It wasn’t the best news I’d ever had. One day, Mum and Dad announced they were moving house to Northumberland. Dad’s factory had been relocated to Tyneside. And so it was that, following my second year at London University, I came home to completely new surroundings in a place where I knew no-one.
“I’ve got a friend who’s also just finished his second year,” said Chris, a friend who was studying at Oxford. “He lives in Morpeth. You should go and visit him.”
And so it was that, one August evening, I sat in Chris’ friend’s comfortable lounge. His parents made me a delicious cup of coffee served with nice biscuits. He was intelligent, a good listener and pleasant company, not at all a snob. I enjoyed my evening, and he encouraged me to keep in touch.
Shortly afterwards I made friends with some local young people who belonged to the Brethren church in Morpeth, and I didn’t visit Chris’ friend again. And how I regret it! He once sent me a message via someone else I knew, but I had moved off in other directions.
My mother still lives near Morpeth. Sometimes we talk about what heaven will be like. At 98 years old she can be forgiven for thinking there won’t be long to wait before she finds out.
“I mean, I’m looking forward to being reunited with my family members and friends,” she said. “But what am I going to do all day? And ‘eternal rest’? That doesn’t sound very exciting, does it! I hope I’m not going to be disappointed…”
I’d always reassured myself by saying that, while I didn’t know the details of life in heaven, I knew I’d be in the presence of Jesus. Not in the incomplete, veiled sense I know him today, but intimately, face-to-face. However, I had to admit that bowing before a throne continuously chanting, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God of hosts…’ would not be my chosen occupation for eternity. I believe the Lord deserves my worship, but – all day, every day? I had more than a grain of sympathy with Mum’s misgivings.
As the years passed by, I began to hear more about Chris’ friend. He’d lived in Lichfield, then at Bishop Auckland, in a castle, would you believe…and it was there that he wrote a book that has answered many of my questions about heaven. I couldn’t possibly write a short article that does justice to his book, but here are some of its elements.
- ‘Eternal rest’? Not at all! The early Christians expected to ‘fall asleep’ when they died, but this was to await the moment when Jesus appears. They were expecting to be busy in heaven!
- As Jesus had a physical body when He rose, so shall we. And…
- …it’s very difficult to explain away Jesus’ Resurrection!
- Heaven and earth are different parts of Creation. They sometimes intersect, so when Jesus began His earthly ministry, He announced that the Kingdom of Heaven is come on earth.
- Jesus commissioned us to continue His ministry, so that whatever we do in His name, builds His Kingdom.
- This anticipates the time when He appears, after which earth and heaven will be ‘married’ together in an act of re-creation.
- Jesus’ resurrected people will play an active part in His renewal and re-creation of the earth, under His rule.
Our shelves sport a growing collection of volumes written by Chris’ friend. He seems to hold positions at both Wycliffe Hall, Oxford and at St Andrews University, and appears in many a podcast and magazine article. And I am looking forward to meeting him in heaven. I shall say a huge Thank You to him for his life’s work. Then I’ll make him the best ever pot of coffee and serve it along with a plate of heavenly biscuits. Oh, and if you haven’t guessed yet, here’s a reference to his Best book about heaven which I heartily recommend.