Summary: Death is viewed a lot of ways by different people, but for us as Christians it is nothing less than the Gate of Heaven.
The Gate of Heaven
It wasn’t too long ago I was snooping through some boxes that I had long packed away, and found one of those little electronic games I used to play with when I was a teenager. Maybe you had one – a Mattel hand held football or baseball game – with the back drop of a field on pasted onto plastic and little more than red flashing lights that we’re supposed to represent the various players on the field. It was like finding an old lost friend. I found a battery, got it operating and quickly called my sons so I could share this wonderful toy that had filled so many of my young hours with joy.
But I can’t say they were nearly so excited about this find as I was. They mastered it, dropped it and forgot it over the course of about an hour. And I’ve rarely seen them again. They just can’t compete with the more elaborate hand held games of today with real players, multiple choices of play, real game audio and the ability to schedule an entire season worth of games recorded and stored in units that are smaller and lighter than those of the past. My great discovery wasn’t much of a discovery at all. It was no big deal; just a bunch of blinking lights and corny artificial sounds.
And as I think about Jacob returning to this place some time later in his life; rekindling the memory of what took place here; most likely sharing it with the sons and daughters that he brought with him; they probably had a similar reaction. What’s the big deal, dad? It’s just a rock. You dragged us out here in the middle of nowhere to see a pile of rocks.
But it was so much more. Jacob had arrived here the first time because of some rather unscrupulous schemes he had perpetrated against his father and brother that had landed him out of their graces, especially his brothers, and far from home. He was tired. He was hungry. He was on the run, afraid of his brother who was breathing out murderous threats against him. And he was all alone, or at least that’s what he thought.
But when he laid his head down on that rock to sleep God gave him the assurance that he surely hadn’t been left abandoned by God, forsaken and all alone. Though he hadn’t deserved to be so welcomely received, Jacob was given to see the Lord God, standing in heaven; and to hear his promise. Not only would Jacob’s future be secure, his family vast in number; but Jacob would be able to rest in the knowledge that the Lord would be with him and would watch over him wherever he would go, and the Lord would bring him back to this land. He would not leave Jacob until He had done all that He had promised. “Jacob, you’re my man,” he said, “and I’m your God. Nothing shall part us. I guarantee it.” And out of the awe and majesty of the moment; in the strength and promise of what had happened there; he placed a memorial and boldly declared, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; the very gate of heaven.” It’s just a stone in the middle of nowhere; but so much more than a stone. It’s the very gate of heaven.