Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

September 9, 2012


Lately I am wondering what heaven will be like


A recent newspaper obituary stated that “Sam Smith” was “welcomed to heaven” last Saturday. You have to admire the admiration Sam’s family had for him. They were sure that when Sam breathed his last breath his soul went straight to heaven.

None of us knows for certain what happens when the body dies. But that is where faith comes in. Faith helps us believe that those who trust Jesus for salvation are heaven bound.

As advancing years bring me nearer to a cemetery lot, I cannot help but wonder what heaven will be like. That may explain why I catch myself singing songs about heaven, songs tucked away in my memory bank.

One of those songs has the delightful refrain, “I am bound for the promised land.” I reckon Sam Smith loved that song too. Like me he may have pictured himself standing on “Jordan’s stormy banks” and wondering what he would find when he crossed over to “Canaan’s fair and happy land.”

These precious words are the last verse of that old song:

When I shall reach that happy place,

I’ll be forever blest,

for I shall see my Father’s face,

and in his bosom rest.

The songwriter Fanny Crosby, though blind, expected in heaven to see Jesus “face to face.”  That pretty much nails it for me; the finest sight in heaven would surely be the face of Jesus. For the Christian, Crosby’s memorable words say it all:

Some day the silver cord will break,

And I no more as now shall sing,

But, O, the joy when I awake

Within the palace of the King.

And I shall see Him face to face,

And tell the story saved by grace.

To finally see Jesus would be wonderful but what does the Bible say about heaven? Does the Bible back up what our songs tell us about heaven? Do the Scriptures support the common idea that heaven is “up” yonder and that hell is “below”? We need to examine what the Good Book says.

John, in the Book of Revelation, tells us about a new, redeemed earth. He sees the holy city Jerusalem “coming down out of heaven from God.” The city is unbelievably huge. But wait, the “city” is actually the people, the redeemed whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

John observes that there is no temple in the city. The temple was  important to the Israelites. It was there they offered sacrifices for their sins. It was there they found forgiveness. It was there they shared rich fellowship with others as they worshiped the living God.

Now John sees that no temple is needed in heaven. Instead the Lord God and the Lamb are the temple. The presence of God is all that the redeemed will need since in heaven there is no separation from God. People are one with God and God is one with his people.

God and the Lamb will provide all the light that is needed. In the days of our flesh night follows day. Nighttime brings on fear for evil works under cover of darkness. Gates are closed and security systems are turned on as the sun goes down. Some people, paralyzed by the terror of the night, only find relief when the first rays of dawn appear. For them it means something that the Lord is known as the Bright and Morning Star. 

 In heaven there will be no night. Gates will be open. The glory of God will furnish perfect light forever and ever. Never again will any of us be “afraid of the dark.” We will never hurt again for there will be no pain and no tears. We will have new bodies, spiritual bodies, to replace these worn out bodies of flesh.

There will be no more hurt feelings, no more aching grief caused by irreconcilable differences between family members and loved ones. We will be at peace with God and with each other at last. We will live together in the perfect harmony that genuine love creates. No wonder many of us love that wonderful song composed by Charles Gabriel:

When all my labors and trials are o’er,

And I am safe on that beautiful shore,

Just to be near the dear Lord I adore,

Will through the ages be glory for me.

O that will be glory for me,

Glory for me, glory for me.

When by his grace I shall look on His face,

That will be glory, be glory for me.

Whenever I sing that song I feel like shouting “Glory!”

People in every age have been impressed with precious jewels, pearls, diamonds and gold. John knows this. So he uses such imagery to describe the beauty of the holy city. In his vision John sees twelve gates made of pearls and streets of pure gold. John employs this symbolic language to describe heaven as more beautiful than anything we can imagine. 

 John sees two groups of people: the redeemed who are the church, the bride of Christ, and those who are in the lake of fire. While we may wish for all to be saved at last, John says that only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of life will live in the holy city. This will be true not because God shuts unbelievers out but because unbelievers choose darkness rather than light. Heaven exists for those who worship the Lamb. Some, preferring to worship other gods or even themselves, choose not to worship the Lamb. Their choice determines their eternal destiny.

Since I love fruit I especially love John’s description of the tree of life that produces fruit constantly, not just seasonally. Not only that, it provides twelve kinds of fruit! The symbolism again is beautiful.

My wife and I once flew to Hawaii. There our tour group stopped to observe pineapples growing in a large field. Our host offered us freshly cut pineapple to eat. Never had we tasted such sweet, delicious pineapple! I know now that what we enjoyed was a “foretaste of glory divine”!  Dare I say that the taste was heavenly!

Fresh, life-giving water, fresh fruit in abundance, no more night, no more tears, and no need for the light of the lamp or the sun! Thus does John describe eternal life: living forever in the presence of the Lord God and the Son, the Lamb who was slain for our salvation. Faith in such a heaven calms our fear of death and gives us peace about what is across the Jordon.

No wonder the songwriter exclaimed, “When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be”! There we will “all see Jesus” and realize that the place Jesus prepared for us in the Father’s House is all we will need – and more! Glory! + + +