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Trivializing Heaven

February 14, 2013

As I am currently trying to cope with the death of a very dear friend I am driven back to some thoughts that I have been pondering for some years now off and on. I am completely convinced that in our culture at large we have some badly distorted ideas about what Heaven is all about. When there was a terrible tragedy in Connecticut we heard repeatedly of the 26 new angels in heaven. Such ideas though the certainly have no basis in Scripture provide some comfort for those feeling loss and are understandable even if baseless.
I am more concerned about misguided and misinformed ideas about Heaven and Eternity that are common among believers who could be expected to be more Biblically knowledgeable. Some are not so much errors as they are misplaced emphasis. However, the impact is, I believe, to trivialize the reality of what Heaven is.
I have come to believe that even the Biblical physical descriptions of heaven can, when we become too wrapped up in the details, cause us to be misdirected. I doubt seriously that there will literally be streets paved with gold or gates made of jewels. I think that it is far more likely that those descriptions are the Biblical authors means of saying it is such a fantastic place that if you imagine the most glorious place that you can, Heaven will even top that. At any rate, I am confident that gold streets or not we will not be disappointed in any of the physical reality that there may be. What makes Heaven Heaven is not the construction materials. It is the very real presence of Almighty God.
That brings me to what I believe is the more common and misguided way that we trivialize Heaven. How many times have you heard, “Can’t wait to get to heaven to see my mother, or my father, or my spouse, or maybe a little better some Biblical hero.”? Or, on a slightly different tack, __________ is looking down on me? I can fully appreciate, at this moment especially, that when we are suffering from the recent departure of someone that we dearly love, it is comforting to believe that we will be reunited with that person in Heaven. I am not even suggesting that this may not in fact be the case. We may well have that opportunity. What I am suggesting is that this represents a trivialization. It is taking something that is in reality a minor and making it a major.

A few years ago in a discussion about heaven without much thought I said, “If eternity is in fact linear, and I am not at all certain that it is, I would expect to spend the first several million years on my face in front of the Throne.” As I stated earlier in this article Heaven is all about the presence of Almighty God. On this earth I dearly loved my father and believe that he was a great man of God. He died when I was still in high school. My friend Tommy died less than a week ago. He also was an outstanding follower of Jesus and right now the fact that I will not be able to get together with him or call him on the phone hurts more than I can express. These and others that I have known and who have gone before me are some whom I would love to spend more time with. There are also Biblical characters whom I would love to learn from. It is not a matter of any of these people not being important. It is simply a matter of priorities. Given a choice, I can spend time with my earthly father or I can spend time in the presence of Almighty God, sorry dad, you lose that one. Amos, you were one awesome prophet and I really dug your book, but God is right there. And, I would be shocked if my father, and Tommy, and Amos weren’t already on their faces before the throne when I got there. I don’t expect any of these who have gone before me to be “watching over” me. They have better things to do. God has left the Holy Spirit to look out for me. That is more than sufficient.
If eternity is not linear, and again I have come to believe that is likely even though I cannot really grasp what nonlinear means since I am a totally linear person, it might well make the timeline view of eternal priorities irrelevant. However, that does not remove the basic question. If we place too much emphasis on the minor points of what Heaven is about, we miss out on the very most important reality, that we have a place waiting for us in the very presence of Almighty God. All else is trivial.

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