“But you have come right up into Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem to the gathering of countless happy angels; and to the church, composed of all those registered in heaven; and to God who is Judge of all; and to the spirits of the redeemed in heaven already made perfect; and to Jesus Himself, who has brought us His wonderful new agreement; and to the sprinkled blood which graciously forgives instead of crying out for vengeance as the blood of Abel did.” Heb. 12:22-24
These few verses contain the panoply of the total experience of the joys and ecstasy of heaven. Mount Zion the headquarters of God’s universe, five hundred miles higher than the city that is one thousand five hundred miles high must contain attractions and experiences out of this world. The lower city of New Jerusalem, the City of gold with twelve garnished foundations, no sun, no moon but lit by the glory of God constantly must contain attractions and experiences that eyes have not seen, which no ears have heard and the thought and glamour of which have not entered any human contemplation. However, if human beings can beautify cities and place in them tourist attractions and places of interest that can occupy a visitor for weeks on end, then God and Jesus, the very first Architect and Builder, who are zillions upon zillions of times smarter than the best architect on earth, can certainly build a city to hold a m an in everlasting consternation with attractions of which we do not even have the faintest idea.
What about the company of angels whose number is countless! All of them have stories and experiences to relate. Will they be wonderful company? You bet!
Talk about the Church of Jesus Christ triumphant. Certainly, billions of the redeemed of all ages now made perfect in heaven. Will they each be marvelous company? I can’t wait to taste the joy of the re-union (We shall return to this point and passage.)
And now to the real thing. The presence of God the Judge of all, Jesus the Mediator and the everlasting memorial of the exact drops of blood that bought us from the slave market of sin. The presence of God and of Jesus constitute the real joy of heaven and no story or passage of scripture captures the essence of the welcome into God’s eternal home than the story of the prodigal son told in Luke 15:11-32.
This is a well-known parable but it is the perfect illustration of the kingdom of heaven and the welcome that awaits us there. We will concern ourselves with that story from the point the boy decided to return to his father. When he decided to return to his father the boy prepared a speech. “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me as a hires man.” We all clearly see that sin reduced the value of the son in his own eyes and he no longer felt fit to be called a son. He felt the best that could happen to him now was to be taken by his father as a hired servant.
And so the boy set out to return to his father. But as he approached the father’s house, who saw the other first? The son or the father? The father saw him first. This certainly tells us that since the boy left, the father’s eyes have been constantly returning to that road expecting his return. And when the father saw him, it was the father that was filled with loving pity and ran toward the boy and embraced and kissed him. Was the boy permitted to delver the whole of his prepared speech? Nay. As soon as he started, the father said to the servants, “Quick, bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. And a jeweled ring for his finger; and shoes. And kill the calf we have in the fattening pen. We must celebrate with a feast for this son of mine was dead and has returned to life. He was lost and is found. So the party began.
What a story! What a truth! What a Father! What forgiveness! The Father would not hear of his son desiring to be a servant. “Quick!” he said, “Get the best robe in the house and put it on him.” Who do you think is the owner of the finest robe? The Father, of course. Is this not what we discussed in the first segment of this write-up – that God will share His own glory with men? What is the significance of the ring, but the investiture of royal power? What about the shoes but the responsibility of sharing His testimony? What about the party? It is the celebration in the tangible outward way the loving kindness of God and His complete and total acceptance of His son back into fellowship.
Now, assuming the father of this boy was dead when the son decided to return and he came and found his father was not there? What kind of welcome would be awaiting him assuming his elder brother was now in charge of the home?
Who is the Father in this story but God Himself! This story is the story of each one of us. The presence of God in heaven is the only reason the place is worth going to. On arrival the Father will embrace each of us and kiss us, transform us with His own glory, invest us with royal power, give us responsibilities and ask us to sit down to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb which is indeed a welcoming party for the Church. This is our destiny and hope and I cannot put it better than the hymn writer:-
“There’s a land that is fairer than day,
And by faith we can see it afar.
For the Father waits over the way
To prepare us a dwelling place there.
To our bountiful Father above
We will offer the tribute of praise
For the glorious gift of His love
And the blessings that hallow our days.
Anyone who entertains this hope must purify himself just as the Lord Himself is pure. Without holiness no man shall see the Lord. Or shall we say see Him in peace. There is a presence of God different from this favourable one we have discussed. In Exodus 19, when He came down to visit the nation Israel, earthquake, fire, smoke, thunder, lightning, and ear-shattering trumpet blasts accompanied Him and Israel fled from Him in terror.” Therefore, we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire.”