I’ve been contemplating hell for the last year and a half, and I’ll post about that soon. But first, I wanted to share some thoughts about Heaven. Just musings. I don’t need any of this to be true.
I sat under a tenderhearted pastor who believed we wouldn’t sleep in heaven because we wouldn’t have the time. God would reveal to us how much he loves us, for infinity, by excitedly taking us all over a creation without oppression. “Here, let me show you another thing I made for you! Wait until you see this!”
If you think humans are creative, imagine all the wonder and majesty in a literal heaven. It would probably be sensory overload if we weren’t in new bodies.
But first, a complaint I heard from someone who walked away from practicing the faith was that Christians focus too much on heaven. As though we can live like hell since our eternity is secure. Why suffer here? Let’s just go.
A few ways that heaven-obsessed will manifest is when Christians ignore the temporal needs of others, “Sorry you’re in pain or need money. It won’t be like this in heaven.” And second, confusing the mandate to subdue the earth and animals as rule like a greedy king, instead of stewardship. “Exploit it, burn it. This isn’t our home.”
But, despite that, I want to take a minute amid dreaming and planning for the new year to contemplate the good things God has prepared for those who love him. To dream of eternity.
What Heaven is like
Jesus said no one has ascended to heaven except the one who came from heaven. That was confusing to me because I knew that at least Zechariah stood in the throne room of God while Satan condemned Joshua. I think others have as well. Although, maybe there is a difference between ascending, going where you want, and having a vision or being caught up somewhere without intention.
When I began ghostwriting near-death experiences, I held to these two scriptures. I started out a little dogmatic thinking no one could know what Heaven is like, since the Bible says we can’t imagine it. All we may assume are the hyperbolic and confusing images given to us in Revelation.
But the return-from-heaven stories are surprisingly similar. There are too many common threads to ignore. I read Heaven Is for Real to prepare for my first interview and the scenes were especially intriguing, considering it was a child. (I have heard that some near-death books and stories have been proven false, but just because the great pretender masquerades as an angel of light—it doesn’t mean there are no true angels of light.)
So can we imagine heaven? Here’s the problem with learning a verse and quoting it. If you haven’t looked at the book as a whole (or the Bible as a whole) when you memorize it—you might be missing the meaning.
Look at 1 Corinthians 2:9 again, but include the rest of the thought that got separated into verse 10.
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”
But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 1 Corinthians 2:9 & 10
So, God does reveal what he has prepared for us. I just learned it out of out of context.
Anytime you quote a verse, or I post one here, remember that they added the chapters and numbers for ease of reference. And those arbitrary breaks are sometimes why we’ve developed certain understandings. So dig and study. Because when someone says, “Prove it. Where does the Bible say that?” And you glance at the incomplete thought, without cultural context or the details regarding a specific problem Paul was addressing—you can prove all kinds of weird theology. (My subtext here is not just women remaining silent in church. It’s also getting baptized for the dead, and tons of stuff from the Old Testament.) Don’t freak when someone shows you an incomplete thought from the Bible. Dig and study.
Maybe another scripture that helped me believe no one could go to heaven, and return to tell about, is The Rich Man and Lazarus. But as I have contemplated hell differently in the past year, I realize we cherry pick some doctrine out of this parable and reject others—like a sort of not-heaven holding place (Abraham’s Bosom) where you can look across the divide and see how others are doing. And maybe it’s just supposed to be “a simple story illustrating a moral or religious lesson.”
And that right there my friends—looking across the divide in the afterlife—is one question which started it all for my husband and me. “Do you think when we get to heaven we’ll know if someone isn’t there?” The teary unspoken thought, “And still be happy?“
Oh Afflicted and Storm-Tossed One
Sometimes I’m concerned about what I love which will be missing. Besides people, the ocean. Why won’t there be any more sea? My husband once said, “Maybe that’s because God throws all our sins into the sea” that he’ll get rid of it. Maybe it’s because when the whole earth is filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord—there won’t be room for water anymore. Some say it’s because the only water we’ll need will flow from his throne.
Rather than get hung up on what we don’t want to lose, I’ve learned to trust God for the reasons in the details. Here are a few other things we can consider about the ocean’s absence in heaven.
The ocean is like the wicked and cannot be quiet. It tosses up mud and refuse. Beside our drowned sins, the beast comes out of the sea. But also, the ocean separates lands and territories. It isolates people. And there will be no more isolation in heaven.
What else will be missing
There are other things we worship, highly esteem, or adore here on earth which won’t be there:
But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage. Luke 20:34-36
At least other than His Holy mountain. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain according to Isaiah 40:4. If this is literal, consider that mountains divide and separate like the sea, and they were also used for idolatry.
We will be invited to buy wine and milk without money, according to Isaiah 55:1-2 and water without cost in Revelation 21:6. Money belongs to this world and is perishable. It is not the currency he uses.
We will be one people group. We will all belong and never be on the wrong side of the fence, railroad tracks, or wall again. Ephesians 2:14.
And one for the American zealots out there:
One thing is for sure, heaven won’t be a shiny version of what we see around us, a mere pseudo-earth 2.0. And there will be no more tears, even if we can’t yet rationalize why.