For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Easy answer, you say. Why is it even a question? The reason I thought it might suffice as a question is that it might not be as easy to answer as you might think. I am well aware of the great sacrifice made by God himself when he died on the cross for you and me. I am well aware that that sacrifice took more effort and involved more power than was exhibited in all that God wrought in creation, when he created the heavens above and the starry host and even life itself. Chafer reminds us someplace that when God expended his all in giving his very self on the cross, there remained nothing more that could be done. When I consider his awesome gift, and reflect on his cry from the cross, “It is finished”, I cannot stop the deep shivers that go down my spine.
Having acknowledged that wonderful sacrifice, there remains something else to be considered. As I get older, I find myself looking toward that home promised to me. First, I will dwell with Christ in heaven, and then I will reign with Christ on earth, but for eternity, wherever I am, I shall be with Christ. My eyes have not gotten more spiritual as I have gotten older; rather I just think that I find myself reflecting more and more on what is to come instead of what is. I think that is because of my growing older; now at sixty-one, I have already outlived most of the people that I knew and was related to—I can already see the truth in my eighty-five year old father’s comment, after losing both his wife, and his best friend, bemoaned the fact that he had outlived everybody he knew. That has not yet happened with me, but there are many friends that have, as we Christians are so apt to say, gone on before me. It brings me up short when I reflect, as I do from time to time, on the friendships that I had and lost, and will one day renew.
Perhaps it may be more meaningful to share my reflections, and thus share a bit of the road that led to this wondering about the greatest gift. I find myself thinking lots about heaven and being with Christ these days, but any serious reflection on the numbers of Christians throughout the ages will pretty easily lead me to realize that there are simply going to be billions of Christians with me in heaven. How many billions is not at all certain to me, but I am not the Judge of hearts; instead I am just an observer of the world around me, and through history, of the world which has gone on before. Unnumbered multitudes have availed themselves of the free grace that has been made by the sacrifice of Jesus.
Yet, in my life, the salvation experience of knowing Christ, with him knowing me, is the most deeply personal event that ever happened to me. I know God, and God knows me. Profound. Life changing. But also personal. I do suspect that many Christians would also readily confess that there is nothing quite like becoming one of God’s children. For the first time I had come through the nighttime and darkness was passing, even as I was moved into the Eternal Dawn. Night had changed into Day, and it was all the more remarkable because I knew not that I had been in darkness, and the day was all the brighter in its freshness.
And here is where I get off track, I think. Abraham waited patiently for the promises of God, and eventually received what was promised. My reflections and wonderings about the place that Christ is preparing for me perhaps go too far; I would be much better off if I just waited patiently. At any rate, my musings about heaven make me reflect on the sheer vast number of people that will be there, and most of them will probably be far better saints that I am. Will they not be closer to Jesus? Randy Alcorn, in his book, Heaven, suggests that one day all of us might have a time when Jesus himself literally knocks of our front door of our abode, and comes in and sups with him. It is after all eternity that we are in, and time, while not ceasing to have meaning for us, will at least not mean aging. I cannot comprehend eternity, and Jesus, if he so desired has all the time in eternity to visit each one of us.
But in my reflections, I envision a multitude surrounding Jesus, and at the very outskirts of the multitude, in the very back, there I am. On my lucky days, rare, I might be able to spot the Lord through a pair of high-powered binoculars. As to reigning with Christ? Here are my musings. Well, someone is going to have to clean up after all those people, with possibly the most gigantic sewer system ever envisioned. So, hand me my shovel, and in heaven, I will gladly spend eternity shoveling and cleaning up after my brothers. This absurd reflection is sort of Biblical in that Jesus told us when we are bid to the feast, that we are to choose a seat of lessor honor, that the chief of the feast might tell us to move up to a place of more honor and dignity. That much of the reflection is at least good; I am trying to choose humility as my proper attire.
But the things missing from such a musing are uncountable! I have no idea what is ahead of me, other than God’s promise of good things, and in that promise I need to abide. This much at least I forgot, and I think it leads to what may well be God’s greatest gift. I forgot that each one of us has been filled with God himself. We do not have just a piece of God, as I sometimes think, but we have the very fullness of the godhead dwelling within us. The Holy Spirit does not break himself into a billion pieces, with that small portion of God filling us. Rather the Holy Spirit himself comes into our life, and dwells in each of us singularly, sort of giving the doctrine of omnipresence a new meaning.
We are told somewhere that God gives his gifts without reproach, and thus the Holy Spirit comes into us not just for the duration of our lives here on earth, but for all time. When I first became a Christian, I used to think that if God were ever to forget someone, that someone would be me, forgotten at his coming, and overlooked somehow. Now, as soon as I recognized this musing, I knew it was wrong, for God has not and will not ever make a mistake. But there is something singularly special in the knowledge that he plants his Spirit within us. How could he possibly ever forget a piece of himself? The multiple passages of scripture that herald his coming, and the resurrection of each saint since the beginning of mankind will surely come to pass. God has marked you, he has marked me, he has marked every one of his saints with his own presence. He will never make a mistake in the first place; he will surely not forget himself, and that is assurance for us that, indeed, we are forever in the plan of God. He thinks specially on you and me, and his thoughts are as David muses, as many as the sands on the seashore.
So now you probably suspect what I am proposing. Is there any evidence to support that the Holy Spirit is the greatest gift? There is some, but I think we should always remember that the very gift of the Holy Spirit only came to us because of the gift of Jesus Christ himself. Listen to the words of our Lord. “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you” (John 16:7). Here is proof at least that we benefited from Christ’s ascension. We received the promise of the Holy Spirit. It is a magnificent gift of God!
When we go to heaven, we will not wonder what God is thinking, for he will be all the time within us, and we will know his thoughts. We will abide in him, and he will abide in us. We will not have to wait for that visit from Jesus, though it may come, for we will have him within us. We will know the good pleasure of our Father, for all the time the Comforter will let us know that will. He will keep us in perfect peace, for our mind will be ever stayed on him. It just does not get better than that!