Earlier this weekend, while watching the McCain funeral service, one of the priests said "John was welcomed home" and my mind went immediately to the seen described in the Prodigal Son story. Most people even tangentially associated with church know the story. It's usually used to frame a personal testimony about having grown up in church, went out and did things and then coming back to the church.
But what if Jesus also meant this as a parable for our arrival in Heaven? God, ever watchful for our return, having withheld nothing from us as we journeyed through the world for our whole lives, waiting our full return to Him with expectation and confidence that we would 'come to ourselves' and return home. Not return to a church building. Not return to a way to behave. Not return to a conviction to stop this or that. But, to fully return to HIM. Return to His deity. Return to His sovereignty. Return freely and fully to His fatherhood.
As the priest spoke those words in the midst of that solemn occasion, I saw the joy of a child returning home, welcomed with new clothes as a sign of provision, with a ring as a sign of belonging and identity, and a generous feast showing abundance and full acceptance. All that was the son's before he left fully restored in the instant he came home by a loving Father waiting for the opportunity to show love.
Yes, I think that's how it will be 'in the sweet by and by.' Those who suffer through illness and loss will breathe in strength and warmth in Heaven. Those who have accepted the redemption of Christ will smell the feast, feel the robe and cherish the signet on their hand.
And yet, for all of that vision of passing over, there's nothing that cannot be received right now. What the young man received was his, just as what God has for us now, on this side of Heaven, is ours. Like the young man in the story, we can squander what we've been given, or we can receive it, and turn it back over to our Father for His guidance and counsel right now.
Ok. Fine. Then what about the son left behind? Are you saying that's Jesus being salty? No...Jesus is part of the Godhead, part of the Father, along with the Holy Spirit. The other son is the rest of us. And that is the affirmation to me that this is both a picture of Heaven and of the Kingdom of God right now.
Those of us who have accepted Christ can often lose sight of our own 'prodigal' story. We can judge those who are just coming back to the Father by where we are at that moment, forgetting that at some point and time, we were also covered in slop. We've been cleaned up so long, we've lost perspective what it was like to need restoration and the process we need to go through to understand the gift of the Father's love.
Wherever we are, a loving Father awaits. He is expecting each of us to 'come to ourselves' and return to Him, even if it takes every day that we're here on earth to get there. The robe is ready. The ring is set aside, polished and waiting. The provisions for the feast are assembled. Everything is in place, waiting for the guest of honor.
Won't you come?
Lifeline is produced from the Evangelistic Ministry of Fellowship Church in Jonesboro, GA.