December 27, 2006

What is heaven like?

In discussions about heaven, someone usually wonders if the things we enjoy here will be part of our eternity. The fishermen imagine perfect streams and trout eager for their bait. The artists imagine painting sunsets and fields of daisies with the stroke of a heavenly brush. Quilters imagine a never-ending stash of fabric and sewing machines with bobbins that never need rewinding. Golfers long for days upon days playing a perfect game with no hooks or slices. Horse lovers ride glistening steeds over hills, through forests and on white beaches, forever.

What does not interest me is sitting on a cloud playing a harp (or eating cream cheese)! I don’t want heaven to be ‘boring,’ but have to remember that besides a huge change in environment, there will be a huge change in me. The stuff I like now might seem boring then, at least compared to what heaven offers. Whatever seems strange or odd in the limited biblical descriptions of heaven now might totally fascinate me when I get there.

One of those odd descriptions is from Revelation 4. John writes, “Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald.”

Jewelry may be pretty, but I’m not a lover of precious stones. I’d rather collect rocks from the beach. However, in this description the King of kings is compared to a diamond seated in a rainbow that looks like an emerald. I have to admit that part of me says, How gaudy.

This description is certainly metaphor. The brilliance of gemstones is an attempt to convey the glory of the Lord and the clarity of His light. The colors and their shining glow is no doubt not even close to the beauty we will see when we look at Jesus on His throne.

Despite that the Bible says, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him,” other descriptions of heaven more quickly catch my attention. One is familiar: “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

Some days being in heaven has more appeal than others. Most of the time, I’d like to see its purity, its streets of gold, and especially the face of Jesus, but I’m not sure I’m ready for that right now.

But other days I want to escape horrible headlines, world-wide and personal tragedies, grief, pain, loss—right now. On those days (and I know this is selfish) I’d gladly trade the sorrows and challenges of my life for a long and lingering look at Jesus. And I’m sure that His rainbow will not be the slightest bit gaudy but totally glorious.

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