13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.
Lately, I’ve seen more interest in pets in heaven than people in heaven. Maybe I’ve been hanging with the wrong crowd or watching the wrong TV shows.
Now that I’ve brought it up, I might as well address the pets in heaven issue. Yes, there will be animals in heaven. There is Biblical evidence to support that conclusion. However, God’s word is mute on a great reunion for pets and their human masters. I suppose that’s one of those “wait and see” matters.
I’m pretty sure my cat won’t make it. The door to heaven will close before he can make up his mind to enter or stay.
We all have questions as to what heaven will be like, what it will look like, and what we’ll be doing once we get there.
My wife, Janet, is an artist and a visionary. She’ll draw out a simple sketch on a piece of paper and ask for my opinion on her plan for landscaping the backyard or decorating a bedroom. I’m pretty much limited to the shapes scrawled on the paper. Naturally, it disappoints her when I don’t share her enthusiasm. It’s not because I don’t want to. I just don’t see it with the clarity she can see it. All I can do is trust her that it will be as wonderful as advertised.
That’s the way we should take the Biblical instruction on heaven. Just like all of the Lord’s promises, heaven is about faith. It’s not about what we can see, but what shall be. Our finite minds are incapable of grasping the full magnitude of this incredible place Jesus has gone to prepare for us.
Can you imagine a world without evil where there is no more death, grief, hunger, thirst, or pain? No stress. No worry. No problems. No bills. (No Biblical evidence on that one. Just seems logical.) Just eternal, continual, unstoppable joy.
Regarding seeing our loved ones there, our focus text allows for the possibility of a reunion, but it doesn’t specify if we will immediately know them. We are told only “that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” However, there is nothing in the 1 Thessalonians’ passage to indicate we will recognize them.
There is an event, however, preceding the Resurrection of Christ known as the Transfiguration in which people from the past are recognized. You can read about it in Luke 9:28-36. We’re told that Jesus became “as bright as a flash of lightning.” (v29) And with Him appeared two men of great significance from Israel’s history, Moses and Elijah. We know that their identities were known by Jesus’ disciples because Peter called them by name and offered to prepare shelters for them.
In another Biblical scenario, David grieved over the impending death of his son. He fervently prayed for God to spare the child’s life and “spent the nights lying in sackcloth on the ground.” (2 Samuel 12:16) But when the child died, David arose, cleaned himself up, and ate a meal. His servants were curious at the change in David’s behavior to which he responded, “…now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” (2 Samuel 12:23) David believed he would see his child again.
And if we see and know our loved ones in heaven, how will they appear? Will they be as we last saw them? In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul reveals that our earthly bodies will be replaced by heavenly bodies. In verse 3, he dismisses the notion that we’ll be spirits floating around aimlessly like ghosts. We will have bodies suited for eternity that won’t decay or be subject to sickness.
Our bodies will be transformed into something better than anything we’ve had on this earth. There will be no bad hair days in heaven.
Paul gives us an impressive glimpse of our heavenly bodies in the following scripture:
51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 1 Corinthians 15:51-53
So we can expect that we will have many of our earthly characteristics with heavenly improvements for life with the Father.
Even relationships that didn’t work out so well here on earth will be pure and perfect. And our dearly departed will be with us forever. But most importantly, we will be with our Lord in paradise.
Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 3 (July – September)