Hi. If youíre hearing this, it means that Iím not with you any longer. I started thinking about planning my funeral and then I started thinking about what I would say. Then I thought ĎWhy not say it?í. So here goes.
The main thing that I want to communicate is that I believe that I am in a better place. I believe Iím in a better place, but not just any better place. I believe in the heaven of Scripture. I believe in the historic, orthodox faith once delivered. I donít want any of you to be tempted to project your conception of a better place onto what Iím saying. Iím trying to be very clear. In the same way, I have tried not to project my views onto the Scriptural view. I hope that my conception of heaven (and the rest of Christianity) is coherent with the Scriptural view, and if on something you disagree with me I invite you to search the Scriptures, in accordance with good scholarship and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to determine what you believe (Philippians 3.13b).
So I believe that Iím in heaven, and I believe that life in heaven is immeasureably better than life on earth. I am no longer plagued by the weaknesses of my body - its fragility, it's susceptibility to damage and pain, it's degeneration over time. I am not plagued by temptation any longer Ė pride, laziness, gluttony, lust, greed. I donít struggle with having faith. I donít struggle to hope. I donít struggle to love. ĎMy faith has been made sightí. And Jesus, whose return Iíd been awaiting with hope, is present fully to me. And I am present fully to Him, with no more distraction.
Iím not just talking about belief here. Thereís a lot of talk these days that you can take or leave belief. What Iím talking about here is something Iíve staked my life on. Iíve tried to live like Iíll live on in eternity. Paul said that if there is no resurrection from the dead, we Christians are the people most to be pitied of all people, because weíve invested our lives in something that doesnít really exist and itís all for nothing (1 Corinthians 15.19). What a waste. If thatís the case, if thereís no God and no heaven, then I have wasted my life. I should have taken a higher paying job and eaten, drank, and have been merry, because now Iím dead.
If you believe with me that I am in the better place of Scripture, then you will be glad for me. I believe that, now that I'm gone, if I was offered the chance to come back, for myself, I would not. There has been a lot of nonsense in movies like 'The Preacher's Wife' and 'City of Angels' about angels wanting to come back to earth to eat hot dogs and fall in love again and that's a bunch of baloney.
My regret is for the loved ones I leave behind. Paul said that itís better for us if we go to be with the Lord, but itís better for other people if we stay (Philippians 1.23b-24). I hope thatís been true of me, that my stay has benefitted others, otherwise, that stay wasnít worth much.
To my children I say that if you want to see me again, then please follow me in faith. It is my most fervent wish for you, that you will have full, eternal life with the Lord beginning now and lasting forever, life that will in time bring you to be reunited with your old man.
Christine, Iím confident of your faith and your commitment to God. Let me just encourage you that the time will not be long until we are reunited. And, though there is no marriage in the resurrection, I am confident that our friendship in eternity will be even richer than it has been here in time. So I encourage you, as Paul did his friends, ĎPress on to make the resurrection from the dead your own. Beloved, forget what lies behind and strain forward to what lies ahead. Press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.í (Philippians 3.12b-13).
Let me mention just one great thing about heaven, one really attractive thing. Hugh Ross says in his book ĎBeyond the Cosmosí that we will get another dimension of time in heaven. That will take us from the one time line weíre confined to here to an infinite number of personal time lines. I now have infinite time lines at my disposal to relate to each of you fully and simultaneously while also reading and thinking and working and resting and singing and talking with JRR Tolkien. I hope each of you will come to the party. Iíll reserve a time line for you.
Let me adapt Philippians 3 to this purpose. It fits so well.
Finally, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord.
Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of those who deceive the mind! Have no confidence in yourself. I had reason for confidence in myself, smart, well educated, and well spoken, healthy and attractive enough, well-traveled, with good taste, pleasant and nice to people, with a great family and a wonderful wife and two perfect children.
Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from achievement, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith.
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. I tried to forget what lies behind and strained forward to what lies ahead. I tried to press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.
Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things.
But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself.
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.