Published August 27, 2013
On the broadcast that aired last weekend, Shelly Brown of the Browns recalled how an "Epistle" I wrote back in 2005 inspired a song she wrote, "My Name Is Already There." (We were talking about a new song of theirs that I also unintentionally helped inspire.) So I dug out that "Epistle" from years ago to share again and it's all about heaven, a pretty good topic anytime. Here it is.
"What Is Heaven Like?"
Recent discussion in this column regarding heaven prompted one reader to ask, "Paul, what will heaven be like, really? I mean, from all I hear it'll be rather boring, won't it?"
Well, that depends on what you've heard. The common stereotypical description of heaven (especially in the secular media) is a place where its occupants sit around all day on clouds playing harps. I don't think even David would find that to be eternally amusing.
What will heaven be like?
Frankly, I don't know at least not in any significant detail. The Bible presents only glimpses of what heaven holds for believers but what glimpses they are! Amazing things! Indescribable sights! From the Isle of Patmos, John got a pretty good glimpse of heaven, but even he couldn't find words that came anywhere near being adequate to describe what he saw.
That's one reason why Paul, quoting the prophet Isaiah, said, "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." (1 Cor. 2:9, NKJV, referencing Isaiah 64:4.)
So, what do we know will be there?
Well, for one thing, if you're a Christian, your name is already written there. (Luke 10:20.) Think about that for a few moments. Your name a specific reference to you, individually is written down in heaven. It's as if a part of you is already there. There is only one Lamb's Book Of Life and you're in it!
[When you're through shouting, we'll continue...]
Heaven, the Bible tells us, is a place of rewards. Jesus told His followers that if they held to the faith, even though persecuted, "great is your reward in heaven." (Matt 5:12.)
Jesus told us, "lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven..." Those would be treasures of the heavenly kind, not the earthly kind that perish. Peter called such heavenly treasures "an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you." (1 Peter 1:4.)
There will be fascinating company. Every believer since Adam will be there. If you're a Christian, you'll have plenty of time to interview each and every one of them. (I enjoy interviewing. Have you noticed?) Can you imagine it? Find out what the Garden of Eden was really like. Find out what Noah's ark was really like. Find out what David actually thought about Goliath. Talk with the Apostles to find out all about those many, many wonders that Christ did while on earth that didn't get into the Bible. (See John 20:30, the most frustrating verse in Scripture.)
Christ Himself promised that when He gathers His saints, "many shall come from the east and west and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 8:11.) Let the conversation begin!
The most amazing and profoundly exciting thing about heaven will be that that's where God is! And we'll be with Him! Forever! As John reminds us, "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is." (1 John 3:2.)
God created mankind for fellowship. Can you imagine that? He created the entire human race for fellowship. That's you! That's me! That's your saved Aunt Ellie and Uncle Frank! And it's fellowship based on God-sized love! This fellowship will not be merely on a collective level. He wants to fellowship individually with each and every believer in a most personal way. As a friend! Personally! Only God could do that. Only God can fellowship individually with millions of individuals at the same time. And He will! (In fact, He already does that when we pray.)
What will we be doing in heaven? We'll be praising God. Continually. Probably this will be in some way which we can't even understand at this point, because we'll also have lot of other things to do, too.
God is infinite. He is able, therefore, to provide an infinite number of things for us to do. The even better news is that because He made you, He knows exactly what you like. He knows what is totally unique about your personality, even better than you do. He knows exactly what will give you the greatest fulfillment possible. He knows exactly what things or events or circumstances would be a perfect match for your personality for you, as an individual, unlike any other. (I'm struggling for words here attempting to describe how profound this is.) In some way that we can't possibly understand, God will tailor-make a heavenly existence that will, for you individually, be the epitome of "joy."
C. S. Lewis said, "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world." Think of it! Our life here is merely a time of preparation for the "real thing" our eternal life in heaven.
Here's the bottom line. I don't know much about what heaven will be like. But I do know the One Who's made it. I know the One Who's promised it as the eternal abode of believers as a place of joy and rewards. He'll be there! Live and in Person! And because I have full faith and confidence in Him, I can rest assured that heaven will exceed everything good that anyone's ever said about it and be so, so much more. Infinitely so. You can have that confidence, too.
Boring? Not a chance.
There's an old hymn, written in 1900, by Charles Gabriel, that says it well:
"When all my labors and trials are o'er,
And I am safe on that beautiful shore,
Just to be near the dear Lord I adore,
Will through the ages be glory for me.
"O that will be glory for me,
Glory for me, glory for me,
When by His grace I shall look on His face,
That will be glory, be glory for me."
P.S. from Paul: The sermon upon which the above column was based was later adapted for use at the funeral of a good friend from church the only time I ever preached at a funeral. He had requested it to remind everyone about where he was going.
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