Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The lies we believe about heaven

"And they say there's a Heaven, and those who will wait.  And some say it's better, but I say it ain't!  I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints. The sinners are much more fun." -- Billy Joel
Was Billy right?  Some say that heaven is worth it, but it sure doesn't seem like we believe it as a culture.

I remember when I was younger, cartoons depicted heaven as the beautiful place where I'd receive angel wings, get my own cloud, and get a harp to play.  If that were true about heaven, I'd agree with Billy Joel's song "Only the Good Die Young," that heaven is a boring place where boring, good people go to live their boring, good lives for eternity.  Meanwhile, the party is happening elsewhere, and while we aren't supposed to like it, it's really pretty awesome.  

Other people view heaven differently.  I've heard many different opinions on the matter, many from my own mind as I've considered death probably more often than most people.  There's the theory that heaven is just a state of being after we die, that it's just a deep sleep for the rest of time.  Heaven could be a place where we get everything we want!  It could be a nightclub that's run by the Rat Pack (Not kidding... the movie Down to Earth describes it as such).

But what's amazing to me is that two things typically happen when people talk about Heaven:  It doesn't seem better than this life, but people would rather go there than the other place.  

But what's really true about Heaven?  Well, let's look at what scripture says:

It's God-Centric:  In Revelation 4, you see this beautiful and vivid picture of heaven.  In the center of it all is not man, but God.  The biggest thing about Heaven is that we live with God.  And He's not the crazy neighbor down the street, rather He's the one we worship, adore, and commune with.  He will be our greatest joy.

It's Free of Sin:  Billy Joel would be sad by this, but that's because he doesn't realize the point of repenting of sin.  Living without sin isn't ridding ourselves of fun, it's actually enhancing our joy by celebrating things in the proper way!  And by being free of sin, we become free of any shame, brokenness, and sadness.  Revelation 21 says as much!

It's Tangible:  We won't be merely spirits wandering about like the ghosts of Hogwarts in Harry Potter.  We'll have new bodies.  How do we know this?  Well, when Jesus came back to life, he ate a fish.  He digested it.  It didn't just go through him, he actually ate it!  (Luke 24:41-43).  In Revelation 19, there's a Wedding Feast that we'll be a part of!  It's a BIG party, and we will feast!  

If this is truly what Heaven is, how should we respond?  One thought is that we need to invite people to this eternal party by sharing the Gospel with them.  Another is that if you are reading this and aren't a Christian, you can actually be a part of this party by following Jesus!  

"But what if I don't want to follow Jesus?  Can I still come?"  Maybe you've been asked that, or you've asked that yourself.  My question in return is, "If the main figure of heaven is God and worshipping Him, why would you want to go if you don't want to worship Him now?"

One last application is this:  If heaven is an eternal party that's free of death, sin, and brokenness, that brings us in close communion with the lover of our souls, we can embrace the trials and sufferings of this life with our hope set on eternity.  It means we don't need to have the good life here, because we are guaranteed it later.  So press on living and sharing the Gospel of Jesus.