Sunday, September 14, 2008

what will heaven be like?

A friend started a line of discussion recently, asking what heaven would be like. His concern was that the harps and pearly gates we often think of don’t sound too interesting. I offered this response:

It's lame to quote Scripture and say "That's what heaven will be like!" As if you didn't already know where to go in the Bible to find where it talks about heaven. So, in the spirit of lameness:

"And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God'" (Rev. 21:2-3).

When God tells us about heaven, he tells us about a city, but it isn't a city so much, because when are cities like brides? The bride is the city, the bride is the church, the city is the church, and God lives in the city (us).

I don't know about the no conflict thing. I don't think the idea is that life will be drama-less. If there's drama in God's dealing with his people in Scripture, then I imagine there will be plenty of good stuff to keep us occupied in the hereafter. The best part is that the God we can only make attempts at describing and understanding from where we are now will be "making all things new" (21:5), and we're included in that renewal/recreation.

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis has a really great passage about the Trinity that Tim Keller (in The Reason for God) relates back to what heaven will be like. Lewis writes, "In Christianity, God is not an impersonal thing or a static thing - not even just one person - but a dynamic pulsating activity, a life, a kind of drama, almost, if you will not think me irreverent, a kind of dance.... [The] pattern of this three-personal life is... the great fountain of energy and beauty spurting up at the very center of reality."

It seems to me that the more we think about the awesome God we serve, the more we reflect on his character, the more those words "the dwelling place of God is with man" will strike us as incredible. The more we understand who God is - that he is fearful and jealous and a consuming fire (Deut. 4:24); that he is a holy, holy, holy God (Is. 6); that he is abounding in steadfast love (Num. 14:18, Neh. 9:17, Ps. 86, 103:8, 145:8, Joel 2:13, Jonah 4:2); that he, though we were DEAD in our trespasses and sins, because of the great love with which he loved us, made us alive with Christ and saved us by his grace (Eph 2:1, 4-5) - the more we know this God as he tells us of himself in Scripture, the more we will rock back on our heels, amazed that one day WE (who used to be dead, but now are alive) will be his dwelling place in a way that is true now, but will be SO MUCH TRUER then.

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