Encouragement and Scripture for Dying Friends

They were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:16)

Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling …As long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. . . . We would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord” —Paul (2 Corinthians 5:2, 6, 8)

But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. –Peter (2 Peter 3:13, NASB)

The promises are the Christian’s Magna Carta of liberty; they are the title deeds of his heavenly estate. Happy is he who knows how to read them well and call them all his own. -Charles Spurgeon

Christian, meditate much on heaven, it will help thee to press on, and to forget the toil of the way. This vale of tears is but the pathway to the better country: this world of woe is but the stepping-stone to a world of bliss. And, after death, what cometh? What wonder-world will open upon our astonished sight?[i]  —Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening

A man on his deathbed turned to his physician and mumbled, “What is Heaven like, Doctor?” How could the physician describe Heaven in such brief moments? As his mind searched for an answer for his friend, the doctor heard his dog scratching at the door. “Can you hear my dog scratching at your door?” inquired the physician. The sick man assured him that he could. “Well,” the doctor said, “Heaven must be like that. My dog does not know what is in this room. He only knows he wants to be with me. So it is with Heaven! Our Master is there. That is all we need to know!”[ii] —James Jeremiah, The Place Called Heaven

To speak of “imagining heaven” does not imply or entail that heaven is a fictional notion, constructed by deliberately disregarding the harsher realities of the everyday world. It is to affirm the critical role of the God-given human capacity to construct and enter into mental pictures of divine reality, which are mediated through Scripture and the subsequent tradition of reflection and development. We are able to inhabit the mental images we create, and thence anticipate the delight of finally entering the greater reality to which they correspond.[iii] —Alister McGrath, A Brief History of Heaven

One of the most disconcerting experiences which can come our way is to make a long journey, perhaps even to the other side of the world, and to discover on arrival that we have not been expected. The hotel reservation has not been made, or, even more devastating, the friendly home is all locked up and the warm welcome we have anticipated over the miles is not awaiting us, due to a mix-up of dates or the loss of a letter or e-mail. Heaven, however, is guaranteed not to disappoint…We are expected.[iv] —Bruce Milne, The Message of Heaven & Hell

One day when George MacDonald, the great Scottish preacher and writer, was talking with his son, the conversation turned to heaven and the prophet's version of the end of all things.  “It seems too good to be true,” the son said at one point.  A smile crossed MacDonald's whiskered face.  “Nay, “ he replied, “it is just so good it must be true.”[v] —Larry Dixon, Heaven: Thinking Now About Forever

The man who is about to sail for Australia or New Zealand as a settler, is naturally anxious to know something about his future home, its climate, its employments, its inhabitants, its ways, its customs. All these are subjects of deep interest to him. You are leaving the land of your nativity, you are going to spend the rest of your life in a new hemisphere. It would be strange indeed if you did not desire information about your new abode. Now surely, if we hope to dwell forever in that “better country, even a heavenly one,” we ought to seek all the knowledge we can get about it. Before we go to our eternal home we should try to become acquainted with it.[vi] —J. C. Ryle, Heaven

When Christ calls me Home I shall go with the gladness of a boy bounding away from school. —Adoniram Judson, on his deathbed

When you speak of heaven, let your face light up. When you speak of hell, well, then your everyday face will do.[vii] —Charles Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students

The seventeenth-century philosopher, mathematician, and theologian Blaise Pascal gave a reason for this missing. Do you miss, he asked, something you’ve never had? Do you grieve the absence of a third leg, or the loss of a second pair of eyes? No. We ache only when something we once knew, held, tasted, goes missing. We sorrow over the eyes or legs or arms we once had and then lost, not over those we have never had. So why is it that our heart feels this harrowing absence, this desolate sense of loss? What are we missing?[viii] —Mark Buchanan, Things Unseen

Homesickness—this perpetual experience of missing something—usually gets misdiagnosed and so wrongly treated.… All our lives we take hold of the wrong thing, go to the wrong place, eat the wrong food. We drink too much, sleep too much, work too long, take too many vacations or too few—all in the faint hope that this will finally satisfy us and so silence the hunger within.
   …Here is the surprise: God made us this way. He made us to yearn—to always be hungry for something we can’t get, to always be missing something we can’t find, to always be disappointed with what we receive, to always have an insatiable emptiness that no thing can fill and an untamable restlessness that no discovery can still. Yearning itself is healthy—a kind of compass inside us, pointing to True North.
   It’s not the wanting that corrupts us. What corrupts us is the wanting that’s misplaced, set on the wrong thing. If we don’t understand that—if we don’t understand that God has set eternity in our hearts to make us heavenly-minded, we skew or subvert the yearning and scatter it in a thousand wrong directions.
   But the cure for our yearning and our restlessness is not to keep getting more.… The cure is to yearn for the right thing, the Unseen Things.
   …We are metaphysically handicapped. This is not so much a design flaw as a designed flaw, a glitch wired into the system, a planned obsolescence.
   …This shaking, unslaked desire in me is a divining rod for streams of Living Water.… He put in me, in you, a homing device for heaven. We just won’t settle for anything less.[ix]  —Mark Buchanan, Things Unseen

You want to go home. The instinct for heaven is just that: homesickness, ancient as night, urgent as daybreak. All your longings—for the place you grew up, for the taste of raspberry tarts that your mother once pulled hot from the oven, for that bend in the river where your father took you fishing as a child, where the water was dark and swirling and the caddis flies hovered in the deep shade—all these longings are a homesickness, a wanting in full what all these things only hint at, only prick you with. These are the things seen that conjure in our emotions the Things Unseen.[x] —Mark Buchanan, Things Unseen

Like Adam, we have all lost Paradise; and yet we carry Paradise around inside of us in the form of a longing for, almost a memory of, a blessedness that is no more, or the dream of blessedness that may someday be again.[xi]  —Frederick Buechner, The Magnificent Defeat

A real, almost palpable, yearning attends me.…my yearnings whisper, “There should be more.” I sense that I was meant to be more…better, that I was meant to live in a world of beauty, justice, and love; that I have a capacity to love and be loved that even my deepest loves and friendships can’t satisfy. I struggle to find ways to express it. All I know is that it feels like homesickness.[xii] —Jean Fleming, The Homesick Heart

The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing…to find the place where all the beauty came from…my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing, all the longing? The longing for home.[xiii] —C.S. Lewis, Psyche, in Till We Have Faces

The human heart holds a secret. If we could read the language of our heart—an undeciphered hieroglyph etched in the deepest part of our being—we would find an implanted assurance of other realms.[xiv]   —Jean Fleming, The Homesick Heart

For God does not create a longing or a hope without having a fulfilling reality ready for them. But our longing is our pledge, and blessed are the homesick, for they shall come home.[xv] —Isak Dinesen, Babette’s Feast and Other Anecdotes of Destiny

Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others to do the same.[xvi]  —C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

For the power Thou hast given me to lay hold of things unseen: For the strong sense I have that this is not my home: For my restless heart which nothing finite can satisfy: I give Thee thanks, O God.[xvii] —John Baillie, A Diary of Private Prayer

Most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise. …There was something we grasped at, in that first moment of longing, which just fades away in the reality.[xviii] —C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

God will see to it that the man who finds God in his earthly happiness and thanks him for it does not lack reminder that earthly things are transient, that it is good for him to attune his heart to what is eternal, and that sooner or later there will be times when he can say in all sincerity, “I wish I were home.”[xix] —Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters & Papers from Prison

Can you hear the sighing in the wind? Can you feel the heavy silence in the mountains? Can you sense the restless longing in the sea? Can you see it in the woeful eyes of an animal? Something’s coming . . . something better.[xx] —Joni Eareckson Tada, Heaven: Your Real Home

What can this incessant craving, and this impotence of attainment mean, unless there was once a happiness belonging to man, of which only the faintest traces remain, in that void which he attempts to fill with everything within his reach?[xxi]  —Blaise Pascal, Pensées

The settled happiness and security which we all desire, God withholds from us by the very nature of the world: but joy, pleasure, and merriment He has scattered broadcast. We are never safe, but we have plenty of fun, and some ecstasy. It is not hard to see why. The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and oppose an obstacle to our return to God: a few moments of happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting with our friends, a bathe or a football match, have no such tendency. Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.[xxii] —C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

The Christian optimism is based on the fact that we do NOT fit in to the world. I had tried to be happy by telling myself that man is an animal, like any other which sought its meat from God. But now I really was happy, for I had learnt that man is a monstrosity. I had been right in feeling all things as odd, for I myself was at once worse and better than all things. The optimist’s pleasure was prosaic, for it dwelt on the naturalness of everything; the Christian pleasure was poetic, for it dwelt on the unnaturalness of everything in the light of the supernatural. The modern philosopher had told me again and again that I was in the right place, and I had still felt depressed even in acquiescence. But I had heard that I was in the WRONG place, and my soul sang for joy, like a bird in spring. The knowledge found out and illuminated forgotten chambers in the dark house of infancy. I knew now why grass had always seemed to me as queer as the green beard of a giant, and why I could feel homesick at home.[xxiii]  —G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

Let us greet the day which assigns each of us to his own home, which snatches us from this place and sets us free from the snares of the world, and restores us to paradise and the kingdom. Anyone who has been in foreign lands longs to return to his own native land. . . . We regard paradise as our native land.[xxiv] —Cyprian, Mortality

To come to Thee is to come home from exile, to come to land out of the raging storm, to come to rest after long labour, to come to the goal of my desires and the summit of my wishes.[xxv]  —Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening

For if we take the imagery of Scripture seriously, if we believe that God will one day give us the Morning Star and cause us to put on the splendour of the sun, then we may surmise that both the ancient myths and the modern poetry, so false as history, may be very near the truth as prophecy. At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendours we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in.[xxvi] —C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

All of us are homesick for Eden.
We yearn to return to a land we’ve never known.
Deep is the need to go back to the garden,
A burning so strong, for a place we belong,
A place that we know is home. [xxvii]   —Paul Smith, quoted in Homesick for Eden

Here thou hast no abiding city; and wherever thou shalt be, thou art a stranger and a pilgrim; nor wilt thou ever have rest except thou be united with Christ. [xxviii] —Thomas Á Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

I may not long for death, but I surely long for heaven.[xxix] —Joseph Bayly, A Voice in the Wilderness

The youthful build their hopes upon the mists of dawn. The healthy launch their optimistic conquests under the fleeting smile of a noonday sun. Those who succeed enjoy the fickle favors of fortune for a while. But after youth has flown, health is gone, and earthly aspirations recede before the advancing shadows of senility and death, then, turning from the wreckage of our shattered dreams, we scan the farther banks of Jordan and long for home. [xxx] —E.X. Heatherley, Our Heavenly Home

The door on which we have been knocking all our lives will open at last.…Apparently, then, our lifelong nostalgia, our longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we now feel cut off, to be on the inside of some door which we have always seen from the outside, is no mere neurotic fancy, but the truest index of our real situation. And to be at last summoned inside would be both glory and honour beyond all our merits and also the healing of that old ache.[xxxi] —C.S. Lewis, Weight of Glory

[i] Charles Spurgeon, Morning & Evening Daily Readings (Christian Focus Publications, 1994).

[ii] James T. Jeremiah, The Place Called Heaven (Schaumburg, IL: Regular Baptist Press, 1991), 21.

[iii] Alister E. McGrath, A Brief History of Heaven (UK: Blackwell Publishing, 2003), 5.

[iv] Bruce Milne, The Message of Heaven & Hell (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 275.

[v] Larry Dixon, Heaven: Thinking Now About Forever (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, Inc., 2002), 65.

[vi] J. C. Ryle, Heaven (Ross-shire, Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 2000), 21-23.

[vii] Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students

[viii] Mark Buchanan, Things Unseen (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 2002), 43.

[ix] Mark Buchanan, Things Unseen (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 2002), 49-53.

[x] Mark Buchanan, Things Unseen (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 2002), 30.

[xi] Frederick Buechner, The Magnificent Defeat (New York: Seabury Press, 1966), 1.

[xii] Jean Fleming, The Homesick Heart (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1995), 17-18.

[xiii] C. S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1956), 74-76.

[xiv] Jean Fleming, The Homesick Heart (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1995), 24.

[xv] Isak Dinesen, Babette’s Feast and Other Anecdotes of Destiny, The Diver (New York: Random House, 1986), 53.

[xvi] Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan, 1960), 120.

[xvii] John Baillie, A Diary of Private Prayer (NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons), 53.

[xviii] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan, 1960), 119.

[xix] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Trans. Fuller and Clark, Letters & Papers from Prison (NY: Touchstone, 1971), 169.

[xx] Joni Eareckson Tada, Heaven: Your Real Home (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1997), 68.

[xxi] Blaise Pascal, Pensées, para. 398, 425, quoted in John Eldredge, The Journey of Desire: Searching for the Life We’ve Only Dreamed Of (Nashville: Nelson, 2000), 12–13.

[xxii] C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: Macmillan, 1962), 115.

[xxiii] G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (Chicago: Thomas More Association, 1985), 99–100.

[xxiv] Cyprian, Mortality, chap. 26.

[xxv] Charles H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, April 25, morning reading.

[xxvi] C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory (New York: HarperCollins, 2001), 37.

[xxvii] quoted in Gary Moon, Homesick for Eden: A Soul’s Journey to Joy (Ann Arbor, MI: Servant Publications, 1997), 39.

[xxviii] quoted in Gary Moon, Homesick for Eden: A Soul’s Journey to Joy (Ann Arbor, MI: Servant Publications, 1997), 10.

[xxix] Joseph Bayly, A Voice in the Wilderness, The Best of Joseph Bayly (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), 256.

[xxx] E. X. Heatherley, Our Heavenly Home (Austin, Texas: Balcony Publishing, Inc., 2000), 13.

[xxxi] C.S. Lewis, Weight of Glory (New York: HarperCollins, 2001), 41-42.

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Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries