When you first hear of a loved one’s death, it can be quite a shock. This was the case with my cousin, Tom. Everyone was startled to hear of his passing on Monday.
On Sunday, Tom had come to mind. It wasn’t unusual except that he’d lingered there. I meandered through memories and considered his journey. His burdens had worn him thin yet he didn’t complain. My heart was full of appreciation for him and the challenges he’d overcome.
I don’t know if I was doing more talking or listening as I considered my cousin. I’m only glad that, for once, I didn’t rush. Eventually, I was encouraged to think on Tom’s great joy in the life he shared with his soulmate and true love over twenty-five years. Eventually I moved on from my musings, affirmed of the Lord’s faithfulness to him.
The next very morning, Tom was gone. Everyone was in shock, including me. His death seemed so sudden and random. Pondering my meditations the morning prior, I was blessed to realize the Spirit was interceding then. God is faithful; always faithful.
Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast. Psalms 119:90
Moments after I heard of Tom’s passing, an image appeared in my mind. It was like a postcard from heaven. Tom was enveloped in love, surrounded by glorious light, complete in the presence of God. He was standing among others in a beautiful field of grasses and flowers. Light seemed to intensify on the perimeter of each being. My cousin was easily recognizable in the group. He looked perfectly well and happy, caught up in the glow. In a flash, the image passed.
Had I imagined it? I don’t think so — only because of what happened next.
Instantaneously, my sorrow was replaced by joy. My heart nearly exploded with happiness for the new life Tom is experiencing! Not a trace of grief lingered for that moment. It was exactly as the psalmist declared:
You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever! Psalm 30:11-12
There are plenty of people whom I believe to be in heaven, including my dad. Yet, I assure you, this instantaneous transformation of sorrow to joy was an entirely novel experience. For one brief, glorious, millisecond I experienced a glimpse of the fulness of the promise we have in Jesus.
This is why I know — I truly know — my cousin is more alive today than ever before! He is in the presence of Love, immeasurable. He is experiencing all of the lavish joys and freedoms heaven affords.
It’s nearly impossible for humans to appreciate another realm as real — even more real — than the one in which we live. We are grounded by gravity, attuned to orbits and cycles of earth, sun, and moon. We are constrained in aging bodies. Skin wrinkles and sags. Muscles ache. Bones break. Organs fail. We are confined by the gray matter of our minds. We simply cannot fathom the glories yet to unfold in dimensions beyond those which are familiar.
But as Scripture says: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined the things that God has prepared for those who love him. 1 Corinthians 2:9
Scriptures describing the new heaven and earth sound too spectacular to be true. The city is illuminated by brilliant, radiant light that shines like crystal (Rev. 21:9-11). There is no darkness there (Rev 22:4-5). City walls are built of layers of precious stones, like sapphires, emeralds, topaz and amethyst (Rev 21:19-20). The main street is of gold, so pure it is transparent. Each city gate is constructed of a single, massive pearl (Rev. 21:21).
In addition to unmatched beauty are bountiful blessings in a state of perfection (Heb. 12:22-23). We will co-exist in perfect unity expressed within ultimate diversity. Every tribe, nation and tongue is represented in the community (Rev. 7:9-10). A fruitful tree of life bears leaves that bring healing to the nations (Rev 22:2). There will be no suffering or sadness there (Rev. 7:15-17). Mercy, that sounds so marvelous!
Meanwhile, we trudge on, weary and worn in our alternate reality. Even as we suffer life on a broken planet doomed for destruction (2 Peter 3:10-13), we may convince ourselves heaven is too good to be true. Take heart, my friend! Our incapacity to grasp all of the wonder that awaits doesn’t inhibit our good Father from preparing this most amazing place for all who trust Him.
God is so merciful and not willing for any to perish. It should not surprise us, as this old earth creaks and groans, that we hear more often of those who have received a glimpse. They return only reluctantly to tell of its wonders, urging us to love and be loved by God.
Have you not felt the tug and pull of eternity in your heart? King Solomon, the wisest of all men, instructs that God himself placed it there. He wants us to long for more, to seek and find Him, and find our Way home.
He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. Ecclesiastes 3:11
When we get quiet with God and real with ourselves, it’s hard to deny the pull of eternity. Aren’t we glad God made it so simple? Jesus said all we must do is trust in him (John 6:28-29). He is faithful to forgive and cleanse us (1 John 1:9). He is the only Way to enter heaven (John 14:6; John 3:5).
Of the untold glories yet to unfold, I can only imagine. Yet this week’s visual postcard from heaven has encouraged me so that I can hardly wait! I hope hearing my story encourages your own faith-journey, my friend.
Wouldn’t you like to know more about heaven? I have appreciated author and pastor John Burke’s thoughtful inquiry into clinically documented near-death experiences with heavenly encounters. Two interviews, conducted by Focus on the Family (Holding on to the Hope of Heaven and Remembering the Hope of Heaven) will surely encourage you! His book, carefully aligned with Scripture, Imagine Heaven: Near-Death Experiences, God’s Promises, and the Exhilarating Future That Awaits You, is a fabulous read.
Journey on, my friend. A great and glorious future awaits all those who believe!