It wasn’t my habit three years ago to watch a program on Christian television by the name of “Manna-fest.” But one day in July, I coincidentally tuned in, enticed by the title of the series: “Secrets of Paradise.” I was a captive audience for thirty minutes, hanging onto every word as a table of pastors painted vibrant vignettes of heaven with their limited earthly vocabularies. (For more on the subject of near-death experiences and the like, I recommend the books Heaven and the Afterlife and Encountering Heaven and the Afterlife by James Garlow and Keith Wall.) I couldn’t wait to watch the following week and made sure to set the DVR.
The next program’s guest was a preacher and former heavyweight boxer whose son was shot and killed in cold blood by gang members at age twenty-four. Six years later in 2004, this preacher had a brain aneurysm and died – for a while, at least – in the hospital. What he saw in Heaven was one of the accounts, I, by the leading of God’s Spirit, would share with my dad before his own death just two weeks later.
Standing in the kitchen, my dad and I conversed about a myriad of subjects as we always did (I won’t bore you with the five pages, single-spaced, of conversation 😉 ). It was the opening up of his new, humongous book simply titled Cosmos that compelled me to share the preacher’s vivid report of Heaven.
Staring in awe at page after breathtaking page of galaxies, nebulae, supernovas and stars scattered beautifully by the billions across this universe, I told my dad about the cotton-like grass a seven-foot angel had invited the preacher to walk upon when he first set foot on eternal soil.
“He said the blades of grass were the greenest he’d ever seen – an emerald shade he’d never seen before! Music emanated from every flower. And the flowers’ pedals had what appeared to be jewels encrusted on them. The trees planted along the crystal river were gigantic, so big it would take several men to wrap their arms around a single trunk!”
“And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.
In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” – Revelation 22:1-2
I proceeded to describe the moment in which the preacher saw his young son, looking stronger and more handsome than he ever did in his earthly life.
“His son told his dad he had to go back, that there was more work for him to do, but the preacher didn’t want to go back…Guess in that instance, the choice really isn’t up to you,” I joked. I then told my dad how the preacher now says he lives for the day he’ll be reunited again with his son.
By that time, eight o’clock was nearing, and I had a radio interview to do. Before heading outside for his evening walk, Dad reflected on what I’d been babbling about so effusively:
“I know Heaven’s going to be fantastic.”
Within a half-hour, he was there, welcomed with loving arms by the Creator of the galaxies and Savior of the world (John 1:1-3).
As I sit here tonight missing my dad, thinking I’d give anything to see and hug him for just a moment, I feel the same peace I experienced exactly three years ago. I sense an incorruptible root of hope reaching down into my soul. It’s attached there soundly, inextricably, quieting my mind with ineffable assurance of limitless joys to come, chasing away my countenance of grief with whispers of glories promised (1st Corinthians 2:9, Titus 2:13). I praise God for our Blessed Hope.
More to come in Part III. Until then…
Stay fit, stay faithful ~<3 Di