Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Heaven

There's been much speculation about what heaven will be like, these few weeks.

Case 1
The recently bereaved wondered if the recently deceased were somewhere in heaven in the sky, looking down benovelently on them and protecting them by special powers attained by death.

Case 2
I recently had a good chance of being sponsored as a round-the-worlder in the 5th Clipper Round The World Yacht. Then certain authorities that pay my salary stated in no uncertain terms that 10-months' leave was not something that could be contemplated.
As I deleted the sponsorship email sadly, I wondered if there would be yacht races in heaven (where we are prone to put all things we desire but are unable to obtain in this life). There, perhaps, we'd ride a beautiful sturdy boat as she'd skim the waves, my mates yelping with joy as the waves toss us in the clean air, then land upright and thrilled in delicious splashes of sea spray. Then in the calm, we'd take a well-earned rest, crack open cold beers and have a wonderful sizzling barbie with the sun setting lazily in the horizon. And because this is heaven, there'll be no horrible sunburn and so no need for grossly sticky sunblock, no ropeburn and no bleeding torn skin.

Case 3
Also just realised that it's too late to get the stiff joints cranking to start training for the OSIM Triathlon in July. Have also managed to put one very swollen and blackened opposable thumb out of action in a freak weekend warrior accident.

Will there be Ironman in heaven too?

*******
Case 4
Of course, to each his/her own. RG, for instance, would [RG threatens me sweetly] ermm...might possibly hope for other things in heaven (but of course this is just my suggestion and mine alone) [shadow eyes RG's manicured nails suspiciously...]: for starters, that "captivating, cute guy armed with acoustic strings and gorgeous vocals" we chaperoned accompanied her to swoon over appreciate last weekend, while we decimated a minuscule "yummilicious" warm chocolate cake and sticky toffee pudding.


Read her blog for more swooning... ;-)

Would Captivating Cute Guy be in heaven to croon ballads of praise to God?

*******
Case 4
Come to think of it, will there be cover bands in heaven or will we have the real McCoys (assuming all the real McCoys make it to heaven)?

After Captivating Cute Guy finished his ballady gig and kissed his girlfriend in plain view of PW, we headed to Wala Wala where some mates and I used to do some hard underaged drinking in school PE attire after rugby [Note to kiddies: I was pagan then.]. The Unexpected Band was in attendance upstairs doing cover sets but with personality. The front gal had mad energy, powerful vocals and pizazz and the jigging, singalong, hands-in-the-air crowd was well-lubbed with alc and ciggies.



Of course, nowadays, with every chap and his teenaged mother belonging to an indie band or grooving as a bedroom DJ, decked out in trucker caps, thick-framed plastic glasses, goatees (however growable on Chinese skin), rip-offs of Comme des Garçons (which has since self-destructed according to its plan of one-year guerilla occupation) and designer-vandalised limited edition Nikes, will heaven be one eternal jam session?

How could that be heaven for the foggies who want a bit of peace and quiet?

And would differing views of eternal enjoyment be resolved by democratic vote or committees?

*******

There is obviously something wrong with our view of heaven as a place where all our unfulfilled desires are met, where everything is about our enjoyment and pleasure. In fact, we have no basis for thinking that heaven will be about us at all.

Heaven is not "up-there"
First things first. There is actually no biblical concept of heaven as a place in the sky where you go after you die, dressed in a white nightie, flying around aided by a newly-grown pair of white wings and topped with a shiny gold halo. The eschatological image of heaven is not even a place within this present universe but in the total destruction of this entire universe at the second coming of Christ and the reconstruction of a completely new heavens and new earth (Isaiah 65:17, 66:22; 2 Peter 3:10-13; Revelation 21:1).

Heaven will not democratic
We have been brainwashed to think of the political system of democracy as perfect and desirable and something to die for. But if we examine the foundation of democracy, we find that it is merely a recognition that man is sinful, so no one person should be entrusted with absolute power. The aim of democracy is to spread out the concentration of power, and install checks and balances to make anyone with power accountable to the rest.

Heaven will not be a democracy. It will be a kingdom where there will one king: God, who will rule perfectly and eternally and whom we will live under and submit to.

We will not do what we ourselves want to do, for our love of democracy in the present is due to the freedom it gives us to live our lives the way we want to live them (read, "continue to sin"). Instead, we will be given totally new hearts and new minds to do the will of God, and find complete and utter happiness and satisfaction in living the way we were made to live under God.

Heaven will not be about us but about God and other people
God has also purposed that heaven will be a place where our perfect loving fellowship with our fellowmen and with God will be restored.

Heaven will not primarily be a place where we get to do/receive all the things we couldn't get in this life. That would be hell: a place stuffed with selfish self-centred navel-gazers.

That doesn't mean that heaven will be a real bore: strait-laced, conservative, bowing and scraping and singing dull hymns in white uniforms for all eternity, while hell will be a really wild party with our mates. In fact, it will be in hell that there will be no party, no enjoyment and no friends.

As Phillip Jensen once memorably noted:
in heaven, friendship in all its pleasure will be restored and there will permanent relationships; we will never again fear the loss of loved ones, for sin is paid for and death will be defeated defeated. So it will be the time of party and fun of drinking anew with God in his kingdom. Heaven is not a pub without beer. Hell is the pub with neither beer nor the mates to share it with.
In heaven, we will enjoy the unspeakably beautiful intimacy of a completely restored relationship with the ruler of the universe. Revelation 21:3-4 sums up God's purposes for a wonderful eternal relationship with his children in the new universe yearningly:
Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.
May we all, by trusting in Jesus, be able to enjoy God and each other forever.

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