I’ve been thinking a lot about heaven. In today’s world, it seems we’re closer than ever to the end of time on earth as we know it. The reason that everything is scary right now is because many of us don’t know what’s going on or what to expect.
We know things will get worse before the “end”, but where did we learn that? People who have never studied Revelation somehow know. People who have attended church all their lives but never really know how they know…know things will get bad. And they are. And they’ll get worse.
What’s worse than knowing, though, is what we don’t know.
For every person who is scared about the uncertainty of ‘end times’ there are others just as scared about the uncertainty of heaven.
What Heaven Is and Isn’t
The reason why many don’t know and understand heaven is partly because they don’t read it for themselves. So many people just don’t want to know because it is scary to even read about if you’re not sure you’ll be there. It may be even scarier if you’re sure you’ll be there but uncertain about what it will be like.
We’ve seen the vampire movies/books of the 2000s. We’ve considered eternity. What kind of life would be worth living…forever?
Will heaven be nothing more than sitting on clouds and stroking harps? Lying with lions in green meadows? Will the eternal vegetarian life be worth living? Who wants to live church service day all day, every day, for eternity?
Is that what heaven will be?
A Wedding Song
Illustrated in various places throughout scripture is the image of Christ the Bridegroom returning to earth to meet His “bride” (the church). This image paints a vivid picture of not only how joyful Christ’s second coming will be, but also the union that will take place. Look at the Parable of the Ten Virgins in Matthew 25. Here, along with the image of the holy city, New Jerusalem coming down from heaven “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” in Revelation 21. And as John sees the vision of Jesus’ coming, he records: “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price” (Revelation 22).
This love story isn’t just one of Revelation. Anyone who has read Song of Solomon can see the story of love there. Jesus Christ as a pursuer. God as a partner. The Trinity as the ultimate Lover.
‘Ball & Chain’ and Other Mistaken Identities
I can understand why people are so confused about heaven. It’s not only confusion and uncertainty about what heaven will be. It’s also confusion about how we feel about it–the things we know through scripture.
A person who is chronically ill on earth may look toward heaven and a new body with awe and impatience.
A person who has emotional trauma and varied abuse on earth may look forward to the “no sorrow, no tears, no death” part of the Bible promises.
What about people with dyed hair and tattoos? What about the people with beautiful scars they wear as badges of honor from life-saving surgeries and brushes with death? What about the people with pigment disorders who love the uniqueness of their bodies? What about people with dwarfism or gigantism, who are comfortable and happy with their height and their life? These questions just scrape the surface.
Will God let me keep my green hair? Will He let the barren on earth have babies in heaven? What about people with other genetic mutations? Will my son have his beautiful red hair and freckles in heaven? Can he…if he wants?
What about people who spend their life fighting crime, or fighting in wars? What will they be like in heaven? Will they even fit in?
These are the questions people are asking. For real, I’ve been asked these questions, specifically lately.
To be honest, thinking about heaven is like cold feet before the wedding day. You daydream and plan, you save money, and grow closer all in preparation for the BIG DAY, the wedding day. But at the last minute, something strange happens! It’s cold feet. It’s doubts and fears about the unknown. What will you both be like in 10 years? In 20? Will you still make each other happy?
There are many negative idioms associated with marriage. The two that spring immediately to mind is the idea of your new spouse being a “ball and chain”, something to hold you back for the foreseeable future, and instead of the wedding march, a funeral dirge. This is sad indeed!
We should look to Christ’s coming with the anticipation of a marriage that we know will last forever.
There is a quote that I like by Ramana Maharshi. It says, “Devotion complete culminates in knowledge supreme.” Reflecting on the quote, I wonder what devotion will look like in heaven. Many balk at the idea of worshiping God forever, thinking it will be a neverending church service for eternity.
I like to think of it more like marriage. It’s not going to be the tense dinner party with the in-laws for all eternity, but the fun date nights and waking up next to each other. The intimacy, the hand-holding, the give and take because of the love you share.
If you can successfully stay devoted to a spouse year after year, you shouldn’t worry about staying devoted to God year after year, even for eternity. If you love your husband or wife, you can love him or her forever.
If you love God today, you can love Him forever.
You can stay devoted to Him forever. That is what heaven and the New Earth will be. Forever Devotion. Devotion complete and knowledge supreme.