Heaven's Meet & Greet

Last month, I wrote about a funeral I attended in a Yorkshire parish church. The departed lady had farmed in the shadow of great Ingleborough, but she had been promoted to greater Zion. The church was packed with several hundred standing. Like many, I had arrived early, and had time enough to gaze at my fellow mourners. Although there were plenty there I did not know, and some present whom I knew but did not see, I viewed the rest with interest. The North Lancs Bible belt turned out in force, and the great and the good of many churches, chapels, ministries and charities made the journey to say a final farewell. I saw ministers, evangelists, ‘Gideons’, elders, preachers, leaders and faithful ones without title. It was a testament to her witness and character.

While I reflected on that, I wondered about her reception at the other end. Although events in eternity are not subject to our solar system’s measurements of time, our arrival in heaven is instantaneous, and therefore several days or weeks in advance of our funerals which take much organising. Notwithstanding issues of timing, what was her reception like? Who came to the entrance to meet and greet?

Perhaps great women and men of the past were there, former ministers, evangelists, ‘Gideons’, elders, preachers, leaders and faithful ones without title, previously called home. Might one or two of the apostles, such as Peter or Paul, have been there? Maybe some celebrities of church history came along: John Wesley called by to say hello; Oliver Cromwell was on that day’s welcome rota. Was there an angelic host present, singing a beautiful homecoming song? Did they, in all their sparkling and shimmering splendour, escort her to the palace, for her appointment with the King? Might those folk whom she had helped in life and who believed the gospel have been specially enlisted to be there when she crossed over? If such gatherings occur in heaven, I am certain that they who received her were more august, more numerous and certainly better looking* than those who gathered to bid farewell. It is rather enjoyable to speculate about such things, but ultimately unsatisfactory, as we need to wait our turn and see for ourselves. Yet Scripture does offer a little hint. In Acts 7, Stephen’s auditors are gnashing their teeth and preparing to kill him. He looks up and

…being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” (vv55-56)

Such a proclamation signed the death warrant they were already drafting in their hearts. Might the heavens have opened to receive him, rather than just to encourage him? I suspect that when the saint dies, it is the Lord Jesus Himself who receives him and bids him welcome. There might be others present, but I think it is the King of Love who comes for His own. An omnipotent, omniscient God can of course multitask par excellence; He can welcome home His beloved while still sustaining the universe and hearing countless prayers and supplications. That day, I think He went to receive her Himself. She was a child of the King, a daughter of the Kingdom, and the King went to meet and greet His own.

And they sang a new song, saying:

“You are worthy to take the scroll,

And to open its seals;

For You were slain,

And have redeemed us to God by Your blood

Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,

And have made us kings and priests to our God;

And we shall reign on the earth.” (Rev 5:9-10, NLKV)


*no wrinkles, no disabilities, no ageing, no crumpled suits

Photo: Spiggie Beach, Shetland