And Heaven Opened
“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ” Romans 8:16-17.
Being one of four siblings I am aware of how committed and dedicated this sub-community in the family can be. I am extremely close with my sisters and any of us would do anything in this world for each other. Our victories are shared in joy and our sufferings are shared in pain. We laugh with each other and cry for each other, as the circumstances of our lives are interconnected. We are co-siblings and co-heirs within our family. We have been up close and personal with having to say goodbye to one of our precious members of this sacred community. Society rarely gives much consideration to the loss of a sibling when measured up to losses. But Christ Jesus does…
There was a co-heir with Christ named Stephen, who was described in the Bible as ‘a man full of God’s grace and power’ Acts 7:8. He performed great wonders and miracles through the Holy Spirit, being the first Christian martyr as was recorded in the Bible. ‘The text tells us that as the maddened crowd drew near Stephen kept his gaze steadily upward. In the process he saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Just before his death, however, Stephen saw Christ standing…Christ was not only present at the right hand of the Father, but he also was (at least in Stephen’s case) standing to receive his faithful servant home. There can be no greater nor more honorable reception than to have the Son of Man standing at one’s entrance into his presence. Steven saw the heavens opened.’ Life Application New Testament Commentary, p. 499.
…and so did my sister. During the final two weeks of her life her gaze stayed steadily upward. I watched her eyes narrow at whatever was appearing to her. I witnessed her mouth spread with smiles as she was enjoying the company of those we could not see. Were her eyes narrowing trying to shield Heaven’s light from the gates opening? Was her face of joy because she saw her co-sibling rise to His feet to welcome her into the spiritual family? That must have made it easier to let go of our hands to grab onto His hand. Christ is aware of the pain of departing from family. He hung on the cross and watched His mother suffer. After His resurrection, He made sure that one of the ones to whom He appeared was His precious sibling. He understood the power of that relationship and the Bible stays silent on their intimate exchange.
“Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints” Psalm 116:15. This is the balm for my soul that no one ever dies alone when in Christ. I know that as our loved ones release our hands on earth they already have grabbed the hands of heaven’s loved ones in eternity. I can only imagine those final moments on earth when the thin veil between heaven and earth is pulled back and ‘what I have only known in part…then I shall know fully.’ 1 Co 13:12b.