In 1883, Charles Spurgeon was sitting on a bench in Menton, France, when a pale, emaciated woman sat down beside him.
“I am so afraid to die!” she said.
Spurgeon tried to cheer her up, saying, “Let me tell you what will probably happen to you; you will most likely go to bed some night, and you will wake up in Heaven.”
Not long after, the woman died in her sleep, just as Spurgeon predicted. Her husband wrote Spurgeon a letter thanking him for comforting his wife before her midnight passing.
“Heaven is a vast museum of wonders of grace and mercy.”
Many Victorians believed the entrance to hell was through Iceland’s famous Hekla volcano. But where was heaven?
Some assumed heaven was located “in the central star of our solar system, Alcyone, in the constellation of the Pleiades,” as Spurgeon reported. But the pastor had his doubts. He reminded his congregation, “What we do know, however, about heaven is that it is in the presence of God.”
“You will never have your heart in heaven till you have heaven in your heart.”
Here are seven reasons Spurgeon longed for heaven, and why you can long for heaven, too.
1. Jesus is there
“There cannot be heaven without Christ. He is the sum total of bliss; the fountain from which heaven flows, the element of which heaven is composed. Christ is heaven and heaven is Christ.”
“Oh, to think of heaven without Christ! It is the same thing as thinking of hell.”
2. Family and friends are there.
“I believe that heaven is a fellowship of the saints, and that we shall know one another there.”
“We should see so many there we did not expect to see.”
3. Christian heroes are there.
“I reckon on meeting David, whose psalms have so often cheered my soul. I long to meet with Martin Luther and Calvin, and to have the power of seeing such men as Whitefield and Wesley, and walking and talking with them in the golden streets.”
“Heaven has been the beloved theme of God’s sons and will be ’till time shall end.”
4. Perfect holiness is there.
“I must frankly confess that of all my expectations of heaven, I will cheerfully renounce ten thousand things if I can but know that I shall have perfect holiness. . . . If we shall have that, surely we shall have everything.”
5. Safety and security are there.
“The rougher the voyage the more the mariners long for port, and heaven becomes more and more ‘a desired haven,’ as our trials multiply.”
6. Rewards for faithfulness are there.
“There is a crown there which nobody’s head but yours can ever wear. There is a seat in which none but yourself can sit. There is a harp that will be silent till your fingers strike its strings. There is a robe, made for you, which no one else can wear.”
“Heaven at any price is well secured.”
“The head may be crowned with thorny troubles now, but it shall wear a starry crown ere long; thy hand may be filled with cares—it shall sweep the strings of the harp of heaven soon.”
7. Marriage is there.
“In heaven they marry not, but are as the angels of God; yet there is this one marvelous exception to the rule, for in heaven Christ and His Church shall celebrate their joyous nuptials.”
A Final Word
Charles Spurgeon passed away on January 31, 1892, in Menton, France. He was fifty-seven years old.
Like the dying woman Spurgeon comforted, the Prince of Preachers also slipped to sleep one night and opened his eyes in the presence of Christ.
For Spurgeon, the afterlife was not an afterthought. Heaven always occupied his mind.
From the apostolic era, Christians have lived in the hope of heaven. As each of us grows one day closer to that reality, may the Holy Spirit enable us to heed Spurgeon’s advice:
“As you come nearer heaven ought you not to be more heavenly?” (Source: The Spurgeon Center, www.spurgeon.org)
“Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Ps 103:2).
Since the passing of Jemima, I had been struggling between accepting God’s will to take His dear child home and questioning His plan for taking her away from us so suddenly and quickly. In fact, I had been struggling since the time she was diagnosed with cancer. It began on 2 March 2020 when she told me that the tumour was likely cancerous. When May Ann shared the news at the Ladies’ Fellowship meeting a few days later, there was not a dry eye in the room.
I don’t think I have ever prayed so hard. And as the prayers for God’s healing slowly turned to prayers for His grace and comfort, for His will to be done, I was tormented with even more anguish. When I heard Pastor say “palliative care”, my heart almost exploded with disbelief. I was angry at the doctors for giving up. But Pastor kept reminding us to keep praying and praising God. I especially remember him telling me on the phone to pray because Satan will attack us. Our all-knowing God knew the condition of my heart. And I chided myself, thinking how much more we needed to pray for Pastor!
I thank God for Pastor’s meditation every Friday prayer meeting, for it provided answers to the questions I had. The first was how being taken home was one way God could heal you. Because “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (Rev 21:4). How comforting it is to know that there is perfect healing for the one in pain, and we must thank God for that.
Pastor also kept reminding us to “bless the Lord … and forget not all His benefits” (from Ps 103). And as he recounted all the blessings that God had bestowed on him through Jemima, it brought back my own memories of her. Jemima was so good at organising – our church camps, Holy Land and Reformation pilgrimages, mission trips, visits to sister churches overseas, to name a few. She would recce the hotels before deciding which was the best, and always made sure the recreation programme was filled with interesting activities and tours. I recall her telling me that she planned short trips to nearby countries just to get Pastor out of his study for some much-needed rest. I used to tease her that she would make a first-class tour agent. The trips Deborah and I made with Jemima, to visit the church in Vancouver (with Rev Tow) way back in the mid-1990s, to the BCEA in Kenya and to the churches in Sydney and Brisbane (with Rev Jeffrey Khoo) were memorable. She planned everything. Our last trip together was to Batam in 2018, where Pastor preached at the church’s anniversary service. I thank God for that.
I also thank God I could see Jemima last November when she sat through some of the English language classes I had with the FEBC students during their end-of-year vacation, and I enjoyed catching up with her as we chatted in the kitchen. The last time I saw Jemima was when Deborah and I visited her at the hospital, the day before she was discharged. She was in good spirits and, although she had to speak slowly, she made us laugh with her usual wit and sense of humour. She knew she was going to her heavenly home, but she said we are all God’s children and if that was her Father’s wish, so be it. And she left us with Proverbs 17:22 – “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” What faith she had, and till the end she was ministering to others!
When Pastor, at another prayer meeting, explained from Isaiah 57:1 why God takes some home early and keeps others on earth longer, I thought about how Jemima had served God in so many ways. She didn’t just sit and plan. Whether it was the Far Eastern Kindergarten, which she was once principal of, the FEBC, Sunday School, or the children’s choir, Jemima was on the ground with her sleeves rolled up, taking care of the details and dealing with things that we don’t see. At FEBC night classes, she would be at the front desk helping with the registration. She was always organising activities for the students and taking them on tours around Singapore, tending to their medical and other needs. She sent stationery, children’s clothing and bags to mission stations in Cambodia, the Philippines and elsewhere. Every special anniversary, and even at the Ladies’ Fellowship meetings, she would be seen helping to lay the food out and would be the last to eat.
I enjoyed watching her tell Bible stories to the children, with her distinct lilt and crisp articulation of every word. And not forgetting the many times she played the piano and organ, at worship services, prayer meetings, FEBC graduations, weddings and church camps. She always encouraged Deborah to carry on singing, and presenting the praise item every third Sunday was non-negotiable. She loved music, and used it to teach about the Reformation and about church music through the ages. She was planning to tell the story of Fanny Crosby through her songs at the 2020 church camp, and in late February last year she sent me the script for my comments. She took in all my suggestions except my offer to be narrator. She insisted that I be part of the musician group. A few days later, she told me she had cancer. And then COVID-19 came upon us.
God took Jemima home so quickly. I still cannot believe I will not see her going upstairs with the children for their Sunday School classes, and then returning with her bag full of teaching material and sitting somewhere near the auditorium door. I will miss her “Hi Jood!” and seeing her sitting next to Pastor after service, or chatting with some mothers waiting for their children to finish choir practice. But I am finally comforted by what Pastor shared at last week’s prayer meeting from Revelation 4:6–11 and 22:1 – she is probably having a whale of a time up in Heaven!
“Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless His holy name.” (Ps 103:1).
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