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Final Restoration of Unity



DECEMBER 29, 2018


Did it happen to you earlier this month? Did the morning of December 3 change your life? That day changed me. As the day wore on, I experienced a taste of heaven, a glimpse into eternity. Although the weeks have marched on it continues to impact me. It did not involve a vision or bright lights or even a near death experience. No graves opened. The resplendent palaces of the nations did not dissolve in a cataclysmic earthquake. I didn’t even get to slide down the neck of a giraffe which has been one of my childhood dreams of doing in heaven. Wolves continued to desire leg of lamb, and snakes still had all of their venomous capabilities. Globally, time did not register the experience. Even in the church world it didn’t involve any sweet communion and fellowship, the war of words between various groups continued unabated. No, it was something much more visceral and personal. In fact, for lack of a better word, it was strange.

December 3, 2018, marked 24 years after the exact day my wife and I lost our first two children in a car accident while returning home from a speaking engagement on a Sabbath. 24 years. As my wife and I awoke we held each other. Then the experience of heaven began.

You may find the words that follow to be quite crazy. That would not surprise me and it has been said before. I have tried to capture our journey in our book, Undeniable: An Epic Journey Through Pain, and help people enter into the pain of loss. Yet our story also invites people into the reconciliation of life. As my wife and I held each other remembering back through those 24 years something other worldly happened. We began to realize a part of heaven that we often don’t think about. It’s the messy part that can only be appreciated and experienced in the light of grace.

This is the last study for the topic of unity this quarter. Through these last 12 weeks we have looked at the subject from multiple angles and this final week brings us to the culmination of where each of us can imagine transitioning from this world to the eternal. This week we will study the incredible promises of resurrection. The death defying, even termination of its sting because of the victory of Jesus Christ over death and sin. Hallelujah! The promises of eternity in heaven with loved ones and no more tears, a new heaven and a new earth. These are the pictures that have buoyed the hopes of God’s people throughout time. What a glorious study. I pray that you will be deeply blessed.

Yet, those were not the part of heaven that I experienced a few weeks ago. The piece of heaven that I experienced was the confusion of grace. The mysterious balancing of God‘s power that can turn the most horrendous realities into good. Let me explain from my own experience and then apply it in a few ways for you, potentially. I hope that before this year ends and this quarter passes into our limited memories of things that we have studied that you will ponder these words and reflect on them.

As my wife and I entered that day that marked 24 years from the death of our children we were in a strange place. On the one hand, of course, grief and loss have their deep scars and reality in our lives yet at the exact same time we realized that God had done tremendous things through it all. We now have four living children who would not have been ours had it not been for the loss of Caleb and Abigail. Each of their lives have brought us so much joy and we have seen God working in miraculous ways to such an extent that our hearts literally overflow with praise for each of them as a gift from God. Our marriage has been transformed through the chasm of pain to a place that we could hardly even imagine it getting any better (yet, it continues to)! As we reflected on the nightmarish darkness that we experienced we realized the glorious light of God‘s grace shining through all of it. We experienced sadness and yet it was quickly overcome by gratitude and praise. And beyond that, the realization that our first two children had lost nothing but sin and pain. We went through that day in a sort of fog. It was a day of reverent worship and praise. Yes, we honored the lives of our two children, we celebrated the memories, and yet we rejoiced in the life that God has brought from their deaths. That is a slice of heaven.

Heaven will be the ongoing reconciliation of the collision of God’s grace into our world of pain and sin. A place where people experience unity in the midst of their varied and dark pasts and their transformed futures.

Imagine just a few of these mind bending collisions. Seth meeting Abel and realizing that if it weren’t for Abel’s death Seth may not have been born. Or, to jump to an obvious and very warped reality, consider David and Bathsheba introducing Solomon to Uriah! The word awkward does not even come close to that situation. Or what about Stephen recognizing Saul and being told that he has a new name now. Imagine Stephen trying to purge his memory of Saul’s intense satisfaction watching the rocks hitting their mark, breaking the bones of Stephen’s face before he blacked out.  Can you see Stephen squinting with his glorified eyes trying to trace the marks of grace on Paul’s face? Do you see the strangeness of heaven?

It’s easy when we study the lesson to keep it in the realm of theology and to think that everything will be new and different one day. Like God will simply flip the heavenly switch and the light will shine forever more. Sure that is part of it in the physical realm, yet we are quite mistaken if we fail to realize that the need for grace will continue when we leave this place. Heaven will be a ceaseless approaching to God through Christ and that means a continuous process of being drawn closer and closer to each other as well! These are just a few biblical examples that should help us realize that the need for grace, forgiveness, and the never-ending seeking of unity will continue into eternity.

The problem is, sometimes we allow the Bible stories to be stripped of their emotional impact. So, let’s bring it a little bit closer to home. Imagine the woman being re-introduced to her father who violated her for years and then later in his life came to know Christ. Do you think there will be a need for ongoing grace and a process of seeking unity only through the power of God and His forgiveness? Or will it be like a light switch and love will just naturally happen? Only by the grace of God, but that grace is not magic! I think that when the Bible says the tree of life has fruit and leaves that are new every month for the healing of the nations that it is describing the honest reality of an ongoing process of healing and growth.

Heaven will be a real place, a place where grace continues to collide with the redeemed brokenness of humanity and human relationships. Although our bodies and physical scars will be transformed, our characters and experiences that have made us who we are will continue on into eternity. That means that the seeking of unity will continue as we are constantly being confronted by and immersed in the grace of God. It will be a never-ending cycle of surrender, forgiveness, praise and reconciliation.

Before we leave this quarter let’s bring it just a little bit closer. What about unity in our hearts now? If heaven will not be just a light switch of a change but an ongoing process of grace transforming us, then what about now? What do we need to be allowing God to do in our hearts right now? Are you struggling in your own life with anyone who you can see and interact with? Is there someone who you avoid because you don’t want to deal with them? Are you holding pain that is so deep in your life that you cannot even imagine reconciliation? Are you holding certain theological views that are straining your relationships with other living people? Is your desire to be right destroying some of your actual relationships with others who have been redeemed by our Lord Jesus Christ? If so, please don’t allow this year to end before you surrender that to God and let heaven begin here for you too.

~ Bryan Gallant