My friend Bob was dealing with a difficult family situation. Now, in my opinion, he did not need the grief, because Bob was getting up in years and his health was poor.
He said to me, “I can’t wait for heaven.”
I said, “They don’t call it ‘rest’ without reason.”
That’s a reference to Revelation 14:13. Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on….that they may rest from their labors.
When I was a kid, a song we’d hear occasionally was called The Big Rock Candy Mountain. We heard it, smiled at its silliness, hummed along with the catchy tune and thought nothing more of it.
One day I discovered this song was the hobo’s national anthem during the Depression. And it gives us his idealized picture of paradise.
Harry McClintock (aka “Haywire Mac”) wrote the song, we’re told, in 1928. Here’s a little of it….
“In the Big Rock Candy Mountain
You never change your socks
And the little streams of alcohol
Come trickling down the rocks.
The brakemen have to tip their hats
And the railway bulls are blind.
There’s a lake of stew and of whiskey too
You can paddle all around in a big canoe
In the Big Rock Candy Mountain.
My favorite is this verse….
“In the Big Rock Candy Mountains
The jails are made of tin
And you can walk right out again
As soon as you are in.
There ain’t no short-handled shovels,
No axes, saws, or picks,
I’m bound to stay where you sleep all day
Where they hung the jerk that invented work,
in the Big Rock Candy Mountain.”
Some will remember that this song received a revival of sorts in the Coens Brothers’ movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”
Well, sir, you might have known that someone would revise that song and adapt it to other groups. Gil McLachlan wrote a children’s version of the song….
“In the Big Rock Candy Mountain,
you’re going on a holiday,
Your birthday comes around once a week
And it’s Christmas every day.
You never have to clean your room
Or put your toys away.
There’s a little white horse you can ride of course
You can jump so high you can touch the sky
In the Big Rock Candy Mountain.”
Squire Parsons tells of a preacher who was doing a crusade across Russia with his interpreter. One day while preaching, the man of God got carried away in his message and broke into “Beulah Land,” Squire’s popular gospel song about heaven. Afterward, the preacher apologized to his interpreter and said, “I hope you were able to handle that.” The fellow said, “Pastor, you might want to sit down. I didn’t know the Russian for ‘Beulah Land,’ so I made it ‘Disney Land.’”
That is exactly how a lot of people think of Heaven.
Mark Twain used to say he would prefer heaven for the climate and hell for the company. He’s had a century to rethink that, and I expect he has.
Sci-fi writer Isaac Asimov said, “I don’t believe in an afterlife, so I don’t have to spend my whole life fearing hell, or fearing heaven even more. For whatever the tortures of hell, I think the boredom of heaven would be even worse.”
I find it amazing, that such a brilliant and creative writer as Asimov would be so utterly–pardon me here–well, stupid! And slanderous. The Creator who made earth so endlessly fascinating surely has done at least as good a job in creating Heaven, wouldn’t you say? But the enemy (see John 8:44) has poisoned the minds of a lot of good people into believing that Heaven is laying around on a fluffy cloud strumming a harp all day, every day, for eternity. Funny how people prefer to believe cartoons and fantasies in place of revelations from The One who knows.
That would be our Lord Jesus Christ: The One Who Knows. He said to Nicodemus, “No one has been to Heaven except the One who descended from there, even the Son of Man,” referring to Himself. That’s John 3:13 and it’s a keeper.
Jesus is our Authority on Heaven. He’s a native. It’s His hometown. When He spoke of the Father’s House, He was talking about what He knew, not what He imagined or supposed or hoped.
God’s Word calls Heaven by many names….
–it’s paradise. Luke 23:43.
–it’s home. II Corinthians 5:8.
–it’s a kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. Matthew 25:34.
–it’s the Father’s house. Psalm 23 and John 14.
–in it there are “pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16
John Newton–ex-slave-trader, then redeemed brother in Christ, pastor, poet, and song-writer (“Amazing Grace”)–said, “When I get to Heaven, I shall see three wonders there. The first wonder will be to see many there whom I did not expect to see; the second wonder will be to miss many people who I did expect to see; the third and greatest of all will be to find myself there.”
We will end with two things. First, this from Joni Eareckson Tada:
“Can you hear the sighing in the wind? Can you feel the heavy silence in the mountains? Can you sense the restless longing in the sea? Can you see it in the woeful eyes of an animal? Something’s coming…something better.” Oh yes. Even so, come Lord Jesus!
And this final word. When you take your final breath here, get ready to be surprised. What God has prepared for us is like nothing we have ever seen, experienced, thought, or imagined. Let’s you and I leave this earthly existence with a smile on our faces!