As many of you already know, my brother, Doug, and I had a rather sad week-end as we said good-bye to our youngest brother, Ken. Several weeks ago, Ken suffered a cardiac event coupled with several other health issues that made it impossible for him to continue to live on his own as he has done for many years.
We thought that Ken was on the mend, but the doctors advised us that his health issues, upon completion of more testing, had a very poor prognosis and that we should prepare ourselves for a tough several months ahead. We started to look at rehab facilities that could attend to Ken’s specific needs over the course of his health decline but last Friday evening he took a turn for the worse.
Saturday morning I was off to visit Ken and discuss next steps with Doug. Without going into unnecessary detail, it became evident that, while Ken was comfortable, this wasn’t going to have a good outcome and it was best to discontinue the artificial measures that were being used to keep him alive. As we tried to make Ken as comfortable as possible, the doctors did all they could do to minimize his suffering and I felt one of the strongest urges to pray that I have ever had.
Doug, Ken and I are all that are left in our nuclear family. Our grandparents and parents are all long gone from this life and the three of us never expected that we would have to face this kind of issue for many more years. So, it came as a surprise that we were facing Ken’s mortality and end of our earthly brotherhood. As Doug is a physician, he spearheaded the discussions of Ken’s physical needs and I, as a pastor or chaplain, tended to focus on the spiritual side of this event.
As I started to pray, I remembered something that I have clung to since early in my seminary days. Dr. Branine, the professor who taught us courses in various areas of theology, taught us about angels and their ministries in one of my favorite studies. Among other things, we learned that angels are the only beings that were created to be above mankind during mortal life; and then to serve mankind in heaven. They worship God, intercede in spiritual warfare and carry messages at the request of God. Their ministries are really interesting – and specific.
Among other things, one of the ministries of angels is to escort believers to heaven. In other words, no believer dies alone – even if their family members aren’t there at the time of their passing to heaven. Angels escort believers to heaven and some Bible versions even say that they “carry” believers home to God. It was this wonderful comforting ministry that I thought about as I started to pray for Ken and our family.
As I was finishing my prayer, I petitioned God, in accordance with His will, to send His angels to escort Ken into God’s presence in heaven. Ken passed into heaven at that moment… Not an hour later, or ten minutes later, or even several minutes later. No, at that very moment, Ken passed from his earthly life to eternal life with God. It was surreal – the sad realization of losing a brother and, yet, a deeply sacred time where the the separation between heaven and earth ceased to exist, if only for a very brief moment. I believe that we were part of Ken’s transition, orchestrated by God; and we were privileged to witness this divine event.
We are getting used to the idea that only Doug and I remain. Who would have thought that our youngest brother would be the first to go? It doesn’t seem natural… but life here on earth does go on. It is my belief that Ken has been reunited with Mom and, perhaps, even Dad. Grandparents, long lost friends and relatives were probably also there to greet him. And God Himself gave Ken his crown as promised in the Bible.
Our verse for tonight affirms the fact that God sends His angels to escort believers to heaven… It is one of several verses that tend to support the idea that believers are not alone when they die. We are told by the good doctor Luke, in Luke 16:22, “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried.” In this famous story, notice that the beggar, a believer, was not only escorted, he was actually carried by angels to “heaven.” The rich man, a non-believer, ended up in hell as we are told in the next verses of the story.
My encouragement this evening is that God has legions of angels to worship Him, carry messages for Him, protect believers, escort believers to heaven and even protect us. My prayer is that Ken is safely in heaven, worshipping God and renewing old friendships that were started here on earth. And to all our readers, I pray that when our earthly missions are over, we will be so fortunate as to be carried to heaven and presented with our crowns from God. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…