In Randy Alcorn’s wonderful book, “Heaven,” he tells a story of an English minister who was asked by a colleague what he expected after death. The man replied: “Well, if it comes to that, I suppose I shall enter into eternal bliss, but I really wish you wouldn’t bring up such depressing subjects.”
Our views of heaven are too lowly. In life, things often times leave us disappointed.
A movie looks hilarious in the previews….and then you see the movie and realize every funny scene was basically shown in the preview. People rave about a restaurant, and you think it’s just ok. We vote for a politician who we think will fix things, and they disappoint.
Perhaps that’s part of the reason why our views of heaven are too low. Because of earth. We live in a fallen world where there is sin and hurt and where things are never quite right.
But heaven will be a perfect place
Heaven should be a source of joy. I think of the things we have on earth. The beauty of nature: spectacular beaches and rainforests, mountains and sunsets, the artworks in Europe, the great architectural achievements.
Those are all just on this earth.
But God is making a new heaven and a new earth.
And the point of the new earth is not for God to make a place that’s WORSE than where we currently live.
With all of the confusion about heaven, there should be no confusion about this: heaven is going to be perfectly awesome. It is not going to disappoint. You’ll never be there and feel like it didn’t live up to all of the hype.
We have a lot of stereotypes about heaven. We do tend to have the cartoon view with harps on clouds in white robes.
We aren’t going to be standing on clouds, wearing white robes and playing the harp. It’s a new earth. And we are going to live there eternally.
Now just think about this earth…
There’s a lot to it. Imagine if money were no object, you had the time, you could travel everywhere on earth you wanted to go to? Think about how much there is to explore? The great mountains and oceans.
You might secretly fear the idea of heaven because you find yourself thinking “is it just going to be like a worship service for the rest of eternity?”
I think part of the answer to that question relates to what you consider worship…
For you, is worship just something you push through on a Sunday morning? If even then?
Or is it a way of life? Is going to church worship? Is raising your kids worshipful? Growing with your spouse? Enjoying a good meal? Seeing the beauty of a sunset? Do you turn to God in prayer? Do you enjoy music that honors God? Do you care about loving and serving people, because it’s honoring to God?
In short, do you live a lifestyle that revolves around worship? Revolves around God?
Or do you compartmentalize? I’ll go to church for 90 minutes, for the church box…but for other things I do, those are for me?
Yes there is worship in heaven! It’s the presence of God. In heaven, it’ll be a better and truer form of worship. In heaven, you won’t be dealing with the stresses of life: missed appointments, issues with finances, family stresses, health concerns. Because God is awesome. God is good and heaven is the place that he has made for his people.
And there are things about heaven we can’t even imagine.
Many people in America are social Christians. They’re good, moral people, but they’re lukewarm about God. They know he exists but really they just want to do their own thing. Is that you?
Ultimately we can have a taste of that now. But to just know that it doesn’t compare with the reality that it will be to actually be in heaven in the presence of a holy God.
In the Great Divorce, CS Lewis says: “The Blessed will say ‘We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven,’: and the Lost, ‘We were always in Hell.’ And both will speak truly.”
I’m not saying this to be cynical or snarky. But if you dread the idea of worshipping God in heaven, I think you might need to develop a greater love for worshipping him on earth.
But no. Heaven will not be a church service for all eternity.
It’s a new heaven and a new earth and a New Jerusalem.
Other images that the Bible uses: it’s a great feast! Who doesn’t love a great feast?! Great conversations and laughter. Music, not just from harps! And dancing.
The Bible talks about it, calling it a wedding.
In America, we go pretty over the top with weddings. But there are other cultures that take it further than we do. And in the first century world in which this book was written, wedding celebrations could last for a week.
Wonderful times of joy and laughter.
A wedding, a feast.
It’s not “come, join us at the jury duty selection pool of the Lord!”
There will be wonderful company in heaven. You’ll be able to see Jesus. The Lord who took the penalty for your sins. You’ll be able to see him face to face.
We’ll have greater perspective in heaven. We’ll be able to continue to learn in heaven. For the things that have been struggles. For the things where we’ve suffered, in heaven, somehow, some way, they will be made right. Perhaps heaven will be so glorious that we just won’t care.
Or perhaps we’ll have a different perspective and see how all things really did work together for our good.
It will be a place where God will “wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). And it’s a place that will be perfectly awesome.
Originally published in a slightly modified form November 21, 2016
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Josh Benner has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He has served churches in Minnesota and Illinois. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in St. Louis.