Where are our friends, who walked with Christ as their Savior and Lord, and walk no longer on the earth? What is their condition? What are their thoughts? Where are my grandparents? Where are Sandy and Jack? Where will Mrs. Parcell be in a few days? What awaits those who walk with the Good Shepherd through the valley of the shadow of death and find themselves on the other side? Isaiah 35 gives a picture of their present paradise.
Heaven is a place without bad places. In paradise, even “the wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing … For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down, the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
Heaven is a place where majesty and glory abound. God is more transparently experienced, and his image bearers — the godly — are entirely glorified as they perfectly reflect his glory. “A highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it. It shall belong to those who walk on the way; even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.” In heaven, even the foolish are not so foolish.
Heaven is a place a restoration. Weak hands are strengthened. Feeble knees find vitality again. Paradise is void of rheumatoid arthritis, prostate cancer, and all other effects of the fall that trouble mankind today. In heaven, “the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.“
Heaven is a place of emotional peace. There is no place for fear and anxiety in heaven. Satan and his minions receive their recompense, and the onslaught of the world, the flesh and the devil are no more. Everyday is Sabbath-like. In heaven, “no lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there. And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”
Friends, for those who are in Christ Jesus, death has no sting. It is the gateway out of temporal hell on earth and into paradise. New beginnings, new bodies, new relationships, and new joys are found in the New Heavens and New Earth. Let us cherish the day the Lord takes us from this sin-plagued planet and allows us to experience Eden-like pleasure again.
And let us remember that while dying is great gain for us who are Christ followers, we are to live every day in service for him. Many will enjoy the celestial benefits mentioned above, but many will forgo these eternal blessings. As we walk down the hospital hallway; as we look about us on the soccer pitch; as we sit on our front porches and look about our neighborhood; as we engage in commerce in marketplace; as we spy on people through Facebook; let us remember that “narrow is the way and few there are that find it.” Therefore, while we enjoy the reality of our loved ones enjoying paradise today, and while we look forward to the time of our reunion with Christ Jesus, let us labor on his mission field. Let us be about our Father’s business. Let us look more and more like the obedient Son. Let us shout aloud the glories of God — with our words and our actions — and see how many more friends we can rescue from Satan’s camp and take to paradise with us.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in his wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace.