How do you understand heaven? The Bible speaks of heaven in many tones. It is described as a place, it’s described as outside of time as we know it, it is described as a place where God reigns, where He is the light, He is the ruler, He is aware and involved with His creation.
Yet we can feel far from this place, where there is no night, no pain, no sorrow, but rather God is there and with the angels welcomes those who have lived their lives with faith in Him into His presence. It is beyond my imagination, it is beyond my full understanding.
Now, this is not a theological thesis on heaven, far from it, and not my intention.
You see eighteen years ago, early in the morning, we watched Dad take his last breath and slip away from us. We couldn’t keep him, we wouldn’t keep him, though we miss him. But what I believe, what we believe as a family, is that at that moment Dad stepped from our presence and into the presence of God.
We base that on a few different readings which we find in the Bible, and in a couple of more “earthly matters”. First of all, Jesus spoke of heaven as a place He was going to, where the Father was. He spoke of going to make room, or accommodation if you wish, for those followers who would one day be done with life on this earth. He promised the thief dying on the cross beside him, that “today you will be with me in paradise”. Jesus taught his disciples to pray “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Heaven was very real for Jesus. And I have not spoken of anything in the Old Testament where the imagery of heaven is strong.
As well, let me add this to my side of the story. I’ve had two experiences in my life where I am convinced that God sent my way an angel it’s not explainable any other way. So I really do believe in a spiritual world where something beyond that which can be explained by words or science exists. I don’t know if the streets are paved with gold, but I do know that Jesus is there and one day I hope to experience this heaven which Jesus spoke of.
I know this. That if this old earth is all there is in this world….well, that would not be enough for me to have hope in this world. People are selfish, have a tendency to work towards their own good, are always capable of evil. No I glad to know that this world is not the end of our understanding of life.
So every year, when we come to October 20th and I think of that early morning at the hospital I think of the deep loss I felt in seeing Dad slip away while at the same time knowing the peace of knowing he is with Jesus.
Next week, Dad would turn 90. I can’t imagine what he would be like. But I can, strangely imagine Him in the presence of God.