When Heaven Awaits

        “I go the way of all the earth” (1 Kings 2:2). Thus began David’s charge to his son Solomon. David knew that his death was near, but he also knew something else – death is the common lot of man. The psalmist posed the rhetorical question, “What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death?” (Psalm 89:48). For all of our advancements in medical science we are helpless against the onward march of death. Nor shall that change, for the Bible decrees, “it is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

Our appointment with death is one that we cannot avoid. Except for those that inhabit the earth when our Lord returns, all will pass into eternity through the door of death. But how the judgment that follows that appointment with death finds us and where we go afterward is within our power to affect. One of Revelation’s beatitudes states, “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord” (Revelation 14:13). For those who come to the end of a faithful life in Christ, death is but the door into heaven’s bliss. But in order to “die in the Lord,” one must first “be” in the Lord and live a faithful life in the Lord. It has been stated rightfully that you cannot live wrong and die right. A person will come to be “in the Lord” only as a result of gospel obedience (Galatians 3:26, 27) and he will continue to be in the Lord as he lives faithfully according to the Lord’s word (1 John 1:7). For one who thus lives and dies “in the Lord,” heaven awaits.

Once we know that heaven awaits, death is never the same. For such a one, there is no fear of death. Fear of death has gripped the hearts of men since sin’s entrance in the Garden of Eden. But when heaven awaits, there is no need for fear. Because of his atoning work, Jesus has “delivered them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:15). As the call of our Lord went forth over the troubled seas to calm the fears of his disciples (Matthew 14:26, 27), so these words today calm the troubled hearts of the faithful Christian – heaven awaits. Truly, only the faithful can say, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil …” (Psalm 23:4).

When heaven awaits, death is not loss, but gain. Loss of physical life does not have to mean that one has lost everything. Paul wrote, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Death is gain when life’s little day with all its troubles and cares is exchanged for that land of fadeless day where pain and crying and sorrow are no more and all tear are wiped away (Revelation 21:4). Truly, when heaven awaits, “death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54).

When heaven awaits, death is not the end, but the beginning of that life that has no end. Each day of our earthly existence is lived with the knowledge that death is coming. But to those for whom heaven awaits, each day also brings nearer the beginning of eternal life in the presence of God. Paul wrote, “For we that are in this tabernacle do grown, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life” (2 Corinthians 5:4). Because heaven awaits, the faithful can be assured that they will go forth from the judgment into “life eternal” (Matthew 25:46).

When heaven awaits, death is not merely a separation, but also a blessed reunion. No doubt we all have felt the pain of separation when death takes a loved one. Such a time is one in which we need comfort. As he wrote to the church in Thessalonica, Paul’s did not prohibit sorrow at the death of loved ones, but encouraged the church to “sorrow not as those who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13).  Surely we grieve for our loss and the separation that is imposed by the passing of loved ones, but faithful Christians know that separation will be replaced with reunion. At Abraham’s death, the Bible says that he “was gathered to his people” (Genesis 25:8). Surely this refers to more than being buried in the family burial plot – it conveys the realization of a reunion with redeemed loved ones.

That heaven awaits means that death brings the faithful into the presence of God. Though his was a miserable existence on this earth, the beggar Lazarus was “carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 16:22). Pain and misery gave way to the joy and delight of God’s presence. No wonder the Bible says, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116:15), for the death of saints brings them home to God.

Without doubt, there is much about death that is unknown. This causes a certain amount of apprehension and unease, but because of what the Bible does reveal about the death of the faithful, we can take courage, knowing that heaven awaits.