What awaits those who trust in Christ? Let’s dive into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Death is something we often don’t really care for. It’s such a finality to matters. I have been to two funerals this year for instance. One was for an aunt who died. The other was for a neighbor who lived just down the street from us and whose death we were not at all expecting. My wife has lost her grandfather this year as well.
When someone dies, we are suddenly filled with grief if we knew the person well and cared for them. When I walk past my neighbor’s house for instance, I can know that in this lifetime, I will never see him out there tending to his garden and have him wave at me and have my wife and I talk to him about the plants in our garden.
Scripture gives us the promise of life everlasting as does the Apostles’ Creed, but here is another area where we have misunderstandings. This is often done at funerals. As I mentioned in an earlier post, too often, we have made it seem like the goal of Christianity is simply to get to Heaven. That’s a goal very much about us.
Yet the Bible is about what God is doing with His creation for His glory and part of it is redeeming the creation. It is not as if he says “Dang it. Looks like the devil screwed up that Garden of Eden plan. So much for that planet.” Too many Christians have this idea. This world is not our home supposedly. God did not make it to be our eternal dwelling.
Wherever that idea comes from, it is not Scripture. It is more a Platonic sort of idea of an otherworldly experience apart from this world. In fact, Scripture says the opposite. Heaven comes down to Earth in the book of Revelation. It is not the case that people go to Heaven. God comes to dwell with His people. His people do not go to a far off place where He is. In fact, if we are true believers of Scripture, we should realize God is here right now. We are just waiting for His presence to be more manifest and I would suggest the problem is not with Him, but it is with us. After all, it can never be with Him.
Part of that promise is not just going back to Eden, but going beyond Eden. This will be a place that is far better than Eden. This will be life everlasting and of a kind that will eternally satisfy us. Thankfully, it will not be like what we often see in the cartoons. For most of us, if Heaven was simply sitting on clouds and playing harps, most of us would wonder if we had instead gone to Hell. It is why some youth growing up have asked the question of if Heaven would be boring. With our descriptions of it, we have not given them much to be excited about.
Of course, the biggest excitement is that God is there and we interact with Jesus. Now if some of you don’t get excited as you should at that, could it be because we have not made the topic that exciting? We have turned God into some detached far off being that is not really interacting with our world, aside from as a friend of mine said yesterday, to perhaps send a hurricane to judge homosexuals and people attending casinos and I could add perhaps answering that prayer for a miracle and finding that parking space every now and then.
And as for Jesus, well we’ve made Jesus this nice approachable figure from our Sunday School lessons that doesn’t really challenge us which leads to an obvious question. Why would someone crucify this Jesus? For instance, as I read through Five Views on the Historical Jesus, I found Crossan’s essay quite interesting with the ending that Jesus would be seen like someone providing social renewal with a message of love. Okay. Perhaps He did. Here’s my problem. A Jesus like that is not a threat. At the worst, He’s an annoyance. There’s no reason to crucify Him.
Do we really think about Jesus? Do we think about who He is and why He came? For instance, last night I read Psalm 86 with the prayer in there of thanking God for saving them. Now isn’t this interesting? The knowledge of salvation and forgiveness before the cross? But on what basis? Because people were keeping the Law to show their faithfulness to God in response of His faithfulness to them.
Did Jesus really come into a world where the Jews were looking for a way of salvation? It doesn’t look like it. Most of them had a way that seemed to work quite well for them. Yet still He came to show them a new way. What a strange message this must have been. Instead of righteousness with God being found on the basis of the Law which came from Moses, it was found on the basis of this man who just showed up and did some miracles and spoke in these strange parables? Look at it this way, and you can understand why Jesus was not received as well by the leaders of His day. We must all honestly ask ourselves before we condemn them if we would do any better.
Then you can ask also how John the Baptist fit into this. Why did John the Baptist speak out against the actions of Herod? Was he just a political agitator? Or was he concerned about the righteousness of the people and people getting their hearts right in preparation? If he said nothing about the leader of the people openly disobeying what was righteous, then how could He be taken seriously?
These are the kinds of questions we need to be asking. Who was Jesus? What kind of world did He come into? What difference did He make in it? What difference does He make in it? What does He tell us about God? Remember, Jesus is the revelation of God. He is the one through whom we are to see and interpret the Father. To know Jesus is to know God.
If the prospect of eternity with the Trinity does not excite us, it is because we have not come to fully know them as they are, and indeed this certainly applies to my own self who often does not get excited enough. None of us will have that kind of excitement until we pass over into eternity as we are all still bound by our sinful natures.
The good part is that we will have all of eternity to discover the wonder that we have missed and the wonder that we were meant for. It will never be interrupted. It will never be painful. It will never be sorrowful. It will never be boring. This does not mean we will be passive. We will be incredibly active. We will be working in Heaven, but it will be worthwhile and enjoyable, unlike most of our work today where most of us can’t wait to get home from the evening shift.
To see the analogy, go back to the Garden of Eden. As David Lamb says in his book “God Behaving Badly”, man is placed in the garden and given a job and he is given what many men have called the greatest commandment God ever gave man. “Go forth and multiply.” As Lamb says, he is told to eat a lot of food and have a lot of sex. Now men, imagine going through CareerBuilder or a Monster.com and seeing a job description like this.
“I have a garden that I want a husband and wife to attend to for me. I will cover all of their expenses. I will handle their dental, health, and any other insurance coverage. Aside from one tree I choose, they may eat anything they grow in the garden that they want. I will make sure their clothing and living arrangements are provided for. I will make sure their children are provided for. Oh. One more thing. I also expect the husband and wife to have a lot of sex with each other in the garden. No credentials or skills in gardening needed. I will teach you all you need to know.”
Personally, if I saw a job application like that, I would be applying immediately. In fact, I would probably be reapplying to it every day.
It’s my suspicion that our work in Heaven will be jobs tailor made for us. I suspect someone like myself could be assigned to do research and teaching and I will have the best library of all with all the books ever written and I will get to do that research alongside people like the Apostle Paul and Thomas Aquinas and just think of the conversations we can have.
Also, I do fully believe that this will take place on this Earth. What all that entails for us I cannot say. I get suspicious of people who claim to give detailed accounts of what Heaven is like when Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12 that he could not speak of what He saw. Whatever it is, it is made for us to enjoy and it will be enjoyable because it is our place in God that we find. We find our total completion in Him when we get there.
As I write this, I can confess I do get a hint of that joy and that desire. To use the parallel given earlier, and every man can understand this, imagine being at work one day and it being tedious and boring and you find out on your break you have a voicemail from your wife. You turn it on to listen still kind of in a moping mood and hear something like this.
“Hey honey. I just wanted to let you know it’s been really lonely here and I’ve been thinking about you a lot and how much I appreciate what you do. I sent the children over to grandma and grandpa’s to spend the night with them. I am as we speak fixing your favorite dinner right now and we’ll share it together when we get home and then, we can go to the bedroom together. I went out and got a new outfit today and I think you’ll really enjoy it. I can’t wait to see you when you get home and I hope you can’t wait to really see me.”
I can assure you if I was that husband, my mood would have gone straight up for the rest of the day and I could not wait to get home in the evening. Some of you women might be thinking “Won’t my husband be worried about how much the outfit cost?” I can assure you that will be one of the last things on his mind. In fact, the desire that he has is in fact enjoyable in itself. Anything he goes through for the rest of the day will be worth it in comparison to the joy that he knows awaits him when he gets home.
This is why the Bible compares things so often to a marriage. We are awaiting the full consummation of what is to come. Remember also we are the bride. We are the ones that will have the life of God given to us. What you see happening in a marriage is meant to be a picture of what happens between Christ and the church. This is in fact why we must take marriage seriously as Christians and must take sex sacredly as Christians. To do anything less is to dishonor God.
Keep the faith Christian, and someday, you will be in the manifest presence of God celebrating His great love and never again to be absent or apart from it.