I recently saw a book that was a fictionalized account of visiting hell. There is a crop of ‘I died and went to heaven/hell‘ themed books available these days. I remember sermons like ‘What Is Hell Like?‘ by Jimmy Allen. Larry West has a sermon akin to this idea about walking through the halls of hell. I don’t criticize these efforts because they come from a long line of passionate revivalist messages pleading for people to wake up and take care of their souls. And I guess everyone has to come to terms with the doctrine of hell in their own minds. We can go with Edward Fudge and decide it is a ‘Fire that Consumes‘ or Rob Bell who pretty much lets us all off the hook. We can stick with Francis Chan and decide against Erasing Hell. Whichever viewpoint you take, I expect that we all come to some kind of amenable concept that lets us live our days without shaking in fear. And of course we all think our particular view is the biblical one. But this post is really about heaven.
Just like the doctrine of hell has had a workover by some very brilliant people coming to some very different perspectives, so has heaven. When I was young we sang about the Mansions Over the Hilltop. Although I still like to sing that, I hear many younger preachers decrying the materialistic sound of such a notion. I grew up understanding that when we got to heaven we’d be praising God all the time. But more recent expressions suggest that floating around on a cloud singing praises would get boring after a while – and if you can’t sing, it would happen pretty quick. I wonder if the cherubim and seraphim ever get tired of praising around the throne? Nowadays teachers like N. T. Wright and Randy Alcorn have us a little more earthly minded – tending a new Eden without the problems of the curse. For many, heaven is just one big family reunion. I expect we all come to some kind of amenable concept that lets us live our days hoping for the best when we get where we are going.
The Bible doesn’t give us a ton of information about either heaven or hell. But it seems to me that a majority of concepts and opinions I hear these days tell me that hell isn’t all that bad and heaven isn’t all that great. And that, to me, is problematic.
I think the emphasis in the Bible is that hell is horrible, the worst experience you can imagine magnified exponentially. Likewise, heaven is so awesome that we can’t even imagine what God has in store. Go ahead…imagine all you like … heaven is better than that!
Outside of the deeply impoverished third world countries, life on planet Earth is pretty good. Opportunities abound. When our air conditioners go on the fritz we actually think that we’re really suffering! Our refrigerators are full of food, some of which will go bad before we eat it. Our cars have leather seats. Our chairs recline while we watch the world on a flat screen connected to thousands of channels. Yes, we have to work and there’s those old enemies death and taxes. But overall, each day contains enough promise to keep a smile on our faces.
I don’t think we can any more be scared out of going to hell than we can be seduced into going to heaven. In our cynical times it’s hard to lure us in with promises of pain or pleasure. Is heaven is a good enough place by itself? I think heaven is an awesome place because of who will be there and the truth that the LIGHT OF HEAVEN is Jesus Christ. And getting to be with Jesus forever … well … that’s a lot better than streets of gold or harpy clouds!
And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. -Revelation 22:5
If heaven is as great as the Bible leads us to believe…
*How is that changing you now?
*What will you do to bring a taste of heaven into the life of a hurting person?
*What earthly person / activity / possession would you allow to steal your hope of heaven? Will that be worth it 100 years or 1000 years after you’ve died?
Trust Jesus Now … you can trust him forever!