Heaven is here and now! I have a friend who has since gone to glory who used to teach across the hallway from me in the school where I was a volunteer librarian. This dear soul had a very optimistic if not conventional or orthodox outlook on life, and she said, “If death were the end… Christianity, our salvation, our faith, would still be worth it.” Instead of this lugubrious, doleful “It will be worth it all when we get there. Someday we’ll understand.” Escapism if ever I heard it. We are already in heaven. Francis Schaffer says that we are in the same situation as members of Jesus’ body as Christ himself who ate with his disciples in that 40 day period after Easter. Not because he had to. He was above all that as we will be in glory, but because he chose to, to show that he was real. It was the same Lord Jesus. But it is just as we have gone to heaven and now for the sake of God’s purposes and other people, to show them and help them and pray for them and so on, we are back for “40 days”, more or less. Ephesians 2 tells us “that when Christ arose, we arose and when he ascended, we ascended.” And that is why our Ascension Day services are so poorly attended because we think that that is something that happened way back there which we have very little to do, and forget that it is our glory day, our coronation day! It should be the climax of the Christian calendar!
Well, if that is true, then this also is true and that is that we don’t have to die. That is a subject all in itself. But we are in the same class as Enoch. My father, who became 97 before he went to glory used to talk to his great-grandchildren who were asking him about death because he wouldn’t hesitate to talk about it himself, and he would say, “It’s just like my going for a walk and I get so far away from home that God says, ‘You just stay with me now. Don’t go back.'” And friends, it works. I’m not talking theory. At least 4 or 5 times in our married life, either I, my wife or a son has stared death in the face, and there was such a serenity about it. We could talk about it together when it was just inches away. We can say with Paul, “Death, where is your sting.”
And that means if we have already died, we don’t have to worry about the judgement. I used to get nightmares as a child particularly after school began, even in college where you are just hoping that the professor wouldn’t say, “Mr. Veenstra”, asking to address some difficult problem. And similarly I had visions of the Judgement Day where the recording angel, getting down to the “V’s” would say, “Rolf Veenstra,” and then all my life would go before me like an open book or a movie. Well there is a big difference between “facing one’s maker” and looking our savior in the face. The Bible says categorically that we will not be judged…we have been judged. That’s past, along with our death. You often read in the newspaper that a person received a million dollar judgement. Does he go home crying, “I’ve been judged. You should have heard what the judge said?” No, he skips all the way home. He received a million dollar judgement! That’s what the judgement is for us! Honor’s Day, recognition assembly. An award gathering. “Well done, good and faithful servant. You get 10 talents and you get five”, and so on. Just handing out the prizes. That’s judgement.
And best of all, we have right here and now the ability and power not to sin. I know I did not always preach that. I think for most my life I preached to the contrary, “You just have to sin, you can’t keep sinning. Before you get out of bed you sin, in thought, word and deed.” Oh I had such cliches. “The good that I would, I do not. And the evil that I would not, that I do.” But that is not talking about us as Christians. You know what reformed theologians in various seminaries say about that passage in Romans 7? This, “I just can’t help sinning?” That is a cop-out, they say. It is just a lame excuse, an alibi. “Well God, you know about total depravity, it is built into my genes.” But God says, “You don’t have to.” Let me quote just a few verses. The Bible says that “we are more than conquerers.” “He always leads us in triumph.” “He that is in us is greater than he that is in the world.” “I write to you young men because you have overcome the evil one.” That’s what total forgiveness is all about. We don’t believe that you can fall away and be restored. We believe in the persevering saints. So let’s practice it and cling to it, and treasure it. There is a writer by the name of Gilchrist who used to have a problem, and he would say, “How can God forgive me when he knows I’m going to do it again?” As chances are, none of us are perfect in practice, I’m not saying that. And one time when he did fall into a particular temptation he said, “I did it again.” And in his book, “Love is Now”, he said it was just as a voice from heaven said, “Did what again.” You have heard it before when the Bible says that “your sins I’ll remember no more.” Never.
Well, it is not easy. It’s the way with a lot of preaching. It’s like the little girl who took her younger brother to church one Sunday and he said, “Is it done now? Is it done?” And she said, “No. We got to go out and do it. We got to make it run.”
“If all were easy, if all were bright, where would the cross be, where would the fight? But in the hard places God gives to you chances to prove what He can do.”