I don’t think of myself as overly sentimental, but twice in three days, I’ve found myself almost in tears. The strange thing is what set it off in each case was the simplest of comments.
The first was the other morning when the Space Shuttle Discovery landed. I was watching on television alongwith a nervous nation, and we heard the NASA announcer talk the plane in to Edwards Air Force Base in California. “Discovery is at 5,000 feet….5 miles out….3,000 feet….landing gear is locked…”
Then as the shuttle touched down on the runway, the announcer said, “It’s on the ground…Discovery is home.” That’s what did it for me. I teared up, noticed a lump in my throat, and came close to losing it. “Discovery is home.” It had been a tense week from the oft-delayed launch to the scary space walks to repair the tiles, and there had been a question whether the Columbia disaster of two and a half years ago would be repeated. Our neighbors who work at the Michoud Facility east of New Orleans, builders of the booster rockets, were especially biting their nails. Now, the shuttle was home.
A couple of days later, I saw the World War II movie, “The Great Raid.” A true account of the rescue of over 500 Americans held in a Japanese POW camp deep inside the Philippines, the movie depicted the harsh conditions inside the facility and the barbarous ways of the captors. Then, as the Rangers storm the death camp, taking out over 500 of the enemy while losing only two of their own, they arrived inside the barracks where the weakest of the prisoners lay on cots. Some pulled back in fear as though facing the enemy, while others stared, unable to comprehend. A ranger said, “It’s all right now. We’ve come for you. We’re going home.”
And that’s what did it for me. “We’re going home.” Those men had walked the Bataan death march early in 1942 and had seen hundreds, even thousands, of their buddies die along the way, one corpse for every 20 yards, according to one historian. For the duration of the war, they had barely existed in the Japanese camps. And now they were going home.
Home may be the best word there is in any language. It speaks of settling into your place, among your people, surrounded by familiar things. Home is where you belong and it belongs to you. The heart is at rest only at home.
My grandmother Sarah Kilgore, who died in 1963, lived the last dozen or more years of her long life as a widow. There were times when you would visit some of her large brood, staying two weeks with a daughter here, and two weeks with one there. Eventually, though, she would say, “I need to go home.” Her son or daughter would protest. “Mama, there’s nothing there anymore. No cows to milk, no one but you.” Granny would say, “I just want to go home.”
There’s no place like it. Be it ever so humble. To coin a phrase.
This could be the reason Scripture uses that word to speak to us finite, limited, woefully ignorant humans about heaven. “To be absent from the body is to be at home with the Lord,” according to II Corinthians 5.
David caught a glimpse of that insight. “I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever,” he said in Psalm 23. That sounded just right to him, a place he would not mind living in forever. It sounds like home.
“In my Father’s house are many rooms,” Jesus said, rhapsodizing on the theme of David. He continued, “If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14)
Home. The Father’s house. A place prepared for us. It gets more and more fascinating.
Once Jesus foresaw an occasion when all the people of all the nations will be gathered before Him in judgment. As He separates them, He makes two pronouncements concerning the future abiding places of the two groups.
To the faithful and obedient,the Christlike, Jesus said, “Come, you blessed of my Father. Inherit a kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” What a fascinating way to describe Heaven. A kingdom prepared for us from the very first.
To the unfaithful, the disobedient, the uncaring, Jesus said, “Depart from me, you workers of iniquity into…”–are you ready for this now?–“into a place prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matthew 25) Hell. Not made for people. Created for the fallen lucifer and his demons.
Any person who goes to hell will be forever out of place.
Those who go to heaven will find themselves more at home than they have ever been here on earth.
The writer of Hebrews thought about the saints of old who put up with so much abuse and hardships, and yet who struggled faithfully to live for God, and this without a Bible or the indwelling Holy Spirit or the church, all standard equipment in believers since New Testament days. He concluded, “Here we have no continuing city.” No place where we can settle down and really call our own. “But we are seeking the city which is to come.” (Heb. 13:14)
In a western novel, a cavalry troop is in pursuit of a gang of desperados. After days and days of hard riding, they were running out of food and water, when one of the troops said to the sergeant, “Shouldn’t we turn back now? While we’re still able to make it home?” The grizzled old veteran said, “No,we’ll go as far as we can with what we have. Because, soldier, a man will always find a way to get back home.”
Are you fearing death? Well, quit. Get your life right with the Heavenly Father by repenting of your sin and putting your faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Confess Him as your Lord and Savior and determine to live the rest of your days for Him, whether they be few or many. And leave the after-death business to Him.
I don’t know a lot about what’s on the other side of death, but I do know who’s there, on the other side of that dark mist. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself awaits us. My trust is not in myself or in the Baptist way of life and most certainly not in any good works I may have accidentally got right. Just in Him.
As for this life, Jesus Christ is my Lord.
What about after this life? I say with David in Psalm 17:15, “As for me, I shall behold thy face in righteousness; I will be satisfied with thy likeness when I awake.”
Homeward bound. That’s me.