For Heaven’s Sake

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Of all the Bible verses, some of the most  beautiful lines are  contained in the penultimate chapter of  the book of Revelations. Here we  read about something beyond our comprehension or  imagination. Yet, John the Apostle  tries to  narrate it for our benefit.  Elsewhere, St Paul also  tries to  instruct us  about it.  According to his own  words, he  was once caught  up to the third heaven.  While  recounting the indelible imprints of  what he saw there, he  is gasping  to get  the correct words to  express its glory. He concludes by writing that  ‘he heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat (2 Cori.12:4). Why did Paul hesitate to  explain what he saw there? Because it was literally beyond  words! 

Man takes pride in his language skills and vocabulary.  Paul was a man  with good oratory skills and his letters are proof  of his command over  language. Yet he is not able to describe  what he saw there. He simply says: ‘But as  it is written, “What no eye has  seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has  prepared for those who love him” (1 Cori.2:9). If it is beyond  our  senses and capabilities, how can we get an idea about  it? Paul himself gives the answer; ‘These things  God has revealed  to us through  the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God’ (1 Cori. 2:10).

With a prayer to the Holy Spirit to give us the wisdom to understand what  awaits the righteous after death, let us proceed in our heaven-bound journey.  When we set off on a journey,  we  should be certain about the destination and what it offers to us. In the instant case we are not going there for a sojourn but as permanent residents. To get the citizenship of that kingdom we have to renounce the citizenship of  this world. Heaven does not  permit dual citizenship. It is either  heaven or no heaven.  That is why Jesus said that  one cannot serve God and wealth alike.

What does the  sacred scripture say about heaven?  John the Apostle  was blessed to have a partial vision of  heaven which he  wrote down for us.  ‘Then I saw a  new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the  first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the  holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride  adorned for her husband’ (Rev.21:1-2).  How will the new Jerusalem look like? ‘It has the glory of God and a radiance like a very  rare jewel, like jasper, clear as  crystal’ (Rev. 21:11). What is the difference between the  old Jerusalem and the new Jerusalem?  Old Jerusalem has been synonymous with  its Temple  for centuries. But  in the new Jerusalem,  there is no temple at all.  Why does this  new city   not have a temple of its  own? Because  there is no need for it.  Its temple is  Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.  It does not need even the sun or moon to  shine on it. Because  the glory of the God is its light.  Heaven  is the  safest of havens. Its gates will never be shut by day (Rev.21:25). And forget about night, because there is no such thing there. Nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practices  abomination or falsehood, but only those who are  written in the Lamb’s book of life (Rev. 21:27).

What  John narrated is just a shade of  heaven. What  Paul narrated was  just an image of  heaven. God permitted them to  have these visions in  a way that  could be seen and comprehended by mortals. Real heaven is  really beyond words. Any discussion – this included – will  suffer from the  same limitations of human intelligence and  imagination. We are bound by time and space. But heaven is  beyond time and  space. This is the real problem disturbing many  today who don’t believe  in the existence of heaven.   They fail to find the truth about heaven  because they are  trying to contain what is  abstract, in concrete. 

If there is no gate, naturally  anybody can come. Yes, the scripture says that  anybody can enter  the heaven if he qualifies in the  entrance test, which is  faith in Jesus Christ as God and Word Incarnate.  In fact  the Bible hints that  people from all sides will come  and sit for the great banquet at heaven.  ‘I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Issac and Jacob in the  kingdom of  heaven’ (Mt. 8:11). That is fine. Let everybody come. Heaven is spacious enough to accomodate  billions more.  We are not the kind of  people who  shut the door  before others. But  the very next verse of  Mathew’s gospel which is a continuation of the earlier one is a warning to us, the chosen people. It reads: ‘..while the  heirs of the  kingdom will be thrown into the  outer darkness, where there will be  weeping and  gnashing  of  teeth’. The other  day we  were  discussing about a place  where weeping and gnashing of  teeth is commonplace. But  today our discussion is about   a place which is   just the opposite of  it; where, our Lord had forewarned us that,  people from east and  west  will enter. As true heirs to  this kingdom it is  our birthright to enter it.  and  there are  no gates at all to prevent us from coming inside. But..

But the  big question is; Are we  somewhere  near it  when the bells are going to  toll?   Every preaching, every prayer, every sacrament invites us to this ultimate bliss.  When  we proclaim the gospel, our only intention  should be to  invite  others to  Christ and through him to the kingdom of the Eternal Father.  While preaching at Hippo, St Augustine  was  describing about the  ‘City of God’ in detail. He  went on to  narrate the eternal crown that God has reserved for the chosen faithful. His speech moved the  audience so much so that  all  those assembled in the Church went into tears. Even when  Augustine requested them to keep silence  in view of the holiness of the place,  they could not control  their emotions. He wanted to somehow continue with the speech but  couldn’t,  due to the emotional atmosphere in the  audience.  It is written that his own tears mixed with the  weepings and cries of  the audience. It  made his words frozen and  he couldn’t complete the speech.  Such is the  effect of a  preaching when we  are talking about  heaven, the ultimate reward for  mankind. 

If  the  preachings of  our times do not  produce that  result, if they  do not move the hearts of  the audience and if they are unable to bring a drop of  tear from their eyes, it means we are  not telling the gospel of  heaven.  We might be telling about  prosperity, miraculous healings or  material benefits. We might be  proclaiming  about love and mercy.  But  if we fail to  stress on the  most important theme of  gospel,  it is no preaching at all.  Because  gospel is all about   entering heaven. Jesus started his  preaching with this message; “Repent, for the  kingdom of heaven has come near” ( Mt. 4:17). The essence of his gospel is ‘to heaven through  repentance’.  We read that just before commending his  spirit  into the hands of  the Father, Jesus promised the criminal who opened his contrite heart before him of immediate entry into Paradise.

My dear brothers and  sisters, heaven is real.  Death is not a full stop, but a comma. Beyond the comma,  quite runs the  river of life. Ezekiel had  a vision of a river on the banks of which, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of  trees for food. Their leaves will not wither nor their fruits fail, but they will  bear fruit every month because the water for them   flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for  food, and their  leaves  for healing’ (Eze.47:12). John too was showed  the river of  the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of  God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the  river is the  tree of  life with  its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month, and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of  the nations. Nothing accursed will be  found there any more. But the throne of God  and of the Lamb will be in it, and His servants will worship Him (Rev.22:1-3).

Human history started at  the Garden of Eden, where the  Lord God used to ‘walk at the time of the  evening breeze’. Adam and Eve used to walk with Him until that fateful day when  an evil entity separated them from God. It was  with a heavy heart  that the Lord God drove them out of the  garden, because He knew that  had they continued there, it would have brought them eternal punishment. “See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil: and now, he might reach out  his hand and take also  from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever” – therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden  of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the  man; and at the east  of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a sword flaming and  turning to guard the way to the tree of life’ (Gen. 3:22-24). Access to the  tree of life is  not permitted to those who have separated themselves from God. Eating from the tree of life in a state of sin  would have  brought man eternal damnation.

Ideally man should return to his Creator and to the place  which  God  originally gave them, the Garden of Eden. Jesus Christ  came  to this world to  save us from our sins  and to reunite  us with God the Father. Those who are  so redeemed  by the blameless blood of  Jesus Christ are entitled to  enter  Heavenly Jerusalem at the consummation of time, to which we are looking  forward prayerfully. Our ultimate aim is to  regain our right  to the tree of life, for which we need to  wash our robes. ‘Blessed are those who  wash their robes, so that they will  have the right  to the tree of life and  may enter the city  by the gates. Outside are the  dogs and sorcerers and fornicators and murderers and idolators, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood’ (Rev.22:14-15). The big question is how to wash our robes. John the Apostle  has witnessed a  multitude  that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands, worshipping God.  One of the elders explained to  John:  “These  are they  who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes  and  made them white in the blood of the Lamb” 

(Rev.7:14). 

Jesus, who is the way, the truth and the life, said; “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me” ( John 8:13). Let us pray to Jesus Christ to wash us with his PRECIOUS BLOOD  so that we also become sharers in  eternal life with him in heaven. Let us also seek the intercession of  Mary, the Gate of Heaven to  envelope us with her  mantle till we reach the  promised land.

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14 COMMENTS

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