Pastoral Commentary: A time of reunion comes
The Lord has many great things in store for those who love him when they depart this life. One of them is that we will enjoy the company of “the spirits of the righteous made perfect” (Heb. 12:23), that is, all the saints who have preceded us.
We will see all those whom we have read about in the Scriptures and whose faith we have sought to imitate; and they will no longer seem to us to be merely characters in a book. We will see them with our own eyes. We will meet them. They will be our companions and friends.
We’ll meet Adam and Eve who will tell us of the mercy they found from the Lord after their fall, and with what longing they hoped to see the fulfillment of the promise he gave them, that one of their descendants would crush the head of the one who deceived them.
We’ll meet Noah and remember his steadfastness in evil times, and the faithful testimony he gave to his generation.
We’ll recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And they will recount the promises that were given to them in the holy covenant.
We’ll meet Moses who will tell us what it was like to have seen and conversed with God on Mt. Sinai in the days of his flesh.
We’ll speak with the apostles Peter and Paul, and with the Gospel writers Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John, from whose testimony we have come to believe in Christ.
We will meet the martyrs who were devoured by wild beasts in the amphitheater in Rome or were burned at the stake in Nero’s gardens or were tortured and killed by some other tyrant in history; and we’ll rejoice to see the special favor the Lord has given to them.
We’ll see there men who on earth were great men—kings and princes, men of renown, who ruled their kingdoms in the fear of God.
We’ll also see there people who on earth were of no account. Poor men and women and beggars. People who lived and died without anyone outside the small circle of their own family and friends knowing who they were; but yet they loved the Lord Jesus and lived faithfully. They will be crowned with glory and reign as kings.
We’ll see there great scholars who used their intellect for the glory of God, as well as humble, illiterate folk, whose simple childlike faith was pleasing to the Lord; and both alike rejoicing to see each other.
We’ll see people from all ages, from the dawn of history to our own day.
We’ll see people from every tribe and language and people and nation gathered about the throne and giving praise to God and to the Lamb (Rev. 5:9).
We’ll see people from every branch of Christendom from every period of church history. It won’t just be people from your own church there. It won’t just be Baptists or Catholics there. It won’t just be people from independent churches there. In heaven, all of our unhappy divisions will be healed. People won’t ask whether you’re a Calvinist or an Arminian or a Lutheran or a Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox. All of our theological controversies will be cleared up. And we will see—and truly rejoice to see there—brothers and sisters in Christ from every branch of Christendom, all those who have loved the Lord Jesus Christ and have trusted in him for salvation.
We will see our loved ones there who have died in the faith before us—our father and mother, provided they died believing in Christ. We’ll see our believing grandparents and great grandparents. We’ll see some ancestors we’ve never even heard of who lived many generations before us. We’ll see a beloved spouse. We’ll see children who have preceded us in death, whose departure filled us with such sorrow at the time.
We will see many dear friends there, whose fellowship we have greatly missed since their passing.
It will be a time of great reunion. All who have ever known and loved the Lord Jesus Christ will be there. And we must always remember that he himself is the way to heaven. No one goes there except through him. He is the door, the gateway. If anyone is to enter, he must enter through him. “There is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2:6). “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Jesus himself said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn. 14:6).