death does not abolish our memories!
This also tells us that just as a place is prepared for the faithful, there is also a place for the wicked. We
must give attention to “walking in a manner worthy of the calling,” Ephesians 4:1-6.
King David was grief stricken over the loss of his baby son, he said, “Can I bring him back again? I shall go
to him but he shall not return to me,” 2 Samuel 12:15-33. David
understood they would be reunited. If spirits can not recognize one another, how will we (as a spirit) know God (as
a Spirit)? It would make no sense.
With that established, it also stands to reason that
we will realize when some friend of loved one is not there and doing that may bring about a momentary sadness. Since God will wipe away all
tears (Revelation 21:4), if there are tears of sadness, or even tears of joy - whatever tears there will be - God will wipe
them away. How can there be no more tears and God wiping away all tears at the same time? I really don’t
know. Guess we’ll have to wait for that explanation!
hard for our feeble minds to process how we could possibly be happy knowing someone is not there. First of all, it will
be on heavenly terms that we may not understand now, but let’s look at that in terms we can understand and make a comparison. Don’t
know if you’ve ever had a dream vacation or not, but when you’re away on vacation, or involved in an activity
which you really enjoy, are you spending every waking moment worrying about what is going on at home? Of course not.
That’s why you wanted to take a vacation in the first place! To get away from all the worries of home. Some
may say, “Well, I just couldn’t be happy, knowing Aunt Susie is not there.” Where is the base of our
happiness? Is it in Aunt Susie? Or is it in Jesus? If our happiness here is built upon Jesus, there will
be no problem. If Aunt Susie joined the rich man because of her sinful practices, do we really want to be with
her? We will have perfect and complete fellowship with God and be able to witness perfected holiness, 1 John 3:2.
Our reward for being faithful to God will be so far above anything we can begin
to imagine, that our thoughts will not dwell on who is there and who is not. We’ll be so totally focused on that
great beauty and peace that can only be found in the presence of God. If, for whatever reason, there are tears, God
will wipe them away.
Those who have obeyed and overcome will have such a joyful
time of worship together with all who have loved our Lord through the ages. Imagine meeting the prophets and apostles!
Whatever God has planned and prepared for His people will be peaceful and perfect - for all eternity.
“Be faithful unto death and I
will give you the crown of life,” Revelation 2:10
The Rest of Heaven’s Story
Everyone can identify
with the concept of rest. Most of us want and need more of it! We tend
to use the weekends to catch up on rest or be involved in some sort of relaxation that breaks the stress and monotony of
our everyday routines. Rest is needed for the night in order to wake up refreshed
and face another day. If adequate rest if not received, our bodies suffer and life cannot be lived to its fullest.
Doctors prescribe rest for our tired and weary bodies; proper rest cannot be found in a pill. God instituted a day
of rest from the very beginning (Genesis 2:2,3), and those under the Old Law were to use the Sabbath for worship and rest,
Exodus 20: 8-10. It was not only necessary for humans, but also for animals, Exodus 23:12.
Not only do our bodies need to rest, but also our minds. Even David needed
to “get away from it all,” as he writes:
My heart is in anguish within me;
the terrors of death have
fallen upon me.
Fear and trembling come upon me,
and horror overwhelms me.
And I say, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest;
yes, I would wander far
would lodge in the wilderness, Psalm 55: 4-7.
The writer of Ecclesiastes also recognizes this problem in 2:
“For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest.
This also is vanity. There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in
his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment.”
In Philippians 4, there is caution against being anxious and the conclusion: “...the
peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus,” 4:7.
Peace goes hand in hand with rest.
Rest was important enough for Jesus to tell His disciples to “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while,” Mark 6:31. Beyond the physical
rest, there is the spiritual. Jeremiah writes:
the Lord: ‘Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and
find rest for your souls,’” 6:16.
Often, at funeral ceremonies, death will be referred to as “coming into God’s rest.” For those who
have overcome evil and served God faithfully, reward waits.
In the Old Testament, Moses provided rest but many Israelites were unable to enter the promised land because of
their lack of faith. We learn from the comparison of Christ to Moses in Hebrews that Christ is superior. Moses
was worthy of glory; he was a faithful servant, but Christ was more faithful; He served as a Son and was counted more worthy
of glory, 3:1-3. Caution is given in Hebrews 4 saying one should fear if they fall short of entering the rest that
Jesus provides and diligence is required to do so. Christians today are promised this rest, Hebrews 4:1. This
heavenly rest is what we should have a healthy fear of falling short of entering.
The Word we have received - the Good News - coupled with faith and obedience will
bring rest to all who have believed and obeyed Jesus.
In human terms, receiving rest brings the mental vision of walking into a luxury
hotel suite, with a bed piled high with white pillows on pristinely white bed linens and in the adjoining bath, a
soaking tub, luxury bath salts and a cushy white robe. Scripture connects white with purity and reward.
Angels appeared in white robes; the clothing of Jesus at the transfiguration was brilliant white, “as no one on earth could bleach them,” Mark 9:3 ESV. In Revelation some in the church at Sardis
walked in white because they were worthy, the one who conquers will be in white garments, Revelation 3:4,5.
White has always been a symbol of purity; even in old westerns, the ones with white hats were
the good guys! In Revelation, there is a white throne, white horse, white clouds, white robes and white garments.
These descriptions are meant to build faith, hope and courage. John’s approach in his gospel was “so you may believe” and his writings create and build hope. His writings
in Revelation continue that theme as the Holy Spirit revealed the struggles that were to soon come to the faithful and how
they, having patience and strength, could look forward to future rest.
“And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the
dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them,”
comforting that heaven is a prepared place for all those who overcome; God’s reward for His faithful. God gets
what He’s always wanted - children to call His own and those who obey and overcome have the blessed privilege of being
called a child of God, 1 John 3:1.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and
I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest
for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light,”
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe
also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for
you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you
to myself, that where I am you may be also,” John 14:1-3.
Diligence is needed on the path to our
future hope. “Walking worthily” as His children (Ephesians 4:1-3) not only gives us courage and patience for whatever lurks along that path, but will
prevent us from becoming like the children of Israel - failing to receive
blessings because of unbelief. We continue with hope and expectation for the glorious life that is to come - and to
borrow from Paul Harvey, that is the rest of the story.