When I am apart from my children I often find myself wondering, “What are they doing at this very moment? Are they happy? Are they having fun? Do they feel safe? Do they miss me?” I think it’s typical for parents to worry or at least wonder about what their children are doing when they are apart from them. It’s irrational, but I often wonder what Will is doing. I know he is safe and loved and secure in heaven with Christ, but what is he DOING? As far as I know, the Bible doesn’t give too many specific details about heaven and personally I think it’s because if God revealed too much about heaven then none of use could be happy here on Earth. If we really knew what was coming, if we really had the urgency and expectancy we should, then how could we be satisfied or happy with this world? I have spent some time trying to find everything the Bible says about heaven, just trying to get an idea of what Will might be doing. I just want to know. I want to be able to imagine him doing something that actually happens in heaven. I am no Bible scholar (far, far from it) and definitely not a theologian of any kind, but here is what I have learned about heaven and what Will might be doing there.
1. He is with Jesus. When Jesus was dying on the cross He was crucified between two criminals. In Luke 23 one of the criminals asks Jesus if He will remember him when he gets to heaven. Jesus replies, ““Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Paul also talks of death ushering Christians into the presence of Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:6-9 and Philippians 1:23-24). There are many cases where the word “sleep” is used to describe death in the Bible, which I believe refers to the way the body looks and acts, but no to the state of the body. I know that Christians disagree about when you go to heaven, whether it’s immediately after you die or during the second coming with all the saints. Ultimately, I think it’s a second hand issue but in either scenario, whether we go into a sleep until Christ returns or if we go straight to be with him the moment we stop breathing here on Earth, we are with Jesus no matter what. I believe that just like that criminal on the cross next to Christ, we will be with Jesus immediately after we die. For even more clarity, here’s what John Piper says about this subject:
So, my conclusion is that Christians have a double encouragement for those who are dying or have died. For the believer who trusts in Jesus Christ, Christ’s blood and righteousness have removed the condemnation for every believer and secured for us both final resurrection of the body in a new heaven and a new earth, and now, after death, an intimate, sweet experience of being in Christ’s presence between death and resurrection. It is a blessed hope in both ways. We are safe. We are safe in him now, we will be safe in his presence at the moment of death, and we will be supremely happy in a new and healthy body forever and ever in the new heavens and the new earth.
2. He is living in a perfect body. Philippians 3:21 says that in heaven Jesus “will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body.” When Will was here on Earth his body was sick and broken. He had a weak heart. His kidneys did not work. His liver, spleen and other organs didn’t function properly as they should. His lungs needed help to breath. Not in heaven. In heaven his body is healed. He is no longer sick. There is nowhere in the Bible that I know of that gives us a description of what we will look like in heaven, but I think the transfiguration gives us a hint. In Luke 9:28-36 Jesus takes Peter, James and John to the top of a mountain to pray. Luke 9:29 says, “And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white.” Moses and Elijah were also there, also transformed into something glorious. I think this means two things - one, our bodies will be perfect and two, we will be recognizable. Although different, Peter, James and John still recognized Moses and Elijah. I know some people believe that we will not recognize people from Earth once we are in heaven but based on this text, I believe we will. I believe that when I get to heaven I will immediately know my little boy even though he might not look like he did on Earth, I will see him in his perfect, eternal, glorious body.
3. He is singing. There are multiple places in the Bible that refers to all of heaven and Earth singing praises to God. Will is praising God, singing to Him, with the community of saints in heaven. This truth is really special to me because it’s something that we can take part in here on Earth. When I am singing in church or worshiping God with any type of song, I often picture myself singing alongside Will. I imagine him singing and it feels like something I can do “with him” here on Earth and also one day when we are together in heaven.
4. He is happy and free of pain. Revelation 21:4 says, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Seeing Will sick and in the hospital was devastating. He would sometimes cry when he was uncomfortable or something was hurting him. It broke my heart to see him upset and most of the time I could do nothing to help him. I couldn’t pick him up or rock him or nurse him, he was just sad and inconsolable at times. Not in heaven. He will never be sad again and I also take that to mean he is filled with joy always.
5. He is inspiring those of us still on Earth. This one is kind of complicated and I’m still not sure I fully understand it theologically, so bear with me. Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” The Hebrew word used here is martureo which refers to giving a testimony. I think it’s saying that those who have gone before us, those in the “hall of faith” listed out in Hebrews 11 as well as those we have known on Earth, are witnessing to us through their lives. I am a runner so this whole analogy in Hebrews 12 about running the race set before us really works for me. I ran high school track and cross country at a competitive school with a lot of fast girls. I picture it as if I went back and cheered for the girls running now, the ones in the middle of their high school careers. I would be witnessing to them that I finished strong and so can they, cheering them on to keep going and encouraging them to reach the finish line just as I did. I picture “the great cloud of witnesses” like this, just on an infinitely larger scale. Will’s life is a testimony to all of us here on Earth that by faith in Christ we can finish too. His life encourages mine to hope in eternity, where there is no sin, no sadness and no pain. His life inspires mine to make a difference while I am still here on Earth because what we do here has an eternal impact.
6. He is free. John 8:36 says, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” In Heaven we will do everything we want to do and all those things will lead to greater joy. We will worship God together with all of the the saints, completely free of all worry, pain and sickness. I often feel like I lost Will because he is not here with me, but when I think of all that he has gained, that is where I can find peace and comfort and hope. He is not missing out on anything here on Earth, instead he is fully enjoying the presence and perfect love of Christ in a way that I cannot even begin imagine. He is free indeed.
Our mission is to glorify God by supporting children undergoing life-saving heart treatment and creating a caring community for their families in honor of our son, Will.
My name is Courtney Hughes and I am Will's mommy. I am happy that you are here to read Will's story and make a difference with us!