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Rev. Hanko is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.

Revelation 21:4a

The redeemed child of God is pictured as coming out of the great tribulation and entering into heaven with tears running down his cheeks. God Himself takes him, as it were, in His arms and brushes away the tears — forever.

A vale of tears.

In the well-known shepherd-psalm David describes this life as “the valley of the shadow of death,” which we enter at birth and do not leave until we die.

A child enters this world crying. This is but the beginning of the many sorrows that encompass the life of the child of God during his earthly pilgrimage. “Many are the afflictions of the righteous” (Ps. 34:19).

We are conceived and born in sin, and sin characterizes our lives as long as we live. We enter the world as spiritual still-births, dead in trespasses and sins. And, although we are made new creatures by the Spirit with the life of Christ in our hearts, we are still by nature sinners who are incapable of any good and prone to all evil.

Though we are righteous in Christ, we still have but a small beginning of the new obedience. With the apostle Paul we cry out: “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good I find not. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:18, 24).

We also experience daily the consequences of the sin of all mankind. Ever since the fall of our first parents in paradise, God’s curse rests, not only on a fallen human race, but also upon all creation. Adam was king in paradise. When he fell, his kingdom fell with him. Among the animals, birds, and fish the one preys upon the other. We wrestle with thorns and thistles, weeds and destructive insects, various sorts of viruses and germs. We suffer from diseases, sickness and pain, the breaking down of this earthly house of our tabernacle, as well as the loss of family and friends.

Wickedness abounds, lawlessness is on the increase as the end approaches. Wars, killings, rape, stealing, drunkenness, and drug addictions pervade the world we live in.

Solomon, in the book of Ecclesiastes, declares, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.” The apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 8:22, 23: “We know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.”

Besides all that, there is the onslaught of Satan and his hosts, the enemy of God and of His cause upon the earth. He is cunning and deceptive, having years of experience in his duplicity and treachery. He goes about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour, but he also comes as an angel of light. He has a large host of demons who are at his service all over the world both by day and by night. Who knows but what we have a certain demon appointed to watch us, to spy out all our weaknesses, to attack at the moment when we are most vulnerable and least expect it. The devil and his cohorts prefer that we completely ignore them, as if they did not exist.

A demon may likely attack while we are in church, or while we are engaged in prayer. He may use members of our family, or even our closest friend, to tempt us and cause us to fall into his snare. He is most likely to whisper his deception in our hearts when we face some weighty problem or crisis. He knows the solution, which is always the wrong one.

We also live in “this present, evil world” (Gal. 1:4). This evil world is not found only in our large cities, in dance halls, on movies and television. It is present all around us, in our place of labor and wherever we turn. We are called to witness. But we also must be clothed with the armor of God, ready to stand in an evil day.

Jesus warns us: “In the world ye shall have tribulation.” A disciple is not greater than his Lord. As they have hated Him, they will hate us. We are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. False teachers are prevalent, false doctrines that appeal to the flesh are widely publicized. As the end approaches we can expect that this will only worsen. Scripture warns against false prophets that make merchandise of our souls. Jesus even warns us by asking: “When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” We begin to realize that already in our day.

Nor can we completely ignore the judgments of God that come upon the wicked in this present time, for we find ourselves in the midst of them. Jesus warns us that “nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places…. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another” (Matt. 24:7-10).

We do have the assurance that “many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth him out of them all” (Ps. 34:19). We are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last day (I Pet. 1:5). We learn to confess: “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes” (Ps. 119:71).

We can rest assured that this present vale of tears is the valley of the shadow of death. The light of the Sun of righteousness shines overhead, and at the end of the way appears the light of the eternal day. We have no fear, for our Shepherd is with us, His rod and His staff comfort us. Yet the fact remains that we leave this present life, which is nothing more than a continual death, with tears running down our cheeks.

God will wipe away all those tears.

“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 15:55-57).

As we approach the end of the valley of the shadow of death the light of the eternal day shines ever brighter, beckoning us on to Father’s house, where our mansion awaits us. We live unto the Lord and we die unto the Lord, for whether we live or die we are the Lord’s. Our hope grows into a greater longing and eagerness as the time of our departure draws near.

Christ is the resurrection and the life, he that believeth in Him, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whosoever liveth and believeth in Him will never die. Death is swallowed up in victory.

Our bodies are laid away in the grave, not only to return to the dust from which they were taken, but to await the return of Christ at the dawning of the eternal day.

I like to think that an angel accompanies our soul into heaven. When we enter, our first reaction likely will be: I might have known. We are still such fools and slow of heart to understand, but Scripture does tell us much about our future state. Besides, we already have peace with God in this life, and a joy unspeakable, full of glory — a foretaste of the eternal joy. This is especially true while we are in the divine worship service and while we pray.

One thing is certain, when we arrive in glory we will not feel out of place. It is true, and in this life I wonder about that, my parents will no longer be my parents, my wife will not be my wife, my children will not be my children. But that will not affect my blessedness. We will see and know each otherthrough the now invisible bond, the bond of love in Christ Jesus.

We will fit right in. Each of us will have his or her own place in the assembly of God. Scripture uses the figure of a temple, the habitation of the Lord, in which every stone has its own place. Scripture also employs the figure of a body. Every member of the body has its own place and its own purpose, each serving the other as a complete and perfect unity. Even the figure of the family is used; we are fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God. Each of us serves the other with our own gifts and talents, and together we serve unto the glory of our God.

What will fill us with boundless joy is the fact that we sin no more. Now every moment of our existence we fail miserably. For whether we eat or whether we drink, we must do it all to the glory of God; but every night we shamefacedly confess our sins, realizing that in this life sin mars every thought we think, every word we utter, every act we perform.

But heaven knows no sin. Our spirit is fully surrendered to God, so that with heart and mind and soul and strength we live solely and completely to the glory of God. Nor will there be any consequences of sin, as there are here on earth — no infirmity, no weakness, no pain. He who was blind sees perfectly, she who was deaf hears clearly, the lame walk, and the infirm are strong.

But most important of all, we will see the face of God in Christ Jesus. It is true that God is invisible. No man has seen or can see God. But in heaven He reveals Himself to us in all His perfections through our Lord Jesus Christ. We will stand in awe at His infinite glory, flooded with His dazzling beauty and blessedness.

When Moses saw the glory of God, only after God had passed by, his face glowed even after he returned to the people. But how far more glorious will be the revelation of God in eternity. His glory far exceeds the brightness of the sun at noontime.

There is no night there, no change, no end. Eternity means that everlastingly we shall continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ in our own creaturely measure. Even as there is no end to eternity, there is no end to beholding the beauty of the Lord, growing in the riches of His grace. For our infinite God is our Father in Christ Jesus; we are His family that lives in intimate covenant fellowship with Him forever. There the covenant of God with His people reaches its full realization, and God will be all in all!

It is the eternal wedding feast of the Lamb!