Bridging the Gulf
Shall we stop at the poor line, the grave, which all our Christianity is always trying to wipe out and make nothing of, and which we always insist on widening into a great gulf? Shall we not stretch our thought beyond and feel the lifeblood of this holy church, this holy body of Christ, pulsing out into the saints who are living there and coming back throbbing with tidings of their glorious and sympathetic life?1
The quote above is from Right Reverend Phillips Brooks. He went to Heaven when he was fifty-eight years old in the 1800s. He was a great preacher, and it’s said of him that his sermons radically influenced Harvard University. He was an Episcopal bishop, and he wrote the lyrics to “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”
All the way back in the 1800s, Rt Rev. Brooks wrote about the church’s misconception and mishandling of Heaven. He said Christians are always stopping at the grave and trying to widen the gulf between this life and the next. While the truth of Scripture is always trying to make the gulf between this life and the next smaller, we’re always trying to widen it. Have we as Christians unknowingly put the sting back into death? Have we rolled the stone back over Jesus’ empty tomb? Does our view of eternal life exclude the Bible’s clearly defined concepts of eternal living?
Rt Rev. Brooks wrote that what we should be doing is stretching our thoughts and looking over at the other side of the gulf to see what’s going on with the saints in Heaven and then bringing that back and talking about it here on earth. How can we effectively do that if our sights aren’t on Heaven and if we don’t know what it is or what we’ll be doing? The simple answer is, we can’t.
Our minds need to be stretched to the other side. I coined a term to illustrate the need to break out of the box and allow God to maximize our view of Heaven: “sanctified imagination within the confines of biblical truth.” Beloved, we need to realize all that God has for us in Heaven. We need to let ourselves be joyful about our future home and the home where our Christian loved ones are right now.
We must learn and talk about Heaven—in the midst of good times and bad. The Curse and suffering are not the final word. Death doesn’t have the final authority. This isn’t the closing act right here on earth. There’s much more to come—infinitely and eternally more!
We need to get this right. We must get it right for ourselves, for our own comfort. We must get it right for other people, because they need to hear about the hope of Heaven.