Heaven? It’s out of this world!

Which heaven?

[] Is it the popular venue with terrestrial TV? – ‘If mother’s watching up there, she’ll be proud of my achievement.’ Are ‘loved ones in glory looking this way,’ as we sang in my childhood? Surely they are all looking his way (‘face to face’, 1 Corinthians 13:12; Revelation 22:4)?

[] Or is it the jihadists’ paradise where volunteer suicide bombers are rewarded for martyrdom with seven virgins each? But, as David Pawson bravely preached one Sunday close by Bondi Beach – the hedonists’ paradise in Australia, ‘There’s no sex, sea or sun in heaven!’ (Matthew 22:30; Revelation 21:1, 23).

[] Or even the endless vacation longed for by the toiling barefoot slaves in the cotton plantations? – ‘… gonna put on mah shoes; Ah’m gonna walk all over God’s heaven’.

In fact, heaven is so different experientially from anything we know in our three dimensional space-time existence that even scriptural references to the hereafter are minimal and metaphorical. Paul, in what seemed like an out-of-body experience, heard in paradise ‘things that cannot be told, which man may not utter’ (2 Corinthians 12:1-6). He called it ‘the third heaven’ probably to contrast it with the atmospheric heaven (and its ‘birds of heaven’) and the stellar heaven (with its ‘stars of heaven’) – God’s dwelling in ‘the heaven of heavens’ (1 Kings 8:27, King James) to which Jesus ascended and from whence he will one day return (Acts 1:10-11; 3:21; Ephesians 4:10; 2 Thessalonians 1:7).

What’s missing in heaven?

The experience of earthlings in heaven will be deathless, painless, and therefore tearless and completely shadowless (for ‘there will be no night there’, Revelation 21:1-4, 25). In contrast to the here and now, we will no longer be puzzling ‘why?’ Young Will Sangster wrote a begging letter to his father from camp, having spent all his meagre pocket money on sweets on day one. Since Dad never enclosed a postal order in his daily correspondence nor even referred to money, Will journeyed home determined to confront his father with negligence of duty compared with all the other boys’ fathers. But on looking into his father’s face at the coach terminus, ‘I never needed to ask; I just knew he had taught me a lifetime lesson in responsible stewardship.’

What’s heaven full of?

[] Its inhabitants are worshipful – heaven overflows with musical praise (Isaiah 6:1-3; Revelation 4:8-11; 5:8-14; 7:9-12; 11:15-18; 14:2-3; 15:3-4; 19:1-8).

[] They are peaceful – for several reasons. Being the place of God’s throne (Revelation 22:1), everything is well-ordered. Also, all feel ‘at home with the Lord’ (2 Corinthians 5:8).

[] The atmosphere is joyful – radiant with light and vibrant with refreshing living water.

[] And purposeful –especially for those who invested their talents well while on earth, now authorised to rule over whole cities (Luke 19:17,19).

Who will be there?

[] Those ‘ransomed’ by ‘the blood of the Lamb’ (Revelation 5:9; 7:13-14), and those who ‘follow the Lamb wherever he goes,’ who are therefore morally pure, people of integrity (Revelation 14:4).

[] Shut out on the city’s garbage heap are the hateful (Matthew 5:21-22), ‘the cowardly’, unbelievers, ‘the sexually immoral’, dabblers with spirits ‘and all liars’ (Revelation 21:8).

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