My mother, so dignified and proper her entire life, now lay in a hospice bed, held captive by debilitating age. Struggling for breath, her declining condition contradicted the gorgeous spring day that danced invitingly on the other side of the windowpane.
All the emotional preparation in the world cannot sufficiently brace us for the stark reality of goodbye. Death is such an indignity! I thought.
I diverted my gaze to the birdfeeder outside the window. A grosbeak flitted close to help itself to some seed. Instantly a familiar phrase popped into my mind: “Not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it” (Matt. 10:29
My mom stirred and opened her eyes. Reaching back to her childhood, she used a Dutch term of endearment for her own mother and declared, “Muti’s dead!”
“Yes,” my wife agreed. “She’s with Jesus now.” Uncertain, Mom continued. “And Joyce and Jim?” she questioned of her sister and brother. “Yes, they’re with Jesus too,” said my wife. “But we’ll be with them soon!”
“It’s hard to wait,” Mom said quietly.
“There’s no place like home.” The phrase from popular culture reflects a deeply rooted yearning within us to have a place to rest, be, and belong. Jesus addressed this desire for rootedness when, after He and His friends had their last supper together, He spoke about His impending death and resurrection. He promised that although He would go away, He would come back for them. And He would prepare a room for them—a dwelling-place. A home.
He made this place for them—and us—through fulfilling the requirements of God’s law when He died on the cross as the sinless man. He assured His disciples that if He went to the trouble of creating this dwelling-place, that of course He would come back for them and not leave them alone. They needed neither to fear nor be troubled about their lives, whether on earth or in heaven.
We can take comfort and assurance from Jesus’s words, for we believe and trust that He makes a home for us; that He makes His home within us (see John 14:23); and that He has gone ahead of us to prepare our heavenly home. Whatever sort of physical place we live in, we belong with Jesus, upheld by His love and surrounded in His peace. With Him, there’s no place like home.
In 2014, a sinkhole opened up under the National Corvette Museum in Kentucky, swallowing eight vintage, irreplaceable Chevrolet Corvette sports cars. The automobiles were severely damaged—some beyond repair.
One car in particular received a lot of attention. The one-millionth Corvette, which rolled off the assembly line in 1992, was the most valuable in the collection. What happened to that gem after it was pulled from the sinkhole is fascinating. Experts restored the car to mint condition, mainly by using and repairing its original parts. Although this little beauty was in horrible shape, it now looks as good as it did the day it was built.
The old and damaged was made new.
This is a great reminder of what God has in store for believers in Jesus. In Revelation 21:1, John spoke of seeing “a new heaven and a new earth.” Many biblical scholars see this “new” earth as a renovated earth, for their study of the word new here reveals that it to means “fresh” or “restored” after the decay of the old has been wiped away. God will renovate what is corrupt on this earth and provide a fresh, yet familiar place where believers will live with Him.
What an amazing truth to contemplate: a new, refreshed, familiar, and beautiful earth. Imagine the majesty of God’s handiwork!
My wife walked into the room and found me poking my head inside the cabinet of our grandfather clock. “What are you doing?” she asked. “This clock smells just like my parents’ house,” I answered sheepishly, closing the door. “I guess you could say I was going home for a moment.”
The sense of smell can evoke powerful memories. We had moved the clock across the country from my parents’ house nearly 20 years ago, but the aroma of the wood inside it still takes me back to my childhood.
The writer of Hebrews tells of others who were longing for home in a different way. Instead of looking backward, they were looking ahead with faith to their home in heaven. Even though what they hoped for seemed a long way off, they trusted that God was faithful to keep His promise to bring them to a place where they would be with Him forever (Heb. 11:13-16).
Philippians 3:20 reminds us that “our citizenship is in heaven,” and we are to “eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Looking forward to seeing Jesus and receiving everything God has promised us through Him help us keep our focus. The past or the present can never compare with what’s ahead of us!
As we viewed my father-in-law’s body in his casket at the funeral home, one of his sons took his dad’s hammer and tucked it alongside his folded hands. Years later, when my mother-in-law died, one of the children slipped a set of knitting needles under her fingers. Those sweet gestures brought comfort to us as we remembered how often they had used those tools during their lives.
Of course, we knew that they wouldn’t actually need those items in eternity. We had no illusions, as the ancient Egyptians did, that tools or money or weapons buried with someone would better prepare them for the next life. You can’t take it with you! (Ps. 49:16-17; 1 Tim. 6:7).
But some preparation for eternity had been necessary for my in-laws. That preparation had come years before when they trusted Jesus as their Savior.
Planning for the life to come can’t begin at the time of our death. Each of us must prepare our heart by accepting the gift of salvation made possible by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.
At the same time, God has made preparations as well: “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:3). He has promised to prepare a place for us to spend eternity with Him.
A siren wailed outside a little boy’s house. Unfamiliar with the sound, he asked his mother what it was. She explained that it was meant to alert people of a dangerous storm. She said that if people did not take cover, they might die as a result of the tornado. The boy replied, “Mommy, why is that a bad thing? If we die, don’t we meet Jesus?”
Little children don’t always understand what it means to die. But Paul, who had a lifetime of experience, wrote something similar: “I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far” (Phil. 1:23). The apostle was under house arrest at the time, but his statement wasn’t fueled by despair. He was rejoicing because his suffering was causing the gospel to spread (vv. 12-14).
So why would Paul be torn between a desire for life and death? Because to go on living would mean “fruitful labor.” But if he died he knew he would enjoy a special kind of closeness with Christ. To be absent from our bodies is to be home with the Lord (2 Cor. 4:6-8).
People who believe in the saving power of Jesus’ death and resurrection will be with Him forever. It’s been said, “All’s well that ends in heaven.” Whether we live or die, we win. “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).
One detail in the Easter story has always intrigued me. Why did Jesus keep the scars from His crucifixion? Presumably He could have had any resurrected body He wanted, and yet He chose one identifiable mainly by scars that could be seen and touched. Why?
I believe the story of Easter would be incomplete without those scars on the hands, the feet, and the side of Jesus (John 20:27). Human beings dream of pearly straight teeth and wrinkle-free skin and ideal body shapes. We dream of an unnatural state: the perfect body. But for Jesus, being confined in a skeleton and human skin was the unnatural state. The scars are a permanent reminder of His days of confinement and suffering on our planet.
From the perspective of heaven, those scars represent the most horrible event that has ever happened in the history of the universe. Even that event, though, turned into a memory. Because of Easter, we can hope that the tears we shed, the struggles we endure, the emotional pain, the heartache over lost friends and loved ones—all these will become memories, like Jesus’ scars. Scars never completely go away, but neither do they hurt any longer. Someday we will have re-created bodies and a re-created heaven and earth (Rev. 21:4). We will have a new start, an Easter start.
In our family, March means more than the end of winter. It means that the college basketball extravaganza called “March Madness” has arrived. As avid fans, we watch the tournament and enthusiastically root for our favorite teams. If we tune in early we get a chance to listen to the broadcasters talk about the upcoming game and to enjoy some of the pre-game drills where players shoot practice shots and warm up with teammates.
Our life on earth is like the pre-game in basketball. Life is interesting and full of promise, but it doesn’t compare to what lies ahead. Just think of the pleasure of knowing that even when life is good, the best is yet to come! Or that when we give cheerfully to those in need, it’s an investment in heavenly treasure. In times of suffering and sorrow, we can find hope as we reflect on the truth that a pain-free, tearless eternity awaits us. It’s no wonder that Paul exhorts: “Set your minds on things above” (Col. 3:2).
The future God has promised us enables us to see all of life in new dimensions. While this may be a great life, the best life is still to come. It is a wonderful privilege to live here in the light of there.
You and I have something in common. We live in a mixed-up, tarnished world and we have never known anything different. Adam and Eve, however, could remember what life was like before the curse. They could recall the world as God intended it to be—free of death, hardship, and pain (Gen. 3:16-19). In pre-fall Eden, hunger, unemployment, and illness did not exist. No one questioned God’s creative power or His plan for human relationships.
The world we have inherited resembles God’s perfect garden only slightly. To quote C. S. Lewis, “This is a good world gone wrong, but [it] still retains the memory of what ought to have been.” Fortunately, the cloudy memory of what the earth should have been is also a prophetic glimpse into eternity. There, just as Adam and Eve walked and talked with God, believers will see His face and serve Him directly. There will be nothing between God and us. “No longer will there be any curse” (Rev. 22:3). There will be no sin, no fear, and no shame.
The past and its consequences may cast a shadow on today, but a believer’s destiny carries the promise of something better—life in a place as perfect as Eden.