Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Glimpse of Heaven

I keep thinking about heaven, what it may be like there and wondering what Jane may be doing… right now. Of course I’ve written about this before, but I have reason to dwell just a little longer. I need clearer vision of Jane’s reality today in order to more surely deal with the trauma of yesterday. In some ways the 4 years of her cancer journey were the most complete of my life, almost as if they were what I was born for, but though the pain of loss is easing it will only truly pass as I embrace my new life. As Jane has hers, a fact I can barely grasp. So, anyway what is heaven like?

My photo shows Jane with our eldest grandkids back in 2004 and typifies a massively favourite activity for them all. Indeed even this last week the two girls were again asking for paper to draw on. They’re into graffiti as an art-form now. I cannot imagine heaven without creative art to add a personal touch by those so inclined, so that’s a given. And leaving aside the especially busy years spent caring for our young children Jane always had a pencil or brush in her hand, so given the slightest opportunity I’m sure that’s what she’s up to. But the Bible gives not the slightest suggestion that there will be children to enjoy, indeed marriage itself is no longer. So I struggle to get a handle on that, but there you go, the Lord has something better for us I’m sure. And no way will there be an empty space to fill.

So what does the Bible actually reveal about our time in eternity? Very few details unfortunately. But a couple times just recently I’ve had the story of a poor man called Lazarus (copied below) put across my path and this seems to give a real glimpse of the afterlife. This story was told by Jesus which makes it particular noteworthy. Some suggest it is only a parable. I don’t get that for a number of reasons… it would be the only parable to name names including historical figures, and it describes a realm beyond earthly reality, the places where the dead go to. Would the Lord ever mislead us? This story is also told quite plainly with no explanation or qualification. It is what it is. Ok so after Jesus himself died he paid a visit to one of these places and some sort of transformation occurred, but we can still draw lessons from the story. And I’d like to focus upon a future in heaven rather than the alternate of eternal punishment. That’s for another time and all to do with our decision to accept or deny the claims of Christ. But it’s clear that Lazarus suffered greatly in his earthly life and subsequently was comforted. It’s also clear that the rich man remembered his family and was concerned for their eternal wellbeing. Jane suffered immensely with physical problems for many years compounded with terminal cancer. She had to leave her beloved family behind and never saw her hard earned career qualification put into practise. There was so much she still planned to do. Despite the perfection of paradise I reckon she’s needed quite a bit of comforting and I really don’t see a ‘brain-wipe’ as standard procedure on entry to heaven! Then of course she must be as interested in our unfolding lives as she ever has been as well. Maybe she can see only as much of our world as we can see of heaven. Maybe she cringes as I put yet one more frozen pizza into the oven and sees everything. Doesn’t matter. She’ll never stop praying anyway. And that’s what the Lord is doing right now for each one of us.

Luke 16:19-31 (NLT)
Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus
19 Jesus said, “There was a certain rich man who was splendidly clothed in purple and fine linen and who lived each day in luxury. 20 At his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus who was covered with sores. 21 As Lazarus lay there longing for scraps from the rich man’s table, the dogs would come and lick his open sores.
22 “Finally, the poor man died and was carried by the angels to be with Abraham.[a] The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and his soul went to the place of the dead.[b] There, in torment, he saw Abraham in the far distance with Lazarus at his side.
24 “The rich man shouted, ‘Father Abraham, have some pity! Send Lazarus over here to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue. I am in anguish in these flames.’
25 “But Abraham said to him, ‘Son, remember that during your lifetime you had everything you wanted, and Lazarus had nothing. So now he is here being comforted, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides, there is a great chasm separating us. No one can cross over to you from here, and no one can cross over to us from there.’
27 “Then the rich man said, ‘Please, Father Abraham, at least send him to my father’s home. 28 For I have five brothers, and I want him to warn them so they don’t end up in this place of torment.’
29 “But Abraham said, ‘Moses and the prophets have warned them. Your brothers can read what they wrote.’
30 “The rich man replied, ‘No, Father Abraham! But if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will repent of their sins and turn to God.’
31 “But Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t listen even if someone rises from the dead.’”
  1. Luke 16:22 Greek into Abraham’s bosom.
  2. Luke 16:23 Greek to Hades.

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