As a pastor a portion of my life involves the home-going of our people. I mean by that their entrance into heaven. From a human perspective we think of death as the end. But for the Christian (the one who has placed their faith in Christ for salvation) death is spoken of as a beginning. That is why Paul said, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Phil. 1:21). That is also why Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father but by me.” (John 14:6)
Nonetheless, death is painful. It hurts those it leaves behind. From grandchildren to grandparents – death honors no age boundaries.
In the midst of walking through this pain with a family once, it was a five-year old boy’s smile that reminded me of the reality of heaven. I’d entered his home to speak to his step-mom about the passing of her mother. Her emotion was understandable. Even when we think we are prepared for the death of a loved one, we are never quite ready. I assured her, through her tears that I would stay with her step-son until the father returned from work so that she could go see her mother a final time. She had hardly left when the father returned home, and together the two of us sat down to explain to the five-year what had happened.
From the Bible I began to share what heaven was like: that there was no pain, or death, or tears there (Rev. 21:4). The boy’s father chimed in: his grandmother wouldn’t need her cane or her glasses anymore (I Cor. 15:53-57). And for the next few minutes, we just talked about heaven. The whole deal: streets of gold and gates of pearl. The more we talked the bigger his smile grew. Heaven, you see, to this five-year old, was a very real place. It wasn’t the figment of someone’s imagination to ease the fear of death.
Sometimes as adults we say that children don’t fully understand, but I wonder if they understand better than we do. You see, Jesus said heaven is a real place (John 14:1-6). Sometimes it just takes a five-year old to remind us.