Consolation Prize?

by Ted Kyle

How many variations on this theme have you heard: “Poor John (or Nancy or Dad or Grandma, etc.). His life was cut short. He died too soon. But, of course, he’s gone to a better place.”

Is that what heaven is—a consolation prize? Is heaven simply a place to retire to, after we’ve sucked all the good out of this life? Or is it something so wonderful that it’s beyond description?

Paul, who was so imbued with the Holy Spirit that God used him to pen most of the New Testament, knew something of heaven. He actually was accorded a this-life visit—“whether in the Spirit or bodily, I know not”—and reported later that never could human words describe it.

And what was his reaction? He was torn between his desire to go and his desire to stay. But his desire to stay wasn’t because life was so great and offered so much here below. For himself, he yearned for paradise (2 Cor. 5:8 eudokéo, to be well-pleased); but for the sake of those who needed his teaching and discipling, he felt he should linger on earth.

There is an inborn fear of death in most all of us. But we need to recognize and acknowledge that it arises from our old natures, not our new natures—and because it is an old-nature impulse, it is to be resisted and defeated by faith—certainly not accepted as right and proper for children of God. For us, death has lost its “sting,” Paul reminds us, for “the sting of death is sin” (1 Cor. 15:56). If we are right with God, then our sins are blotted out. The stinger has been removed. What is there to fear?

And “poor John (and Nancy)”: were their lives really cut short? Shame on us for harboring such thoughts! If our God is truly the sovereign God we claim—and never doubt it—then no one dies “prematurely.” Whether we linger for a century, or pass on in the prime of life—or even in our mother’s womb—God knew all about us long, long ago, and planned our lives to suit His will. We can trust Him completely.

The great issue—the entire issue—is whether we are willing to cast ourselves truly into our Father’s hands: ready to go or ready to stay, moment by moment, according as He wills.

Heaven a consolation prize? That’s dumb thinking. At least, it’s certainly not Christian thinking. There are a great many things I don’t know about heaven; but the one thing I do know is all I really want: it is where my Savior awaits me. And some days I can hardly wait to see Him…to bask in His presence for evermore. Now that’s heaven!

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