Sitting in an aging office in the second floor of a hundred year old church building I found myself planning out a sermon with my pastor this past week. With bibles open across the room, scribbles on a white board, and note pages in our laps the conversation came to what it really meant to have 'the Son'. If Scripture is true, something we both believe that it is, what does it mean to have the Son, for to have the Son is to have eternal life. So what does it mean to have eternal life? And if that is the goal, which I believe it is, what the hell does it really mean?
Growing up in the church I heard story after story of working for my treasure in heaven. I grew up with a daddy who did anything asked of him, he was a preacher man who would go through hell or high water for anyone and in return they would tell him that he would get so many treasures in heaven for what he did. There would be jewels in his crown for sure. To me, as a boy who know that at times lunch money wasn't there, some of this sounded like a well played long con. Growing older I found myself within the same fold as my father, happy to help others when I could. But hearing many around me talking as if their benevolence was little more than well placed bonds. Or using such an assurance to get others to do the jobs at the church they felt were beneath them.
To me it felt like there should me more. Mansions in the life to come are always spoken of more by those who want a larger home in the life they find themselves. Riches in Glory sound all the more appealing to those who live lives devoid of riches or glory. If all that we strive for is golden streets, larger homes, and reconnecting with family members who were probably not as good as we have made them in death; I am throwing in the towel. If that is the goal then I agree with Paul that we should above all others be pitted. Though these things seem nice, they are nothing that I would be willing to give my life for. Dr. King once said that a man has yet to live until he finds something worth dying for, and I wouldn't die for such. So often the picture that we are given of Heaven is little more than the American Dream with a halo. It's the end goal of prosperity gospel. So if this is not the end to which we are called what is it? For what are we striving if this story long sung falls short?
In that old office on the second floor I bellowed out that I believe that even the afterlife, the new City and the Lake of Fire, are bound to the benevolence of Christ. Let me explain. When Christ spoke of the last judgment he spoke to those who He would cast off and declared that He never knew them. He never knew them. Let that sink in. These are people who knew His name, His story, His plan, His Church. These are people who had given their life to the rhythm of going to church, teaching their kids to be good, not drinking or smoking...at least not too much, giving...when they could afford it or when it made them look good, and identifying as people who knew Christ. They knew of Him but they didn't know Him. Christ at the last judgment will allow every person. Every man, woman, and child to spend eternity with that with they loved in life. He will allow them to finally catch that which a life was spent chasing.
Let golden streets, heavenly homes, and an afterlife devoid of pain all be damned. Give me Jesus. That is the promise of what is to come. What does it mean to have the Son? That was the question to which this whole sermon prep had come. What do we have after this life if we do have the Son? I believe that if you think of all that Heaven offers save Christ when you think of what it means to acquire the afterlife you may end up on the wrong side of that pearly gate. When that day comes, that day when the fog is lifted and we know fully, all I want is Jesus. Let a mansion be damned, I'll sleep on the stoop of my Father's house.
This last year was the most painful of my life. I had the person I trusted the most lie to me in a way I didn't know was possible, then after forgiveness and reconciliation do it agin. I had plans ripped out from under me. I had dear friends stop showing up. I came to doubt everything that I trusted in, wrestled with depression and doubt. And through it all I had Christ. Though I often ran from Him, He was always at my side. Scripture says that in the New City there will be no pain or heartbreak, no deceit or tears due to such, there will be joy to the uttermost. But what if Christ is not there? What if you could obtain every promise that heaven and eventually the New City will offer, but Christ is not there? Would you take it? Would you still want an eternity of bliss if Christ was absent? Would it be worth it? And if it would, will He say to you on that day that He knew you?
For me, I long for that City where there will be no sun or moon. The place where there will be no need of lamps for God will dwell with man and be their light. A City that will have no need of a temple for God will dwell with man and be their God and we will be His people. I long for that place where I see Him. Him who my soul has come to long for, Him who my heart has become bound to. I would rather relive this past year of hell and heartbreak over and again for all eternity with Christ than to be given an eternity of joy without Him.
A few years back, after a long day of doing more than was in my job description for the promise of those damn heavenly rewards but no overtime, I was stopped in the office and asked a question. I was working at a church at the time and people felt like they could keep me after hours just by saying 'Jesus'. So I sat and let this person give their two cents before I took off. I expected it to be the same old story to the guy at church who still thought drinking beers on rooftops was fun (I still do by the way, as long as it's an ipa). But the question he proposed to me has been stuck in my mind for near a decade. "If every blessing and promise of Heaven was true but Christ would not be there would you want to go? If you could choose between eternal joy apart from Jesus or an eternity that had as much pain and sorrow as this life with Him, what would you choose?"
It took me a long time to answer, for I believe that a quick answer to this question would not be an honest one. So, read it over. Ask yourself. What is your answer. If on that last day Christ allows you to spend eternity with that which you truly loved where would you go? What would you have?
As for me, I will be hell bend to be as close to Christ as I can. I don't give a damn about mansions, treasure, or crowns that will come, I plan on spending eternity in my Father's lap and at my Jesus' side.