What We Have to Look Forward To
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For Pastor Tim Keller, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is more than an abstract belief that good will triumph over evil one day. It’s a powerful, life-altering truth that gives him hope, peace, and comfort as he faces his own mortality.
(Note: Keller learned of his diagnosis of pancreatic cancer in May 2020 while writing his book, Hope in Times of Fear, which focuses on the transformative power of the resurrection.)
In April 2021, Keller told The Christian Post: “When you know you could die very, very soon, you realize that you basically live in denial of the fact of your death. When it suddenly strikes you, you have to ask, ‘Do I have the faith for this? Do I believe that the resurrection of Jesus Christ really happened and that if I die in faith in Jesus, I will know that resurrection too?’
“Here I am, writing a book about the resurrection, and I realized I only half-believed I was going to die. I went back and realized that in some ways, I also only half-believed in the resurrection—not intellectually so much, but all the way down deep in my heart. I realized I needed to have a greater, a deeper faith in the resurrection…” he continued.
While undergoing treatment for cancer over the next several months, Keller said he did both “intellectual and emotional work,” looking at the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ while also immersing himself in prayer and in Scripture, asking the Holy Spirit to make it real to his heart.
“It took several months in which I had to take my abstract belief down into my heart to existentially and experientially know it and grow in assurance, and it worked,” he said. “If you are willing to embrace the truth of God’s Word and immerse yourself in it day in and day out, and then ask the Holy Spirit to make it real to your heart, He will.”
Most people, Keller contended, live in denial of death. But facing one’s own mortality and spiritual reality, he said, both changes the way we view our time on Earth and magnifies the transformative power of the resurrection.
“The things of Earth become less crucial. They’re not so important to you; you realize you don’t need them to be happy. Once I believe that, I start to enjoy them more. I don’t try to turn them into God; I don’t try to turn them into Heaven, which is the only thing that can really satisfy my heart,” he explained.
“You find that you have to really have a real spiritual experience of God’s reality so that the things of this Earth ‘grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace,’” Keller said, quoting the century-old hymn.1
[In May 2022] The pastor told Christian Post that regardless of what happens, he was “ready for anything.”
“What the future holds, I don’t know. Pray that I would have years and not months left and that the chemotherapy would continue to be effective. But [my wife and I] are ready for whatever God decides for me. We’re spiritually ready.”
“I do know,” he added, “that the resurrection of Jesus Christ really happened. And when I die, I will know that resurrection too.”2—The Christian Post
Jesus’ resurrection means that death is not the end. That though my body may lie moldering in the ground, Jesus, whom the Father raised from the dead, gives me eternal life. Ultimately, we Christians believe, our bodies, too, will be raised from the dead.
And since Jesus is not dead, people can encounter Him today. You can know Him through a personal relationship. I could point to lots of people who can testify what Jesus has done in their lives to bring them from the brink of disaster to peace and meaning and joy. He changes people for good.—Ralph F. Wilson
The vision lasted only a few seconds, but it left a big impression. I had been talking with a friend, when suddenly I saw a glimpse into the future. We were hugging, laughing, and talking about our lives—and we were in Heaven. This has happened to me several times. Sometimes it has been with a close friend, and other times it has been with someone I had just met. In each case I was left with the profound feeling that friendships in Heaven are much deeper and more meaningful and longer lasting than the ones we enjoy in this life.
I find that thought very comforting, perhaps because I’m somewhat isolated and lonely in my present situation. I have always been gregarious and had many friends, and friendships have always been very important to me. But fibromyalgia has a way of making a hermit of even the most sociable person. The aching muscles, fatigue, and sleep problems that come with this neurological disorder leave me too sick to go out with friends or attend parties, and often too sick to even talk on the phone. What do I have to talk about anyway, when I live in such an isolated world?
And what about all of the people I met and helped in the course of my years of volunteer work before I got sick? Do they even remember me now? Are they thankful for my prayers, and have those prayers made a difference? Does my friendship still mean something to them? What’s left to show for those years? I’ve asked myself those questions while lying alone in a dark room.
But now, through this series of little visions, I understand better that this life truly is only a brief moment in time and that regardless of how things are going now, someday these friends and I will be together again in heavenly bliss. It will be like old times, except that then it will be in a perfect world where there is no more parting, pain, or sorrow.
And most wonderful of all, we’ll be face to face and heart to heart with the One who loves and understands us like no other, the One who lived and died for us and rose to life again that we might live together in His love eternally, the ultimate forever Friend, Jesus.—Misty Kay
“Giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.”—Colossians 1:12
What is this inheritance?
It is a tearless state: God himself will wipe away all tears. Now He puts them into His bottle; then He will stop their flow.
But it is also a place. There is a heavenly “city.” This suggests the idea of locality, society, security; there will be sweet companionship.
It is a “fold” where all the sheep of the Good Shepherd will be safe: He who brought them there will guard them.
It is a “kingdom,” and there the glory of God will be revealed.
It is a “feast,” and there the bounties of the great Giver will be enjoyed.
It is a “garden,” an Eden, a paradise: and there will bloom, in immortal freshness, the most beautiful and fragrant flowers.
It is an inheritance in light.—Rev. Canon Money, adapted
Brief life is here our portion;
Brief sorrow, short-lived care;
The life that knows no ending,
The tearless life, is there.
There grief is turned to pleasure;
Such pleasure as below
No human voice can utter,
No human heart can know.
And after fleshly weakness,
And after this world’s night,
And after storm and whirlwind,
Are calm, and joy, and light.
And He, whom now we trust in,
Shall then be seen and known;
And they that know and see Him
Shall have Him for their own.
The morning shall awaken,
The shadows flee away,
And each true-hearted servant
Shall shine as doth the day.
There God, our King and Portion,
In fullness of His grace,
We then shall see forever,
And worship face to face.
—Bernard of Morlaix, translated by John M. Neale
I go and prepare a place for you, that where I am, there you may be also.—John 14:3
Published on Anchor May 2023. Read by Gabriel Garcia Valdivieso. Music by Michael Dooley.