I’m glad that here, towards the end Epiphany season, that we are able to celebrate the resurrection. The main point of Jesus’ answer to the Sadducees was, of course, that there is indeed a resurrection from the dead to eternal life. This is so plain from the New Testament that it doesn’t surprise us or instruct us much beyond any other passage.
And yet Jesus has left mysterious hints about what life in the resurrection will be like. In the first place, those who lived with God in this life will live with Him in the next life. The terrible and terrifying corollary is that those who choose to live this life without God can look forward to more of the same for all of eternity – only without God’s grace to restrain sinful men.
Here is where the Christian doctrine of the Communion of the Saints becomes important. The God who was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is still the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This, naturally, points out the continuing existence of God but also, more provocatively, the continuing existence of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. It wouldn’t make much sense for God to say He was their God if they had become merely memories or the dust of the earth.
I hope to see them up in heaven when I get there: I’m sure I’ll have plenty of time to get around to seeing them and all of the other saints of the past that I’ve ever read about. Because they believed in God and lived with Him here on earth, I shall see them in heaven, as long as I believe in God and live with Him here while I can.
And so I expect to see: Adam, Abel, Seth, Enosh, Cainan, Mahalalel, Jared, Enoch, and Methuselah; Noah and Melchizedek; Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph; Moses, Aaron, Miriam, Joshua, and Caleb; Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Deborah, Gideon, and Samson; Samuel, David, Solomon, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and Josiah; Rahab, Ruth, and Esther; Daniel, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Isaiah;
John the Baptist, Anna, Simeon, certain shepherds, some magi, Mary, Joseph, and James; Peter and Andrew, James and John, and the other 8; Paul; Stephen, Philip, Cornelius, Barnabas, Luke, Mark, Silas, Lydia, Jason, Apollos, Priscilla and Aquila, Timothy, Titus, and Epaphroditus;
Polycarp, Ignatius, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Augustine, and Athanasius; Boniface, Patrick, Brendan, the Gregorys, and Augustine; Bede, Benedict, Alfred, Charlemagne, and Alcuin; Francis and Bernard;
Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Thomas Cranmer; Fenelon and Pascal; Herbert, Donne, and Edward Taylor; Wilberforce, Wesley, and Keble; Grandpa and Grandma Jones, Grandpa and Grandma Erlandson, Dave and Gwyn Erlandson; Tom McGee, George Grant, Walter Banek, and Bill Dickson; people from Good Shepherd Church, St. Chrysostom’s Church, and St. Andrew’s Church; Paul Erlandson, Danny Erlandson, Linda Bendiksen, Jackie Erlandson, Renee Erlandson, Charlie Erlandson, Calvin Erlandson, William Erlandson, Gloria Erlandson, Christian Erlandson (and Veronica Erlandson)!
I don’t have time to name all the others I expect to see there, believing as I do in the resurrection and the God who resurrects.
I can’t claim to know what life will be like in Heaven, but I do know that we will be made like the angels. We should not suppose that we will be made into angels, but only like them in certain ways: their immortality and holiness, for example. But, being corporeal creatures, and understanding Heaven to be the Marriage Feast of the Lamb, and remembering all of the food imagery in the Bible, I suppose we will still have food. Only imagine food without the negative effect of calories or starvation or gluttony!
Apparently, we won’t have marriage in Heaven, but would that mean that somehow I will have been privileged to be married to Jackie for 23 wonderful years, only to be divorced from her presence in heaven? I’m told there won’t be marriage in Heaven, but I thank God for an earthly marriage that is much like heaven. Knowing the God who is still the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, it doesn’t worry me that Jackie and I will no longer be married. For I know the God who has married us and know that in Heaven God will replace marriage with something even better. And I’m sure Jackie Erlandson will still be a part of my life. What sense would it make to be one flesh with her for many years here and to undoubtedly remember her in heaven, but to be denied her goodly company?
And so I see through a glass darkly. But I do know that there is a God and that He will raise those who love Him from the dead. And I know that He will in no way cheat us, either in this life or the life to come. Beyond that, I can only imagine. But since God is the God of the living, I can measure His goodness and the goodness of heaven by the best things here on earth. As good as they are, they are still imperfect and not yet resurrected.
I have my own personal list of my favorite things on earth, and I’m sure you have your own. (Among my favorite things are: dark chocolate and dark beer and various liqueurs; music by the baroque masters, as well as Beethoven, the Beatles, and psychedelic bands of the 1960s; the art of van Eyck, Holbein, Bosch, and Dali; human personality and psychology; rare, old books; classic cars [such as the 1959 Chevy and 1959 Cadillac] and old trains; the art embedded in everyday life such as the old toaster-shaped Winebagos or art deco radios; passion flowers, orchids, and Venus flytraps; the way proof coins shine and the difference between the luster of silver and steel; deep sea diver’s helmets and suits of armor; and especially the many people I’ve met in my life and above all those in my family.)
By your favorite things on earth, know the goodness of God and have faith that He will give you even better things when the resurrection comes.
Therefore, even in this Lent of a life, I understand and believe in the Easter to come.
Prayer: Oh, let me know
The power of Thy resurrection!
Oh, let me show
Thy life in clear reflection!
Oh, let me soar
Where Thou, my Savior Christ, art gone before!
In mind and heart
Let me dwell always, only, where Thou Art!
Oh, let me give
Out of the gifts Thou freely givest;
Oh, let me live
With life abundantly because Thou livest;
Oh, make me shine
In darkest places, for Thy light in mine;
Oh, let me be
A faithful witness for Thy truth and Thee.
Oh, let me show
The strong reality of gospel story;
Oh, let me go
From strength to strength, from glory unto glory;
Oh, let me sing
For every joy, because Thou art my King;
Oh, let me praise
Thy love and faithfulness through all my days. Amen. (Frances Ridley Havergal)
Points for Meditation:
- Whatever darkness, despair, or heaviness you have today: remember and meditate on your resurrection.
- Remember the cloud of witnesses who have made a difference in your life. Give thanks to God for them and allow God to use them to continue to inspire you.
Resolution: I resolve to practice laying aside whatever is distracting me from living in light of the resurrection today.
Adoration of the Lamb, Hubert and Jan van Eyck – U.S. Public Domain