Arise ... let your light shine for all the nations to see! For the glory of the LORD is shining upon you ... the glory of the LORD will shine over you. Look and see, for everyone is coming home! Your sons are coming from distant lands; your little daughters will be carried home. Your eyes will shine, and your hearts will thrill with joy. (Isaiah 60:1-5)
We celebrated the centennial homecoming at my alma mater, Abilene Christian University, this weekend. Thousands of people came in for class reunions, to visit with old friends, and to take part in this special celebration. Interestingly, the other two universities in town also had their homecomings this weekend. I can tell you, it was crowded in town and there was, as they say, "no room in the inn."
Seeing old friends, sharing distant memories, and reliving events that happened before I was born have been special. Even with the mayhem, the crowds, the confusing rush, and the very crowded schedule, the weekend was wonderful. Yes, there are frustrations that go with such an event — overcrowding, long lines at restaurants, not being able to see everyone I wanted to see — but that is looking at the glass as half empty. To have an excuse to get old friends to come together and to celebrate good things in our past is worth its weight in gold. To honor people of integrity, faith, and godliness is a holy privilege.
I believe that these earthly homecomings provide a glimpse for us of how great heaven will be. Isaiah 60:1-5 was a look at a future homecoming for God's people. All of the promised homecomings for God's people, no matter how great or wonderful, are anticipatory glimpses into our greater homecoming when time is no more. As special as these earthly homecomings may be, they are always lacking a vital blessing that our ultimate homecoming won't — people of faith who lived before us and have died and we cannot share these events with them.
Crowds won't matter, time won't be a concern, and long lines will be irrelevant at this great homecoming reunion that awaits us. Death, language, culture, and generational differences won't matter as all the things that separate us will melt away in the light of the Father's presence and in the glory of our Savior's face. The Spirit that has been at work to perfect us here on earth will have completed his work with our resurrected bodies and we will enjoy each other's presence with unstained holiness and grace.
True homecoming awaits. The relationship we have with the Savior now, and the relationships we have with each other, will be deepened and empowered to a whole new level of reality. Reunion with those who have gone before will occur as we share in the great feast of joy as people from east and west, north and south, gather at the table of Abraham and the great people of faith from long ago. Every tear will be dried from our eyes, pain and sickness will be banished, and we will share the songs of angels in the presence of our LORD ... forever.
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the call of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, all the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and remain with him forever. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)