I think most off us hope to see our loved ones, who have died, once more, after we have died, sometime in the future.
Whether we go to church or not, whether we outwardly admit to faith or not, if for no other reason, because of our Christian culture, many of us have this quiet hope within us.
But when we come to faith, sometimes our hope wavers, having a more developed understanding of hell, separation, and the work of Jesus.
I certainly believe there is no other way to go to heaven than “The Way”, meaning “Jesus”. I say this knowing that many put their faith in Allah, Mohamed, Buddha, Jehovah, and others I can’t think to name.
My understanding is that there is only one name under heaven, one Lord on whom we call, one King of Kings and Lord of Lords, only one Lamb that was found worthy to open the scroll.
Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.”
The early Christians spoke of their faith as following “The Way”.
Without the work of Jesus on the cross and the power of his resurrection, no one is able to stand before God and be accepted into his Holy presence, forever.
Yet we as Christians believe that we are saved. Meaning we have been “processed” into new beings. Re-created. Born again. Circumcised in the heart. And this process makes us members of the family of God both now, and after we die, forever, meaning eternity, heaven, etc.
Various denominations have varying understandings of the steps we have to go through to achieve this outcome. For many, as long as you participate in the “sacraments”, whether you understand them or not, you are safe and sound. For others, it requires a personal act of confession and prayer, in which the seeker speaks out their submission and allegiance to Christ Jesus, and then continues in the fellowship of that congregation.
Still others require strict adhesion to baptism as full immersion in water, with others requiring speaking in tongues as evidence.
Whatever process is required, what of our loved ones who have not been “processed” in that way?
Some would say there is no doubt that they are lost, hence it would be naïve to think that we would meet again in heaven.
More liberal denominations have the sense that everyone is saved, whether or not they showed evidence of faith, went to church etc.
My personal view is that there is only one way to heaven, as I stated above. So best to put our faith and trust in Jesus and call on his name for forgiveness and salvation and hold onto him for all our lives (it all comes in one package). It also means we publicly identify ourselves as followers of Jesus, and accept the positives and negatives of this.
I believe all is a gift. (Faith repentance, baptism, understanding, fellowship etc, it all comes from God, he is the initiator and giver, we simply receive with joy)
But I also believe in an amazing God with great mercy, who is able to do things outside of our knowledge, and despite our rebellion.
The thief on the cross was saved in his final hours, after a life of possibly no faith or church. Somehow, his condemnation on a cross became his salvation, when he happened to be crucified next to our Saviour. Who would have thought that his death sentence was his biggest blessing?
So it is possible that God arranges a point in a person’s life to come to faith, sometime before they die, that doesn't involve a church service, and we don’t necessarily know about it. Therefore, we ought not to be dogmatic about who actually makes it to heaven and those who don’t. All we can be dogmatic about is that Jesus is the only one who saves us, and John the Baptist identified him as the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the “WORLD”. That implies there is potential for all to be saved.
I do believe there is a hell, and that those who are not “in” Jesus, will not go to heaven, and will suffer eternal torment, the second death.
But the point of interest I want to get around to is the reunion with loved ones.
There is at least some degree of romanticism in the modern Christian culture, of a wonderful reunion with loved ones as we reach the “other shore”.
Meaning those who have reached heaven before us, meet us as we arrive.
This is modern imagery. Not portrayed in the Bible.
I do hope to see many who have gone before, including my father. Including the apostles. But what the Bible speaks of is being with Jesus and the Father, and the Holy Spirit. It also speaks of a great multitude, more than anyone can count. It states that God himself will wipe away every tear from our eyes.
So there are many people, which hopefully includes our loved ones. But the highlight of being in heaven will actually be, being with God.
I’ve been thinking about the others including our loved ones.
What follows is just reflection, nothing biblical.
I think we will realize and identify our loved ones in heaven. But they will look different, as will we. (we will all be "like" Jesus)
They will be in awe of God, as will we.
We will be so caught up in our awe of God, that our connection with each other will be a much smaller thing.
If we have a parent and a child in heaven, who will we be drawn to more?
Neither. We will be drawn to the Lamb.
Does that mean we won’t experience relationships?
Not at all. But all these relationships will be transformed in the light of the Lamb. We will all be brothers and sisters with one Father.
And the best foretaste of this happens in our plain old gathering together as Christians each week.
We will all be together in joy, enjoying each other, but especially enjoying being with our God.
So our consolation, will not come from the embrace of our long lost child, or brother, or best friend or parent or grandparent, or Paul, or Peter, or Elvis.
No our consolation will come from our true Father, who himself will wipe away our tears and fill us with great joy.
That deep warm wonderful sense of belonging and acceptance that we get when we reunite with a loved one, after a period of separation, is what we will experience a hundred fold from God himself. He will be our resolution and consolation, the fulfiller of every emotional emptiness, loss and hurt, in a true, physical and permanent way. But the amazing thing is that he already is that to us now. And we can experience this in faith even right at this moment.
Now to him who is able to keep us from falling and present us without fault and with great joy before his glorious presence, to the only God our saviour be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forever more. Amen.