I was sitting in class Wednesday afternoon and my brilliant professor began to start talking about heaven and hell. She mentioned one innocent line. She said it as a throw away line, it was part of a tangent and it was not meant for anything more then how she said it. Yet, it got my brain racing and led to this Facebook post:
We have tamed and co-opted the life and beauty out of Heaven, meanwhile making Hell an interesting, perplexing option. In reality, the picture the Bible paints is radically different. Heaven is a captivating reality of beauty, hope and life, while Hell is a dull reality.
The church has done a horrible job of accurately portraying the reality of heaven and hell. Realizing this is actually quite funny, because for years the American church was about turning the Christian life into a ticket of heaven. Being a holder of this ticket meant one would be allowed to go to heaven, not have any sorrow, pain or death, but other then that we have tamed down the wonder, awe and captivation of heaven. Which is ironic when you think of it, because if the Christian life is just about a ticket to heaven, then shouldn’t we want to paint heaven as the most interesting, captivating and beautiful place we have ever heard of and hell as the epitome of everything a person would not want to experience? You would think this ticket to heaven gospel would have led to a more captivating picture of heaven.
In our misunderstanding of God’s narrative arc, we have forgotten to tell the whole story. Maybe it is because we have become more interest in the likes of how we get there (i.e. the end times) and the books that made Christian eschatology open for pop culture judgement – Left Behind. if you read my blog frequently, you’ll see me quote Revelation 21 all the time. I quote this passage because I love it:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
(Revelation 21:1-4 ESV)
I love this because it paints a picture of heaven that is beautiful and captivating. It is one I cannot wait to experience, however, it is not complete without the understanding of this passage:
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
(Revelation 22:1-5 ESV)
If you read these passages in conjunction the picture of heaven we have created is completely disassembled Honestly, I cannot begin to tell you what heaven will be like. What I can tell you is how it will be more captivating then anything I could ever describe because we will be in the presence of our Creator. We wil get to live our lives in the full manner of how we were created. Our sin, the fall and everything about this world that should not be will disappear everything about this world that is worthy, joyful and of God will continue one. It will be amazing.
We won’t be riding clouds. We won’t be in robes playing harps. We won’t be sitting in an eternal church service. We will be living lives on a new earth. An earth as it was created to be.
Heaven is not boring. Heaven is captivating because Jesus is there. Heaven is not dull because Jesus is not dull. Heaven is full of beauty because Jesus if full of beauty. Heaven is new life, while hell is not a place I would ever wish on my worst enemy. There is nothing captivating about hell. The people who say they’d rather go to hell then be in heaven make me wonder if they have actually heard about the captivating reality of heaven.
Honestly heaven is a captivating reason to come to Jesus, but as a mentor of mine says: “Fear of hell is a good reason to become a Christian, but it’s a horrible reason to stay a Christian.” We need to paint a better picture of what we are inviting people into. It is not a ticket out of hell, or a even a ticket to heaven. We are inviting them into a new life that begins in the now and continues to the forever.
New life begins now; we practice it now; we continue it forever.