This past month, I attended two funerals. The first was for a little boy who was only five years of age. The second was for a woman who was a wife, mother, and grandmother.
I haven’t been to many funerals in my life; the two I have gone to before these recent ones were very different. From my first funeral, which was at a Catholic church, to my second one, which was a traditional Baptist ceremony, I have experienced a range of final services. But the funerals I attended this October were uniquely different from my previous experiences. Each one gave me a precious glimpse of heaven I will treasure the rest of my days.
The first funeral I went to last month was for my children’s pastor’s young son, Christian. This sweet boy was taken suddenly one morning after having trouble breathing.
This is the event everyone prays they will never have to attend — the funeral of a child.
As I sat down in the church sanctuary waiting for the service to begin, I made sure I had plenty of tissues in my purse. I was anticipating a weepy cry fest. How else do you respond to the tragic loss of the youngest son of your pastor and his beautiful wife?
I quickly realized, though, that this was not going to be your typical funeral. Although there were times where I shed tears, I spent more time standing and singing than mourning and grieving. The central theme of Christian’s service was that he is currently in heaven and enjoying Jesus, and although it is sad he is no longer with us, if we know the Lord, we will one day see this wonderful little boy again and enjoy Jesus with him.
Christian’s funeral quickly turned into a worship service! The choir began singing Babbie Mason’s song “All Rise.” Everyone’s voices joined together: “All rise (all rise), all rise (all rise), to stand before the throne, in the presence of the Holy One. All rise (all rise), all rise (all rise), as we worship the Messiah, all rise!”
I could instantly see myself before the throne of God with Christian and other believers. I’ve never experienced anything like it before in my entire life. It was surreal. It was like I was playing an active role in the scene found in Revelation 7:9-10:
After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’
I left that funeral having glimpsed heaven, and later that month, I realized God wasn’t done revealing to me more about our ultimate destination.
The second funeral I attended this past month was for a dear friend’s mother, Diana. She had battled cancer for over five years before slipping away from her family and friends.
Diana led a life of service for Jesus in The Salvation Army. Upon hearing of her critical condition, many came to visit her in the hospital, and many more made it a point of coming to her funeral.
Her funeral was a traditional Salvation Army celebration of her life complete with a brass band and time-honored hymns. But what primarily held my attention throughout the service were the words that were stitched on a covering they had draped over her casket: Promoted to Glory.
While listening to the music, I sat contemplating Diana’s promotion to glory. As various friends and family spoke about a life well lived, it was almost as if I could see her approaching the throne and could hear Jesus say to her, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” It was an extraordinary moment.
And again, I left a funeral having glimpsed heaven.
Recently, in my quiet time, I read these words in Max Lucado’s Grace for the Moment devotional:
“Listen to how Jesus describes the inhabitants of heaven: ‘They will walk with me and wear white clothes, because they are worthy … ’ (Revelation 3:4). Listen to the description of the elders: ‘Around the throne there were … twenty-four elders … They were dressed in white and had golden crowns on their heads’ (Revelation 4:4). All are dressed in white. The saints.”
Now, when I close my eyes and picture heaven, I see little Christian dancing for Jesus in front of the great throne in a small white robe. I see Diana, with one hand raised, also clothed in white, singing “Holy, holy, holy!” I see my loved ones — my grandmother, my precious baby Angel — there talking with my Jesus.
What do you envision there?
If you have recently lost someone, please allow me to say, I am so sorry for your loss. There are no words that can be written to ease your pain. But praise be to God, we do not grieve as those without the hope of Christ do. Our loved ones are there, with Him.
Related Bible Verses:
Revelation 22:1-5 (ESV) : “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.”
In Memory of Christian and Diana