Revelation 21:4: “‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

John’s jubilee towards the end of his book of Revelation is famous and source of comfort for the believers. Heaven is a good place. God’s presence, His overwhelming joy and peace and the absence of human sorrow and pain is something to look forward to.

Does this mean there is no pain left in heaven? What about God’s loss due to our free will? God is no dictator, and we can choose not to love Him. Rejecting Him reaps a world of pain and all parties suffer from it – both God and His estranged creatures; I’m assuming the parental pain He must feel somehow factors in, and I don’t think heaven can be oblivious to that. Don’t we share both His joy and pain, especially as we get closer to Him? I believe we do, and heaven would be one-dimensional if we had it any other way. There is more depth to our joy when we also embrace the undesirable feeling of sadness.

I am writing about this topic today because I have lost someone. The worst part of grief is thinking to be alone in this. That, quite frankly, is a lie. Even if (hypothetically speaking) nobody should be able to empathize with what you are going through, God certainly can. However, in more cases than not, people can usually relate. Nobody is exempt from grief; and when pain bears the fruit of empathy it will create community. If nothing ever makes sense in our sufferings, this always will: Your pain will equip you to be a good friend to someone in your life who is facing similar challenges. We are made for one another. God has created community so we get through life in one piece.

We are not alone – our tears will be wiped away. Source of all comfort is God who can relate to all of our sorrow. Here it is, plain and simple written in the skies: Money does not make us rich. Relationships do.

“Sometimes in our lives we all have pain
We all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there’s always tomorrow
Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need
Somebody to lean on”
Bill Withers

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17: “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.”

The Greek port city of Thessaloniki, also known as Thessalonica, Saloniki or Salonica, is presently the second-largest city in Greece with over 1 million people in its metropolitan area. In his letter to the Thessalonians, the apostle Paul talks about a red letter day in the future, the dawn of a new age when heaven and earth form a unit.

Generations of believers gone before us will lead the way, which is a great way of honoring them; the dead in Christ will rise first to meet the Lord in the air before the living generation catches up in the clouds to join the party. We will wake up to a new chapter in the history of mankind, actually, a new chapter in the history of the universe. The old order will end making way for the new order of a wonderful world to come, a world no longer dictated by death. It is the conclusion of all wars and the beginning of peace time with unrestrained access to the heart of Heaven, the Trinity.

The King of kings will be the center of the new world, a King unlike any leader we know. Jesus does not rule with an iron fist. His lifeblood was shed to stop violence for good. The Lord knows that violence only creates more violence. Back in the Garden of Gethsemane, when soldiers attacked Him and Peter drew his sword, Jesus said (Matthew 26:52):

“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.”

Even with the best of intentions, all our wars combined do not bring lasting peace – but Jesus does. The kingdom of God is a kingdom of peace.

This mental leap into the future paints a strangely beautiful picture and may feel a bit like utopia. However, we need to be reminded from time to time that “utopia” will come true one day, especially when things in the here and now look grim. The world we live in has an expiration date. Let’s not get eaten up by the status quo and raise our heads in hope. The future established by God is going to be forever, and forever is a very long time.

Psalm 56:4: “In God, whose word I praise— in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”

What can one creature of God do to another creature of God? Certainly a lot of good – or a lot of damage, but this is exactly where it ends: damage control is our mortality. God weighs in with promises no mortal can offer. The promise of eternal life opens the door to heaven. While heaven is great, the promise of God’s faithfulness is even greater. Without His faithfulness our chances to arrive in heaven would be slim to none.

Reading up on God’s history with mankind, we can appreciate the fact that He is not One to give up on us. God never leaves us nor forsakes us. Thanks to His faithfulness, the people of Israel reached the Promised Land after wandering in the desert for decades. It took many detours to arrive at their destination, but ultimately, they arrived – not because of their abilities but because of God’s many interventions, His willingness to forgive and start over, and His never-ending mercies. The apostle Paul wrote this encouraging note to his friend Timothy (2 Timothy 2:13):

“If we are faithless,
    he [God] remains faithful,
    for he cannot disown himself.”

We are prone to mess up – we could say that this is one of our defining features. One of God’s defining features is His faithfulness. He is powerful, passionate, creative, and He knows what He is doing; it is our end of the bargain not to lose faith in Him. We may not fully understand His ways, but we know that our current journey of faith will be much more rewarding if we continuously put our trust in Him.

Thomas Obediah Chisholm (1866-1960) who wrote the lyrics of the beloved hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness”, explained towards the end of his life:

“My income has not been large at any time due to impaired health in the earlier years which has followed me on until now. Although I must not fail to record here the unfailing faithfulness of a covenant-keeping God and that He has given me many wonderful displays of His providing care, for which I am filled with astonishing gratefulness.”

Walking with God, we will reach our destination; we have His promise, and He is known for keeping it.

“Great is Thy faithfulness
O God my Father
There is no shadow of turning with Thee
Thou changest not
Thy compassions they fail not
As Thou hast been
Thou forever will be”
Songwriters: Thomas Chisholm / W.M. Runyan

Psalm 103:17-18: “But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children— with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.”

The blessings God extends over creation speak of His love and righteousness. When God is with us, His love and righteousness is with us too. In the book of Psalms we read (Psalm 103:17):

“But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children”

Love and decency are the pillars of every community. In the absence of love and decency, no good life is possible and communities fall apart. God is the center of the universe. Under His umbrella we are brought together. Connected to Him, we are connected with the heart of creation. In Him, we are able to connect with others.

When God created heaven and earth, He created connection. All of creation is set up as community. We are interconnected and depend on one another. God made us and we mean something to Him. No life form moving and breathing is without meaning. God will always look after His creation. It’s deeply personal.

With the snake entering the scene, isolation began to interfere. The snake ripped community apart and God’s heart is bleeding over this. Isolation is as counterproductive to creation as it is destructive. The death of community always brings death to the individual. We are not meant to fend for ourselves.

Community is everything; and a presently disconnected world still needs healing. God wants to heal what is broken and rekindle a friendship that goes way back to the beginning of humankind; but we have to turn around to see Him. God is with those who remember Him.

Romans 12:15: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”

A young boy rose to the occasion. They were in the middle of the desert. It was a spontaneous gathering of people who had followed a certain teacher for a while. It was Jesus of Nazareth. Clearly, the crowd was fascinated with His teachings. They hung on every word that came out of His mouth. People could sense that Heaven was open.

Then the gathering came to a close, and here they were, in the middle of nowhere. No food, no water, nothing as far as the eye could see! A young boy got up and handed his lunch to Jesus – a few fish, some bread. His lunch was distributed to the crowd and something miraculous happened: Everybody got fed.

Just as Jesus multiplied the bread and fish a boy decided to donate, this is how joy multiplies when we share our happiness with one another. Here is what’s astonishing: we get more when we share. This might sound like a paradox, still it’s true.

Happiness is meant to be experienced together, and when we do, it multiplies. Sharing our time, our gifts, our affections, we will find that we suddenly have more time, more gifts to give and more love to share. Sharing our grief with others on the other hand, our pain is a little less hard to bear.

Be happy with those who are happy; be sad with those who are sad. We are better people when we share.

Acts 20:24: “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”

The Olympic flame first became a tradition of modern Olympic Games in 1928, when a flame was lit and remained burning at the entrance to the Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam. In 1936, the Berlin Games began with torchbearers running the flame into the Olympic Stadium. The relay of their torches had begun 12 days earlier with the flame ceremony in Olympia, Greece. As in any relay race, each runner carries the torch for only one short leg of its trip. As a runner completes a leg, he lights the torch of the next person in the relay, thus passing on the torch through the various countries participating in the Games.

Modern torch relay history has its roots in ancient Greece where the flame was kindled using a skaphia (a type of crucible). From Olympia, the flame was carried across Greece to Athens, and in a ceremony at the Panathenian Stadium, the flame was handed over to the host committee of the Games.

Torch relays suggest the light of spirit, knowledge and life is handed down from generation to generation, which is a beautiful metaphor for the children of God. While preaching the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus addressed believers as “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14-15):

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.”

Love is the bright light of God’s kingdom and everything Jesus stands for. He encourages His followers not to hide their light. Everybody who knows the Lord holds a torch and spreads light in the dark. I like to think that we pass on the torch to the next generation before we die. We will finish the race with success when we don’t give up on love.

John 3:17: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

In the drift sand of anarchy and lawlessness mankind has no chance of survival. I believe this is the reason why the law was given to mankind; it is basically our crutch to lean on. Still, the law does not bring us salvation.

Every day people pass judgment or are being judged; however, the only perfect judge of a situation or a human being is God. And although God is a fair judge, we do not benefit from His keen understanding of our infractions and shortcomings because His verdict for sin is death. Thankfully, the Lord is the first One to lament the finality of this judgment. That is why God sent His Son into the world – particularly not to judge the world – since judgment obviously initiates no happy ending – God sent His Son into the world to restore and save humanity.

God’s passion for us is an undying flame. His divine love declaration is written in the skies. God looks for the lost, and His call goes all around the world. Given all the effort He has invested, can you imagine His joy and relief when we answer His call and grab His hand?

Saving us is no easy business. It requires blood, sweat and tears, but feeling guilty about that would be against the Lord’s intentions. If we asked Jesus how He feels about us after all that He has been through on the cross, He would probably say, the last thing He wants for us is to feel guilty all the time. His gift comes with absolutely no strings attached. We make Him happiest when we accept His wonderful gift and never look back.