What happens when a Christian passes from life on Earth to life in eternity? Surely, this is a question each of us considers, at some time, regardless of age or other life circumstances. I think it seems obvious, though, that as you recognize it’s likely you’re closer to the end than the beginning, you begin to give this more thought. I can’t pinpoint the moment this began with me but, some time after I had this realization, I began to consider a related hope that I defined as My Welcoming Committee.
First, let me state clearly that the hope I have in My Welcoming Committee is not supported by Scripture. By the same token, there’s nothing in the Bible that teaches against it. So, I continue to cling to that hope as something that God, quite possibly, may have in mind, as a reward.
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” – Jeremiah 29:11
My Welcoming Committee is, simply, this: A gathering of those who arrived in Heaven before me, who played a role in pointing me to God’s gracious gift of salvation in Jesus Christ. Although I see them as being there for me, to greet me as I arrive, the reward that I see God having in mind with this is for them. Their reward, for the role they played in leading me to salvation, is that they get to usher me into the presence of Jesus, to introduce us face-to-face.
When I think of this, I first think of loved ones, beginning with family. In fact, the first time I thought of the possibility of My Welcoming Committee, the image that immediately came to mind was of a group of people with my Grandma Ray prominently at the front. Based on Scripture, I know that her heavenly appearance will be different from the way I remember her. Still, I picture her the way she looked as I was growing up – i.e. a somewhat petite, gray-haired lady who was always properly attired in the sort of dress ladies wore in the mid-20th century and of course, that was complimented by appropriately coordinated accessories. Though her appearance will be different than what I remember, there’s one thing all her grand kids clearly remember about Grandma Ray that I expect to be the same. Whenever she was excited about something, she would dance a jig. There’s no doubt in my mind that when she sees her baby’s baby arriving in Heaven and she recognizes that she gets to take me to meet Jesus, she’s going to dance her jig like we’ve never seen before.
“Then shall I know even as also I am known.” – 1 Corinthians 13:12b
I’ve confirmed that, on the first Sunday after I was brought home from being born in the hospital, my Mother and my Grandma Ray took me with them to the Second Avenue EUB Church. There, the foundation of my faith and my life was laid. And, there, at the age of 12, I received my salvation through accepting Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. In my teenage years, though, I began to lead a life that was only nominally Christian. In fact, I was focused on pursuing the things of this world. That led to my “hitting bottom” in my mid-40s. When that happened, I reached up and found that, though I had drifted, God had not moved. He picked me up and placed my life back on the firm foundation that my Grandma Ray was so determined to see established at my life’s outset.
“Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like:
He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock.
But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great.” – Luke 6: 47-49
Of course, taking me to the Second Avenue EUB wasn’t the only step Grandma Ray took that contributed to the forming of my faith. No doubt, a major contributing factor was the way she led her life. She was dedicated to her relationships with friends and family and she was fully committed to her roles in the home and in the community. But, it was abundantly clear that her life’s priority was her relationship with God. That continues to speak to me through the fact that, when I sing old hymns, like In The Sweet By and By, I still hear Grandma Ray’s voice next to mine.
Although Grandma Ray is prominently at the front of the group I imagine as My Welcoming Committee, she wasn’t alone in her efforts aimed at my coming to salvation. And, she won’t be alone in greeting my arrival in Heaven. The sweetness of that reunion will be added to by the presence of Grandpa Ray, Aunt Thelma, Uncle Bob, Cousin Ron, Uncle Frank, Uncle Willy, Uncle Joe and Cousin Pat.
In addition to family members, I have been blessed by many others in my life who I expect to see in My Welcoming Committee. When I consider these, I first think of a neighborhood lady named Laura Fasig. She was my Kindergarten Sunday School Teacher at the Second Avenue EUB. Now, over 60 years later, I still have a clear image in my mind of myself and Jackie Scofield, with other five-year-olds, gathered around the felt storyboard that Mrs. Fasig used to teach us about Jesus seeking out that “wee little man” named Zacchaeus. Mrs. Fasig was from my Grandma Ray’s generation and later I learned that she had been doing this sort of thing for many years. According to my Mother, she remembers that when she was a little girl, Mrs. Fasig would go throughout the neighborhood and in pied-piper-like fashion, she would gather up kids and lead them off to the Second Avenue EUB, to teach them Bible stories.
So, what, if anything, is to be learned from the idea of My Welcoming Committee? If you’re a non-believer, maybe you just think it’s whacky. If you are a believer, it may just seem quaint to you. In either case, I hope to get across a much more important message.
For the non-believer, I’d say that, regardless of whether or not you see yourself as being closer to the end of life than the beginning, face the fact that this life does end for us all. As Pastor Chuck Smith used to say, “The statistics on death are pretty impressive, 100 out of 100.” Then, consider those who you see as being good candidates for membership in Your Welcoming Committee and give them another serious listen.
If you are a follower of Jesus, ask yourself, “Whose welcoming committee will include me as a member?” An obvious place to start when considering this is with unsaved family members. If there are those in your family who don’t know Jesus as their Lord and Savior and they have no one serving in the role of a Grandma Ray, step up. And, don’t stop there. I was blessed to have both Grandma Ray and Laura Fasig in my life. But, not everyone gets blessed as I did. So, bear in mind that there are those outside your family who have neither a Grandma Ray nor a Laura Fasig in their lives. With these, seek how the Lord would use you to bless them. Finally, be convicted that, if you consider yourself a follower of Jesus, He expects you to do just that … follow, not just believe. As a reminder, the direction He tells us, His followers, to go, is this:
“Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” – Mark 16:15