Living & Growing: The hope of heaven

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” — John 14:1-3

Jesus spoke these words to His disciples shortly before he was crucified, and they apply to His later followers also. I first thought about heaven as a small child when my adoptive father Gailard died from heart disease. My sister Mary and I waited outside the hospital room while Mom went in to see Dad. Finally, she came out, looking stunned, and silently drove us home. Once there Mary asked “Where’s daddy?” Mom said “He’s in heaven.”

As we cried, I desperately wanted to go to heaven and see Dad again. Later Mom told us that when the doctors knew Dad had only a few moments remaining, they left the room so she could be alone with Dad for the last time. As they tearfully said goodbye and talked about their love for one another, Dad suddenly asked “who are those two men behind you?” Mom said ‘There’s no one else here.” Dad said “No, there’s two men behind you.” Then he spoke his final words “This is it!” as he squeezed mom’s hand and died.

For years I wondered if the two men Dad saw were angels. Now I’m convinced they were. In Luke 16 Jesus told a story about a poor beggar and a rich man. Luke 16:22 says the poor man died and was carried away by angels to “Abraham’s Bosom”, i.e., Heaven. Angels carried the poor man away to heaven — angels like the ones that carried my dad away.

And what is heaven like, anyway? Many readers will think of I Corinthians 2:9, which says “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” While our understanding about this precious promise is limited by our finite minds, Revelation 21:3-4 gives us a glimpse: ”Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

Revelation calls heaven “the paradise of God” and adds that there is no night because the glory of God illuminates it; that it has a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God, and that the tree of life is there.

In John 14, Jesus referred to Heaven as “My Father’s house.” We sing “Everything’s allright, in my Father’s house” and “Heaven is a wonderful place, filled with glory and grace. I want to see my Savior’s face because heaven is a wonderful place. I want to go there!” Many followers of Jesus joyfully anticipate the place where God is, where there is peace, love, harmony, and indescribable beauty.

Has anyone ever seen heaven and returned to talk about it? In 2 Corinthians 12:2-4 Paul says ”I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise— and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter.”

“Imagine Heaven” by John Burke is a great book that compares people’s near-death experiences with what the Bible says about heaven.

As I was writing this column, I learned that my dear friend Andy King went to heaven. He was a great mentor and best friend for many years. I will miss him but look joyfully forward to seeing him again- only this time in heaven, the paradise of God.

• Guy Crockroft is Executive Director of Love INC. “Living & Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders. It appears every Friday on the Juneau Empire’s Faith page.

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