The truth is that our ideas and imaginings of heaven have always been quite conservative, measured to earthly things and dictated by commercialized media. Or many times heaven is represented as just the best the earth currently has to offer, but surrounded by clouds, which is cool maybe for like, an hour or two, maybe even a day, but what then? It seems a bit empty because many or most people don’t take heaven or the possibility thereof, that seriously. Another truth is that we simply cannot comprehend eternity.
So what then for those of us who do take this issue seriously; how do we wrap our minds around it to appropriately adjust our perceptions?
Firstly, what have we learned from God in our time here on earth? What notes do we have pertaining to the Almighty's personality, his creative design etc?
When looking at the purest things on earth, the purest and most beautiful things this world and life has to offer, what incentive do they provide with a view to the “beyond” in mind?
I believe heaven will include all these things, simply amplified in ways unimaginable… but let’s not allow that word unimaginable to get in our way – as we’re encouraged to believe in things unseen… the reason I say that heaven will include these pure things, is simply because they came directly from God. Yes we will worship God, but it won't be like any church service you may or may not have attended. We're meant to worship God in our everyday lives (living sacrifices), so heaven will encompass all the elements that God delights in here on earth.
So in this way we learn of God’s beauty within the mystery of adventure. Can you imagine what earth looked like in the early days, zero pollution, the air clean and pure, not one impurity in the waters nourishing the vast untamed landscape, teeming with life… it is an invigorating vision.
So far we have many basic alluring ingredients all located at the beginning of creation lending some colour and hints into what is to come in the hereafter.
We serve a God who is in love with us. He is passionate, he is mighty with a voice loader than thunder… he is a frightening prospect when taking from the images the Bible lends us. Hence C.S. Lewis using the image of a Lion (Aslan) in Narnia in his representation, with little Lucy Pevensie constantly wanting to hug and nestle in his mane, whilst still retaining the knowledge that this is a powerful and untamed beast – fear born out of respect (and what the term “God fearing” entails). And yet we speak of the same God who created sunsets and sunrises, mountainous reflections in lakes, the Aurora Borealis, the human orgasm, an infectious smile, music, dance, rainbows and erupting volcanoes, waterfalls and the entire universe with comets, nebula's and the explosive beauty of a dying star.
Let us pause for a moment to contemplate heavenly things. In the Bible, every Angel or heavenly being that appears on earth, invariably opens with the line of “do not be afraid”. Now ask yourself why… Imagine the scene, place yourself there. A great and astonishing light manifests in your presence and an audible voice emanates from it. Everything that arrests your senses at this moment, is otherworldly. You’re encountering something spiritual, something supernatural. This would shock anyone, even the staunchest of believers, simply because it apposes our very nature, and nothing on this earth (save perhaps for the Word of God - the Bible) can fully prepare us for such an encounter. [Click HERE for my Bible Book Review.]
“There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire within a bush.” – Exodus 3:2 (NIV)
“… from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him.” – Ezekiel 1:27 (NIV)
If there is one thing we can say about all these visions, is that they are NOT tame. When people talk of being “God fearing”, it is in reference to the literal power and might of God. Here is a being who spoke the world into being…
And yet, he loves you. He wants to spend time with you. He wants you to make the choice to love him, because within the DNA of creation, is a story of love and romance, adventure, beauty and purity.
And so, having touched on what heaven could be, we've also glimpsed the other side. So what of it…
What is hell?
Hell; there are many versions of it, judging by what we’ve seen here on earth, but in eternity, I feel that it is simply abandonment. Being alone in eternity. Cut off from anything and everyone. God loves us, and has offered his love to us freely, but many of us have shunned it. So when it comes to eternity, those who chose to, will be shunned by God. Spending eternity in solitude, deserted. Hell is the Abyss… it is nothing, it is the torment of abandonment, solitary confinement, but the opposite of that – infinite solitude, like being lost in space but without the reference of stars or planets. It is infinite darkness…
“What is hell? Hell is oneself.
Hell is alone, the other figures in it
Merely projections. There is nothing to escape from
And nothing to escape to. One is always alone.”
― T.S. Eliot
Just think, the majority of Jesus’ miracles were to do with healing, and to be saved is to be “born again” in spirit… and God said in Rev 22 that effectively Eden, will be restored. Overcoming death (which was never a part of creation), healing and restoration are keynotes (to say the least). When God started the human story (our side) it was a new beginning of hope for what had transpired before, of restoring what was lost in heaven. But to do that, he needs souls who choose him, souls who will love him truly, deeply. Hence reclaiming the intimacy with God, lost in the Garden of Eden (yes this story haunts us), but made available again, afforded to us anew by the sacrifice Jesus made by allowing himself to be nailed to a cross and suffering our fate: death... Dying for someone, taking their place and giving everything for that person, no matter what their attitude or resolve, in all our sin and shame
- this is the ultimate expression of his love for us.
“It is as hard to explain how this sunlit land was different from the old Narnia as it would be to tell you how the fruits of that country taste. Perhaps you will get some idea of it if you think like this. You may have been in a room in which there was a window that looked out on a lovely bay of the sea or a green valley that wound away among mountains. And in the wall of that room opposite to the window there may have been a looking-glass. And as you turned away from the window you suddenly caught sight of that sea or that valley, all over again, in the looking glass. And the sea in the mirror, or the valley in the mirror, were in one sense just the same as the real ones: yet at the same time they were somehow different - deeper, more wonderful, more like places in a story: in a story you have never heard but very much want to know. The difference between the old Narnia and the new Narnia was like that. The new one was a deeper country: every rock and flower and blade of grass looked as if it meant more.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia
so ask yourself: what’s Heaven really like?