Surprises in Heaven

Published 10:07 pm Thursday, September 26, 2019

By Tonya S. Swindell

As I waited at the back of the line to check out items at a busy department store, I was thrilled when a cashier opened a new register then smiled warmly in my direction, saying, “I’ll take the next person in line.” I moved forward with expectancy, thankful to receive an opportunity I did nothing to deserve. In that moment, I thought about the joy and surprise with which some people will enter heaven.

In the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel, a boy named David was unexpectedly called to the front of his family line to be Israel’s future king. He was the youngest of eight sons, and after the prophet, Samuel, discerned that none of David’s brothers had been selected by God to lead Israel, Samuel obeyed God’s directive and anointed David as king.

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Although David gained notoriety for his many acts of bravery, he was also infamous for the acts of committing adultery with Bathsheba before arranging to have her husband, Uriah, killed. Despite his mistakes, David was recognized in 1 Samuel 13:14 as a man after God’s own heart.

In Luke 23, God rewarded faith that was expressed from the heart of a convicted criminal. Just before dying, the man admitted his wrongful actions and asked Jesus to remember him in heaven. “And Jesus replied, ‘I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.’”

In Matthew 20, Jesus shared a parable in which workers who labored a short time received the same payment as workers who labored for a longer period. Commentary from The New Living Translation indicates, “This parable is not about rewards but about salvation. It is a strong teaching about grace, God’s generosity. We shouldn’t begrudge those who turn to God in the last moments of life, because, in reality, no one deserves eternal life.

“Many people we don’t expect to see in the Kingdom will be there…”

According to Matthew 7:21-23 from The Amplified Bible, Classic Edition, Jesus taught: “Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father Who is in heaven.

“Many will say to Me on that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name and driven out demons in Your name and done many mighty works in Your name?

“And then I will say to them openly (publicly), I never knew you; depart from Me, you who act wickedly [disregarding My commands].”

Scripture suggests God looks deeply into the hearts of individuals to find bold faith that acknowledges Jesus’ saving power. Such faith may not be easily viewed by others; but it can have a profound impact on a person’s position in God’s Kingdom. Just as I was thrilled to be called from the back of one line to the front of another, I imagine many people in heaven will be thrilled when that happens to them, too.

Tonya Swindell is an occupational therapist. She is also a teacher for Kingdom Building Institute ( She can be reached at