Editor’s note: “Matters of faith” is a column that provides local religious leaders a place to write about how their respective faiths provide hope, courage and strength in these modern times.
You may have noticed how seldom the word “heaven” comes up in casual conversation. In fact the much less desirable alternative is more frequently used.
You rarely hear anyone say “What the heaven” or “Go to Heaven.” Although I did have a pastor friend who often encouraged speakers to “give them heaven,” but that was not exactly an original thought.
Heaven is more often one of those words we use to describe things like a new mattress or maybe exceptionally good food. A person might use the term heavenly; but my guess is that women use the word as a descriptor more often than men.
I would suggest perhaps one reason we don’t often talk about heaven is because it suggests separation — and separation is hard. While someone said the only thing for sure is death and taxes, there is tax evasion but there is no last day evasion.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” In spite of cryogenics, wonder drugs and scientific advancements, it is still the last enemy. The only thing then that brings us comfort is the hope that there is something beyond what we see, a place called heaven.
In fact, Paul, while writing to the church at Corinth, said: “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” I have often reminded people there is no “door number three. It is either “depart from me I never knew you,” or “well done good and faithful servant.” There is in heaven the idea of home, but it is home not because it is a place you are returning to but a place of relationship.
In the fourth gospel, John captures a moment in time when the disciples wrestled with the idea of separation. Jesus had earlier described to them His death and resurrection, but they were not able to get their head around the idea.
Jesus said He was leaving and they would not be able to follow Him. The sadness rolled over them in waves not unlike the way the sadness of separation effects us, but He comforted them with these words. John 14:1-3 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” NIV
Jesus did not say I am going back to remodel your old place. He said I am going to make a place for you so we can be together again. Often the closer to reality heaven becomes the more people consider those relationships of loved ones who have gone on before them.
For them what makes heaven is not all of the talk about streets of gold; it is the fact that Grandma or my child is going to be there. It is a place of relationship that is attained by relationship with the one who promised He would make a place for us.
Upton is pastor of Tooele’s First Assembly of God Church.