Wednesday, September 19, 2007
THE HOLIDAYS HAVE BEGUN
The holidays have begun - (C.S. Lewis)
Love not the world neither the things that are in the world... For the world passeth away, and the lust thereof; but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
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.
As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and that he will stand upon the earth at last. And I know that after this body has decayed, this body shall see God! Then he will be on my side. Yes! I shall see him, not as a stranger, but as a friend. What a glorious hope[
For our homeland is in heaven where our Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ is.
We know that when Christ appears we shall be like him for we shall see him as he really is.
I heard a loud voice speaking from the throne: 'Now God's home is with mankind! He will live with them and they shall be his people. God himself will be with them and he will be their God. He will wipe away all tears from their eyes. There will be no more death, no more grief or crying or pain. The old things have disappeared.' Then the one who sits on the throne said, 'And now I make all things new!'
(1 John 2:15,17, KJV; 1 Corinthians 2:9, KJV; Job 19:25-26, LB; Philippians 3:20, LB; 1 John 3:2, GNB; Revelation 21:3-5, GNB)
When I was young the idea of heaven didn't appeal to me much. When I looked at artists' impressions of the biblical imagery they seemed artificial and unsatisfying. Streets of gold and pearly gates seemed a poor substitute for blue skies and snowy mountains and crashing waves. And I could not get excited about an endlessly extended church service, however glorious the surroundings. Heaven might be very pleasant but on the whole I preferred to stay at home.
I first began to explore new ideas about heaven when I failed in sports. I was always the duffer in the team and I felt the humiliation deeply. Perhaps in heaven, I pondered, I might be able to play netball without falling over or dropping the ball. I could imagine Jesus standing on the sidelines cheering and saying, 'Well done!' As a teenager I rejected these childish notions and returned to the vision of an eternal mass meeting. Yet I feared even the Hallelujah Chorus might wear thin after a century or so.
It was years before I discovered that other people shared my feelings. We would all dutifully agree that heaven must be great but our hearts were not in it. Then one day I got the mumps. In the enforced break from routine I began to read books which challenged my stereotyped ideas. New thoughts overturned my previous imaginations.
What would it be like, I wondered, to live outside the limits of time and space?. No sense of waiting, no boredom, no monotony, no sequence of passing years. Instead there will be just one great joyful "now'.
What will it mean to be eternally 'like Christ'?. We certainly won't be clones or robots, for he is eternally unique. Rather we shall still be ourselves yet sharing the qualities of his life. At last we shall be exactly the way God planned us -- with all our possibilities realised. Maybe I might even get to play netball.
When God creates his new kingdom surely it will be no less splendid or original than this world of ours?. He isn't impressed with gold or pearl or rubies. His handiwork is perfect in detail and beautiful beyond belief. Probably the new world will be like ours, only more real, more natural, more breathtaking.
Will we know one another there?. Probably we will, not by our outward appearance but through a spiritual intuition. This means there'Il be no pretence, no dishonesty, no misunderstanding. Nor shall we be idle. God knows how much we need satisfying activity.
For the first time I began to get excited about heaven. Sometimes I even feel homesick for that unseen country and its King.
But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw God's glory: and Jesus standing at the right hand side of God. 'Look,' he said, 'I see heaven opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand side of God!'
Now you must note that the City stood upon a mighty hill; but the pilgrims went up that hill with ease, because they had these two men to lead them up by the arms; also they had left their mortal garments behind them in the river; for though they went in with them, they came out without them. They therefore went up here with much agility and speed though the foundation upon which the city was framed was higher than the clouds.
John Bunyan, Pilgrim's Progress
Thy years neither come nor go; whereas ours both come and go. Thy years stand together, because they do stand; nor are departing thrust out by coming years, for they pass not away; but ours shall all be when they shall be no more. Thy years are one day; and thy day is not daily, but Today, seeing thy Today gives not place unto tomorrow, neither doth it replace yesterday. Thy Today is Eternity.
St Augustine, Confessions XI
In that blessed city there shall be this great blessing, that no inferior shall envy superior, as now the archangels are not envied by the angels, because no-one will wish to be what he has not received... And thus along with his gift, greater or less, each shall receive this further gift of contentment, to desire no more than he has.
Neither are we to suppose that because sin shall have no power to delight them, free will must be withdrawn. It will on the contrary be all the more truly free, because set free from delight in sinning to take unfailing delight in not sinning.
St Augustine, The City of God XXII
I rekindled me with a new vision, such as no light is so pure that my eyes could not have withstood it. And I saw light in the form of a river glowing with effulgence, between two banks painted with marvellous spring. From this stream were issuing living sparks, and on every side were setting themselves in the flowers like rubies which the gold encompasses. Then as if inebriated by the odours, they plunged again into the wonderful flood and, as one was entering, another was issuing forth.
O splendour of God, through which I saw the high triumph of the true kingdom, give me power to tell how I saw it!
Dante, The Divine Comedy
Flesh fade, and mortal trash
Fall to the residuary worm; world's wildfire, leave but ash:
In a flash, at a trumpet crash,
I am all at once what Christ is, since He was what I am, and
This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, patch, matchwood, immortal diamond,
Is immortal diamond.
Nature is not done away but is perfected by glory.
Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica
The difference between the old Narnia and the new Narnia was like that. The new one was a deeper country; every rock and flower and blade of grass looked as it if meant more. I can't describe it any better than that: if ever you get there you will know what I mean.
It was the Unicorn who summed up what everyone was feeling. He stamped his right forehoof on the ground and neighed and then cried: 'I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this.'
C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle
In heaven we will live and live more fully and satisfyingly than ever before. And that life will involve all the really important elements of what we know as life: relationships, development, knowledge, communication... We shall recognise our loved ones but more by who they are than by what they look like. But better than that, we shall know them with a depth and insight and love unimaginable in our present human existence.
David Winter, Hereafter
That is our destiny in heaven -- to be like Christ: not Christ limited, as he was on earth, to the confines of time and flesh, but Christ risen, the great, free, timeless Christ of Easter morning.
David Winter, Hereafter
Never seen before
Yet I have known you all my life.
You were there in that vague and misty face
That o'er my cradle focussed into love.
You in the noise and clamour of the place
That taught my mind to think and act and move.
You, in the frank and warring friends of youth
Whose loyalty persisted to the grave.
It was your beauty, your appeal, your truth,
When teenage hero-worship held me slave.
You were there that dazzling morning when serene
Contentment was reflected in his smile,
Whose love has held me all the years between,
Who mourns yet, now that I am gone awhile.
In all I could achieve, imagine, prize,
All that could stimulate my thought and wit.
Those mischief-calculating infant eyes
That dared my wrath and made a game of it.
You even there[
And now, Familiar Stranger, we have met
And joys of earth are caught in joys above.
For you were there, you were the joy –
Whom, never seen before, I truly love.
'You do not look as happy as I meant you to be.' Lucy said, 'We're so afraid of being sent away, Aslan. And you have sent us back to our own world so often.'
'No fear of that,' said Aslan. 'Have you not guessed?' Their hearts leapt and a wild hope rose within them.
'There was a real railway accident,' said Aslan softly.'Your father and mother and all of you are -- as you used to call it in the Shadowlands -- dead. The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.'
C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle
Lord, I have to admit that many times I find this present world of mine more dear than the world you have promised in the future. For all its difficulties and frustrations, this is the world I know and I cannot imagine what life with you will be like.
Help me to believe that a God who can create giraffes and snowflakes will inhabit a world where there is still beauty and humour, as well as the sublime.
Help me to love you so well and to desire your companionship so much, that when I come into your presence it will be a joyous reunion of old friends.
Help me to live each day so completely that if you called me tonight I would go without reluctance or regrets.
Help me to see this world through the perspective of the kingdom of heaven so that I may be able to distinguish which are the really important things and which are insignificant in the long view.
Lord, when I enter your final kingdom there will be many things that you will need to correct in me. Some of my attitudes would find no place there. Some of my ideas are warped and twisted. There are people I've rejected or misunderstood. Help me to submit my life into your hands now so that your purifying work can begin at once. For I will not be able to bear the joy of your presence until sin has no place in me and I do not want to delay the judgment of my sin until I am in your presence.
Rather, O Lord, I long to come to you with eager expectation, grateful for the life you have already given,! ready to undertake whatever plan you have for me in the future.
Now to God Almighty, whose plans for us do not end in death, to our Lord Jesus Christ, who entered our world so that we might enter his, and to the Holy Spirit, who works in our hearts constantly preparing us for that great day, be all our praise and love until we meet him face to face. Amen.
Still Waters, Deep Waters ed. By Rowland Croucher pp. 197-203