Some years ago, our church was fervently praying for someone’s healing. When that person passed away, I was heartsore and disappointed. Someone mentioned that this person had received “the ultimate healing” in heaven. In my immaturity, I thought that sounded like rationalization, putting a positive spin on it.
In God Is Just Not Fair: Finding Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense, Jennifer Rothschild described a friend’s death during a cruel assault. When Jennifer lamented to her father that she couldn’t understand why God let her friend go through such a thing, he responded that she didn’t go through it, she went from it. He went on to explain:
God delivers us in different ways. Sometimes he protects us from awful things so we never have to endure them. Other times God delivers us by rescuing us or healing us. Sometimes God brings us through hard things —that’s also a form of God’s deliverance. But then there are the times that God, out of his great care for his children, delivers us out of the horror and into glory.
God compassionately took Regina out of her tragedy and into his presence. She was delivered from it —out of it —and into glory, where there are no tears, no crying, and no pain, and the only scars are the ones on the hands of Jesus.
Heaven is not a rationalization or a positive spin on unanswered prayer. Heaven is not a lesser answer to prayer than healing.
If we look at the death of Christians from God’s standpoint, He’s gathering His children to the home He has been preparing for them for millennia.
It’s fine to seek and pray for healing, and we rejoice and praise God when He allows someone to remain with us a little longer. Healings were a major testimony to the reality of the power of God and the validity of Jesus’ ministry in the Bible. God has implanted in us a strong will to live, but living “the American dream” of a nice house, good family, and 70+ years of excellent health is not the “ultimate.” The ultimate is being with Him in our new home in heaven some day.
Once I saw a video in which the speaker had a long rope that extended all the way across the stage and then past the curtain beyond sight. That rope, he said, represented eternity. The speaker held the end of the rope wrapped in a few inches of red tape which represented our time here on earth. Our few decades that we value so much are so short, and eternity is so long. How shortsighted we are that we put so much emphasis on the one to the neglect of the other.
A full Biblical study of heaven would take more space than we have here, but here are just a few aspects of heaven:
Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. John 17:24
There the wicked cease from troubling, and there the weary are at rest. Job 3:17
Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also…Jesus said to him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:1-3, 6
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. Revelation 21:3-4
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. Philippians 1:21-23
What should we be doing in relation to heaven before we get there? Here are a few things:
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (KJV uses “comfort” in place of “encourage.)
Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation. 2 Peter 3:11-15a
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you. Colossians 3:1-5a (followed by a discussion about what earthly things he is talking about, like immorality, covetous, and lying, and what things to put on in their place).
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
In Frank Houghton’s biography, Amy Carmichael of Dohnavur, he tells of a time when one of the little ones at the Dohnavur compound died. Amy was comforted by the words of Samuel Rutherford written to a grieving mother over 200 years before Amy’s time:
You have lost a child. Nay, she is not lost to you who is found to Christ; she is not sent away but only sent before, like unto a star which going out of our sight doth not die and vanish, but shineth in another hemisphere: you see her not, yet she doth shine in another country.
If her glass was but a short hour, what she wanteth of time that hath she gotten in Eternity; and you have to rejoice that you have now some treasure laid up in heaven…Your daughter was a part of yourself, and you, being as it were cut and halved, will indeed be grieved; but you have to rejoice that when a part of you is on earth, a great part of you is glorified in heaven…There is less of you out of heaven that the child is there.
We grieve when someone we love leaves this life, and that’s perfectly normal. Even Jesus grieved. We’re sad whenever we have to be away from our loved ones for an extended time, especially without the ability to converse with them. But we remember that this life is short, that those who die in Christ are in His presence, fully healthy and without pain. We could not wish them back, and we know we’ll see them again. and in the meantime we live, as an old song used to say, “with eternity’s values in view.”
If you don’t have this sure hope of heaven, please read here for more information.