Not yours, I promise, if your theology is Christ-centered, not culture-conditioned. Even so, do fasten your seat belts as we embark on a flight of soaring imagination that lands us in our post-pandemic church sanctuary. While relishing the certainty of our Savior’s Resurrection, we celebrate the life of one who is absent from the body, but joyously present with Him. Tears are okay, but so is laughter. The pastor has just shared this sassy senior’s aversion to being called “sharp as a tack.” “Perspicacious” is more to her taste, but only for fun, not love of pronunciation. Who will laugh when the pastor reads the Postcard from Heaven she wrote shortly before being the dearly departed? “I am dead serious when I contend for the last time that dead people do not turn into angels that watch over the living. Real guardian angels are recruited from the ranks of their peers. Worshiping with the heavenly host is out of this world!”
Revelation 14:13 declares the blessedness of those “who die in the Lord” and therefore will rest from their labors and be remembered for the good they did. The specific setting relates to martyred believers during the Tribulation, contrasting them with “the wicked” who will never experience rest. In the parable of the rich man and poor Lazarus, Jesus gives us a couple of vivid snapshots of the hereafter. The one in hell cannot go warn his hedonistic brothers; the one in “Abraham’s bosom” - a Hebraism - cannot be pried loose from his blessed presence with God to do so (Luke 16:19-31). To whet our own appetite for it, we need to chew on some Greek. Strong’s Concordance aims to help us grasp the difference between am-nos and ar-nee-on (286 and 721).
In John 1:29 we read about the Baptist’s first encounter with Jesus and hear him exclaim, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” The gospel writer uses the word am-nos for lamb, meaning an animal, the offspring of sheep. In Revelation, the “Lamb” reference to Jesus occurs 29 times, but without fail he uses the word ar-nee-on. It means “Lambkin” and is assuredly a dominant, poignantly endearing term of lasting affection. If we read the following with an awakened heart and an instructed mind, our appreciation of true angels will be magnificently enlarged: “Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne…in a loud voice…saying, ‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!’” (Revelation 5:11-12)
There is yet a clincher in John 21:15, where the risen Christ restores Peter and charges him to “feed my lambs.” The word again is ar-nee-on, the term of endearment patterned on heaven’s Lambkin Himself. His atoning death solely applied to sinful humanity, but not to rebellious angels awaiting their final divine judgment. How much more should that truth make us anticipate heaven’s glorious worship! Why picture instead a celestial “Worry Ward” where our focus would have to stay fixed on earthly ills ranging from cancer to crabgrass? Immanuel, God with us, keeps sustaining us in every tough trial.