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Drawing near to heaven

I have as yet to meet someone who doesn’t want to go to heaven.  Many believe that hell isn’t real but they are sure about Heaven–it just has to be. But like hell, heaven is not just a word. It’s a destination. So what does the Bible say about heaven? You could easily say, it’s described as the opposite of hell and you’d be correct, but what are some of the particulars?

In St. Matthew’s Gospel chapter 25, Jesus says there will be a great day of judgement and on that day, there will be a separation of all who’ve ever lived. In the end, there will be two kinds of people. Jesus describes them as sheep and goats. The sheep hear these words: “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (v. 34). Those described as goats will hear: “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (v. 41).

When the Apostle Paul was writing to the church in Corinth, he described heaven, repeating the description of the prophet Isaiah: “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Think about that. You have seen some pretty amazing things in your life–but they don’t compare with heaven. Your eye hasn’t seen anything greater. Your ears have not heard anything sweeter. In your heart’s greatest imagination, nothing can surpass the reality of heaven. Breathtaking, isn’t it?

As a pastor, it has been my great privilege to be with many people at their death or near it. The saints of the Lord near it with a sense of expectation, a sense of anticipation. The way that they are to die might not be pleasant, but they look forward to seeing and hearing the promises of the Bible fulfilled.

One of those dear folks had been in poor health for decades and would openly say, “You know, I don’t know why the Lord has kept me alive for so long”. Then she’d stop, consider her words and continue, “I guess He still has something left for me to do. So I’ll wait.” She had a sense of God’s purpose in her life and a lifetime of experience in trusting Him for everything. She knew He was utterly trustworthy.

I don’t think I ever visited her when she didn’t say, “You know, I just can’t wait to see Jesus. I want to see his face.” Often, she’d make her arthritic hands play one verse of “I Stand Amazed in the Presence.”

At her funeral, we sang the hymns she’d chosen. The last one was “I Stand Amazed in the Presence.” The last stanza says,

And when with the ransomed in glory,
His face I, at last, shall see,
‘Twill be my theme through the ages,
To sing of His love for me.

How marvellous! how wonderful!
And my song shall ever be:
How marvelous! how wonderful!
Is my Savior ‘s love for me.”

Many in the congregation knew of her desire to see Jesus. As we sang, that last verse hit us all at once. Her faith had become sight. We experienced a little of heaven that day. It, like Jesus, was marvelous.

Originally appeared in the Caymanian Times.

  • Chris Pierce is an Anglican minister in Northern Ireland.

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