Heaven at Last
by Walter B. Knight
A father and mother lost three little children in one week by diphtheria. Only the little three-year-old girl escaped. On Easter morning the father, mother and child were in Sunday school. The father was the superintendent. He led his class in worship and read the Easter message from the Bible without a break in his voice. Many in the school were weeping, but the faces of the
father and mother remained serene and calm.
“How can they do it?” men and women asked each other as they left the church.
A fifteen-year-old boy, walking home with his father, said, “Father, I guess the superintendent and his wife really believe it, don’t they?”
“Believe what?” asked the father.
“The whole, big thing, all of it-EASTER-you know!”
“Of course,” answered the father, “all Christians believe it!”
“Not the way they believe it,” said the boy, and he began to whistle.
How fear-allaying, sorrow-dispelling and hope-bringing are these triumphant words of the death-conquering Saviour: “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore” (Rev. 1:18). How rayless and starless the night of death would be but for the Saviour’s triumph over death! Because He lives, we too live radiantly and victoriously in the present life, and shall live eternally in the life to come! When our loved ones slip away from us to be forever “with the Lord,” we sorrow, to be sure; but in our sorrow, we are comforted and sustained in knowing that we shall see them again!
Death to the children of God is no “King of Terrors”! To the believer, death means only to be ‘absent from the body-at home with the Lord!’ (II Cor. 5:8).
After the Saviour’s victory over death, the apostles seldom used the word “death” to express the close of a Christian’s earthly life. The terms used were: “sleep,” “at home with the Lord,” “depart” or “loose the moorings” (as a vessel about to set out to sea)!
It is the custom of some native African Christians to refer to their dead who “die in the Lord,” not as having departed, but as having arrived!
On the jasper threshold standing,
Like a pilgrim safely landing,
See the strange, bright scenes expanding,
Ah! ‘Tis Heaven at last!
What a city, what a glory,
Far beyond the fairest story,
Of the ages, old and hoary,
Ah! ‘Tis Heaven at last!
Christ Himself the living splendor,
Christ the sunshine, mild and tender,
Praises to the Lamb we render,
Ah! ‘Tis Heaven at last!
When Dr. Rees preached last in North Wales, a friend said to him, “You are whitening fast, Dr. Rees.” The old gentleman did not say anything. When he got into the pulpit, he said:
There is a wee white flower that comes at this season of the year. Sometimes it comes up through the snow and frost. We are all glad to see the snowdrop, because it proclaims that winter is over and summer is at hand.
A friend has reminded me that I am whitening fast. But heed not that brother. It is to me a proof that my winter will soon be over; that I shall have done presently with the cold east winds and the frosts of earth, and that my summer, my eternal summer, is at hand!
No chilling winds, nor pois’nous breath,
Can reach that healthful shore;
Sickness and sorrow, pain and death,
Are felt and feared no more!
“For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.”-Song of Sol. 2:11,12.
Contemplating the end of his earthly journey and being ‘sustained and soothed by an unfaltering trust,’ Paul expressed the ardent wish of his glowing heart thus: ‘For I have a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better’ (Phil. 1:23).
It will take the unending eons of eternity to disclose fully how much better it is for God’s children to pass to the Home “not made with hands, eternal in the heavens,” than to remain in earth’s night with its sorrow and suffering! There they will behold the King in His beauty and be forever with the Lord! As God’s children stand at the opal gates of death, the Living One, Jesus, will unlock the gates and will accompany them through the valley of the shadow of death. His presence will illumine the valley and render them unafraid!
“At evening time it shall be light.”-Zech. 14:7.
How different it is with those who come to journey’s end without God and without hope!
An old Indian chief was told of the Saviour. The missionary tried to persuade the chief to accept Christ as his ONLY hope of eternal life. Said the old chief, “The Jesus road is good, but I have followed the Indian road all of my life, and I will follow it to the end!”
A year later, the old chief stood on the borderline of death. As he was seeking a pathway through the darkness, he said to the missionary, “Can I turn to the Jesus road now? My road stops here. It has no path through the valley!”
How grateful we are that, even in death, penitent hearts may turn to the gracious Saviour for “the gift of God [which] is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). Even eyes glazing in death may “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
Look and live, my brother, live!
Look to Jesus NOW and live;
‘Tis recorded in His Word, Hallelujah!
It is only that you look and live!
“Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.”-Isa. 45:22.
A miser, whose ruling passion was strong even in death, exclaimed, “Put out that candle, Marie!”
“But, Uncle, suppose you want something?”
“Put it out,” he gasped. “One does not need light to die!”
Now for the contrast: One of God’s servants lay dying. Said his mother tenderly, “Is Jesus with you in the dark valley?”
“Dark valley!” exclaimed God’s child. “It’s not dark! It’s getting brighter and brighter, Mother. Oh,” he murmured, “it’s so bright now that I have to shut my eyes!”
As in life, so also in death, the promise is sure: “He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12).
How bright is the future for God’s children: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (I Cor. 2:9).
Many of God’s “precious promises” have to do with our victory over death and our entrance into Glory to be at home with the Lord! Let us meditate upon three keenly anticipated delights which await us at life’s setting sun:
I. WE WILL BEHOLD THE KING IN HIS BEAUTY AND BE LIKE HIM
Whether we go to be with the Lord in death, or whether the Lord comes for us, the promise is sure: “Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty” (Isa. 33:17). What joy unspeakable and full of glory will be ours when we awaken with His likeness and see Him as He is!
“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face” (I Cor. 13:12).
Only faintly now I see Him,
With the darkling veil between;
But a blessed day is coming,
When His glory shall be seen!
What transformation our “body of humiliation” will undergo when we see Him! Then our body will “be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself” (Phil. 3:21). John said, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (I John 3:2).
A little boy was born blind. A skilled surgeon performed a delicate operation on the boy’s eyes. The operation was a success. For days and weeks his eyes were covered with bandages. The time was nearing when the bandages were to be removed.
Said the nurse to the lad, “My boy, tomorrow we are going to remove the bandages from your eyes. When the bandages are removed, whom do you want to see FIRST?”
Without a moment’s hesitation, the lad exclaimed, “I want to see FIRST the doctor who gave me my sight!”
We want to see FIRST the One who gave us our spiritual sight!
Oh, the dear ones in glory, how they beckon me to come,
And our parting at the river I recall;
To the sweet vales of Eden they will sing my welcome home;
But I long to meet my Saviour FIRST of all!
Till we behold the King in His beauty; till we are completely conformed to the image of Christ, let it be our fixed purpose to be like Him NOW in word and in deed. As we, by faith, fix our spiritual gaze upon Him, we become like Him: “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (II Cor. 3:18).
Observe that it is the vision of the glorified, risen Christ, the Christ at God’s right hand with limitless power in Heaven and on earth, which changes us from glory to glory. It was the glorified Christ whom Stephen saw. It was the Lord “high and lifted up” whom Isaiah saw. It was the living, exalted Christ whom Paul saw.
Never would we detract from the atoning death of Christ on the cross. If the cross, however, had ended all, and if there had been no resurrection, our faith would be “vain”; we would yet be in our sins, and “they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished” (I Cor. 15:17,18).
Michelangelo walked through a great art gallery with some of his artist friends. Turning with indignation he said to them, “Why do you keep filling gallery after gallery with endless paintings of Christ upon the cross, Christ dying, most of all Christ hanging dead? Why do you concentrate upon that passing episode, as if that were the LAST word and the final scene; as if the curtain dropped upon that hour of disaster? At worst, that only lasted for a few hours. But to the end of unending eternity, Christ is alive! Christ rules and reigns and triumphs!”
With joy we sing:
I serve a RISEN Saviour,
He’s in the world today;
I KNOW that He is living,
Whatever men may say!
In the teaching and preaching of the apostles, Christ’s victory over death was central. They had seen Him! They had handled Him! Boldly, they confronted the very men who had condemned Him to death, and said, “But ye denied the Holy One and the Just And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses” (Acts 3:14,15).
In speaking of His triumph over death, let us do it with joy and certainty. “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth” (Job 19:25).
Reichel was conducting the final rehearsal of his great choir to render The Messiah. The choir had sung through to the point where the soprano soloist takes up the refrain, “I know that my Redeemer liveth!” The soloist’s technique was perfect. She had faultless breathing, accurate note placement, flawless enunciation. After the final note, all eyes were fixed on Reichel to catch his look of approval. Instead, he silenced the orchestra, walked over to the singer, and asked sorrowfully, “My daughter, do you really know that your Redeemer liveth? Do you?”
“Why, yes,” she answered, flushing, “I think I do.”
“Then sing it!” cried Reichel. “Tell it to me so that I will know, and all who hear you will know that you know the joy and power of it!”
Then he motioned the orchestra to play it again. This time, the soloist sang the truth as she knew it and had experienced it in her own soul. All who heard wept under the spell of it. The old master approached her with tear-dimmed eyes, and said, “You do know, for you have told me!”
II. WE WILL BE WITH OUR LOVED ONES AGAIN
Some of us have more loved ones on the other side of the river of life than on this side. Paul spoke of the whole family of God in Heaven and earth. Death has separated us from the “dear ones in Glory”! The separation, however, is only temporary. We ardently believe that ere long “the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them” (I Thess. 4:16,17). We will not only see them, but we also will know them.
David’s heart was comforted in knowing that he would see again his child in Glory. Said he, “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me” (II Sam. 12:23). Peter, James and John knew Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration without the formality of an introduction!
When he knew that his earthly pilgrimage was soon to be over, F. B. Meyer called for a pencil and paper and wrote this touching note to his wife:
To my surprise, I have just been told that my days and hours are numbered. It may be that before this reaches you, I shall have gone into the Palace of the King! Do not trouble to write. We shall meet in the morning!
A physician was a strong, stalwart Christian. From his sunny nature radiated good cheer to his patients. He had enough sunshine also for the frail little wife who needed all the vigor of his personality to sustain her. When the doctor suddenly passed away, friends said, “It will kill her! This will be the end of her!”
But the faith in God which the two had shared together did not fail her. By the doorway of the living room she hung the card that the doctor sometimes left, during short absences, on his office door. It read: “Gone Out-Back Soon!”
The doctor’s widow cherished the blessed hope of being again with her loved ones when Christ comes WITH His saints to reign on the earth.
One by one, our hearts cease their throbbing. One by one, we are being swept away by the billows of time.
There is no flock howsoever tended,
But one dead lamb is there;
There is no fireside howsoever defended,
But has its vacant chair!
When Christ comes and resurrects the bodies of God’s children who “sleep in the dust of the earth,” we shall be with our loved ones again! “The bright and cloudless morning when the dead in Christ shall rise” is SURE to come.
Of that blessed day the Lord Jesus said, “The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life” (John 5:28,29).
On the headstone over a little mound in a cemetery is the word “Freddy!” as if someone called, and underneath appear the words, “Yes, Lord!” as if someone answered.
He who calls His sheep by name will someday call by name all the blessed dead who have entered life trusting in Him who is “the resurrection and the life”!
Robert G. Ingersoll, the well-known atheist of other years, told this story:
I was never nonplused but once. I was lecturing one night and took occasion to show that the resurrection of Lazarus was probably a planned affair to bolster the waning fortunes of Jesus. Lazarus was to take sick and die. The girls were to bury him and send for Jesus. Lazarus was to feign death till Jesus should come and say, “Lazarus, come forth!” To emphasize the situation, I said, “Can anyone here tell me why Jesus said, ‘Lazarus, come forth’?”
Down by the door, a pale-faced, white-haired man arose and, with a shrill voice said, “Yes sir, I can tell you! If the Lord had not said, ‘Lazarus,’ the whole graveyard at Bethany would have come forth!”
III. WE WILL REST FROM OUR LABORS
Of the righteous dead, the Bible says, “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they MAY REST FROM THEIR LABOURS; and their works do follow them” (Rev. 14:13). Of this future rest, the Bible says, “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God” (Heb. 4:9).
God’s servants oftentimes become weary IN His work, but not weary OF His work. As they “bear one another’s burdens”; as they “bear the infirmities of the weak,” making the sorrows of others their own, they, like the Saviour, become weary and exhausted. Of Him it is written, “Jesus being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well” (John 4:6). Of the rest which remaineth for the people of God, Isaiah said, “And his rest shall be glorious” (Isa. 11:10).
Till we enter into this future rest, let us accept the Saviour’s gracious word of invitation, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).
I came to Jesus as I was,
Weary and worn and sad;
I found in Him a resting place,
And He has made me glad!
“In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.”-Isa. 30:15.
“Until the day break, and the shadows flee away,” until He comes again for His own, let us “set [our] affection on things above, not on things on the earth”; let us “lay up treasures in heaven, where moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal”; let us go “without the camp” with Him, bearing His reproach. Let us daily talk of His wondrous love and care; let us do our best to bring the lost ones to His feet!
Ere long, the day of God’s grace will be finished. Then will come “the day of vengeance of our God”!
Soon will the season of rescue be o’er,
Soon will they drift to eternity’s shore;
Haste then, my brother, no time for delay,
But throw out the Life-Line and save them TODAY!
It is later, dispensationally, than we think! “The night is FAR spent, the day is at hand” (Rom. 13:12).
As we scan the world horizons through the telescope of the “sure word of prophecy,” we are constrained to exclaim, “The coming of the Lord draweth nigh!”
“For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry.”-Heb. 10:37.
“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hastening unto the coming of the day of God.”-II Pet. 3:10-12.
Are YOU ready to meet Him in death? Are YOU ready to meet Him when He comes for His own?
“Be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.”-Matt. 24:44.
Ready to speak, ready to warn,
Ready o’er souls to yearn;
Ready in life or ready in death,
Ready for His return!
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