Friday, November 6, 2009

HEAVEN

“Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57). Many believers quote this verse daily, applying it to their trials and tribulations. Yet the context in which Paul speaks it suggests a deeper meaning. Just two verses earlier, Paul states, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (15:54-55).


Paul was speaking eloquently about his longing for heaven. He wrote, “We know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven” (2 Corinthians 5:1-2, italics mine)


The apostle then adds, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (5:8).


According to Paul, heaven—being in the Lord’s presence for all eternity—is something we are to desire with all our hearts.


As I ponder these things, a glorious picture begins to emerge. First, I imagine Jesus’ description of a huge gathering, when the angels “shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:31). When all these multitudes have been gathered, I picture a great victory march taking place in heaven with millions of glorified children singing hosannas to the Lord, the way children once did in the temple.


Then come all the martyrs. Those who once cried for justice on the earth now cry, “Holy, holy, holy!” All will be dancing with joy, crying, “Victory, victory in Jesus!”


Then a mighty roar comes forth, a sound never before heard. It is the church of Jesus Christ with multitudes from all nations and tribes.


Maybe this all sounds farfetched to you, but Paul himself testified about it. When the faithful apostle was caught up into heaven, he “heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter” (2 Corinthians 12:4). Paul staid he was staggered at what he heard there. I believe these were the very sounds he heard. He was given a preview of the singing and praising of God by those who will be rejoicing in his presence, their bodies made whole, their souls filled with joy and peace. It was a sound so glorious that Paul could hear it but not repeat it.