“While I cannot fully explain the details, Easter gives me glimpses of the new reality.”
A Tim Hortons® coffee shop is an excellent spot for eavesdropping. Wedged into a corner with a dark roast and a book, I mostly watch and listen to three men at the next table. Someone from their church has died recently. They wonder what heaven will be like. Being a preacher, I have much to say about that, if only they knew to ask. A fourth man, whom I know somewhat, enters and joins them. I didn’t know that his wife had died during the year, but his friends speak of it and ask him what he knows about heaven.
He replies, “I used to know a lot. Then I saw pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope. It surprised me how big the universe is and how little I know of it. Heaven is like that. What it’s really like is beyond our capacity to know and our ability to understand. But the Bible gives us flashes of facts so that we might have the certainty of faith that it is there and that it is great.” Suddenly, as a preacher, I have little to say because I’ve just understood how little I know.
I see Easter as a theological telescope, giving us “flashes of facts” about an eternity larger than our comprehension. If we use it as a microscope to try to measure heaven and analyze its meaning, it shrinks it. As a believer, I first and foremost just believe! In the realm of the kingdom of God, reality begins with revelation. The Word (Logos) is life, and that life is the light by which we see and know. When we look toward God through the Son, the Spirit gives us flashes of facts. What we come to know may not be much, but it is great.
I haven’t a clue how God raises the dead. How can we, as mortals, escape the grip of the grave? But I know Jesus is alive! And I hear the Scriptures declare that “the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:53), and that “just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven” (1 Corinthians 15:49). These snapshots of the spiritual universe stun me.
When Jesus appeared to His disciples—unquestionably alive—they were overwhelmed. Thomas quickly dropped his demand to dissect the risen body of his Master and simply cried out, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). They touched Him, ate with Him, and worshipped Him (Luke 24:36-53). Heaven and earth came together in our Saviour.
The flashes of facts the Scriptures give us tell us that some day a new earth will emerge under a new heaven. We will have new bodies that cannot feel pain, shed tears of grief, experience agonies of sorrow, or ever die. I can hardly grasp this good news, but it’s true!
By the light of Easter, I see that this world matters, yet it must be changed. I understand that my body counts, but it requires and will receive glorification. I realize that how I live makes a difference, though not by my power, but through that of His Spirit. The preaching of the cross saves mankind, though most consider it foolish. The future has hope, in spite of a present that is filled with despair. Jesus is coming again, and what a surprise that will be for the world!
While I cannot fully explain the details, Easter gives me glimpses of the new reality. Death is destroyed, and I have eternal life. Satan is defeated, and I have authority in the name of Jesus. The guilt of sin is gone, and I am forgiven. Judgment is done, and I am justified. Hell is no threat because I serve the One with the keys of Hades and Death. I have died with Christ and I am alive in Christ. Jesus is Lord!
My mind goes back to an incident that happened 30 years ago.
I remember I was tired. Being a pastor felt difficult, and the church was going through a terrible time. It wasn’t that discouragement was defeating me. Some good things were happening. But everything was wearing me down. Time dragged, people complained, the church struggled—I wanted to quit. Driving through town, I decided to drop in on Robert. He was sickly and weak, expected to die soon. When I pulled into the drive, his wife rushed out in a panic. He was choking. The ambulance was coming. We could do nothing. The attendants were helpless.
As they wheeled him to the ambulance, Robert wheezed out his last words. “Pastor, it’s glorious … I see glory … Pastor, I will see you in glory.” And he died.
What I saw was horrible. What he saw was wonderful. He was excited by the glory he saw as he was dying. He shared a flash of that glory with me, and I was energized by his death. Heaven is real. Robert was entering it as I watched him die.
I really don’t know much. But, like Paul, this I do know: “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day” (2 Timothy 1:12b). It may be that we don’t see flashes of facts about heaven because we aren’t looking for them. But they are all around us. Sit quietly enough and you may even find one in a coffee shop.
David Slauenwhite has served within the PAOC for almost 50 years as a missionary, pastor, and district superintendent. He and his wife, Carol, are now enjoying retirement and their grandkids.
This article appeared in the March/April 2018 issue of testimony, the bimonthly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada.