Monday, February 04, 2008

Humanizing Eternity

Hello All,

Years ago, a song lyric by AC/DC awakened a great point in the heart of a television preacher. The lyric was "going down, party time, my friends are going to be there too." He lamented the fact that people believed that hell was going to be some extension of life, where joys could be had among partying friends. He expressed sadness at the thought of the rude awakening that the unregenerate will experience when they begin to serve their eternal sentence.

As much as that is true for how people erroneously conceptualize hell, it seems to also be true of the regenerate's view of heaven. One need only attend a few funerals, or in my case, officiate a few funerals, to see this attitude. In testimonials to the deceased, I have often heard men and women proclaim that their departed one was involved in some innocuous activity, such as golfing or fishing. I have heard others speak of their departed ones actually sitting down and having "a beer and a smoke with Jesus!"

What makes us say or conceive such things? Psychologically, it comforts us to believe that they are comforted, not alone and certainly not suffering. When someone says something like this, they remember that he or she enjoyed these activities and what better fate would they enjoy, but the perpetual enjoyment of these activities.

It's strange what things bring comfort to our minds in those times. At the same time, it is disturbing! We are humanizing heaven and thus diminishing it's true glory for some poor substitute. Which raises yet another question: Why do we need to do this?

Let me first say that there is little need for guesswork when it comes to the concept of heaven, or hell for that matter. I have written a little bit about the concept and teaching of hell here. But, for my purposes here, I want to point you to a few verses.

First, on the topic of heaven.

- There is a government. (Revelation 4:1-5)
- There is worship (Revelation 4:6-11)
- There is an eternal city (Revelation 21:1,2)
- There is an unbreaking, undisturbed time of face to face communion between God and His people. (Revelation 21:3)
- There is no sorrow, no pain, no regret, no death, no tears; joy without end or interruption (Revelation 21:4)
- There is no injustice, or sin present (Revelation 21:8)

Revelation 21:23-27 : "The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it. But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life."

Now, Hell is a little bit different.

- There is no government, per se. (Revelation 20:10)
- There is continual weeping and regret. (Luke 13:23-28)
- There will be no end to the torment of soul. (Matthew 18:8)

Having looked at these verses, I am not perplexed as to why one would want to Humanize Hell, but why Heaven? Why is it that we need to comfort ourselves with stories of golf and leisure, versus the real thing?

I am convinced or shall I say, becoming convinced, that the reason for this is fairly simple to deduce. I am thinking that we are thinking that being in heaven is just like being in church, except for an eternal period of time. While most of us would not mind church going on for a 100 years, we might balk at the prospect of an eternal "service."

So few of us enjoy the presence of the Lord, or perhaps, we have been unable to discern His presence for any length of time. But Heaven is that experience. I am convinced that if our vision were more accurate of the greatness of Jesus, and the power of God, as well as the glory of what our eyes have not yet seen, I am convinced that we would live in perpetual awe. Every moment will be jaw dropping, without interupption for eternity. With every turn of the eye, we will be awakened to a new glory and a new beauty that will be incomprehensible. But all of it will pale in comparison to Christ, our Redeemer and Lord. I imagine that this is the meaning of the type that is so prevalent in the scripture, about the church being Christ's bride. I believe that there will be such love and power and glory in the eyes of Jesus Christ, that all who are the elect, will have a difficult time removing our eyes from His gaze.

Perhaps that sounds a little feminine! Perhaps so. But consider the presenting of the bride to the groom, and that moment when true love is realized and a life is begun. That is the wonder of eternity. I won't care about golfing or fishing or playing basketball. My only desire will be for the one who spilt His blood to redeem me from the fires of an eternally damned state.

I pray that this blog entry has awakened your senses to the wonder that is our hope in Christ. I pray that you if you have the opportunity to share about heaven, that you will keep yourself from humanizing the experience and point to the wonder of Christ and the truth that our words and experiences are insufficient to the task of describing eternity.

I Corinthians 2:9 : "But as it is written: '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.'"

Paul, the writer of the Corinthian epistles, actually, likely, visited Paradise for a short time. He came back and said that it would be unlawful for him to utter what was heard there, much less seen. What does he spend his time and writings doing? Pointing us to the point of Paradise: Jesus Christ.

I pray that we will learn to enjoy Him now, more than ever, that we might enjoy Him for eternity.

Blessings...To Our Friends,
Frank Sanchez

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