The secretary for my heart doctor called today reminding me of an appointment for Thursday. Since we were away at the time, she left a voice mail note saying if I were not able to be there, call and another date would be set. Doctors are generous. One doctor gave a man 6 months to live but when he couldn’t pay his bill so he gave his 6 more months. One doctor told his patient that nothing was open for 4 weeks. The caller exclaimed, “I may be dead by then!” “Well. Just have your wife call and we will cancel the appointment”.
We were discussing death the other day in a study group. All admitted that they had thought about it, but since none had experienced it, no one had any real idea of what it would be like. The writer of Hebrews puts it plainly, “For it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Now I’m not morose or a prophet of doom, but it is a sobering statement. This appointment cannot be recalled or reset. It comes equally to us all and makes us all equal. Longfellow put it succinctly, “Art is long and time fleeting, and our hearts thou stout and brave; still like muffled drums are beating funeral marches to the grave”.
I feel sure that many who die thought, “Hey, this has never happened to me before!” Thoreau said, “One world at a time, that’s my motto”. But where is Thoreau now? Such an attitude will not get it, for how one views eternity will largely determine how one lives this life here on earth.
H.G. Wells was rather blunt when he said, “There is no way out, or around or through”. Robert Ingersol, the noted atheist, bewailed his fate with these words, “Life is a narrow vale between the cold and barren peaks of two eternities. We strive in vain to look beyond the heights and cry aloud, but the only answer is the echo of our wailing cry.” Nietzeche said, “Where is my home? For it do I ask and seek, and have sought but have not found it. O eternal everywhere, O eternal nowhere, O eternal in vain”. Sad commentary from those who had no hope.
When I had my first triple bypass, I came to face to face with my own mortality. When Mother and Dad died, I moved up to stand in their place. The second triple by-pass was no piece of cake. Get serious. It is time to devote at least one column to this subject.
When you quote all those who were great in everything but hope, you see a distinct contrast a vital difference. What an opposite world are they who live by faith. Jesus said, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). He encouraged his disciples with these words, “Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go and prepare a place for you that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know and the way ye know” (John14:1-4). Thomas complained by saying, we don’t know where you are going, how can we know the way? Jesus said unto him, “I am the way, the truth and the life; no man comes to the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).
How would you describe heaven? First, it is a place. Close your eyes and see your old homestead. It is buried within your memory for it was your home, where you grew up. Heaven is a place prepared where “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things are passed away” (Revelations 21:4). Heaven is a place and it is real to all those who live there.
Heaven is a person. God, Christ, the angels of God and all saints will be there. We sold our old homestead when Mother and Daddy died. It was not the same without them. Recognize loved ones in the hereafter – you bet! What would heaven be without them?
Heaven is me – and you! A lifetime of faith, the extended life of hoping, and longing, and waiting and believing. Without hope, what is this life all about? Why live without the one who can take us home? Before we came to Florida, we lived in another state and next door to the Circuit Judge. His four year old son came visiting often. One day I asked him if he were caught doing something wrong, would he like to be in his Father’s court. He thought for a minute and then mused, “O Mr. Jack, it would be no big deal, I live with him all the time!”
After death, Judgment? God help us if that is all we have when we face chilly Jordan and say goodbye to all our loved ones here. Paul writes, “For by grace are ye saved though faith; and that, not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; not of works lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10). Let’s talk about it later on.