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Heaven (week 12, Back to Basics series)

The video for this session can be watched at the bottom of this page.

Heaven is definitely on the list of contentions. While lots of people today don’t believe in the devil, evil spirits or hell, there are many who don’t believe in God or heaven. But these latter two lend themselves to another category as well – custom design. That is, lots of people have a custom design God, and many have a custom design heaven.

To some extent this is unavoidable, because we can’t know everything about either. But what has become very common has been people going right outside what has been revealed to us from God, most clearly through Jesus, passed on in the Bible, and decided what they like to think about God and heaven.

Heaven is the classic of the two. What will heaven be like? I’ve heard it to be a fishing paradise. Apparently the waters will be glorious, teeming with everlasting life, tears, crocodiles and sharks and other dangerous creatures will be wiped away, and it will be fishing heaven everlasting.

Apparently this is supposed to appeal to me, but it does not. This seems to me a classic feature of the individualistic narcissism we live with today – it’s all about me; everything should serve me and my interests.

But welcome to the real world – it isn’t all about me, and neither is it all about you; not in this world or the next.
The #1 feature about this world is … (drum roll) God. The main feature about the next world which we commonly call heaven, is … (drum roll) God.

The fact that God has an interest in us is purely God’s grace. When you are invited to someone’s party, do you expect to be the main event? Do you expect that the party will be designed to suit your preferences?

Imagine you were invited to someone’s wedding, and the bride called you to find out what design wedding dress you wanted her to wear, and what colour and design the bridesmaids should wear. And, she asks, where would you like us to have the wedding, and who would you like us to ask to conduct things? And so on? You would call someone to help them, wouldn’t you?

“Heaven” will be God’s design, and according to the Bible it will be more glorious than we could ever design. No surprise, since what we know of the world to come is limited to a small group of words – God, love, eternal, peace.
In the Bible it gets described in two basic ways:

  1. It is a spiritual world. We will receive spiritual bodies suited to the place, which will not be limited or defined as our mortal bodies are. Neither male nor female, not married (according to Jesus).
  2. It is like a new heaven and a new earth. Opinion is divided over whether this means renewal of this creation (or earth), or a new place altogether. The strongest version of this is in Revelation, which is so symbolic and overlaid with meaning I always pause over taking its descriptions too literally.

Be warned, though. Our comprehension in this world is limited to time and space. We can try to imagine a place beyond either, and some even seem to experience it, but our conscious selves exist here for now. The Bible offers us descriptions that we can grasp, which are at least partially material description.

Even the phrase “eternal life” is described in terms of time, even as it attempts to describe something not limited by time. It has to be so, for it to be any use to us at all.

Heaven is sometimes considered a reward, but what kind of reward? Is it a reward for a job “well done”? Is it a reward for putting up with long tedious sermons? If it is a reward, how can we think of that in a healthy way.
Here is the best I have: Have you ever done something you found particularly rewarding. At the end of the exercise you look at the outcome and you feel full of pleasure that you gave it the time and your best skill to see it finished. The reward is simply to be there and appreciate that you were part of it.

That is to me the “reward” of heaven. You might quote from the knight in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – “You chose wisely.” And having lived with that choice and trusted God with your life, you will get to see the result of that choice – the reward is simply the result – being there and inheriting the promised place in God’s Kingdom – or “heaven”.

So what is the most important thing to be said of heaven?

I think it is this. Leave it to God, and don’t worry yourself about it too much. Is it here or there? It doesn’t matter, God will make sure you get there. What is it like? I real terms I wouldn’t have words to tell you even if I knew. If you’re trusting God with this life, trust God for the next.

This is simply something you don’t need to know, because it is beyond your present reach, beyond your control, and there are better things for you to concern yourself with here.

#1 for here – learning to trust God with your life.
#2 for here – working out how to live in a way that helps bring God’s salvation to this world. That will be in your home, work, church and recreation. There is more than enough that is bigger than your ability here, that you needn’t be concerned about the untouchable questions of heaven.

Jesus said, “my peace I leave with you.” He said this just after he told them he would come and take them to be with him. So have the peace of Jesus about you in regards heaven, and perhaps that peace will overflow into the things of this world as well.

Video of week 12 of Back to Basics – Heaven – runs 29:36.

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