On the Easter Promise we share with those in heaven…

There are many points we share in common with those who are now in heaven…

As we celebrate the Easter season, we who are still journeying to heaven, are celebrating and giving thanks for the gift of faith in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.   We are also celebrating the gift of hope, first revealed in and by Jesus, of God’s Promise to give his children eternal life in the Kingdom. Our yearly celebration of Easter is joined by those now in heaven, who are endlessly praising and worshipping God in both spirit and in truth.

What are the saints celebrating in heaven?  Well, unlike ourselves, they are now celebrating the experience and reward of eternal life and Glory with the Triune God!!! Yes, they are basking in True Easter Glory each heavenly moment….

Their real experiencing of heavenly joy and its rewards is not the only difference between their celebration in heaven and ours down here… Perhaps the biggest difference between the two celebrations is that here on earth, our Easter celebrations are made possible only by our faith in and hope for God’s grace in the Risen Christ!

Yes, the saints in heaven have shared this common human experience of living by faith and hope during their lives.   However, unlike we who still possess a living faith that is active and growing by grace, those in heaven no longer have any need for either faith or hope!  Their faith and hope has been tested, made pure and is now realized, complete and is made manifest in heaven.

Since all heavenly citizens both walk and stand face to face with God, they have no faith or hope anymore!!! In light of this divine reality that we still hold only by grace and faith, what scriptural Promise can I possibly be talkin’ bout in this essay’s title?

What scriptural Promise awaits both the heaven bound and the saints in heaven?

Perhaps, NOW you get it and you say, WAIT!!!! What ‘kinda foolishness’ did you just read? What could anyone in heaven want for? What can they possibly want for and/or anticipate?  How can one in heaven still await any Promise from God?

Well…

It is an interesting question whose answer ultimately rests in a few key scriptural beliefs, teachings and Promises of God.   First: All that God creates was and is good, however ‘the Fall’ negatively impacted both our humanity and all of creation.   Second: God created us as integrated beings, composed of a unified body and spirit.   Third: Jesus’ Death and Resurrection saves our whole being: body, soul/spirit…

This last scriptural point is so important, that the Gospel’s post resurrection narratives continually drives it home in different ways…  For example Jesus just doesn’t appear once and then leave, he kind of ‘hangs around’ to complete and confirm His teaching as the Christ before his ascending to the Father. He eats with the Apostles, drinks with them and even tells doubting Thomas to put his hands into His side and into nails marks, so he may believe that, it is in fact Jesus in body and Spirit.

Returning to our reflection about those who are now in heaven and the Promise we share with them… What divine Promise can possibly remain unfulfilled for them?  What is it and when will they (and we) FINALLY get it?

All of us in heaven will get it on the Last Day…  And that final Promise is to be like Jesus: fully Resurrected in both body and spirit!

Please note: The Last Day is NOT to be confused with the particular judgment, which is what happens on our particular day of death, when we are individually judged.

Classically, The Last Day is the End of All Time when all the souls that have lived on earth will rise again and receive our resurrected bodies for eternity.  For the literal, scientific and hardcore historically minded, this will be sometime around 5 billion years from now when our sun begins to supernova (assuming we have not destroyed ourselves before then).

But if the futurist in you believes and asks, “… but when we develop sci-fi like tech and can leave our galaxy to escape elsewhere at light years speed as we explore the universe (the movies come true)… when will time ‘end” then? Okaaaaaay! …Only since you force me to, I’ll digress and address that side of you…

Well assuming that you also then believe humans will live for millennia in the universe…   Then as science now reveals, the universe will end eventually one day – perhaps when all galaxies have expanded infinitely far away from each other and every star has burned out –  then, natural time will end.   At that time, there will be no more new  planets to find and inhabit.  In fact, even BBC’s television character and alien Dr. Who would have to die and be judged  at this time, for there will be no more physical bodies   – literally ‘nothing else’ – for even him to change into (lol)!!!  This is my best articulation about the Last Day’s actual historicity. Anyway…

At that time – the end of all time – we will receive the full fruits of Resurrected Life, receiving our risen bodies, like Jesus Himself!!!! This is the Final Promise that we share with all those who are in heaven now.

If I’m correct, then the saints here on earth and those in heaven – and at all points in between – are all still longing for this one scriptural Promise: to experience that eternal reuniting of our then holy souls/spirits with our resurrected bodies. If Jesus’ Resurrection in the Gospels reveals anything, it reveals that we will be as He is and thus, this Promised reunion is as real and grounded in God’s love as is the heavenly community we will already be in.

This ‘Last Day Reunion’ will be infinitely more than just a return to that ‘harmony between the spirit and flesh’ that was experienced and lost by Adam and Eve in Paradise.  Please remember, paradise was just a starting point for the first parents: God’s goal for them was/is the same as it is for us; God has not changed.

God has always desired and planned the same thing from all eternity: that His children will live with Him and each other in love – for all eternity – in body and spirit.

It could be no other way, especially since all that God created is truly good and holy and Jesus’ sacrifice redeemed all of us – body, spirit and soul.  This is the Final Promise that God will fulfill and the only Promise that the saints in heaven still await.

…But their wait is not one of hope or faith as is ours; they know that it is a fact as they now stand before our Lord and King.

Let us – by grace – pray, work, serve and love as God wills us to that we may one day join the Saints in heaven, awaiting God’s final Promise…

Author: P. J. West, Jr.

Paul J. West Jr. is a cradle Catholic and native Chicagoan who has ministered in Catholic Schools, parishes and hospitals for over two decades. His current ministries are focused on both hospital chaplaincy and writing. Prior to this, he ministered as an educator for almost twenty five years teaching religion, scripture, philosophy and ethics at four Chicago area high schools and adults at the Chicago Catholic Scripture School. His parish ministry has included preaching, teaching, writing and serving as a Eucharistic minister. Mr. West, who is native south sider, has been married for almost 30 years to Dr. Joy West. They have raised four beautiful daughters who are all hardcore Bears and White Sox fans!!!!

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