"Our Savior, Jesus Christ, abolished death."
"In my Father's house are many mansions."
We lament for the dead, because we ourselves dread death.
The physical instinct, wisely given for the preservation of life, is
controlled but not destroyed by faith. We may begin life as a summer
holiday, on which we start with a guess of rain and certainty of nightfall.
We see fleecy cloudlets on the radiant sky which threaten tempest. Every
step along the gayest path leads to the grave. We look on the dying and
the dead with sadness and awe. But there are far greater fears, and from
these we are delivered by Him who "abolished death, and brought life and
immortality to light through the gospel."
We dread the after-death. "Tis conscience that makes
cowards of us all." But Christ, by death, atoned for sin, and so "destroyed
him who has the power of death, and delivered them who, by fear of death,
were all their lifetime subject to bondage." His victory in Resurrection and
Ascension has become ours. "Thanks be to God who gives us the victory,
through our Lord Jesus Christ. He who believes in me shall never die."
Just prior to His final conflict He assured His sorrowing
friends that He would still live for them, and that they would live forever
with Him. "In my Father's house are many mansions; I go to prepare a place
for you; and I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am
you may be also."
Afflicted believers, your sorrows are only the
discomforts of a journey, each stage of which, however rough the road and
wild the weather, brings you nearer home. The darkness is only that of
the tunnel through which you are hurrying, and the speck of light at the end
is nearing and brightening as you speed onward to the eternal sunshine.
Our Lord speaks of heaven as home—"My Father's house."
What a contrast to the gorgeous imagery employed by servants is this
sublimely simple familiarity of the Son! Inspired men are overawed by the
distant vision of the Celestial City, with its pearly gates and streets of
gold; as if a poor cottager, after visiting a royal palace, tried to
describe the unimagined splendors of a place which members of the royal
family simply knew as home. This was in harmony with His high claims of
Deity! The disciples were not to be troubled on His account. Although
betrayed, condemned, crucified, He was going home. They were not to be
troubled for Him; and because of their intimate union with Him they were not
to be troubled for themselves.
If heaven is Christ's home, it is ours also. We are
"joint heirs with Jesus Christ." What hallowed associations are suggested by
the word! Most men who have a real home feel, "There's no place like home."
Not the outward investiture but the indwelling light and the pervading
atmosphere of affection render the humblest dwelling, equally with the
grandest mansion, home. LOVE makes home.
Home promises REST. There the wearied limbs or
wearied brain repose after the day's toil. So amid the cares of life we look
forward to "the rest that remains for the children of God." There will be
occupation, but no painful toil. "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord;
they rest from their labors."
Home suggests FIDELITY. We may suspect deceit and
treachery outside, but we can cast off all reserve, all distrust at home.
Home suggests SYMPATHY. There may be coldness
outside, no interest in what deeply concerns us, no response to our warmest
feelings, but at home we are always sure of a listening ear, a kindling eye,
a responsive hand-grasp, a heart-expressive kiss. There may be enmity
outside, avowed or concealed, and even friends may sometimes prove
forgetful, selfish, and unkind; but home, true home, is the palace of
love, "where hearts are of each other sure."
But the purest of earthly homes are but faint types of
that above. There every heart is wholly true to every other, being wholly
true to God. No suspicion lurks there, no envy at other's gifts, no
ill-will, no mere pretended kindness, but hearty, warmly manifested love.
Whatever in this world hinders true communion among Christians will have
been left behind, and the unloveliness which more or less mars fellowship
will disappear when the Bride of Christ will be "without spot or wrinkle or
any such thing."
Oh, the rapture of meeting again and being forever at
home with the dear ones we have loved on earth, all made perfect in the
presence of the Elder Brother, whose likeness all will bear! Oh the bliss of
holiest, deepest, constant sympathy with Christ Himself, and so being in the
fullest sense "at home" in heaven! by grace, and yet by covenant right; not
strangers, nor visitors, but children at their Father's, having "a right to
the tree of life;" penetrating every recess of that paradise, entering every
chamber of that palace, and feeling, as a bride entering her new home, "It
is all mine, because it is all His, and I am His."
It is a PERMANENT home; mansions, not
movable tents, but an enduring habitation. "We know that when this earthly
tabernacle is dissolved we have a building of God." How unlike the
uncertainty of earthly things! The lake, reflecting from its unruffled
surface the sky and stars, may, in one short hour, be wild with storms. The
stream, which often refreshed us, suddenly becomes dry. The fairest flowers
droop even as we gaze on them. The loveliest homes are quickly broken up. No
locks and bolts can shut out sickness and death. But as the home above is
everlasting, so its "pleasures are for evermore." The sunshine will never be
overcast by one fleeting thought of change or death.
And there is ABUNDANCE of supply. There are
"many mansions." The Father's house is large enough for all His
children—vast as His own heart. Holy angels are there, and "a great
multitude whom no man can number, out of all kindreds and tribes and
peoples," but "still there is room." There are multitudes, unknown to men
but known to God, who have not bowed their knees unto Baal. Heathen nations
are pressing into the kingdom; and the day is not far distant when all shall
know the Savior, "from the least to the greatest." There is room for them
all; there is still room for us—room for every mourner.
Number implies VARIETY. The mansions are not
uniform, though all are perfect. They are prepared for dwellers of varied
capacity—for children and young men, for babes in Christ and for those of
full age. There will be no seclusion of classes, but there will be variety
of degrees of glory; and thus the very lowest in attainment may be sure of a
home yonder. There is no place in hell for any who sincerely repent and
trust in the Savior. Timid, doubting, sorrowing one, be not troubled—those
gates shall open for you; those streets shall be trodden by you;
you shall drink of the river, clear as crystal, and you shall
eat of the Tree of Life, and find a home in the many mansions.
These hopes are REALISTIC . "If it were not so, I
would have told you." In this promise our Lord confirmed all the hopes He
had already encouraged. But His silence ought to have sufficed had He not
uttered such words. He knew what their expectation must be. The culture of
religion in itself implies hope of the future. Are sacrifices made,
pleasures surrendered, sorrow endured, prayers offered, and then is death to
be the final end? If there be no heaven—"if in this life only we have
hope,"—many might say, with Paul, "we are of all men most miserable."
Conscience awakens hopes and fears beyond the present life, and Christ
strengthened conscience. The Old Testament taught that He who called Himself
the God of Abraham was the God, not of the dead, but of the living; and
Christ confirmed the Old Testament. The disciples had forsaken all to follow
Him. They loved their Lord, and knew He loved them. Could such love perish?
They expected a kingdom; and as it was not to be earthly, it must be
heavenly. Would Christ allow them to serve Him as they did, on false
expectations? He did contradict their expectation of a temporal
kingdom—would He not have contradicted this heavenly hope had it also been
unfounded? We value our Lord's positive and repeated promises; but there is
a special emphasis, a most touching assurance in this supposed silence. If
they had falsely interpreted His meaning, if their wishes alone had
suggested their expectations, if their loving loyalty was to have no
recompense beyond the present life—He would have told them. Not to
contradict such expectations would be to sanction them. Silence alone world
have given emphatic consent and assurance.
O believer, your hope of heaven is no idle dream! That
city does glow with splendor. That paradise is
radiant with beauty. That home of perfect love is preparing for you.
Earthly hopes perish, human promises fail; but expectations of believers
shall be more than realized, for they are based on the truth and love of Him
whose silence would have sufficed. "If it were not so, I would have told
Paul says," We are of good courage, and are willing
rather to be absent from the body, and to be at home with the Lord" (R.V.).
Death is only the migration of the soul from the fleshly tabernacle, to
the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. If thus believers
are to be at home with the Lord, they must be at home with one another. As
we still enjoy spiritual communion with those gone before, when we meet, it
will not be as strangers. It would seem incongruous if love so pure and deep
should be incapable of mutual expression yonder. We might ask "Why have You
made such capacities in vain?" The heart that truly loves, craves for
and anticipates the continuance of those spirit-relationships which most
nearly ally us with the Divine nature—God is love.
At the Transfiguration the two from heaven who conversed
with Jesus were particular individuals—Moses and Elijah—known to each other,
made known to Peter, James, and John. How could the apostle hope to meet his
converts, as his "crown of rejoicing," without recognition? Weep, then, for
the dead, in full assurance that they live with Jesus, and that you will
soon rejoin them. Their rapture in His presence enhances the bliss of
friendships, formed on earth to be perfected in glory.
Let us rejoice for them! They have left below all bodily
infirmity, all mental errors, all imperfection of the spirit. On earth their
chief delight was the will of God. Yet how often it was done with
imperfection, intermission, and weariness! Now they "serve Him day and night
in His temple." The perfect answer to their Gethsemane-prayer is the
perfection of their blessedness—"Your will be done." There is no description
of heaven more glorious than this—"His servants shall serve Him."
His servants serve Him. Happy, happy they!
The perfect service of a perfect Lord,
With duty and desire in full accord,
Is Heaven indeed; 'tis rapture to obey
When love constrains, unweariedly, always.
Alas! in seeming service, often now,
To some veiled form of self we basely bow;
Some worldly motive dims the heavenly ray,
And thus the prize of service true we miss
'Tis perfect sunshine that makes perfect day.
In Heaven, the radiant, all-inclusive bliss,
The brightest glory of their crown is this—
They from their Lord's commandments never swerve;
Him with exulting joy "His servants serve."