I'll See You In Heaven
By John Miller
When hearing this phrase spoken for the first time, you might say the speaker is arrogant and overly assuming. I momentarily felt that way when the words unexpectedly came out of my mouth. I was saying goodbye to a prisoner who was being released. I and his fellow inmates in the prison chapel had laid hands on and prayed for this man and praised God for the time He had allowed us to spend with our brother in Christ. He had been an active participant in Bible studies with me for over a year and had declared himself to be a believer in the finished work of Christ on the Cross. We shook hands and I listened as he sincerely responded to me with those same, profound words.
Funny, I thought, I had never said such a goodbye to anyone. No Christian had ever said those words to me. The men in the chapel stood silent. I believe that the Holy Spirit gave me those words to say, and had convicted my brother of the certainty of his eternity in Christ Jesus. I immediately knew that our use of that parting phrase was all about the power of God's Word and not a boasting of our own self worth. God had allowed us this special connection for a reason. I suddenly knew what I needed to say to all the men in the chapel. But let me pause here to pose this question for the reader:
"I'll see you in heaven." Are these the words of arrogance or is there sound reason for Christians to speak them with certainty and joy? What would possibly be a valid reason to make such a declaration; one Christian to another, especially in the company of non-believers? The answer for us in this prison chapel setting is based on our claiming God's Word. I'll try to explain.
Each Monday evening for the last four years, our bible study in a local State prison has focused on the power and purpose of God's Word. We have stressed that, if a person is going to read the Bible, he or she should have a good reason for going to Scripture every day. We need to have confidence that God's every word in the Bible, is truthful, unchanging, powerful and purposeful for us. And, so we have continuously acknowledged that God washes us in His word each and every time we read the Bible. We have learned that God's Word is the spiritual water of re-birth for the new believer, just as Jesus declared to Nicodemus. We are invited to take in this spiritual water, to be transformed by the many golden nuggets of God's absolute, defensible truth. We are encouraged to accept and confirm our new identity in Christ, made possible only by His Word. I believe this with all of my heart, and I want the incarcerated men to grasp this truth and to make it essential to their daily lives and for all eternity.
So, every Monday night in the Chapel prison before beginning our study, I would write two verses on the white board: "so the word that goes out of my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it." We learned that God's Holy Spirit made that declaration of the power and purpose of God's Word through the Prophet Isaiah some 740 years before the birth of Christ. (Isa 55:11 NIV) And, in the hour of His passion in the Garden, Jesus prayed to His Father, "Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth." (John 17:17) We call these two verses "The Bookends." Why? Because the entire Bible fits between them - every word - all of Scripture.
These verses became foundational to our reading and meditation during all Bible studies. We also adopted Isaiah 55:11 as "The Bank," because you can take God's Word to the bank.
We also have adopted a catchy phrase: "God's Word trumps all doubts!" This simple but truthful declaration sums up the wonderful, powerful and mysterious effects of God's Word on the listener. If God said it - we can believe it and firmly stand on it. We can and must get off of our emotional rollercoaster of doubting our salvation, if we believe in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the Cross. We must quit dragging the baggage of our past around. God doesn't want it in heaven. And we Christians are heaven bound. It's incredibly wonderful to think that God the Father can only see Jesus when He looks at the Christian. We are His, despite our weaknesses, despite our doubts. We just need to get our minds around this nearly incomprehensible truth! We need to openly claim our identity in Christ that comes about. only by God's Holy Word.
We have also learned that God's Word is precious to Him, and that men can't change it. We are powerless to change God's Word. His Word accomplishes His Will. Our doubts don't scare Him and they seem rather silly when contrasted with His truth.
For some three years now, I have said goodbye to men that I know have professed faith in Christ with those good words, "I'll see you in heaven." In doing so, I emphasize to other men in the chapel that only Christians may make that profound statement. Only true Christians have God's promise of eternity. They understand that, just as men cannot change God's word (work) of salvation, men must not assume any human right to heaven on their own merit.
Our study has focused on the compelling truth; we must choose to believe in Christ Jesus' finished work on the cross. The men also understand that God's forgiving and saving grace reaches as far behind concrete walls and bars of steel as lost, hurting souls will reach out to receive it. It is life changing to see God's word change hardened hearts in prison.
The men were not bashful about shouting out these catchy phrases, as they were written on the white board each week. I pray that these phrases rest forever on the minds of those inmates that have come to love them.
So, when bidding farewell to a fellow Christian you may not see again on earth, feel free to say, "I'll see you in heaven." With any luck, you may get to say those provocative words of farewell in the presence of a non-believer. And, it's most comforting to know that you may say them to your dying friend or relative who you know is going to the arms of The Good Shepherd. After all, God's promises of Psalm 23 are about to be brought to their blessed fullness for the departing soul that He is calling home.
"I'll see you in heaven." It isn't an arrogant or overly assuming comment. It is a positive, affirming, human declaration of the power of God's Word to save and transform our soul. Yes, it can confidently be said between every grateful, trusting Christian. Saying it should give us pause to thank God for His immeasurable grace that grants us faith and for His holy word that is calling toward perfection; that will someday call us home. I'd like to think that it has the effect of honoring our Savior, Christ Jesus and of manifesting God's glory.
Heavenly Father thank you for your incomprehensible, loving grace. Thank you for your holy, powerful and purposeful word that accomplishes your divine will for each of us; your word that trumps all doubt. Thank you that we Christians may use catchy phrases that reflect your truth, your glory. Father, only by your immeasurable grace, may we gratefully say, "I'll see you in heaven."
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