A few years ago, and for a few years in a row, it seemed like the song, “I Can Only Imagine” played at nearly every funeral I officiated. It is a good song, but I think a slight change of wording might be in order and would certainly make it more biblical. Instead of, “I can only imagine,” I suggest, “I can’t even imagine.” “I can’t even imagine what it will be like when I walk by your side. I can’t even imagine what my eyes will see when your face is before me. I can’t even imagine.”
St. Paul wrote: “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, and human mind has not imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” Jesus said to Nicodemus, “If you don’t believe when I talk to you about things on earth, how can you possibly believe if I talk to you about things in heaven?” St. John wrote, “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known.”
We have heard only a little – and comprehended even less – of the wild, wonderful, beautiful things in heaven. There are angels and cherubim and seraphim – and, if the books of Daniel, Ezekiel, and Revelation give us any light on the subject – creatures that would set our hair on end.
And then there is the music. What might it be to hear the morning stars singing together? What glory, what rapture must there be at the sound of angels singing, joined by God’s holy people, and even inanimate creation bursting into praise? Tears of joy must be streaming down J.S. Bach’s face
Forget the haloed saint reclining on a cloud, playing some mournful harp. The music in heaven will delight and renew us because its rhythm is the one that resonates in our hearts and brains—and in every molecule of creation. Our hearts beat to it already, but on the day we join Christ, something more will happen. It can’t really be put into words, but it is what John Donne had in mind when he wrote, “Since I am coming to that holy room where, with Thy choir of saints forevermore, I shall be made Thy music.” We will get in. We will be united with that thing we have always loved.
But all the rapturing, beautiful, soul-transporting music of heaven will hush and become a background harmony at the ravishing sound of his voice. To hear the voice that sets angels trembling with delight, that spoke worlds into being, the voice that said, “Let there be light”; and there was light; to hear that voice say, “Well done, faithful servant. Enter into the joy of the Lord,” will be nothing short of new creation.
We haven’t seen anything yet, but we will see something soon. By the mercy of God and only by the grace of Christ, we shall see friends shining like the sun in the kingdom of our Father. We will see the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. We will see thousands and thousands of angels in joyful assembly. It will be enough to take our breath away.
Then we will see the Face that will make us new. One look, and we will be transformed with a weight of glory far beyond all comparison. In that moment we will know why we were made, why all things were made, and we will know that the making was good—was very good. Then there will be no more mourning, of crying, pain and the One seated on the throne will say with unbridled joy: “Behold, I make all things new.”