“Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father… But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:21-24
Those were the words Jesus spoke to the Samaritan Woman thousands of years ago. They were also the words that were not coincidentally read this past Sunday in church – just one day after we learned about the death of the Pope and Patriarch of the Coptic church, His Holiness Pope Shenouda III.
When I read those words that Jesus spoke, an image jumped into my head. It was a great image. It was an image of jubilation and delight – one of great joy and gladness that brings a smile to my face just thinking about it. Although the image popped into my head suddenly, I pray that it would stay with me all the days of my life.
I can’t fully describe the image, but I’ll do my best. As though who know me know, I am a visual person. I can’t remember things unless I see them with my eyes. My wife has learned that telling me something is not nearly as effective as writing something in an email and sending it to me [see, you aren’t the only one with communication problems in marriage].
So God knows me well enough to know that what I see I will remember much more than what I am told. So He gave me an image.
The image was that of our departed Patriarch standing before the Throne of God and worshipping the Father without any restriction or limit. Again I can’t fully describe it. But what I imagined was the Pope – surrounded by the many many righteous men and women who have gone before him – standing before the Throne of God and worshipping the Father.
You see, here on this earth, there are limitations in our ability to worship God. I love God just as you do and I seek to worship Him at all times. But like you, I’m limited. We’re all limited here on earth, aren’t we? Or is it just me? Here we get tired. Here we get distracted. Here we get hungry or thirsty or sleepy or grumpy or fidgety or antsy or …. and the list goes on and on. The point is this: here on earth, we are limited in our ability to know God and to worship God.
But there……. over on that side of death……. THINGS WILL BE DIFFERENT OVER THERE.
On that side of death, “there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4.
On that side of death, “there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known.” Luke 12:2
On that side of death, we will such beauty and majesty and we will hear “inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.” 2 Corinthians 12:4
You see, we weren’t meant to live on this earth forever. We weren’t made for the pain and struggle of life on earth. We were made to worship God in spirit and truth – to have real intimacy and communion with Him through a life of never ending worship.
And unfortunately for us now, that only truly be done after we leave earth. As long as we are on this side of death, worshipping God will always be a challenge. Victory won’t be easy. We’ll have to fight through all the distractions and limitations and even then our victory will only be short lived. That is life on earth.
But on the other side? THINGS WILL BE DIFFERENT INDEED.
And that is where I think our be Pope Shenouda is right now – living his dream, worshipping the Father in spirit and truth without any limitation at all. I can see him now basking in the glory and majesty of the Father. When a righteous person crosses over from this life to that life, that’s where the good stuff really kicks in.
About a year ago, I read a great book called HEAVEN IS FOR REAL, by Todd Burpo. I won’t speak about the book because I’d rather have you read it for yourself. All I will say about it is this: for the first time, this book made me really really REALLY want to go to heaven. It made me realize that heaven is a real place and I can’t wait to get there.
I’ll finish by paraphrasing a famous quote that I’ve heard several times but I’ll put into my own words. It goes a little something like this: when a child is born into the world, the earth rejoices while heaven weeps. But when a person dies and leaves the world, it’s the exact opposite – heaven rejoices while earth weeps.
Life on earth isn’t easy. But make no mistake about it – our time here on earth is nothing compared to the amount of time we’ll spend in eternity. And when we get there, the celebration God has prepared for us will far outweigh all the struggle it took to get there.
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9
Discussion: What images come to your mind when you think of heaven and life after death?