A week ago I said that this was a time to grieve. It is all the more so now, when our pastor has departed this earth and been received into glory. During these sad days we are grieving, and we are grieving in precisely the way that the Bible teaches us to grieve: deeply and honestly, but also hopefully. Part of the reason for this is that Dr. Boice has prepared us so well. The aim of his ministry was to teach us to think and to act biblically, which includes thinking and acting biblically in the face of death.
Dr. Boice spoke about death and dying many times during his ministry, and this is a good time to remember what he taught us. One of his most helpful sermons on the subject appears at the end of his book Foundations of the Christian Faith. For tonight’s Window on the World—our last until the autumn—I want to read John 14:1-6, followed by Dr. Boice’s teaching on these verses.
First the Scripture: Jesus said to his disciples,
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:1-6).
Here is what Dr. Boice writes:
The first few verses of John 14 are among the most popular in the Bible. They speak about heaven, but the reason for their popularity is not that they reveal details about heaven or even about life beyond the grave. They do not… . . Why is John 14 so popular? The answer is probably because of the warm image that is found there: heaven is a home. We need a home. We long for a home. Jesus calmly told his troubled disciples that we have one… .
Although our earthly homes are necessary and significant, they are not permanent. Our basic need for a home is fully met only when the Lord Jesus Christ himself prepares a home for us in heaven. Now we are in a strange land, even in an enemy’s country. In that day we shall be in the Father’s house and shall be home. That is a Christian’s destiny.
We do not know much about heaven except that it is where we shall be and where we shall be with Jesus. One day my six-year-old daughter’s first-grade science class was discussing the universe—how big it is and what it is composed of. The conversation drifted around to heaven, and the children began to ask where heaven fit in. Was it between the stars? Was it beyond them? The only valid answer was that heaven is where God is and where Jesus has gone to prepare that place which he has promised us… ..
In heaven we will also be with one another, and that too makes heaven attractive… . A third point is that we will see each other not as we are now or have been but as we are meant to be. “Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2)… .
For some people these words are already quite meaningful. They are old or sick, some close to dying. The thought of being with Jesus forever and being like him is a great blessing. On the other hand, others are not in that position and for them this study does not seem timely. I could point out that we are all dying, some nearer to that point than others. I could point out that no one knows the moment of his or her death. It could be thirty years from now; it could be tomorrow or tonight. Instead, let me make an application in two other areas.
First, if you are a Christian and if it is true that you will eventually be with Jesus, spend time with him now. Do this through your own personal Bible study and prayer… . We should want to get to know Jesus better if we are looking forward to being with him in heaven.
A second application is to our moral conduct. If we are going to be like Jesus one day, we must strive to be like him now. Having said that we will be like him in glory, John added, “And every one who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 3:3).
Many winters, after the pressures of the Christmas and New Year’s services at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, my family and I would take a four-day vacation to the Pocono mountains in eastern Pennsylvania, vacationing at an immense lodge, beautifully situated on a large mountain estate. We looked forward to this greatly as the vacation days approached. When the time eventually would come, we would drive for about three hours and arrive in the evening as dusk was settling over the mountain landscape. We would park and approach the door. The doormen, who have been there in some cases for twenty or thirty years, would come to greet us and take our bags. Then they would say, “Welcome home! Welcome home!” It was not home (regrettably). It was only a clever device on the part of the lodge to make its guests welcome. But one day we are going to glory where those words will be spoken by our own blessed Lord, the One who has prepared our home for us. “Welcome home!” he will say. And we really will be home. Forever.
[Quoted from James Montgomery Boice, Foundations of the Christian Faith, rev. edn. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1986), pp. 714-20]
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