In my childhood, there were lots of conversations about heaven. There were discussions about heaven as a city with streets paved in gold. There were discussions about heaven as a country with trees, shrubs, waterfalls, fountains, and flowers. There were discussions about the location of the third heaven: above the atmospheric heaven (the sky), and above the celestial heaven (home of the sun, the moon, the stars, the planets, and the galaxies). There were discussions with some who believed that the more a person suffered in their earthly life, the more they would be rewarded in their eternal (heavenly) life. There was a song that stated I don’t need a mansion; I just need a little cabin in the corner of glory land, which inferred that there were different sized rewards in heaven thus creating competition between some of the church members. “I’ll be happy with just a cabin.” “Oh no, with all you do, you’ll surely get a mansion.” “Oh no, no, but you’ll surely get a mansion.” And so it went.
As an adult, I’ve had other discussions. One believes (as does the author cited below) that when you take your last earthly breath, you’ll also take your first eternal breath. This seems to go along with a Henry Van Dyke poem from years ago:
I am standing upon the seashore. A ship, at my side,
spreads her white sails to the moving breeze and starts
for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck
of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.
Then, someone at my side says, “There, she is gone”
Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast,
hull and spar as she was when she left my side.
And, she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port.
Her diminished size is in me — not in her.
And, just at the moment when someone says, “There, she is gone,”
there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices
ready to take up the glad shout, “Here she comes!”
And that is dying…
Another discussion is we are already eternal beings. When the earthly body gives out, the spiritual being goes on. There is no delay, no waiting. There is a quote that states, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord,” which goes along with the quote when Jesus said to one of the thieves on the cross, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” There is also a quote that God lives within us and that we are the temple of God. So if God lives within us, aren’t we already present with Him?
And if we are already present with Him, aren’t we already eternal beings? And more importantly, if we are already eternal beings with God living in us, then aren’t our daily actions already our eternal actions? And if our daily actions are already eternal actions, how are we doing? How are our actions stacking up? Are they eternal worthy? Are they heaven worthy? If not, should they be?
Cite: A Better Country: Preparing for Heaven by Dan Schaefer