“See, Frans? Here. See it?” my father said, outlining the letter “M” in the lines on the palm of my right hand. “And here is the other one,” he said, tracing the same letter in my left hand. “Two Ms. They stand for the Latin phrase memento mori, meaning “remember someday you will die.” God put them there so you would never forget that!” This is how, at the age of about 8, I became acquainted with the concept of death.
We all are familiar with death. When family members have died we usually like to think of them as having gone to heaven. We have a vague notion that heaven is somewhere “up there,” but more likely it is located well outside of our sense of space or even time. Sometimes we wonder what heaven is like. When through two separate accidents we lost our daughter, Margaret, and our 13-year-old son, Ronald, a student in my own eighth grade class, I well recall the unrealistic yet pressing need to peek around the corner of heaven to make sure they were OK.
Although Scripture has little information about heaven, we have been given some pretty good hints about it. In Luke 23:42-43 we read that one of the crucified criminals begged of Jesus, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom!” to which Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Jesus likens heaven to “paradise.” We also know that, once there, we will have transformed yet real bodies like Jesus’. (Remember Thomas’ interaction with the resurrected Jesus in John 20?) Other passages in Scripture point to this too. In Revelation 22 some are even described as wearing robes, and Job asserts, “In my flesh I will see God“ (Job 19:26).
In heaven, everything is perfect and good. In God’s immediate presence, how else could it be? How struck we’ll be, too, by the all-pervading joy we’ll suddenly experience! And how could we possibly miss the overall feeling of anticipation not unlike that at a great celebration where the guest of honor is expected at any moment? This, of course, is because of the wait for the great resurrection event at the end of time, a topic much discussed in Scripture. One example is found in John 11. When Martha hears Jesus was coming to see Lazarus, who had already been dead for days, she is annoyed and confronts Jesus with, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Jesus replies, “Your brother will rise again,” to which Martha in turn responds, still a little tartly, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Of course, when Jesus reminds her of who he is, Martha quickly and humbly acknowledges his authority.
In the revelation John saw when he was in exile on Patmos, God gave him a vision of what soon will be:
“Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth.’ ... And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, ... and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes’” (Rev. 21:1-4).
If you and I walk in the ways of the Lord, God will make everything new.
There will be no more death or mourning, crying or pain.
Instead there will be singing, dancing, and making music, and we’ll be doing the things we liked to do, but now doing them perfectly. And for all eternity our lives will be lives of joy.
Praise! Praise! Praise! Praise!
- What do you think heaven is like, or how have you heard it described?
- What biblical passages can you find that tell us about heaven?
- What are some things you look forward to in heaven?
- What are some ways you can thank and praise God today for giving us resurrection life?