Thursday, May 12, 2022

What Is Heaven Like?

 Have you ever wondered what Heaven will be like? Of course you have. Everybody has wondered at one time or another whether there is life after death, and if there is, what it will be like. There are a lot of cultural images of what Heaven is like, such as people floating on clouds all day and playing the harp. I’m not sure where that idea came from, but it sounds kind of boring, especially if everyone is playing the same instrument. Every band needs a good rhythm section, with a bass player and drummer. A whole orchestra of just harps sounds like the worst kind of elevator music.

For those of us who believe in God and believe in His promise of life after death, the Scriptures and Church tradition offer frustratingly few details about Heaven. However, even though specific details are scarce, the Bible does tell us some important information about Heaven.

First, Scripture clearly says that Heaven is a real place and that Jesus Himself is preparing a special spot for us there. John’s gospel quotes Jesus as saying, “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places….I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2-3).

There are no details of what these dwelling places are like — condo? mansion? studio apartment? Winnebago? freshman dorm room? — but it seems clear that the folks who make it to Heaven will have their own special place to call home, something a little better than “Cloud # 862-B.”

Next, the Bible explains that Heaven is so spectacularly awesome, words can’t even begin to describe it. St. Paul wrote to the believers at Corinth: “Eye has not seen, and ear has not heard…what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9).
Heaven is so amazing, there is nothing in our earthly experience that compares. Since we know what clouds and harps are, this means those aspects of the popular and boring image are not present. Good!

This next one is my favorite bit of biblical information about Heaven. In the book of Revelation, at just about the very end of the Bible, it says, “[God] will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away” (Rev. 21:4).

If you haven’t noticed, our world is up to its eyeballs these days in death, mourning, wailing, and pain. (Sounds like the name of a morbid law firm. “Call Death Mourning Wailing and Pain for your free consultation!”) And no matter how bad things are today — and they’re really bad — it’s actually been worse during previous generations. The fact is, mankind’s long journey here on earth has been a struggle, and throughout history there have been at least as many tears as there have been smiles.

The idea that all pain and heartache will cease forever once we are in Heaven is extremely attractive. And it’s not mere wishful thinking. It is a promise of Scripture, God’s holy Word.

The final thing the Bible tells us about Heaven is a bit sobering. The Scriptures affirm that life after death is indeed real, and we all will experience it (regardless of whether we believe it’s true or not). Once we pass from this world to the next, the Bible clearly teaches that Heaven is not guaranteed. Those people who refuse to trust in God and who have no interest in having a relationship with Him will get their wish. They will spend eternity separated from the love of God. 

The Bible calls this experience Hell, and again, there are many popular cultural images, some involving pitchforks and silly red tights. But the bottom line is this: it will not be fun — at all. The pains and heartaches and loneliness of this world will be like a box of cupcakes compared to Hell. 
So, please make sure you enter into the joyful love of God’s Heaven once your time on earth is over. How can a person do this? Easy. Here’s one more Bible verse that shows us how, from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).

Thankfully, St. Paul did not say a single thing about harps.

1 comment:

  1. "Box of cupcakes?" Box? I think you meant to say donuts.

    Ruth O'Keefe