The words of the young woman in confirmation class kind of hit me by surprise: “Heaven just seems like it is going to be so boring!”
I have to admit: I didn’t know how to respond. I had recently visited several Christians who were near death, and I could see the excitement and joy of heaven in their eyes. How could she say this? Then I remembered my own childhood imaginations—admittedly influenced more by Saturday morning cartoons than Holy Scripture. I recalled floating around on clouds and singing really long hymns all day!
Even as adults our visions of heaven are not much better. In fact, sometimes heaven is simply pictured as getting whatever we desire. The football fan gets to spend eternity attending the most exciting games ever played. The chocolate lover gets to taste every variety of cocoa blended into the perfect ratio of bitter and sweet without ever gaining weight. The outdoorsman gets to spend his time hiking in the mountains and exploring their glacier-tinted lakes and waterfalls. The golfer gets to play the most perfectly manicured courses imaginable and every shot is a hole in one. While these pictures may help us grasp the joys of heaven, they are not a complete picture of what God has waiting for his people.
Scripture refers to heaven in many ways. It is described as a wedding banquet (Matthew 22:1-14), a house with many rooms (John 14:2,3), a better country (Hebrews 11:16), the new Jerusalem (Revelation 21:2), and paradise (Luke 23:43), just to name a few. It is a place of life filled with joy, peace, and rest. Central to this life is experiencing perfect union with God and the enjoyment of his presence.
The problem with these pictures of heaven is that they depict primarily a fulfillment of our earthly desires. But in heaven our desires will be so in line with God’s desires that the two will become one. We will want what God wants and find joy in his glory. This is why praising God in heaven will not in any way be “boring.”
While we live here on earth, we can never imagine how wonderful heaven will be.
The descriptions of heaven do not tell us all that we may want to know. Instead we are given pictures, parables, and metaphors. This shouldn’t surprise us as language has difficulty describing things that are not part of our shared human experience. For example, imagine traveling back to the Middle Ages and describing an airplane. You could say, “It’s like a bird that flies through the sky and carries people like a giant ship, but it also has wheels like a wagon.” Your listeners might get the general idea, but if you asked them to draw a picture of an airplane, it wouldn’t look much like a Boeing 747. Maybe you’ve experienced how words often fall short as you’ve tried to share a beautiful or inspiring experience with friends. They really had to be there to get it! While we live here on earth, we can never imagine how wonderful heaven will be.
Heaven is about being accepted
It’s not just the catchy melody that made the theme song for the 1980s TV series Cheers a hit. The lyrics resonate with this deep human desire to be welcomed: “Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got. Taking a break from all your worries sure would help a lot. Wouldn’t you like to get away?” Then the triumphant chorus breaks out: “Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came. You wanna go where people know people are all the same. You wanna go where everybody knows your name.” We want to go where people know our name.
On the Last Day, “the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world’ ” (Matthew 25:34). Our Savior accepts us because he removed our sins by his sacrifice and welcomes us into an inheritance that existed before we were even born.
This is the place you dream of but can’t describe. Forgiven, accepted, loved. Even though you have never been here before, everybody knows your name, and your heavenly Father welcomes you as his beloved child.
Consider the description of the believer’s final destination in the apostle John’s vision. John heard a voice from the throne of God announce one of the most beloved descriptions of the believer’s final destination: “God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:3,4).
For those who have shed tears of regret and loneliness, for those who have suffered pain and stared death in the face, this is the place where all those things are gone. Since the root cause of it all, sin, has been removed by the Lamb of God, so then have all of its consequences.
Heaven is about being with God
God himself will be with his people. The Creator of heaven and earth will wipe every tear from the eyes of his people in the new heavens and the new earth. Things will be very different from how they are now. “Now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).
Here is something that is anything but boring. In heaven you will need no words to know God because you will see him face-to-face. You will stare into the face of the One who hung the stars in the sky and wrote the instructions for every cell in your body. There’s no judgment because sin and guilt are gone. The God who knit you together in your mother’s womb, who was with you every step of the way, and who knows exactly who you are and how you have failed him in so many ways, loves you anyway. He loves you because of his Son, and you will be his child forever.
Author: Justin Cloute
Volume 107, Number 12
Issue: December 2020