Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble, for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (II Peter 1:11)
It finally hit me the other day what Peter is promising the faithful here: a grand reception in Heaven when we arrive.
Here’s the way “The Message” expresses verse 11–
Do this, and you’ll have your life on a firm footing, the streets paved and the way wide open into the eternal kingdom of our Master and Savior Jesus Christ.
It reminds me of the way we all welcomed our New Orleans Saints home from Miami last January 8, on a Monday afternoon. This was no well-organized parade, but a spontaneous outpouring of affection from an estimated 20,000 fans who lined both sides of the highways–and then filled the streets too!–waving our banners, hollering our “Who Dats!”, and cheering our champions as they arrived home.
That’s the idea. When you arrive in Heaven, they throw a party for you.
We earthlings have learned out to send people off in grand style.
Two or three years ago, a local businessman known for his flamboyant lifestyle died prematurely. (Well, it was premature to us; he might have been 60 years old. But God took him right on schedule.) When he died, the family spared no expense in terms of flowers and food and such. Outside the funeral home facility, they lined up the boats and expensive cars which the man owned. (No, in case you wonder, he wasn’t allowed to take them with him.)
Princess Diana’s 1997 funeral was the very definition of lavish.
When President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, the entire nation shut down for several days. Nothing but the funeral occupied every television channel and the consciousness of all Americans.
We throw a party–of a sort–for the departing friend or celebrity. But we find ourselves wondering, “What kind of reception is this person receiving on the other side?”
Better to leave here unobserved and arrive there in grand style than the reverse.
To be sure, a great send-off here guarantees absolutely nothing about our reception on the other side. All the high-blown rhetoric of the many-degreed theologians lauding the deceased for his/her charitable works is completely irrelevant to what is occurring at that very moment on the other side.
Take a look at the send-off of the very first Christian martyr, a precious witness for Christ named Stephen. And notice, if you will, the glimpses we are given into the reception he is about to receive in Heaven….
When they heard these things (i.e., Stephen’s preaching), they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, ‘Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!’
Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him…. And they stoned him as he was calling on God and saying, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he knelt down and cried with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not charge them with this sin.’ And when he had said this, he fell asleep.’ (Acts 7:54-60)
What must it have been like when Stephen took his painful final breath here and inhaled his first lungful of celestial air?
How must it have been as the cries of his tormentors grew distant and dim and then he was hearing nothing but cheers, clapping, and music as no one on earth has ever heard it before?
How must he have felt when his eyes closed on the mob scene here and opened a moment later on radiant glories such as he had never imagined existed anywhere?
He died to curses; he awakened to “Well done.”
He went out hurting; he woke up rejoicing.
He died praying; he awakened praising.
When he died, he was lying in the street. When he awoke on the other side, the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Himself was standing to welcome him to the Father’s house.
Wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God. (Hebrews 11:16)
We’ve made a short list of reasons to be faithful to the Lord.
–to glorify the Father.
–to please the Lord Jesus.
–to honor the Holy Spirit.
–to bless His church.
–to rebuke the devil.
–to encourage struggling believers.
–to enlighten the lost.
–to bless your own earthly life.
–and to make–
1) living fruitful
2) dying graceful
3) arriving in heaven joyful.
A final thought about the grand welcome given to the faithful.
I think we know who the welcoming committee is in Heaven. And it’s not angels or that celestial host. It’s another group altogether.
Immediately after Hebrews 11, that great roll call of the saints of old who lived by faith and honored the Father, we read:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Jesus will lead the welcome for the faithful, just as He did for Stephen.
Standing with Him we will find the faithful through the ages, those who fought their battles and remained true, who now wear their scars as ornaments of honor, and who have been given seats of honor in the Heavenly grandstand. Now they rise to cheer into the New Jerusalem another godly warrior who has fallen in battle on earth and is being given a hero’s welcome as he steps into the winner’s circle.
Be faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life. (Revelation 2:10)