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Summary: Because of Jesus, our death does not mean our life is "over" but that it is making a powerful "transition" from what is temporary to that which is eternal.

AN UNKNOWN AUTHOR ONCE SAID, "AS A BOY, I THOUGHT OF HEAVEN AS A CITY WITH DOMES, SPIRES, AND BEAUTIFUL STREETS, INHABITED BY ANGELS.

BY AND BY MY LITTLE BROTHER DIED, AND I THOUGHT OF HEAVEN MUCH AS BEFORE, BUT WITH ONE INHABITANT THAT I KNEW. THEN ANOTHER DIED, AND THEN SOME OF MY ACQUAINTANCES, SO IN TIME I BEGAN TO THINK OF HEAVEN AS CONTAINING SEVERAL PEOPLE THAT I KNEW.

BUT IT WAS NOT UNTIL ONE OF MY OWN LITTLE CHILDREN DIED THAT I BEGAN TO THINK I HAD TREASURE IN HEAVEN MYSELF. AFTERWARD ANOTHER WENT, AND YET ANOTHER.

BY THAT TIME I HAD SO MANY ACQUAINTANCES AND CHILDREN IN HEAVEN THAT I NO MORE THOUGHT OF IT AS A CITY MERELY WITH STREETS OF GOLD BUT AS A PLACE FULL OF INHABITANTS. NOW THERE ARE SO MANY LOVED ONES THERE I SOMETIMES THINK I KNOW MORE PEOPLE IN HEAVEN THAN I DO ON EARTH."

HEAVEN. ETERNAL LIFE. PARADISE. WE HAVE VARIOUS NAMES FOR GOD’S KINGDOM. ALONG WITH THESE VARIOUS NAMES FOR HEAVEN COME JUST AS MANY, IF NOT MORE, UNDERSTANDINGS AND BELIEFS ON HOW ONE CAN GET TO HEAVEN.

IT IS RATHER INTERESTING THAT IN TODAY’S MODERN, EDUCATED SOCIETY THAT THE REQUIREMENTS ON “HOW WE GET TO HEAVEN” CAN STILL BE A DEBATABLE SUBJECT IN THE CHURCH.

BEING GOOD, DOING GOOD, BAPTISM, CONFIRMATION, MARTYRDOM, CHURCH MEMBERSHIP AND A HOST OF OTHER COMMENDABLE THINGS HAVE BEEN ARGUED FOR GENERATIONS AS “HEAVENLY QUALIFIERS” FOR EARNING ETERNAL LIFE.

EVEN IN OUR VERY OWN CHURCHES, WE CAN’T SEEM TO COME TO THE SAME CONCLUSION EVEN THOUGH JESUS HAS ALREADY MADE IT PRETTY CLEAR HOW ONE GETS TO HEAVEN. THE DISCIPLES OF JESUS WERE NO DIFFERENT IN THEIR SPIRITUAL CONFUSION.

IN THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JOHN, JESUS TELLS HIS DISCIPLES, “YOU KNOW THE WAY THAT LEADS WHERE I GO.” THEN THOMAS SAYS, “LORD, WE DO NOT KNOW WHERE YOU ARE GOING, HOW CAN WE KNOW THE WAY?’ JESUS ANSWERS, “I AM THE WAY, AND THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE; NO ONE COMES TO THE FATHER BUT THROUGH ME.”

THOMAS WAS EXPRESSING THE SAME DOUBT THAT WE ALL FEEL WHEN WE THINK ABOUT HEAVEN AND KNOWING THAT “DEATH” HAS TO HAPPEN BEFORE GETTING THERE. IT IS NEVER EASY OR COMFORTABLE FOR US TO THINK ABOUT DEATH.

WE ASK OURSELVES: HOW CAN I FACE THIS REALITY? HOW CAN I FIND STRENGTH TO COME INTO THE CHAPEL OR TO THE FUNERAL HOME TO VIEW MY LOVED ONE IN A CASKET? HOW CAN I MANAGE THESE LAST FEW MONTHS THE DOCTOR SAYS I HAVE TO LIVE? HOW CAN I LIVE AS IF TODAY IS MY LAST DAY ON EARTH?

IT IS NATURAL TO FEEL ANXIOUS, UNEASY, AND SAD ABOUT DYING AND DEATH. THOUGHTS OF DEATH BRING IMAGES OF GRIEF, PAIN, AND HEARTACHE. THE MEAR THOUGHT OF NO LONGER BEING HERE ON EARTH IS ENOUGH TO CAUSE US TO SHUDDER.

THE GOOD NEWS IS JESUS CONQUERED THESE EMOTIONS AND FEELINGS THROUGH HIS VICTORY OVER DEATH. BECAUSE OF JESUS, EVEN THOUGH WE MAY STILL CRY, WE KNOW THAT JOY COMES IN THE MORNING BECAUSE DEATH IS NOT “FINALITY” FOR A CHRISTIAN. JESUS MADE CERTAIN. JESUS PLANNED, PREPARED, AND POSITIONED HIMSELF TO MAKE SURE THE VICTORY WAS HIS AND THAT ETERNITY COULD BE OURS.

JESUS MADE THE NECESSARY PREPARATIONS TO RECEIVE US WHEN OUR LIFE IS OVER SO THAT WHEN OUR LOVED ONES STAND BEFORE OUR CASKET, THEY WILL BE ABLE TO LOOK DOWN AT OUR EARTHLY BODY AND KNOW DEEP IN THEIR HEARTS THAT WE ARE NOT REALLY THERE.


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