“And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 22:1-5)
My wife and I often discuss where we want to live when we retire. Neither of us have a solid idea, but it doesn’t keep us from listening to others as they talk about the various places to which they have retired, buying houses in favorable markets where cheaper real estate prices enable them to have a fair amount of space to themselves: something they might have never dreamed of in California. Having spent a fair amount of time in the east, I tell my wife often about places like Virginia and New England, where I have either traveled or lived, and about the beauty of such places which I find hard to capture in words. There are, in fact, so many beautiful places in this nation to live, and yet, none of them is without a downside.
I spent sixteen years in New England: first as a visitor for six and then as a resident of Vermont for ten. It’s hard to describe the beauty of the Green Mountain State to one who has never been there. It’s not just the Fall colors. They are amazing, of course, but beyond that, how does one capture the view of a mountain covered in the morning mist, chilly and breathtakingly beautiful in its autumn splendor, or the snow-covered trees at Christmas time, or the beautiful Blue Jays and Cardinals who make their reappearance in Spring, while the last of the winter snow still clings to the branches on which they alight? All that beauty, however, is off-set with a very long winter with short, dark days that can genuinely wear away at the soul. Many suffer from varying degrees of depression from the lack of sunlight and the oppressive sense of darkness in which one rises in the morning and again returns home in after work.
I also love Virginia with its blooming Dogwood trees whose flowering leaves fall like snow as you drive down its roads and lanes. The history is so rich that one can truly see and feel the era of our nation’s founding. I remember preaching once in Fredericksburg when, after the service, the Pastor took us by the house in which George Washington’s sister had lived. It’s all so beautiful and historic. I never had the opportunity to live there, but it would be a top contender for me.
Above all these, if I had my way, I would possibly live out of country in a city like London. I only had the opportunity to spend three days there, but I definitely left behind a part of my heart. It had always been a dream of mine to see it, and the short time I was there did nothing to extinguish my desire for more. I would love to travel the English countryside, staying in the ubiquitous little Bed & Breakfasts that offer a night’s lodging and a morning meal that is said to hold you for much of the day.
However, whenever my wife and I discuss these various places, there is always one drawback. We have no family in any of these places. All our family is elsewhere, and the thought of just going somewhere for the sake of being somewhere different does not hold the same appeal if you’re there apart from loved ones. It sometimes makes me wonder if we’ll ever really get anywhere outside of Kern County, or even Taft! Besides, all who know best are aware of the fact that home is not a geographical location. It’s a person or a people with whom you share a special bond.
There is one place I am eager to go one day. I have never been there, but the reports are beyond description. It so happens that both my wife and I have family there, and I know that they are all eager and looking forward to seeing us one day. They cannot come to us, but we can go to them. We both have real estate there as well. In fact, the home we have there outshines anything we could purchase, even in the best real estate markets anywhere in the United States or abroad. Best of all, someone has gone ahead of us to prepare for our arrival. I don’t know when we’ll make it there, but I do know that our arrival is guaranteed, and that once there we will never call another place home.
Being a Bible teacher, my wife asks me questions about heaven a lot. “Will her cats be there?” is foremost on her mind most of the time. When I told her we would both have a mansion there, she wanted to know why I needed my own place. She definitely doesn’t seem to care for that arrangement at all, and I’m sure something will have to be done about it as soon as we get there. I often don’t really know what to tell my wife when she asks some of her questions, and I realize that to a great degree, we really don’t know all we would like to know about where we are going to spend eternity. What God has seen fit to reveal to us in His Word is evidently sufficient, but I’m not worried. I’m not worried (though I admit to some curiosity) about what kind of furniture will be in the house or how much square footage there may be. I don’t worry about the neighbors or the neighborhood, and best of all, I never have to worry if I’ll be lonely there.
In heaven, everyone is family. In heaven, there are no final partings. In fact, in heaven there is nothing that will ever hurt or destroy. There will be no sorrow or sickness or dying. All those things will have passed away. I don’t even think my wife will be too worried about the living arrangements when we get there. In fact, I don’t think I’ll be the man who occupies her focus when we get there, for there is one who has a rightful claim on all our affections and who will eclipse all others when it comes to our attention and devotion. I will see Jesus in heaven. I tear up even writing it. I wonder what that meeting will be like. Will it seem familiar? Will it be filled with an awe that makes me fall to my knees? I just don’t know. But I am certain of this. In heaven, we will never be homesick again.
This isn’t a very theological article, per se. I have no great point to make, except this: our world has so much sorrow. This has been a difficult week for our nation, and for some families it has been an impossibly challenging time of trying to make sense out of such senselessness and waste. I just wanted us to remember that for those who share this hope in Christ, those days of sorrow are numbered and will one day give way to a new life in which sorrow and sadness will have no place, and the only tears shed will be tears of joy.
Dr. Randy Bunch is the pastor of West Kern Christian Center, located at 1000 6th Street in Taft, California, as well as a graduate advisor and adjunct professor at Summit Bible College in Bakersfield, California. He is the author of several books, including his new devotional, Immutable: Changeless Truth for a Changing World. For more information, or to purchase your copy, go to randylanebunch.org. For more information on the ministries of WKCC, you can go the ministry’s website at wkcconnect.org.