Life can be very difficult, but our suffering is not permanent. Soon the moment of our dying comes.
Yet even that dying can still be so hard because of pain and the thought of being separated from everyone and everything so dear to us in this life.
But then there is the moment we die. The last breath, the last beat of the heart. Silent, then, lies there that body, which until the very end may have been wracked by pain or tormented by anguish of heart and which till the final moment lamented being separated from loved ones.
Yes, the body is still there, but the person himself is with his (for us invisible) soul departed from the body and is now with God in paradise. Through faith in Christ, the person who died is now with God, his loving Father, and has been welcomed into the Father’s house in heaven.
A glorious future
“In heaven”: that’s just a couple of words, but oh, what inexpressible riches and what delights are contained in them! There, in heaven, all the bodily suffering that, until the last gasp, could make life here on earth so immensely difficult is gone forever.
But also banished is all the pain carried in the heart.
I know, there are children of God who, by faith, have already overcome the sorrow in this life about the impending separation and have also overcome all soul-sorrows, for example, about the straying of one or more of their children, about concerns for the future of those who remain, about the loss of their loved ones by death, etc., so that they can die in complete peace. They can die in peace as far as these things are concerned. Yet at times the pain associated with these things still knocks at the door of their hearts, and by prayerful struggle, in faith, they must overcome that time and again.
But there, in heaven, God’s children have a full, steadfast peace.
Gone is then also that massive, tiring, continual struggle against sin. There, in heaven, they never even have an inclination to sin, never again experience the unrest and pain about a wrong word or a sinful act that spoiled their lives. There in heaven they now have the fully established, firm peace also from that “battle against sin”.
Paul consoled himself with this when, after his cry of angst, “Oh wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from this body of sin?” exclaimed: “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
All struggle, all suffering will have ended.
But that’s not all. There in heaven the soul experiences not only the blessedness of being delivered from all suffering but also the positive riches that we never experienced on earth.
We will see our Saviour there, our Glorified Saviour Jesus Christ, our Surety and Redeemer, who loved us so much that He paved the way to heaven for us sinners who deserved death and hell. We will be with Him who went through “hell and death” for us. I say, we’ll see Him there, speak to Him. We will also be there with God.
To be sure, also in this life we can walk with God, speak to Him in prayer, hear His voice in the Word. Here on earth we can already sing:
“But as for me I will not fear:
How good it is that God is near.”
But there in heaven we will see God in His Godly Glory and there speak to Him and listen to His voice.
What an inexpressible blessedness that will be for us!
Moreover, we will find ourselves surrounded by the holy angels and all the blessed souls who have been there since Adam. Enoch will be there, and all those others have been given a place in heaven.
Oh, I know, the Scripture does not teach us exactly how it will be there.
For example: just as angels are spirits; we too will be there as spirits, without a body.
Now a spirit is invisible to us. But does that mean that we will not see the angels in heaven, and not see each other?
Personally, I believe that the Lord in one way or another gives a visible form to the angels and also to us as blessed spirits.
After all, He did that with the angels who visited the earth. The Lord gave a visible form to the Angel of the Lord, who appeared to Samson’s mother.
Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist, also saw an angel of the Lord. His form was like lightning and his clothing as white as snow. And Luke tells us that the women at the grave saw two men in shining white clothing. Two angels. God gave these angels a visible form.
I think that the Lord in heaven gives the angels and the blessed saints in heaven, right through to the day of resurrection, a visible form so that they are able to relate to one another.
Oh, I know, here on earth the relationships between God’s children can also be a great blessing; but how wonderful the relationship of the children of God in heaven must be, and how wonderful will be that relationship with God and with Christ.
For us here and now it is really “unimaginable”.
Nevertheless, how comforting this assurance can already be for us in our difficulties and struggles; how comforting it is to meditate in faith on the glory, the salvation, that awaits us at our death.
But even that is not all.
An even more glorious future
There is an even greater, even more glorious blessedness awaiting us at the consummation of history.
The things that are at issue here are so manifold that we cannot mention them all in such a brief article as this.
I can only mention a few things here.
Christ will come again with great majesty, on the clouds of heaven. Then all who have died in the course of time will rise first. They will get their bodies back. The same body that they also had during their life on earth. That is not to say that it will consist of the same substance; that is not necessary. Our body is already constantly changing through our so-called metabolism, even during our lives. Science teaches us that after seven years our body no longer has any of the substance it previously possessed. Yet it remains the same body.
So it is with the resurrected body. Although there is no speck of matter from the material that it consisted of when it died, it will still be the same body. Someone who has known the risen person in the past will recognize him after his resurrection.
The body of the believer, who still lives at Christ’s return, will also be glorified after the judgment.
All that was ugly, or incomplete, will have disappeared; so will mortality. Each will receive a perfect, beautiful body prepared for eternity.
And all that countless multitude of believers, the elect of God, will then dwell on the new earth.
In Revelation 21:1-5 we read:
Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. 2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” 5 Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”
As I said earlier: we can’t go into all that is in these verses. But we can touch on some things.
We know we will receive a new earth, an earth in which all is beautiful, in which there is nothing that in any way threatens our life, or that we will find ugly or that we will dislike.
God makes all things new. I am persuaded that by ‘all things’ animals and plants, in completed perfection, are included.
On that new Earth will live the multitude of all the redeemed, the Church of God, which is the New Jerusalem: God’s Church without any defect, perfectly holy.
And in that New Jerusalem resides God. Just as He is now enthroned in heaven, so He will be enthroned in the midst of His people on the new Earth.
Oh what an inexpressible blessedness, my brothers and sisters, that will be for us.
Moreover, Christ will be there with us and all the holy angels will be around us.
There we shall enjoy the full glory of the communion of the saints, which has been gathered together from all times and various places.
There we will enjoy the beauty of nature: the blossoming of the flowers, the rustling of the foliage, the singing of birds.
We will also have our work there, though what we will do there has not been revealed to us.
For our bread we will not need to work, because, as the Bible says: food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both.
We do not have a family to take care of, because also marriage will not exist anymore.
As for eating and drinking and married life, we will be equal to the angels.
Yet work we will certainly have, but then work which never saddens us, never causes us any hardship.
We will never experience grief.
All tears wiped from our eyes, forever; no death, no sorrow, no squirming, no difficulty, because the first things, as we experience them here, have gone away, for good.
But what we will do is this: with words, but also with our deeds, in our whole walk of life, we will praise God. Our whole life will be a song of praise to our God; singing God’s praise with our glorified Jesus Christ, our eternal King; with all the holy angels, and in harmony with the silent song of praise that will ascend forever from that perfectly beautiful creation.
That is, dear suffering brothers and sisters, your future. No death, no mourning, no squirming, no trouble; also, no weeping for sins committed, no sorrow in that fight against sin.
Only, only salvation and joy with your Father, with Christ, our Saviour, and with all God’s redeemed children.
Questions? Wait and see
No, I can’t answer all the questions which arise in relation to this. But I would like to mention one such question.
If there will also be, as I believe, animals and plants, will they also multiply, will they continue, as we will, to have eternal life too?
That question can of course also be asked in relation to the beginning of history. If there had been no sin, how would it have gone with animals and plants? Surely there would have been no death if there had been no sin? But how then?
Look, God has revealed nothing of it. We simply do not know.
So it is also with that future which awaits us, children of God.
I think of what the former Professor van Gelderen reportedly once said. It was on a Sunday when he was preaching here in Groningen at a time of the year when nature was at its most beautiful. On the afternoon of that Sunday he went for a stroll with the brother with whom he was lodging.
Then, while they were both appreciating the beauty of nature around them, that brother asked the professor: “Professor, how will that be later, in the New Jerusalem?”
And what did this very learned professor answer?
He simply said: “Wait and see”.
“Wait and see,” I also say to such questions. God has not deemed it necessary to reveal it to us. We must have peace with that. “Wait and see”.
But this we know, everything will be delightful. What we know is this: awaiting us is a future of pure blessedness, in which our whole life will be a song of praise to the Greatness, the Wisdom, the Love, the Faithfulness of our Father; a song of praise, quivering with the joy of the blessedness which will be ours.
My suffering, struggling brothers and sisters: think about this whenever the pain and anguish threaten to be too much to bear. Think about that, in faith. Then joy will again shine through those tearful eyes, and from your groaning throat will again sound forth a song of deep joy and gratitude.
by Rev D van Dijk (1887-1995)
(This article appeared in Dutch in the Gereformeerde Kerkbode [Reformed Church Bulletin] of Groningen, Friesland en Drenthe, Vol. 40 No. 11, 17 March 1984. Translation: J Numan)