John’s vision of the heavenly reality was first presented to Christians suffering persecution. In this vision, John sees victims as victors waving palm branches and worshiping their rescuer. God will “shelter them with his presence”. They will never be hungry or thirsty or heat-stroked again. God will be their shepherd and lead them to fresh running springs and wipe away every tear.

Those facing persecution are given a vision of the heavenly reality so that they can prepare for imminent peril. They will come out of it victorious and secure. In other words, they are to think of heaven while going through hell. This may seem like a crutch to some, but everyone turns to something for comfort. Will we turn to material goods? Will we turn to sexual pleasures? Will we try to numb ourselves with narcotics?

Or will we hold out hope that heaven is the place where God redeems our suffering, ensuring nothing has been wasted.

Even better, we may not have to wait for eternity.

Heaven may be closer than we know.

Adapted from the Story Lectionary.