As I have mentioned before, last year was a year of incredibly high-highs and equally low-lows. On one hand, we were ‘expecting’ two new blessings. On the other hand, my mother and biggest fan was preparing to depart this life. I miss my mom terribly, but am so thankful that we had time to prepare for her homecoming. Time to clear our minds and our hearts, to apologize and make amends, to say the things that should have been said years ago, and finally to prepare (as best as possible) for life without mom.
During mom’s final months of life, a friend lent me a book titled, “One Minute After You Die” (Lutzer). It was one of many books I read on death, grief, and loss. What I enjoyed most about this particular book was the scriptural references to hades and sheol in the Old Testament and the references to heaven and eternity in the New (Testament). My own faith was challenged as I initially was not sure that I completely agreed with the author’s perspective. Frankly, it seemed a bit harsh and ‘old-schoolish’. (I find it best to always cross-reference view points with those of other theologians.) However, over the course of reading the book and praying over the scripture, the Bible (being the amazingly cool book that it is) came alive and was speaking directly to my questions. By the end of the book, most of my questions had been answered directly through the references to passages in the Bible and the counsel of the Holy Spirit.
Below are a few common beliefs, ideas, or questions people have about heaven along with a statement on what the Bible says.
- ‘Your loved one is now watching over you from heaven.’ Along the same line, but a little different: ‘You now have a special (guardian) angel in heaven.’
I really want to believe the first one. Who wouldn’t want to believe their departed loved one can still see, look out, and essentially take part in their lives from above? The New Testament does not completely contradict the idea that our departed loved ones in heaven can see us. However, it does not support it either. Most importantly, the Bible states that the deceased cannot communicate with us and it forbids us from trying to communicate with them. The Bible simply says that those in heaven are home with the Lord and that their knowledge has increased (2 Corinthians 5:6-8 and 1 Corinthians ).
Furthermore, the Bible does not say that our deceased loved ones become angels, as angles and humans are separate beings according to scripture. (Hebrews 1:7, 14; Hebrews 2:6-7; 1 Corinthians 15:39-41; Luke 20:34-36; Matthew 25:41)
- Is there an in between place or holding room before going to heaven?
Being raised Catholic (although I am no longer a card-carrying member or subscriber to their doctrine), I remember being taught to believe that unless we committed a mortal sin (as opposed to venial sins), we would most likely end up in purgatory until we are either prayed into heaven or accumulate enough good deeds to earn our way there. SO, as an adult when I gave my life over to Christ and started studying the Bible, I was surprised to learn that the doctrine of purgatory is not found in the Bible. In fact, the Bible is very clear that when believers die, we go straight to be with God. There is no middle place, holding room, or torture chamber where you will have to make amends for your sins. Christ made amends for them when He was nailed to the cross. Finally, as Christ was dying on the cross, one of two criminals who were also sentenced to death that day turned to Jesus and asked Jesus to remember him when He came into His kingdom. This criminal had no time on earth to make amends for his crimes. No time to turn his life around and become an upstanding citizen. Nothing, except a plea for Jesus to remember him. The criminal 'came to Christ' that day. Jesus responded by saying, "I tell you the truth. Today you will be with me in paradise!"
- Why did Christ have to die in order for us to enter heaven?
In my opinion, this is probably the most complex and complicated idea in the entire Christian doctrine. It is also the most important. I cannot attempt to answer this question in one paragraph, but can encourage you to study to the Bible and find this answer for yourself. In short, God made us to love Him and only Him. Because you need free will to honestly and openly love anyone, He gave us the choice. We failed, and there began the downfall. The story is all there, in the best selling book of all time. Once you open yourself to the idea that the Bible is indeed the Word of God, as foreign as that may be to you, God will begin to create a new you from the inside out and begin to answer these and any other pressing questions you may have. 2 Corinthians states, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here!”
He really does create us new and the best gift of all if the promise of eternity. Apart from eternity, life makes absolutely no sense to me. You could have the best life by all worldly standards, but what do you really have? What do you really control? You do not determine when you enter or exit this life. You do not determine how you exit this life. You do not take anything with you. However, knowing that we will indeed be reunited with our brothers and sisters in Christ in a place that knows no pain or suffering, makes this life worth living to its fullest.
). Jesus had unfinished business to take care of and through the most selfless act ever recorded, He defeated death so that we can all spend eternity free of the trials and tribulations of this world. For that, I am eternally grateful! My chains are gone, I’ve been set free…
As Lutzer states in his book, “Death is the chariot our heavenly Father sends to bring us to Himself.” And mom, whether you can see us or not, I know you are home with the heavenly Father, dancing like you've never danced before and I so look forward to one day being with you again...this time for eternity!