For the last week the world has watched the elaborate ceremony surrounding the death of Queen Elizabeth. It’s fascinating to watch tradition and see the real human pain that peeks out here and there, a tear on the cheek of a Prince’s face, a drawn look of genuine grief momentarily in view. Death is the great ‘enemy’ of humanity, separating us from those we love, making us shudder. My thoughts have turned often to eternity, Heaven, and home.
We all, though we try not to think about, live in the ‘valley of the shadow of death.’ When I was young, largely untouched by death in my personal circle, I smiled indulgently at those people who spoke in what I called ‘Heaven talk.’ ‘Why do those old Christians get all misty eyed and claim to want to be in a place where they have never been?’ I wondered. There was so much living to do, so much engagement right here, right now.
But, now, I sing the songs of heaven, too. I cherish these words of Jesus – “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there 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 that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:1-3, NIV)
I love the songs that remind us of the promise of God, too. In ages past, when enslaved, African Americans, who were subjected to awful lives, who lived close to sorrow, kept their spirits alive with songs of hope. They sang of God’s sweet home. Songs like “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and “There is a Balm in Gilead” and “Marching Up the Heavenly Road” and “Gonna Shout All Over God’s Heaven” sustained their hearts with hope they were denied in this world.
My Pentecostal ancestors, people who were generally poor, who struggled to scratch out a living, sang of Heaven, too. I grew up singing – “When we all get to Heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be, when we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory!” Those words were and still are a declaration of faith.
Heaven is not just a dream. It is home! Seven years ago, at this very season, I sat with my dying wife, who was living in that twilight kind of consciousness of the dying, and I reminded her (and myself!) “Honey, there is no fear because you are going home, home, home; no more moving, no more friends left behind, no more storms, temptations, or sorrows – home!”
The Bible says “All these people died still believing what God had promised them. . . . They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11:13-16, NLT)
Peter teaches us that when we become intent on trying to make ourselves too much at home here, we can lose sight of the lasting hope. “Dear friends, I urge you, (live) as aliens and strangers in the world. ” (1 Peter 2:10-12, NIV) He who sets his heart on Heaven will be the most effective servant of God here on earth. He will not waste time trying to hold onto what will inevitably be torn from his grasp. He will not attempt to build a kingdom here, knowing that his reward is secure in an Eternal Kingdom. He will not fear – Hell, Storm, Devil, or Death – or whatever may come into his life. Why? Because he knows that this life is a pilgrimage, only the prelude to the Story written by His Eternal God. He know he is not HOME yet, but that there is a home ready for him.
Whether we are a queen or a commoner, a rich man or poor man, famous or obscure – we share this: we will stand before the King of Heaven. That moment need not fill us with fear IF we have received the gift of His love. Have you trusted Him, friend, simply and in faith, to be your Advocate on that day? Then, sing of Heaven, anticipating the moment that time ends and you step into the unfathomable wonders of God’s presence forever.
The word from Word are full of faith, reflecting the hope of a dying man. “I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness that the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that great day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his glorious return.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8, NLT) Is this YOUR hope, too?
Sing the wondrous love of Jesus
Sing His mercy and His grace
In the mansions bright and blessed
He’ll prepare for us a place
When we all get to heaven
What a day of rejoicing that will be
When we all see Jesus
We’ll sing and shout the victory
While we walk the pilgrim’s pathway
Clouds will overspread the sky
But when trav’ling days are over
Not a shadow not a sigh
Let us then be true and faithful
Trusting serving every day
Just one glimpse of Him in glory
Will the toils of life repay
Onward to the prize before us
Soon His glorious beauty we will behold
Soon the pearly gates will open
We will tread the streets of gold
Eliza Edmunds Stites Hewitt