Hope comes to stay looking at His hands.
“We see heaven more clearly through the prism of tears.” 1 Our family experienced the sudden homegoing, on October 10, 1993, of our 28-year-old handicapped son, Paul. In a personal desire to know more specifically of our own son's journey and experiences in heaven, we share with you some of the things we've discovered in personal Bible study.
Jesus reminded the Sadducees of these heart-warming facts concerning life after death: “Now about the dead rising — have you not read in the book of Moses, in the account of the bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!” 2
Those who have died in Christ are alive in heaven — a life totally beyond anything we have experienced on earth. The Apostle Paul, contrasting this existence to heaven, writes expectantly, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.” and “(W)e would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” 3
Paul probably had a near-death experience when he was stoned at Lystra. 4 His letters are peppered with a union of desires: between living here, and being in the third heaven with Christ. In 2 Corinthians 12:1-10, he writes of a startling experience. In summary, the experience of dying or near-death was such that he couldn't tell the difference between being alive or dead (see verse 2 ). His faculties — his ability to think, feel, respond — were evidently the same. He himself was there as a “person.” Then, the Apostle describes what was most acutely affected, in a sensory way: his hearing. “He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell” (verse 4). Then, because of the “surpassingly great revelations” he experienced, God sent a thorn in the flesh to keep him from becoming proud (verse 7).
Because of the overwhelming impact of that vision-experience, Paul could write with sober honesty to new believers at Philippi. He seems torn between the ministry with needy believers and the greater adventure of being with Christ in heaven: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am going to go on living in the body this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.” 5
It is better by far because “now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” 6 Imagine an unlimited mind, seeing everything in perfect harmonious balance and total depth. Knowing all on any subject. That is the mind of those in heaven.
What Paul experienced was so gripping and addictive, so mind-altering in power, he might never have given time to nurture and disciple the converts. Did he begin going place to place, to tell crowds about his visions? Not at all. Paul goes on to express to the Philippians the reason God kept him on earth: “. . . I know that I will remain and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith” (Philippians 1:25, NIV ). Other than sharing the Gospel of Christ, the maturation of those he had won was Paul's main reason for living on earth. Is it ours?
Those we love who have gone before us are experiencing a heaven BEYOND IMAGINATION. They are consummate individuals, without the limitations of a human body. They are light-fused, possibly like the body of Jesus in Matthew 17:2.
Heaven is “of pure gold, as clear as glass.” Words limit the reality of heaven to a height just above “Disneyworld,” — insignificant, filmy sight into heavenly glory. Yet scripture talks not only of the sights of heaven, but also of the SOUNDS!
It details the sound of music from harps, amplified, for ears without limitation. Picture the effect of resonate decibels of praise by a synergy of angelic beings. And millions of saints swell to harmonies beyond human vocal range and power — seven, eight, ten octaves and more of perfect pitch!
Link together the combined music imaginations of Handel, Bach, Beethoven, Liszt, and a hundred other composers. They are as middle C, a “Johnny-one-note,” compared to the infinite heavenly sounds. Hear the saints singing the “song of the Lamb.” Then listen to the Lamb of God as He sings. His voice throbs in each heavenly body, in a euphonious and symphonic intermingling of waters, a perfection of unlimited expression. 7
What will we LOOK like . . . short, tall, like a kid (for those dying young), or older looking? The Bible isn't specific. God does say something exciting. We shall have a body like the Lord Jesus. Remember His appearing in the upper room suddenly, with the door locked? He could be anywhere, anytime, at once, beyond the molecules of time. He talked, encouraged, asked Thomas to touch Him. He is flesh and bones, without the earth-limiting blood that mortals have. Recall his cooking and eating fish with the disciples by the seashore after His resurrection from the dead? “What we will be has not been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” 8
On earth we only have the body we know. It is our cell. We are inside it, linked in time to it. At the moment of physical death, angels bring us into the presence of our Savior “TO BEHOLD HIS GLORY.” 9 All who have died in Christ now have a heavenly body.
A heavenly body? “Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling . . . for while we are in this tent [our human body] we groan and are burdened . . . to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling.” This is not the dwelling Jesus has been building in John 14:2, 3, but our own new spirit-body. “So that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” 10 At the resurrection there is a fusion of light with dust, and a glorified body is ours through the ages. Here, we are in a shadowland existence; there, it is life!
“All mankinde is of one Author, and is one volume; when one Man dies, one Chapter is not torne out of the booke, but translated into a better language; and every Chapter must be so translated. God emploies several translators: some peeces are translated by age, some by sicknesse, some by warre, some by justice; but Gods hand is in every translation; and his hand shall binde up all our scattered leaves againe, for that Librarie where every booke shall lie open to one another.“ — John Donne (1573-1631) 11
- Robert McQuilken, Leadership, Fall 1993, p. 128.
- Mark 12:26-27, New International Version.
- 1 Corinthians 13:12; 2 Corinthians 5:8, NIV.
- Acts 14:19-20.
- Philippians 1:21-23.
- 1 Corinthians 13:12.
- See Revelation 21:18; 14:2-3; 15:2; 1:15; & Zephaniah 3:17.
- 1 John 3:2-3.
- Luke 16:22; John 17:24.
- 2 Corinthians 5:2-4.
- As quoted by Joseph Bayly, The View from a Hearse (Elgin, Ill.: David C. Cook, 1969), p.9.
A careful reading of Scripture will demonstrate how much of our faith is paradoxical, and how Jesus emerges as the chief proponent of such a paradoxical faith.