Thursday, August 18, 2011

Heaven: According to Scripture

Christians have many different beliefs about what heaven will be like. Some people think it's going to be a never-ending worship service. Some people think earthly things (like Chick-fil-A, football, ice cream, animals,  and amusement parks) will be there. Some people think it'll be just like life is now, but without sin.

There are also different ideas about what we'll do in heaven. Some people misguidedly think they'll inherit seventy-two virgins to have sex with. Some people plan on talking to Old Testament heroes and Jesus' disciples. Many, if not all of us, are looking forward to reunions with loved ones who have passed away. Some people think we'll live in mansions; others think we won't need buildings to reside in. Some people think they'll be able to eat all they want and not get fat. Others look forward to using their new bodies to fly, walk through walls, and run at super-fast speeds. Some people even look forward to looking younger in heaven.

And there are many different ideas about who will be in heaven. Some people think everyone will be there. Some people think only a very few (as in only a few hundred) will be there. Others think that most people will not be there.

But before we populate a heavenly place with our earthly thoughts, let's see what God's authoritative Scripture says. Isaiah 60, 65:17-66, and Revelation 21 are great Scriptures on heaven. There are many others, but these are the three I want to focus on.

The very first Scripture I want to point out is Isaiah 65:17. It says, "Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind." I think we can erase all thoughts about earthly pleasures being in heaven. Jesus didn't die so we could ride roller coasters, play football all day, and eat buckets of ice cream. It's hard to accept this, especially for me (a Chick-fil-A employee), because Chick-fil-A is such a Christian company that it's just so easy to say that we'll be eating Original Chicken Sandwiches, Potato Waffle Fries, and Icedream in heaven. But I don't see that happening in Scripture.

It's also hard for many people to accept that their pets may not be in heaven. In all frankness, Scripture doesn't say whether animals will be in heaven. Isaiah 65:25 does say, "'The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,' says the LORD." Many people look to this verse to say that animals will in fact be in heaven. And I think it does make sense (based on this verse) to say that animals will be in heaven. But does this mean that all animals will be in heaven, or just the ones who survived till the end? Will every single animal that ever lived be in heaven, including the evil, possessed ones? And if not, where do they go? I can't say. Scripture doesn't say. And when Scripture is silent on a topic, I prefer to just avoid it altogether. It's better to not have an opinion than to get lost in human assumptions and hopes.

Although we've already established that earthly things won't be in heaven, I would like to point out Revelation 21:24b, 26: "... the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into [heaven]... The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into [heaven]." I'm not exactly sure what this is saying, to be honest. In the age of democracies and presidents, I don't know what the glory, honor, and splendor of a king looks like. It could mean the kings will bring their country's biggest export to heaven, like a special wood, jewel, or crop. But that's unlikely. I simply don't really know what this means.

We can be sure that there will be no crying, mourning, death, or pain (Rev. 21:4; Isaiah 65:19). Hardship, persecution, and suffering will be a thing of the past. Joy, purity, righteousness, and praise will be the banner of the people. Our faith, endurance, and hope will be rewarded in heaven with white robes and the right to eat from the Tree of Life.

Who will be there? You can read the second half of my previous post, The Truth About Heaven And Hell about that.

But what will heaven look like? Revelation 21:9-22:5 describe the new Jerusalem, the Holy City. A brief review shows that the city shines with the glory of God, and it's brilliance will be like that of a very precious jewel (Rev. 21:11). The walls of the city will be a square, as long as it is wide (Rev. 21:16). Each side will be about 1,400 miles in length (Rev. 21:16). Catch that? 1,400 miles. New York City to Los Angeles is 3,000 miles, so imagine half that distance squared and you get the square mileage of the Holy City. This "city" will be HUGE! It'll be "big cities" like New York, LA, Hong

This place truly sounds heavenly. And I don't know about you, but in a city where I can see God's face, drink from the Living Water, and eat of the Tree of Life, I doubt I'll miss Chick-fil-A, want to play football on God's front lawn, or even chat with Elijah, John the Baptist, and King David. All I'll want to do is worship the King in humble, fearful, grateful reverence.

No comments: