It was said of the Puritan Richard Sibbes, “Heaven was in him, before he was in Heaven.” Have you ever known a godly man or woman who, nearing the end of their lives, had such peace, assurance, and quiet joy, that they seemed almost to be walking with the Lord in Heaven before they got there?
John Bunyan describes this beautifully in the Pilgrim’s Progress. Christian and Hopeful have made it through the worst of their journey, and are finally drawing near to the gates of the Celestial City. As they do, they enter a country called ‘Beulah:’
Now I saw in my dream that by this time the pilgrims were got over the Enchanted Ground, and entering into the country of Beulah, whose air was very sweet and pleasant; the way lying directly through it, they solaced themselves there for a season. Yea, here they heard continually the singing of birds, and saw every day the flowers appear in the earth, and heard the voice of the turtle dove in the land.
In this country the sun shineth night and day; wherefore; wherefore this was beyond the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and also out of the reach of Giant Despair; neither could they from this place so much as see Doubting Castle. Here they were within sight of the City they were going to, also here met them some of the inhabitants thereof. For in this land the Shining Ones commonly walked, because it was upon the borders of Heaven.
In this land also the contract between the bride and bridegroom was renewed. Yea here, ‘as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so did their God rejoice over them.’ Here they had no want of corn and wine; for in this place they met with abundance of what they had sough for in all their pilgrimage. Here they heard voices from out of the City, loud voices, saying, ‘Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold thy salvation cometh, behold his reward is with him.’ Here all the inhabitants of the country called them, ‘The holy people, the redeemed of the Lord, sought out, etc.
So, have you known someone who has walked the country of Beulah, on the very ‘borders of Heaven’? You can. Join a local church. Cherish your older brothers and sisters there who are nearing the end of the journey. Observe them as they approach the Celestial City. And may your faith be strengthened as you follow Christ through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, past Doubting Castle, and into battle with Apollyon.