More significantly, winter often impacts the health of individuals. And in truth, most pastors soon recognize that winter can take its toll on life. Indeed, more people die in the winter months than in any other season.
I have had these thoughts on my mind as of late due to having just lost three wonderful church members to death. Accordingly, I have also been thinking a lot about Heaven. For these reasons, I wanted to post a piece today that is taken from Dr. Robert Petterson, Senior Pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Naples, Florida.
In a message titled "All Things New: Our Eternal Home", first preached on November 8, 2009, Dr. Petterson shared the following about an obscure young man from Venice.
His Italian mother named him after the gospel writer Mark in the hopes that he too would tell the gospel truth. But 13th Century Europeans found it impossible to believe Mark's tales of faraway lands. He claimed that, when he was only seventeen, he took an epic journey lasting a quarter of a century, taking him across the steppes of Russia, the rugged mountains of Afghanistan, the wastelands of Persia, and over the top of the world through the Himalayas. He was the first European to enter China.
Through an amazing set of circumstances, he became a favorite of the most powerful ruler on planet earth, the Kublai Khan. Mark saw cities that made European capitals look like roadside villages. The Khan's palace dwarfed the largest castles and cathedrals in Europe. It was so massive that its banquet room alone could seat 6,000 diners at one time, each eating on a plate of pure gold.
Mark saw the world's first paper money and marveled at the explosive power of gunpowder. It would be the 18th Century before Europe would manufacture as much steel as China was producing in the year 1267. He became the first Italian to taste that Chinese culinary invention, pasta. As an officer of the Khan's court, he travelled to places no European would see for another 500 years.
After serving Kublai Khan for 17 years, Mark began his journey home to Venice, loaded down with gold, silk, and spices. When he arrived home, people dismissed his stories of a mythical place called China. His family priest rebuked him for spinning lies. At his deathbed, his family, friends, and priest begged him to recant his tales of China. But setting his jaw and gasping for breath, Mark spoke his final words, "I have not even told you half of what I saw."
Though 13th Century Europeans rejected his stories as the tales of a liar or lunatic, history has proven the truthfulness behind the book he wrote about his adventures—The Travels of Marco Polo. 1300 years before Marco Polo wrote about China, another man, the Apostle John, went on an amazing journey to heaven itself. At times we jaded postmoderns shake our heads in disbelief at the Apostle John's vision and other biblical witnesses to the glory of heaven.
But the biblical writers who describe heaven would declare to us, "I have not even told you half of what I saw. Heaven is more joyful, more glorious, and more beautiful than you could ever imagine." May their God-inspired testimonies and descriptions move us to long for God's gift to us in Christ—the glory of heaven.
The Apostle Paul, like the apostle John, had a first-hand glimpse of Heaven. He relates this in his Second New Testament Letter to the Corinthians (12:2-4). Here, the words Paul uses to describe what he saw are “inexpressible things”. The Koine (or Common) Greek term used here is “arretos”, meaning “unspeakable”. It comes from a combination of two terms: from “a”, the negative particle in Greek translated as "not" and “rhetos”, meaning "speakable". (The English word “rhetoric” is a derivative.)
Little wonder than that Paul (in First Corinthians 2:9) quotes the Prophet Isaiah to describe the place of eternal reward for believers: “… no eye has seen, … no ear has heard, and … no human mind has conceived … the things God has prepared for those who love him.”
Better yet, the words of Jesus Himself as recorded in the New Testament Gospel of Matthew (25:23, KJV) are thus: "Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord."
May all who have lost loved ones be comforted by these wonderful words about a glorious place called Heaven!
SOURCE: Dr. Petterson’s exceptional illustration is available widely online. See, for instance: http://www.lollutheran.org/sermonnotes/November_18__20
12.pdf as well as
Dr. Petterson’s actual bio is here: http://www.covenantnaples.com/Pastors.