A few months before she died, my wife was awakened suddenly, in the middle of the night. The next morning she struggled to find words for what happened next. She said God impressed upon her a sense of absolute peace and joy unlike anything she had ever experienced. She was laughing and weeping as she tried to explain what it was like. She said she was sure He was encouraging her with a foretaste of Heaven. That sudden “download” was a source of great strength and peace to her – and to me – as her time grew short.
I’ve recently learned that Blaise Pascal experienced something similar on November 23, 1654, a pivotal moment in his spiritual journey. His epiphany lasted a couple of hours, during which time he scribbled notes to himself, including these words, found hidden in his jacket after he died:
Certitude, certitude, Emotion, Joy, Peace. God of Jesus Christ … Oblivion of the world and of everything except God. Righteous father, the world has not known You, But I have known You. Joy, Joy, Joy, tears of joy, Jesus Christ ___________ Jesus Christ
This morning, I reread the account of Jesus’ transfiguration.
After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. – (Matthew 17:1–3 (NIV84))
I’ve always interpreted this strange episode as an instructive encouragement for the two disciples. I wonder if it was not also given to strengthen and encourage Jesus. A reminder of things impossible to fully comprehend in this earthly plane. It occurred shortly after Jesus began to teach His disciples that He must be put to death. Jesus struggled greatly as His death became imminent. He silenced Peter abruptly when he said such a death would never happen. He agonized in prayer in Gethsemane. Perhaps that glimpse of the reality of Heaven was a gracious gift for Him.
I don’t know. I wonder. But of this I am sure: the circumstances awaiting those who die as believers and followers of Jesus are so astonishingly wonderful, we have no words to fully express them. We also have no currency capable of expressing the value of being welcomed into such an environment of joy and peace. The best Jesus could manage was an analogy:
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” – (Matthew 13:44–46 (NIV84))