Her question was written with the same trusting innocence as the question, “When are we going to Gran and Grandad’s house?” Though the answer is obvious—”Not for a long time, Sweetheart”—my initial thought was to wonder why she was asking. Was she afraid she was going to be next? Was she missing someone who she thought was already there? Or was her natural childlike innocence and curiosity wondering about the journey itself? I will never know. It was a question on a yellow slip of paper written by a small child. A face I could picture. And a conversation I could imagine. I might begin something like this:
“Are you excited about going to Heaven?”
“Yes!” she giggles.
“What would you like to do when you get there?” I ask.
“I want to see an angel!” Her eyes dance as she claps her hands in wonder.
“Won’t that be amazing?!” Her pure confidence and excitement remind me of Jesus’ words regarding children: “Of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.”
“Let’s think about who else we’ll see there. Who will be the most famous, most amazing, most important Person we’ll get to see?” I relished getting to spark both our imaginations about eternity’s reality.
“Jesus?” she offers, hoping she knows what I want.
“Yes! He’ll be center stage, and everyone will be looking at Him and cheering and…” In mid-sentence another thought comes: “Did you know the angels are actually doing that right now?”
Her expression of surprise, so playful, makes me smile.
“They are! The angels are all around God’s throne, saying, ‘Holy! Holy! Holy is the Lord God Almighty!!’”
“Wow….” she whispers.
“And when it’s time for us to go to Heaven, the Bible talks about angels coming and picking us up and taking us to a special place. Jesus called it Paradise. Have you ever heard of Paradise?”
“No. Where’s Paradise?”
“Well, it’s somewhere in God’s world. He doesn’t tell us where. I think it’s close to Heaven. But that’s where Jesus went when he died, then He came back here again later and visited with everybody one more time before He left to be with his Father in Heaven.”
“Will we have to go to Paradise?”
“Well, Jesus took a friend with him, and it sounded like it was going to be really good. Jesus also told about a man named Lazarus who got to go there, and it was a happy place. There was one of Lazarus’s neighbors, who had been mean to Lazarus, who wanted to go, too, but Jesus said he wasn’t allowed. Only people who loved God and others were allowed to go to Paradise.”
“Oh.” Her puzzled expression told me she had more questions. “But how do you get to Heaven from there? Do the angels know where you want to go?”
“They sure do! They’re there already, remember? They’re saying ‘Holy, Holy…”
“Oh yeah! I forgot,” she giggled.
“You see, our bodies won’t go to Paradise. People have funerals for our bodies, but our real selves get to go with the angels to Paradise with Jesus’ other friends. Then when it’s time, Jesus will stop off at Paradise, pick up our ‘real selves’, and then we’ll all come with Him to wake up our bodies. Then Jesus will put our real selves and our bodies back together, but this time He’ll make us supernatural so we can live in Heaven with Him forever and forever.”
That was a lot for a little girl to take in, but she got the main point. “That’s when we get to go to Heaven?” she gasped. “When Jesus comes again?”
“Yes, it is.” I smile and hug her. “And while we wait in Paradise for Jesus to come on Judgment Day, we get to visit with all God’s friends from the Bible. Who is a friend you want to visit in Paradise?”
Her head tilted as she considered this new opportunity. “I think I would like to see Samson because he was a hero!” She held up a forefinger and began to list more. “Then I want to see Joseph’s pretty coat, and I want to hear littleboy David play his harp!” Now she had three fingers in the air. “And I want to see Jesus’ mommy. I bet she’s going to be pretty.”
“I bet she will be, too,” I agreed.
What breathless joy to think about the beautiful things beyond this world. Those things are real, and the true destiny of those who are following the Way of Christ. His Way leads us there but also leads us through a hope-filled, purposeful, satisfying life as His image-bearers and part of His Kingdom on earth, despite this world’s brokenness.
I pray the child who asked this question never loses her panoramic imagination for the things of God. I look again at the yellow slip, this time with a smile for a little girl excited about Heaven.
Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him…For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words. I Thessalonians 4:13-18 NIV
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