This week we’re privileged to have my bud and fellow geek Steven Sukkau blog about heaven. If you think heaven’s gonna be one giant church service, you’ve got another thing coming. Literally. 😉
Are you looking forward to heaven?
I mean deep down, are you anticipating eternity?
Honestly, until a few weeks ago, I was anticipating Disney Land a lot more than the pearly gates. A city made with golden streets seems like a novelty compared to the rides, entertainment and magic of the happiest place on earth.
But Disney has a big advantage here; I can actually imagine what it’ll be like. I have never been to the Florida or hugged a life-sized Mickey Mouse but I have seen pictures, I have heard stories of the roller coasters and whatever else imagineers can cook up.
I couldn’t picture heaven until I started thinking like a geek.
A skewed view of heaven
You see, in Randy Alcorn’s extensive book on Heaven, we get a sense that Christians have missed the reality of heaven and eternity. Or worse, we’ve come to believe, “heaven is beyond our imagination.”
I remember asking about heaven as a child, like really asking. Like I am not leaving my Sunday School room until you tell me. Of course, a well meaning adult tried their best.
“Imagine your happiest memory.”
Ok, birthday cake, presents, playing soccer with all my friends until dusk, got it.
“And now times that by a million! That’s what heaven’s like.”
Why would God give us these wild, infinitely creative imaginations if they are completely useless? Why is the bible filled with analogies about shining kingdoms, overflowing banquet tables and gushing brides? Is God just really bad at analogies?
Because it does more than dull our excitement. As Alcorn writes, “…the moment we say that we can’t imagine Heaven, we dump cold water on all that God has revealed to us about our eternal home.”
We don’t think were capable of picturing heaven, so we do the unthinkable: we make heaven boring. Heaven becomes a never-ending church service. But thankfully that’s not quite the picture the Bible paints of eternity with Christ.
Instead, what we find are very concrete, and very geeky terms when it comes to heaven.
Heaven is a physical place
In Heaven there are scrolls, a throne, the temple, a river. People wear clothes, sing, and ride horses. Maybe some of these are symbolic, but all of them?
Heaven is also described as a city. We understand cities; they have buildings, culture, streets filled with music, art, athletics, festivals, and people talking, eating playing and working.
Heaven is also a country, with rulers, territories, rivers, mountains.
And finally, most important of all, our final destination isn’t a cloud island, as the Philadelphia Cream Cheese commercials would have you believe.
Enter, New Earth:
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.” Revelations 21:1 NIV
Jesus said he was going to prepare a place for us, “In my father’s house is many rooms,” were Jesus exact words.
So why would Jesus describe heaven as having many rooms? Houses and rooms are familiar. As writer Randy Alcorn explains, heaven isn’t patterned after Earth, but rather the other way around; Earth is a shadow of heaven.
And Revelations 21:3 tells us God will come to us. “Rather than our going up to live in God’s home forever, God will come down to live in our home forever,” Alcorn says.
We assume heaven will be unfamiliar, an otherworldly realm we inhabit as disembodied spirits. The Biblical depiction says the opposite—a resurrected new Earth we inhabit with resurrected bodies.
Are we getting the picture the Bible is painting here? When we see a roaring waterfall, we sense this world was originally meant to be our home. All the heavenly aspects of living here: the good friends, the loving family moments, the untainted nature; we are just seeing a glimpse of heaven.
So, if Heaven is a physical place, that we experience through eternal, but very tangible bodies, what exactly will we be doing forever? Tune in later this week for A Geek’s guide to Heaven pt. 2
But here’s my question:
Great post. You can’t go wrong quoting Alcorn. I think you’re right on target saying that people err on either side of the equation. They either under or overshoot what heaven will really be like. I think both errors have to do with us trying to, once again, make God like us. The limitless qualities of who He is do put His plans out of reach of our finite mind. On the other hand, He has gone to great lengths to say concrete things in His Word, telling us at least some of what heaven will be like.
For my mileage, I think the best thing about heaven is that it’s still a mystery to me. Someday, because of what Christ has done for me, I’ll get to experience it first hand. Disneyland’s got nothin’ on that.
Amen! (Although I would still like to go to Disneyland one day haha)
I think what struck me the most about Alcorn’s writing was by highlighting the continuity between heaven and earth, it actually makes our actions and our lives here MORE important. Whereas I find over-spiritualizing heaven makes life on earth seem almost inconsequential, you know?
But I really would like less mystery about our eternal home, because as Alcorn says, if we can’t imagine it, how can we desire it?
I think you’re right, Steven. When God linked heaven and earth he said something profound. Great article, can’t wait for the next two instalments!
Great thoughts, Joe. Thanks for stopping by! I can imagine a heaven a lot like the best this world has to offer, and relish it being better than I could ever comprehend.
It’s hard for us to understand how it could be “like this” but infinitely better at the same time.
Someone I know referred to a novel where the protagonist traveled hundreds of years into the past and was struck nearly dumb by the majesty of the silence: No planes, trains, cars. No factories, no radio waves, no modern anything.
On this earth, yet infinitely better and richer at the same time. Hmmm…