This week, two women dear to me crossed the river and entered the Celestial City. These were among those Great-hearts placed in my life as a new believer, a young wife and mother who needed much guidance. Elisabeth discipled me, along with many others, only through her books; Elsie, in space and time and daily life. Both of them were farther along the pilgrim’s way, Elsie by a few years, Elisabeth by a generation. Both were calling back to me and encouraging me as I set off on my way behind them, “Come on . . . you can do it . . . walk this way.” Though distance and years have intervened, my journey has been the better because of theirs.
Two families this week are grieving deeply, and my heart aches for the pain and loss they must endure. Death is an intruder seeking to steal and destroy. Staring it in the face at the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus was deeply moved, angered even. But death did not then, and does not now, have the last word. Those invited to the marriage supper of the lamb do not grieve as those who have no hope. In the worst of that all-too-familiar chest-ripping, can’t breathe, stomach-churning agony, we have a golden hope as an anchor. John Bunyan envisioned that hope thus:
. . . Then the heavenly host gave a great shout, saying, “Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb.” There came out also at this time to meet them, several of the King’s trumpeters, clothed in white and shining raiment, who, with melodious noises, and loud, made even the heavens to echo with their sound. These trumpeters saluted Christian and his fellow with ten thousand welcomes from the world; and this they did with shouting, and sound of trumpet.
This done, they compassed them round on every side; some went before, some behind, and some on the right hand, some on the left . . . continually sounding as they went, with melodious noise, in notes on high: so that the very sight was, to them that could behold it, as if heaven itself was come down to meet them. Thus, therefore, they walked on together; and as they walked, ever and anon these trumpeters, even with joyful sound, would, by mixing their music with looks and gestures, still signify to Christian and his brother, how welcome they were into their company, and with what gladness they came to meet them; and now were these two men, as it were, in heaven, before they came at it, being swallowed up with the sight of angels, and with hearing of their melodious notes. Here also they had the city itself in view, and they thought they heard all the bells therein to ring, to welcome them thereto. But above all, the warm and joyful thoughts that they had about their own dwelling there, with such company, and that for ever and ever. Oh, by what tongue or pen can their glorious joy be expressed! And thus they came up to the gate.
Now, when they were come up to the gate, there was written over it in letters of gold, “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.”
. . . Now I saw in my dream that these two men went in at the gate: and lo, as they entered, they were transfigured, and they had raiment put on that shone like gold. There was also that met them with harps and crowns, and gave them to them–the harps to praise withal, and the crowns in token of honour. Then I heard in my dream that all the bells in the city rang again for joy, and that it was said unto them, “ENTER YE INTO THE JOY OF YOUR LORD.” I also heard the men themselves, that they sang with a loud voice, saying, “BLESSING AND HONOUR, AND GLORY, AND POWER, BE UNTO HIM THAT SITTETH UPON THE THRONE, AND UNTO THE LAMB, FOR EVER AND EVER.”
Elsie and Elisabeth, you have entered into the joy of your Lord. Oh, by what tongue or pen can your glorious joy be expressed!