Dear sweet Ryan,
Time. It will never close the chapter of how much I miss your presence in my life. But time does allow for the wounds of your absence to fade into tender scars that I can look upon, rub my fingers across and remember from where I have come.
I have come a long way Ryan. Your absence has brought me to places I never imagined.
Like any mother whose child leaves the nest I have spent some time studying the place where you are now residing. I have needed to visualize in my mind where your steps have taken you. My mother’s heart longs to know that you are well. My study has brought me to a deep understanding of just how beloved you are in your new home. You are well.
Your Real Life Begins
Many talk of death as the afterlife but when you know Jesus I think living on earth should really be considered the before life and entering Heaven is when real life truly begins. Ryan, I can only image what your real living has looked like for the last four years. When you entered Heaven did you gasp in amazement? Did you take hold of his feet and worship him? You now see and know God because Jesus is God and you have seen the face of Jesus! My heart leaps at the idea that my son is in the presence of Jesus, his creator.
Because you chose a relationship with Jesus I have no doubt when you passed from this earth to the present Heaven your name was written in the Book of Life; the names of those who really know Him. (Revelation 20:12) You are home. Well, almost home.
I have come to understand that you are not completely home yet. Bear with me as I work out on paper what you already know.
When I think of Heaven a vision comes to mind; a celestial place far above the clouds with streets of gold, angelic beings, splendor, joy, no more pain and a constant awareness of Jesus. I’m sure I’m not alone in this vision.
I have always understood that when people die they either go to Heaven or Hell. I also had the understading that at an appointed time Jesus would come back and at that time bring together those who were already in Heaven with those who knew Him and were still remaining on earth. But I never really thought through what this meant.
I can’t believe I lived all these years without really taking the time to try to understand what this all really means! Now that I have taken time to study and read about it I find it peculiar that pastors don’t preach more on Heaven. After all, Heaven is the PINNACLE OF OUR LIVES!! Heaven is not vague and intangible. There are specific truths written about what life after death will look like. We don’t have to walk with a vague understanding.
Ryan, as I imagine you have learned, there is so much more we can know about Heaven that can light a deeper passion and faith for Jesus and Eternity in us. I am so lit up Ryan. The more I study about Heaven the more joy I feel in my spirit and the more I desire holy things. The more joy I feel and holiness I desire the more I see the world around me light up. Heavenward living is a contagious thing.
I am extremely grateful for the journey that has brought me to a more Heavenward living. I now long for Heaven not as an escape, but because of its splendor.
I think you would be proud of me Ryan. I have become somewhat of an intellectual reader. I still like a good mystery but I have also developed a thirst for understanding some of the deeper things in life that I once took for granted. I still can’t quite digest C.S. Lewis. I’m sorry about that. I know you loved his writings. I wonder if you have run into him yet and if he easier to understand in person?
Regardless, I have found a thirst for Charles Spurgeon, Randy Alcorn and the Word. Oh how I love the Word of God. I have seen that when I’ve taken time to really study the Word, He has revealed himself to me in so many beautiful ways. Together these writings have given me a greater understanding of what your life has been like for the last four years, what it will look like once Jesus comes back for us all, and what I can expect myself someday. I wish I had taken time to research more about Heaven earlier and imparted this knowledge to you as a child. It is such hope-filling knowledge. I know you walked with hope, but perhaps this greater knowledge would have given you a greater perspective. I’m sorry for my lack of attention to these beautiful things.
There Are Two Heavens
The clear knowledge I have gained is that there are two Heavens; the present Heaven and the earthly Heaven. I like how Randy Alcorn describes it:
“When a Christian dies, he or she enters into what theologians call the present state; it is referred to in theology as the intermediate state, a transitional period between our past lives on Earth and our future resurrection to the life on the New Earth. Usually when we refer to “Heaven”, we mean the place that Christians go when they die. This is what I call the present or intermediate Heaven. When we tell our children ‘Grandma’s now in Heaven, ‘ we’re referring to the present Heaven.”
I believe this is where you are right now Ryan, in the present Heaven. You are not some place between Heaven and Hell, you are simply in the first Heaven.
“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. (That’s you Ryan!) 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 (In the New Earth). “ I Thessalonians 4:16-17
I guess ultimately it doesn’t really matter to you though. You learned the most important thing; to enter the gates of Heaven one must believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. (Acts 16:31) It isn’t a given, it is a decision we each must make.Well done Ryan. You made a great choice! Now you are learning from the Master and I have no doubt you are just as excited as I am about what is still ahead.
The New Earth
The New Earth is going to be spectacular. We will live with a resurrected, perfect body (our current bodies being the blue-print of what is ahead.) We will be with people we loved here on earth who knew Jesus, on a restored earth with gardens and rivers and untold adventures; our current earth in its original, unspoiled condition. We will live in a land without imperfections. When I was recently in New Zealand I learned it is a country with no predators. They have been careful not to let any in. That is what the New Earth will be like. The lions will lay down with the lambs.
If I close my eyes my imperfect mind can conjure up what that might look like. I feel like I’ve experienced glimmers of it on this earth. There have been times when I have thought, “Ah, a little glimmer of heaven”.
Remember when we visited that cabin in the mountains and you and Luke were playing with the hummingbirds? Dad and I were rocking on the porch swing and you and Luke were trying to get the fluttering hummingbirds to land on you. I remember the fresh cool mountain air, the creak of the swing and the delight on your faces when you were able to get the beautiful hummingbirds to land on your hands; a glimmer of Heaven.
Do you also remember the Good Friday before you left us? All of us – you, Luke, Amanda, Dad and I went to the service and stood in worship together. You put your arms around Dad and me, singing in praise. Then, we all went home to watch a movie together and you stretched yourself right on top of me as we lay on the couch. You big galoot! You were 20 and still wanted to cuddle. Yes, that evening was a glimmer of Heaven.
The amazing thing to me Ryan, is that even though your larger-than-life presence is missing, I continue to experience more glimmers of Heaven. Though Satan tried, he did not rob me of the joy that lies within me. He did not rob me of seeing what my future eternity will look like through the joys I can experience here on earth. Randy Alcorn quoted C.S. Lewis in his book HEAVEN, “In the truest sense, Christian pilgrims have the best of both worlds. We have joy whenever this world reminds us of the next, and we take solace whenever it does not.” The hope of the New Earth is our only hope.
Creation Of The New Earth
Now to get to this New Earth the old earth has to be destroyed so that a new earth can be created.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth….And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people and God himself will be with them and be their God…” (Jesus) said, “I am making everything new.” (Revelation 21:1,3,5)
“The day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.” (2 Peter 3:10)
Ah, but God isn’t destroying this earth because he made a mistake. Rather, he is restoring it back to its original intent; the Garden of Eden. I like how Anthony Hoekema describes it:
“In his redemptive activity, God does not destroy the works of his hands, but cleanses them from sin and perfects them, so that they may finally reach the goal for which he created them. Applied to the problem at hand, this principle means that the new earth to which we look forward will not be totally different from the present one, but will be a renewal and glorification of the earth on which we now live.”
I would have loved to hear your thoughts on the present Heaven and the New Earth. As you are experiencing the present Heaven I imagine you sitting at the feet of Jesus, or even walking beside him asking question after question, never tiring of hearing his answers.
Your Body In The Present Heaven
Though your body is asleep in the grave awaiting the Resurrection I think you might be experiencing some form of body that allows you to experience understanding, time, and even memory. After all, they talk about a physical body and a spiritual body so why would they say body if you didn’t have a spiritual body? Revelation 6:9-11 talks about souls being given a white robe and told to just rest a little longer as they wait for those coming behind them is a hint in this regard. So, I’m gathering you are a form that needs clothing! There is also reference to Christ, Enoch and Elijah having physical bodies in heaven so that would lead me to believe there is some bodily form in heaven.
I also think you have a sense of time and have the ability to pelt Jesus with questions because it talks of those who have gone before as asking Jesus “How long will it be, holy and true master, before you sit in judgment and avenge our blood on the inhabitants of the earth?” Revelation 6:10. This tells me you and others who have left this earth have a sense of time and remember events on earth. Now how that can happen without sorrow, I have no idea. However, I do know that God and the angles are in heaven and they know what is happening on earth and yet the beauty of Heaven is not minimized. So why wouldn’t we experience the same?
I’ll have to study more about this and get back to you. Though I know you already hold the answer. It is for my own knowledge I will search.
We Must Grapple With Heaven
Many of these thoughts are not things people take the time to grapple with. Who am I kidding? I did not really grapple with them until you began your residence there. However, scripture tells us it can be our future reality and we need to know what is real. Our future reality has become your present reality.
I’m so glad you chose to live for Jesus Ryan, because at the point of your death your human spirit had the opportunity to go to Hell or the Present Heaven (Matthew 25:46); eternal punishment or eternal life. These are the only two options that scripture talks about and yet the world doesn’t seem to take them seriously. Perhaps that is because the idea of Hell is so ugly and awful; a place where the fire never goes out (Mark 9:43). Unfortunately, just because we ignore something that is awful doesn’t make it go away. My heart truly grieves for those who downplay their future reality. Most live unprepared for death. We prepare excitedly for a vacation but we do not prepare for Eternity?
“Heaven isn’t only our future home. It’s our home already, waiting just over the next hill. If we really grasp the truth, it will have a profound effect on our holiness. People who see themselves seated with Christ in Heaven – in the very presence of a God to whom the angels cry out, “Holy, holy, holy” (Isaiah 6:3, Revelation 4:8)—won’t spend their days viewing Internet pornography or gossiping on the phone or cutting corners on business deals.” –Randy Alcorn
I remember Uncle Stan telling me a story about visiting his brother at a Veteran’s home. He said he saw a man on a gurney getting ready to go into surgery. Uncle Stan felt compelled to go make a connection with the guy on the gurney and then he asked him if he knew Jesus and if he knew where he was going if he were to die. The guy cussed him out and went on into surgery….and died. Uncle Stan said he believed God was giving this man one more opportunity to choose him and he exclaimed a resounding “NO!” I hate to think about what he is experiencing right now. See? Even I don’t like to think about it when it comes to the ugly side of eternity.
It Is True
I wish there was a way for you to pop down here and let people know it is true; there is a Heaven and there is a Hell and we will experience one or the other. We will not be judged by our works (we could never be good enough), but rather, our relationship with Jesus. Not by works of righteous things which we have done, but by his grace he saves us. (Titus 3:5)
By His grace you received God’s salvation and are now experiencing the beginning of your glorious eternity (afterlife).
Ryan, there is one other truly amazing thing that I have confirmed through my learning, and this is a big one. You, my son are fully Ryan in Heaven. JOY! God is the God of your entire being; body, soul and spirit. He was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Luke 20:37-38) It doesn’t say he was the God of the masses, but of individuals. He is the God of your entire being Ryan. He is the God of Ryan. None of you has been lost.
What made you Ryan on earth makes you Ryan in Heaven. Just as Jesus rose from the grave in human form with the identity of Jesus, because you chose Him you were raised up in Heaven with the identity of Ryan. You are real, with real desires, yet they are holy now. That is so exciting to me. You are not lost. You are not gone.
This knowledge also clarifies my own identity. God created me to be Gail. There is no one like me. No one has been given the same walk in life as me. His design for me was created for this earth and for Heaven. Therefore, I must not compare my walk to others. I must simply walk in the confidence of my identity as his special creation, his daughter, Gail. I am a special creation, and so are you.
No one could walk your life for you either Ryan. You lived a big life and left a big gap in the lives of many. I understand why Jesus would have chosen you for his own pleasure. He deserves to have you with him. He created you for his pleasure and it was simply his precious gift to me that I had you for those 20 short years. You were made to abide with Him and experience His eternal delights. My heart has released you to experience those delights.
As you reside in this temporary place, though not your final destination, you have already found perfect rest and you are without struggle and sin. Oh how that makes this mamma happy. That in itself is cause to rejoice. I recall just a few days before you left us, standing in the kitchen with your head on my shoulder as you wept over a struggle you were dealing with. The remembrance of that still grips my heart but the reality of the freedom you now experience fills me with joy.
Whether I join you in the present Heaven as we wait for the resurrection together, or join you in the resurrection and meet up on the New Earth, I will recognize you and spend Eternity with the one who was known as Ryan. Together we will know Jesus and spend an eternity delighting in all God has gone to prepare for us. Hallelujah!
Excitedly living and grateful I will see you again!