On August 24, 2013 Rev. Alvin Korvemaker, my fellow URC minister, died suddenly at the age of 49. When he passed away, two things happened: first, he departed from this world; and second, he arrived in heaven. His departure brings sorrow. His arrival brings joy. So, I grieve because of his departure and yet at the same time I rejoice because of his arrival in heaven.
In 2 Corinthians 5:8 Paul says that “to be absent from the body” is “to be present with the Lord.” Then in Philippians 1:23 Paul adds that “to depart and be with Christ…is far better.” When a believer in Christ dies, his soul departs from his body to be present with God. The believer’s soul is now away from his body and at home with his Lord and Savior. His soul is now in heaven—in a far better place, while his body is buried awaiting the glorious resurrection of the redeemed.
Why is heaven a far better place than any part of the world? What is heaven? What does it look like? In light of Isaiah 65:17-25 I will consider these questions. But, before giving you four descriptions of heaven, I will first look at four reasons why some Christians are not interested in the subject of heaven, despite the fact that heaven is the most wonderful place of all the places that God has created.
Four reasons why some Christians are not interested in the study of heaven:
- We have become too attached to the things of this present world—too attached to our house, car, job, money, and other material things. We become too close to this world that we lose sight of heaven.
- We have become too comfortable in this present world. Beautiful homes. Nice cars. Wonderful jobs. Good health. Our prosperity makes us world focused. In the meantime, those who are poor and sick become less interested in staying in this world and more interested in going to heaven.
- We think that heaven is only for old people. Since we associate heaven with death and since we associate death with old people, we think that heaven is only for the old. Some say, “Well, I’m too young to think about heaven. I don’t want to go there yet. Let me first finish my education and get married, and then have children. Once I’m old, I will start thinking about heaven.”
- We feel intimidated to think of the unthinkable subject of heaven. Because heaven is a very difficult doctrine to study, we simply avoid this doctrine. Especially when we study this doctrine we encounter many questions to which the Bible does not give clear answers. I think our problem is that we focus on what the Bible does not say about heaven, rather than on what it says.
Someone narrates a story about the Scottish doctor who visited his dying close friend:
“Tell me, you are a believer of sorts. What will it be like after I die?” There was a moment of silence. Suddenly there was a scratching at the bedroom door. The doctor turned to his friend and said, “Did you hear that? It’s my dog. He’s been waiting patiently for me downstairs and has become impatient. He has never been in this room. He has no idea what it is like. He knows only one thing about it and that is that I am here. That’s all I know about the future….He’s there.”
How true! There are many things that we do not know about heaven. But we know one thing for sure—our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is there. The Puritan Samuel Rutherford (1600–1661) says, “Heaven and Christ are the same thing.” Rutherford continues, “O my Lord Jesus Christ, if I could be in heaven without thee, it would be a hell; and if I could be in hell, and have thee still, it would be a heaven to me, for thou art all the heaven I want.”
What makes heaven heaven is Christ’s presence; and what makes hell hell is His absence. Is it because of Jesus Christ that you desire to go to heaven?
May our knowledge that Rev. Korvemaker is now with Christ in heaven sweeten our sorrow.