April 2007 - Volume 11, Issue 9
A Place Called Heaven
By Rev. Mark Connolly
Almost every day of our lives if you watch a little television or listen to the radio, there is always some kind of bad news. You hear the story of the soldiers killed in Iraq. You hear the story of people on an Easter vacation involved in a terrible car crash. You read the newspapers and it is more bad news. I would like to talk about one word that for all of us is good news. That one word is Heaven.
If you believe as I do that the bible is the inspired work of God, if you believe in the words of God, then you have to believe in an afterlife and that afterlife is the place we call Heaven. In the New Testament, the word heaven is mentioned over 611 times reminding us that after our tour of duty on this earth is over, we have a date with God and we are going to experience the joys that God has been promising to those who served Him on earth.
If you look at all the great theologians and great scripture scholars who have written about this idea of heaven, there is never any doubt about an afterlife and about this place called Heaven. This belief has gone on for over 2,000 years. If you study the words of Christ when he said, "I am the Resurrection and the Life, he who believes in me even if he is dead will have life everlasting and I will raise him up on the last day". Those are the words of God's son. God's son cannot deceive nor can God's son lie to us. When He is talking about an afterlife and a place called Heaven, we have the divine guarantee of the wonderful place that awaits all of us for having served God on earth.
Periodically I go into Sloan Kettering which is filled with cancer patients and having gone in there for years, you know that some of them will never leave because of the cancer that is ruining their body. These are the themes that we try to impart not only to the doctors, but to the patients so that they never have a sense of finality or a sense of bitterness. They know from their New Testament reading that God said, "I will be with you at all times even to the consummation of the world". Christ said, "I will never leave you orphans". Those patients riddled with cancer know theoretically that there is a God of love, a God of mercy and a God of forgiveness waiting to receive them with open arms.
What will Heaven be really like? All we can give you is the answer of the great scholars of the past. We know St. Paul once said about Heaven, "your eyes have not seen, nor have your ears heard the things that God has in store for you". St. John has a similar comment about Heaven when he said, "the former things of this world will have passed away and there will be neither mourning nor grieving". So when you look at all the great evangelists and the great theologians of the past, their thoughts of Heaven are those that inspire us to do the work of God on earth. If you are a person of charity and a person of compassion, a person of kindness, and you try to spread those qualities to others, you are doing the work of God on earth and God is very proud of you. If you are self absorbed, selfish and always demanding more, then there is a possibility that even God would have difficulties satisfying you. I am sure the people in Heaven who were generous and kind would not feel totally at ease living for all eternity with someone who is selfish and self centered. Those defects have to be removed from our personality before we meet God fact to face.
Heaven, the writers tell us, is a place where the justice of God will be clearly understood. Heaven is a place where the mercy of God will be experienced in unique way. Heaven is a place of enjoyment that God wants to share with us. Some years ago in Monterey, California, about 200 scientists met to talk about the ways of prolonging one's life. Towards the end of the seminar one of the doctors who was present made the statement that any child born in the year 2005 can expect to live to be 115 or 120 years of age. Immediately when that statement was made, some of the doctors became quite confused. One said, you mean if a man gets Alzheimer at 80 years of age and lives 25 years with Alzheimer his family will have to take care of him that long? Or if a man gets a stroke and is bedridden for 20 years or 25 years his care givers will have to spend that much time with him? One theologian listening to all these comments just shook his head and said the tragedy with so many of these scientists is they think Heaven is just a place on earth. That is a tragedy, when you analyze it, because God, in the person of Jesus Christ, has told us that when He would leave this earth He would go to prepare a place for those who loved Him. In His Father's house there are many mansions. When He died on a Cross He gave us a guarantee that if we serve Him on earth we will be well rewarded in heaven. Just think of one of the last words He spoke on the Cross, a man who was a thief and He looked at Him and said, "this day you shall be with Me in paradise".
Because of the victory of Christ on Good Friday, each one of us has an everlasting home being prepared for us. Each one of us has the opportunity to meet God face to face and see His mercy and love lavished throughout the whole world. Each one of us knows that we are only on this earth a short time. It would be foolish to miss the place called Heaven that Christ has prepared for all us because we were too busy to do God's work on earth.
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