Do you ever wonder what it’s like to enter heaven? Do you ever wonder what you will see first, what you will hear first, what you will feel and experience first? Do you ever wonder what your very first thought will be after you’ve fallen asleep in this world to awaken in the next? I’m sure you do. We all do. We all wonder what’s just beyond the great chasm that separates life from death, earth from heaven, here from there.
I have recently found myself pondering this great question. As I take my morning walk to read the Bible and pray, as I meditate upon God and his grace, my mind begins to wonder and my imagination to picture. Though I admit I can do little more than speculate where God has chosen to remain silent, I do find a theory forming in my mind.
I have a theory that we enter heaven with a cry of victory, that our first thought and first exclamation is one of joy, relief, vindication. We have lived our Christian lives by faith, not sight. We have cast in our lot with a God we cannot see or touch, we have lived by the rule of a book that contradicts every bit of human wisdom, we have made a long pilgrimage toward a City that is hidden from our view. We have comforted ourselves in trial by pondering joys to come, we have consoled ourselves in grief with assurances that we will see our loved ones again, we have eased our fears of death by believing in life beyond the grave. We have chosen to believe God’s promises, we have chosen to follow in his ways, we have chosen to suffer for his name, we have chosen to take him at his word.
But it has not been easy and it has certainly never been without inconsistencies and wavering. We must admit that we often mixed faith with doubt, conviction with unbelief. As we have pondered the future we, like the distressed father who cried out to Jesus, have often had to pray, “I believe; help my unbelief!” Like the disciple who had confidence enough to spring from the boat but not enough to stay above the waves, we have often believed in one moment and hesitated in the next. Yet our faith has never completely evaporated. We have never completely let go of our grip on God—which is to say, God has never loosened his grip on us.
And so, if heaven is, indeed real, and if the gateway that leads from this life really does open into the next, wouldn’t it make sense that we enter with a cry of victory, a shout of triumph, a declaration of vindication? Wouldn’t it make sense that our first thought is one of jubilation, that our first action is one of celebration, that our first sense is one of the truest and best kind of relief? Wouldn’t it make sense that when we have fought the good fight and finished the race and kept the faith, that we cross a kind of finish line and celebrate like an athlete? For in that moment we will know—we will know beyond all speculation, beyond all doubting, beyond all need for faith, that every effort was worth it, that no moment of suffering was in vain, that no sorrow will go uncomforted, that no ache will go unsoothed, that no tear will be left undried.
We will know that though we dropped our anchor into the depths of an ocean whose bottom we could not see, it fastened securely to the rock. We will know that though we walked and limped and stumbled toward a city whose gates were obscured from our view, they opened to receive us. We will know that though we fought our way toward a destination we could see only with the eyes of faith, our faith was well-placed. “I knew it!” we will shout in triumph. “I knew it was real! I knew he was true!” we will cry, as we fall into the arms of the Savior.
Or, as the old hymn-writer said:
When we all get to heaven,
what a day of rejoicing that will be!
When we all see Jesus,
we’ll sing and shout the victory!