Many ministers we know have testified of visits to aged saints in which they were much more blessed than the one visited. These saints, some in their nineties, it has been pointed out, live close to heaven, and this is wise. One may speak of soon “going over to heaven”. When language like that comes up in converse with older saints there is bound to be a blessed exchange. Then who tires of talking about heaven? Certainly not these ministers nor those visited with heaven so much on their minds! What a point of contact-heaven! It’s not “the weather”, or clothes (old Christians think little of “what ye shall wear”), or current events (such are crowded out by the prospect of “going over home to heaven”), or cake, or tea, but heaven.
Remember that dear lady in her nineties who frequently so spoke? She was a pilgrim and was radiantly happy to tell you so, where she was going, that’s right, “over home to heaven”. Remember how she loved to talk of her house, not made with hands, eternal in the heavens? She would speak of her heavenly Husband who had never left her, though her earthly husband had died years ago. She would describe her landed estate, rich in still waters and green pastures, of her hidden treasure, of her ownership-title and of the Testator who willed it all to her in the blood of the New Testament. She loved to remind that it was all safe “over there in heaven”, as Peter averred, “reserved in heaven for you”.
Or to change the picture a little, there you lay in the dentist’s chair (you don’t sit in them any more), while the technician scrapes your teeth with a steel implement. In another moment the “blower” is in your mouth to “dry” off a tooth, the next, the “squirter”, then the “scraper”, the pick and the rotary brush. In between times, with dental tools going into and out of your mouth, you try to carry on a discussion about- “heaven”. Even a dental technician can be heaven-minded. Christians in all walks of life want to be sure that they, their husband or wife and all in the family know what is essential to know about heaven, about and “when we all get to heaven”. Again, heaven is a much better point of contact than a dental check-up, although the latter may, and why not?, lead to the former. Some are taught that when we as Christians die, we do not go straight to heaven. We first go to “Paradise”, where our souls sleep in the dead body until Christ comes. Then the dead in Christ shall rise first, while those who remain to the coming of the Lord are caught up to heaven, together with the resurrected saints. So shall we ever be with the Lord. Then you, as Protestant Reformed Christian, may be asked, “What do you think?” You may reply that the soul does not sleep in the grave, nor in the dead body, for “we know that when our earthly house of this tabernacle is dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (II Corinthians 5:1). You may explain that this house is not the glorified body which we get at the Second Coming of our Lord. For this passage is answering the question, What happens to us Christians when we die? Nor is this house a special body to temporarily house us during the “intermediate state”, that is, in that state of death for the saints between the time they die to their resurrection. For this house is not temporary, but “eternal in the heavens”. Actually, this house is in the heavens is heaven itself. Jesus spoke of it when He had said, “in My Father’s house are many mansions (many homes).” This house is spoken of another way, as the City whose Builder and Maker is God. It is also referred to as the new and holy Jerusalem. But what about “the third heaven”? what is “Paradise”? What is meant by “Abraham’s’’ Bosom”? A book published in 1971 claims that the angel Gabriel took a man on a foreign mission field up into heaven, as Paul was taken up in II Corinthians 12:2-3. He was taken into the first heaven, the second heaven, the third heaven, and finally all the way to the “seventh heaven.” Now why would a reputed missionary scholar speak in the way of “the seventh heaven”? Where does scripture speak of this imagined heaven? This idea is no part of the doctrine of the Christian church. It is rabbinical theosophy, something developed up out of the Talmud. In this connection, beware of what the Apostle Paul says about Jewish myths (I Timothy 1:4; 4:7; II Timothy 4:4; Titus 1:14). But to get back to those terms inquired of (above): they are all synonyms for the same place. They denote heaven. Jesus when He died went right to heaven, as did also that penitent thief. They both died on Mount Calvary, and their souls went right to heaven. Jesus promised this converted thief, “Today thou shalt be with Me in Paradise”. How did that happen? Absent from the body was his soul in the moment of death and then immediately present with the Lord. That is how it happened. We may be sure of that. The word of God tells us so. Check your concordance. Then we know that three days after his death Jesus rose from the dead in the same body in which He was crucified. Forty days afterward, the Lord soul and body went up to heaven in His glorious ascension. Now, soul and body, He is no more on earth, but in heaven. There he wills to be worshipped by us. Therefore, when we die, according to II Corinthians 5, we are absent from the body and immediately and forever present with the Lord. There is no purgatory after death. Our purgation is in this life in the precious blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross. There “the blood of Jesus, God’s Son, cleanseth (durative present, ‘keeps cleansing’) us from all sin” (I John 1:7). So there is no need for the Romish myth of purga-tory.
Heaven is a frequent topic of conversation at home, isn’t it? Also at home, everyone recognizes everyone else. Why should it not be so in heaven? There will not be less but more perception in heaven. Adam recognized who and what Eve was at first sight. Then will not husbands and wives, parents and children know each other in heaven? If the original members of the Thessalonian church shall be Paul’s crown of rejoicing in the presence of the Lord at His coming 9I Thessalonians 2:19), then will not ministers know their people, and people their ministers in heaven? The three disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration knew Moses and Elijah, not by introduction, not by sight, but by revelation and intuition. Will we not know them too when we get to heaven? The communion of saints will be perfected there. We shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, so we shall surely recognize them. Abraham knew Lazarus. Then shall we know even as we also are known.
It was when he was between the ages of 15 and 18 that Augustus Montague Toplady wrote the famous hymn, Rock of Ages. The fourth stanza goes like this:
When I draw this fleeting breath,
When my eyelids close in death,
When I soar to worlds unknown,
See Thee on Thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee!
There was once a minister who used to sing it, “When I soar to worlds well known, Sit there on Thy judgment throne”. Of course he had in mind Revelation 3:21 and I Corinthians 6:3. Think of “going over home to heaven”, and one does not think of it as “worlds unknown”. Since we are born from above, then our birth and parentage are from heaven. Jerusalem above is the mother of us all. Heaven is our Home. God is our Father who is in heaven. The world is a strange place, But the natural man is at home here in this world. He fits right in with this world. The Christian is not at home in this world. It is only a motel to him. So he is not yet in his proper place. Our kindred are there in heaven. The very center of heaven is the Lamb, our Redeemer. There are Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the spirits of just men made perfect. “When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be!” Meanwhile, this world is to us “a strange country” (Hebrews 11:9). We are just passing through to “a better country.” We do so singing,
I am a stranger here,
Dependent on Thy grace,
A pilgrim as my fathers were,
With no abiding place.
But shouldn’t we right from the outset have sought to prove the existence of such a place as heaven, or, if that is expecting too much (who can prove there is no such place?), at least have “established” the possibility of heaven, and then perhaps the probability of heaven? Not at all, for why should we attempt doing what neither the fathers, prophets and our Lord did not do? The scriptures themselves begin where we must all begin, on the supposing of what is previous to all though, action and history, namely, God and heaven! “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” This is what faith does. Faith has proof enough. Faith sees and knows, sees heaven, knows the God of heaven. The word of Jesus is enough for faith: “I go to prepare a place for you.” Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people. Hell is a prepared place for unprepared people. Are you as prepared for that glorious place as to be able to say, I’m heading onward over home to heaven?