Most people believe there is life after death, but that opens up a lot of confusing and shallow images. We believe heaven is good. Some have the image of an eternal family reunion, or an unending worship service, or people becoming angels wearing a white robe and having wings. A man in a Bible class once asked the teacher what heaven is like. After getting one of these shallow answers, the man asked what hell was like. He wanted to know if that was a better alternative. What should our real image of heaven be? Let’s first think about what Jesus offered His disciples when He called them. They were to walk in close fellowship with One who loved them, and worked to bring out the best in their lives. As they walked along with Him in ministry they were continually growing in understanding many of the deep questions of creation and life. They would have challenges that would stretch them personally, giving them many satisfying accomplishments. All of this continues in heaven in a sinless realm. Now we only see through a glass dimly. Paul says further that “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”(I Corinthians 2:9) Our times are in God’s hands. We will enter His Kingdom when He is ready for us, but it is important to think about heaven in the right terms. For a Christian, we are walking with and growing in Christ now, and that will never end.
Our local paper always has a short saying at the bottom of the front page by some famous person. The one yesterday said that is doesn’t matter where one lives in the world or what their culture it is always good to come home after being away. How true. I’ve just come home after three weeks in the hospital and rehab facility. How good it is to be here. We’ve all experienced this when coming home from a vacation, no matter how good a time we’ve had. This seems to be a universal longing to get back to where we belong. I think this universal longing also points to something deeper. We all have a longing to get back to Eden, to the true and pure place of our relationship with our Lord. I’ve written this week about Jesus’ parables of the Kingdom. That is our true home. That is what all of our other longings and desires point to. But it is also what we seek to bring into this present world, at least in many small ways, by our life in Jesus Christ lived for the good of others.
The magnitude of God’s glory, Paul writes, is so great, “things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard … of all that God has prepared for those who love Him.” (2 Corinthians 2:9) C.S. Lewis likens the comparison to a ghetto child playing in a street mud puddle, having no concept of making sand castles on a clean ocean beach. We use superlative words for God like awesome, majestic, glorious, and holy, but still have little concept of the depth of what these words mean. Too often we content ourselves with the toys and trinkets of this life, not realizing that there is so much more for us in a life in harmony with God through Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness…”(Matthew 6:33) He would not have said it if He didn’t mean that it was possible. We can live at least a beginning of Kingdom life even in the midst of this broken world. The sand castles are real.
When a person see a beautiful sight we sometimes hear the expression “it is breathtaking”. There is a sense of awe and wonder concerning the experience. I have a CD recording of Mozart’s Ave Verum that I will sometimes play through my computer while I’m working. I don’t understand the words of the composition but the music and vocals are wonderful. I’ve been in groups of Christians singing a majestic hymn of our faith. At times its beauty has been so great I’ve had to stop singing and let the sound surround me with its wonder. I hope you can identify with this in one form or another. It is more than an emotional experience. It is being enveloped in a beauty beyond words. We can’t live in those experiences continually while on earth, but I think they are windows that God gives for a brief look into the Glory of His kingdom. This is a small glimpse into the glory that awaits all who are in Christ Jesus.
Yesterday I wrote about the Christmas event fitting us for heaven, and said that we should think eternally. Unfortunately, this opens up a lot of confused and conflicting ideas in people’s minds. Heaven means having to die first. People do everything possible to hold that off. Then there are false ideas about what heaven is – an eternal family reunion, an unending worship service, or wearing a white robe and having wings. Yes, these are a bit of comic book imagery, but not unlike many people’s ideas of heaven. They are not all that appealing. But think about what Jesus offered His disciple when He called them. They were to walk in close fellowship with One who loved them, and worked to bring out the best in their lives. They would be continually growing in understanding many of the deep questions of creation and life. They would have challenges that would stretch them personally, giving them many satisfying accomplishments. All of this continues in the sinless realm of heaven. Now we only see through a glass dimly. Paul says further that “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”(I Corinthians 2:9) Our times are in God’s hands. We will enter His Kingdom when He is ready for us, but it is important to think about heaven in the right terms. For a Christian, we are walking with and growing in Christ now, and that will never end.
The sky is beautiful this morning. The sun is coming up in the east and lighting the clouds with a silver white light. The pale blue beyond the clouds holds an infinite depth of space with its many wonders. The Psalmist observed this millennia ago and wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.”(19:1-2) The heavens have always held a deep interest for man, and until a few centuries ago, always helped us understand something of the glory of God as our creator. But in our effort to “demythologize” God’s truth, we’ve substituted the wisdom of man, unfortunately in many ways much inferior to that of the ancients. As you have the opportunity gaze into the heavens, beyond all of the space junk we have circling the earth, and meditate on the wonder of our Lord of all creation. It is this Lord who was willing to come and occupy our small spec of space debris called earth along with us. The God who created all that exists, is the same God who loves you and has given Himself for your life.