Summary: The relationship we have and will have with those who have previously died in Christ can encourage us until we’re together
Intro – Let me give you a warning: this message today is going to get very personal very quickly. I know it is for me. The older you are, the faster this will happen. Let me tell you about some people who I’ve known through the years.
(went through several names and pictures of people, significant in my life, who have died)
These people are just a few of the reasons that Heaven is an important place to me. You have a list much like it this morning.
Sometimes I wonder. Don’t you? I wonder if Dad is proud of how I’m doing. I wonder if Emmit would like to tell me, “Well, now let’s think about that…” I wonder if Stan Bouchard has some one-liner that he’s telling around Heaven that was prompted by my situation. I wonder how Shannon felt about when her husband Jeff turned his life around and got it right, and what was it like for her when he was suddenly struck down in an accident and headed for Heaven. I wonder if Dad Sills still makes that sound by sucking air in through the cracks between his teeth while he chews a toothpick, and if he still would encourage me to get a pilot’s license just because it would be a neat accomplishment. I wonder if my two sons are watching us, and if they appreciate each year when we acknowledge their birthdays.
Other times, I don’t just wonder; I long for them. I wish I could call Dad up on the phone, like I could 15 years ago, and seek his advice about parenting and about the ministry. I wish I could get Dad Sill’s slant on world politics, and Emmit’s take on our nation’s finances. I miss those people.
I’m going to guess that most every one of us here today has someone dear that is no longer in this world – someone who died in Christ, who’s in Heaven today, and whom you miss sorely.
And I’m going to guess that, more than once, you’ve thought about that person and wondered how you still relate to that person, and how he or she relates to you. You can’t see them – they’re so far removed from this situation…or are they? Just how far away are those people we know and loved? How do we relate to them, or do we at all?
We’re talking about Heaven’s current citizens. Now, to understand them, and how we relate to them, let’s make a short list of things they can’t do, then we’ll address what they do:
1. They can’t assume the roles of angels – because they aren’t!
There are some things we have in common with angels: Jesus said that, like the angels, we won’t be married in Heaven, and we won’t die. An angel told John he was just a fellow-servant of the Lord. We’re going to engage in worship around the throne of God, like the angels. But angels are a different creature than us. They’re serving spirits, sent to help God’s people. One day, Paul told the Corinthians, we’ll judge angels. I’m not exactly sure what that means – maybe we’ll get to watch videos of all they did and we’ll score them on how well they helped us or didn’t! I just know that we’re different from angels and our roles are different.
People who have died before us haven’t become angels, and neither will we. Sorry, Clarence the Angel, in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” You don’t die and then, “earn your wings.” What we understand about the residents of Heaven needs to come from God’s word and not books and movies.
2. They can’t continue to communicate with the living
There are only 2 exceptions to this, and in light of the number of people who are thinking they can communicate with the dead today, we’re going to spend a little time on this in just a couple of minutes.
Just for a moment, assume I’m right about this – assume that once you die, you won’t be able to communicate with the people who remain on earth. What does that mean? It means that you need to say what needs to be said now, while you have the opportunity! Get your words in! Tell your wife why she’s the greatest woman who ever lived. Tell you child that you’re proud of him or her! Tell your parents if you appreciate all they invested in you. Thank your teacher.
Too many people are trying to contact their dead loved ones because they failed to say what needed to be said to them while they were still alive. Make a note today and say what needs to be said before it’s too late to say it.
3. They can’t return