This is the second in a series of posts about heaven that I will be presenting this week. The first was posted yesterday, here.
Have you ever seen those shirts, "If they don't have [insert pleasure] in heaven, then I'm not going?" I find these to be preposterous (probably as preposterous as those wearing the shirts actually find the idea of heaven to be). Heaven is so incredibly better than any human mind can imagine. Believers there are with God forever, in his presence, without sin or brokenness, living an existence of worship and exaltation to their Creator. Heaven is wonderful in ways I cannot fathom.
Despite knowing this, however, I wonder what life is like in heaven. One popular view (that I believe is wholly inaccurate) is that of walking on clouds alongside angels whilst playing harps. Frankly, I find this notion to be compelling to few individuals, and of those few, only a percentage are Christian. Rather, I believe that heaven contains many "echoes of earth", not the least of which being food, fellowship, and function. I use this third term carefully, both for the purposes of alliteration (which I enjoy despite claims that is "lazy") and definition (which I will further discuss later).
I will speak to each of these matters with some detail, but let me first stress that I am not a schooled Theologian but a layperson who loves Christ deeply and sincerely. I put no intellectual stake in these proposals less their being ideas and concepts (not concrete conclusions), drawn less from exegesis of Greek and Hebrew texts than from overall literary analysis of the biblical canon and universal human experience. Should these ideas be wrong (and they likely are), heaven would be no less wonderful. In fact, despite my lack of official training, I am certain that whatever heaven entails is greater than anything I might suggest or propose. That being said, here are some things that I expect in some form or manner (oh, and in these descriptions I will be changing my verb tense to the future tense rather than the present since those reading this are looking toward heaven not experiencing it in the present).
I think that food is a regular part of heaven. The Bible has a great deal to say about food. Dietary laws, annual feasts, last suppers, mass feedings, fruits of the spirit, reaping harvest, speeches of hunger and thirst--these seem to be something of a motif throughout the canon of Scripture. Food is the fuel for our bodies, and our bodies are the last physical entities God directly created in the Old Testament. Our bodies are also the temples of the Holy Spirit in the New Testamant. Food is also universal to all peoples and is a source of joy and pleasure when it is obtained at need. While I don't believe we will have the same bodies in eternity that we have on earth, I believe that we will have some form of being, and I believe that some type of food for that form will be a component of heavenly life. I also believe that this food will be limited in two very good ways. First, food will be available in abundance, and second, food will be consumed in balance. I believe that we will have a great amount of food on which to feast while in heaven, that food will be more delicious than we could possibly imagine and more delectable than even Tolkien could describe. All will eat to their fill and with great pleasure, but this abundance will be shared correctly; persons in heaven will eat in balance--without sin, without greed, and without gluttony. While we eat to our fill, we will not eat a morsel beyond it. I don't believe we will all selfishly want to vie for the last biscuit or use false modesty to offer the last piece of cheese when we in fact want it for ourselves (cause let's face facts, we've all been guilty of both of these things at some point). None will go hungry at the expense of another's hoarding. No, in heaven, our eating will be without sin or selfishness. We will be glad to share. Will it be vegan? I don't know, but if it is, it will be the best. Will we all eat together at every meal? I doubt it, but if we do, it will make for some wonderful parties. Will God eat? That is a great mystery, but I think so, if for no other reason than to create another point of connection between us and himself. Oh, and because I gather at least one person is wondering, I believe that we will process this food wholly and have no need of restrooms or relieving ourselves =).
I also believe and hope that fellowship will be a large part of heaven, both with God and with others. Frankly, I look forward to connection with others less than with God, but I still anticipate the former level of relationship with great expectation. My guess is that we'll be able to sit and talk without the constraints of time or fear or weather or exhaustion. Christian siblings will simply be able to enjoy each other unabashedly, in a way that they'll never know here. But what will we talk about? Well, I've considered that also, but I am unsure. I believe that we'll have similar conversations to those we've had here on earth, but we will have those conversations in light of the fullness of truth. For example, we may remember a time of great sorrow, but we will also recognize with more clarity God's hand in that event--so that our discussion of it will be without pain, regret, or sorrow but rather in joy and exultation to Christ over the ways in which he was working in it. I believe we will be able to speak about things knowing not necessarily the fullness of them but the truth of them--so we may not know every facet of the hummingbird's life, but we will recognize the creature as God's handiwork, designed with purpose, to accomplish specific things, and we will love God for it all the more. I also believe that we will have expression in light of truth, in that we will be able to express what we mean clearly and without hiddenness and without misunderstanding. We will say what we intend to say in the manner in which we mean to say it, and we will be heard and understood. Our thoughts and words, of course, will also be without sin--our words will encourage, glorify God, and deepen relationship. Let's be honest, communication on earth is something of a mess. In heaven, this will not be the case. I believe we will be able to spend time together in light of knowing full well who God is, who we are, and having no baggage, only love and a desire to exalt Christ. How marvelous!
Finally, I believe that each person will also serve functions in our heavenly, non-earthly life. Now, this is not toil or labor for wages. On the contrary, I think that heaven will be free of money and, if any economy were to exist, not that it would be needed, it would be a giving-based resource economy free of profits, deadlines, overhead, royalties or residuals. What I mean to say, is that in heaven, I believe that people will have roles, roles they are exuberant to have, roles without stress, roles without busywork, roles for which they are wholly suited and will wholly fulfill. No one will have need, and we will all be content, but I believe people will still create art and goods and meals and gardens and works simply out of the sheer pleasure of doing so. We will simply be able to do it at our leisure, to God's glory, drawing our pleasure from his allowing us to be active and productive, from his enabling us to complete things, and from his enjoying our efforts. I believe that people will be able to create and build and design and realize projects and give their works away without any thought of self and desire for compensation. We will "do" simply for the joy of "doing", in God's presence and to his glory.
What if you could walk through the heavenly spaces and meet a fellow believer you have never seen, and you could talk with them for a thousand years and learn a great deal of one another by sharing your stories of God's glory, grace, and faithfulness--bringing you both even closer to God even as you are brought closer to one another; and what if you could part ways without awkwardness or sorrow, knowing that at any time you could reconnect and take as much pleasure in one another as you had already, for any given amount of time? Even better, what if Christ introduced you? What if he took a man born in Syria in 3200 B.C. and introduced him to a Canadian in 1996 and simply said to them, "I think you two have a great deal to discuss.", and they did--without language barriers, without skepticism or caution, without pretense or self-importance. They could simply meet and love each other well and love Christ more for bringing them together as brothers. That sounds heavenly to me.
Or what if, in heaven, you could take a millenium to master an instrument, and someone who loves to teach could spend those years teaching you; and someone who loves to build instruments could build one for you to play, perhaps not to own, but to enjoy along with everyone else in all of heaven; and what if everyone in that scenario did their best because God is their witness and they are finally and truly doing everything to his glory. No money changes hands. No practices run too long or too short. No one feels neglected, unappreciated, undervalued, or unimportant. We will have patience to learn well (and teach well) and create together, for glorious, majestic worship of one who is worthy. Yeah, I long for that, too.
I really don't know if anything I am suggesting will be part of the perfect equation. I honestly don't, but I know that God is good, and I truly believe this earth and the fellowship, food, and functionality we enjoy in the present will have some bearing on our existence in eternity. I realize that each of these thoughts creates with it another million-or-so questions. In fact, I think that is part of my purpose in writing these posts--to stimulate one's mind to think of what heaven might be, what it might mean, and why it is such a destination toward which we can look so passionately. As long as Christ is there, I will be eternally alive and grateful. That is a given.
What "Echoes of Earth" do you think we will we encounter in heaven? Please share, as I am always hoping to increase my own vision for that place!