Heaven? Uh, no thanks ...

"Then He who sat on the throne said, 'Behold, I make all things new.'"
One of the best movies that I wasn't allowed to watch when I was a kid had to be "Predator."
You know the one, right? A pre-gubenatorial Arnold Schwarzenegger is stranded in the jungles of South America and pits himself against an alien hunter from another planet, with the help of Jessie "The Body" Ventura and the guy who played Apollo Creed from the "Rocky" movies. Man, you gotta love the 80s.

Something struck me when I was reading about Heaven recently, and I thought about the Predator. Well, this alien only sees in infra-red, right? He doesn't know what the ocean looks like, or how beautiful a sunset is, or how awe-inspiring snow-capped mountians can be. He can't see these things, but he doesn't really care, right? He has no frame of reference. He is blissfully ignorant of the beauty around him.
When I asked a group of Christian college students once if they were looking forward to going to Heaven, I wasn't surprised by the answer. They were about as excited at the prospect of going to Heaven as a trip to the mall on a Tuesday afternoon.
The next logical question, of course, was: "Why, then, did you decide to follow Jesus anyway?" There are any number of fringe benefits to doing so, not the least of which is the chance to spend eternity with Him in Heaven. But most of them said nothing about going to Heaven, or the immeasurable comfort of knowing their sins are forgiven. They became Christians because they didn't want to go to Hell.
That's just sad, really. No, not because they understood the very real place that Hell is, but that they failed to realize how very real Heaven is as well. Ask someone to picture Hell, they can conjure all sorts of horrific images -- fire, demons, etc. -- and, to be sure, there's no way of comprehending the terror of that place.
But you ask that same person about Heaven, and you'll invariably hear about harps and clouds and a bearded old white guy with a halo standing at a pearly gate with a big book. That would be St. Peter ... pick your punch line.
See that picture above? Porcelin Jesus and a bunch of creepy, chubby babies with wings? Man, you can keep that. I want no part of that ... and I suspect most people don't, either.
Take a look at how the Bible describes Heaven, and you'll get all kinds of stuff. It says there are many mansions (John 14:2), that it's a country (Hebrews 11:16), that it's a place of rest (Hebrews 4:9, Revelations 14:13) and that no bad people will be there (Galations 5:21, Ephesians 5:5, Revelation 22:15), among other things.
These things challenge some of our basic assumptions. First, Jesus tells his disciples in one of the most quoted scriptures that "In my Father's House, there are many mansions." It has been widely assumed that we would be living in those mansions -- remember the old hymn? "I've got a mansion/just over the hilltop/in that bright land where/we'll never go old ..." Now that you have that song stuck in your head, we'll move on -- but Jesus never says that.
Oh, and that city everyone talks about? Sure, it's there. But look at that scripture in Hebrews. It talks of a country, too. Think everyone will live in the city? Or might some of us live in the mountains ... or near the beach ... or both?
See, a lot of people in my generation don't really care that much about Heaven for two reasons: one, our parents and grandparents and anyone in church old enough to remember Richard Nixon as president talk about the prospect of not growing old and having new bodies as a big plus about the whole living forever thing. Fair enough, that's a valid reason for them. But our bodies are still relatively young ... yeah, I have aches and pains, but it's not like I need to trade in this 1975 model. I've got a few more miles to put on it yet.
Second, our ideas of Heaven come from those flannelboard stories we were taught in Vacation Bible School ... you know, the ones with the angels flying around a pasty white Jesus with the white robe and the purple sash. It's always bright, there are these gold streets and mansions that are impossibly large and look nothing like I'd ever be interested in. Again, no thanks.
We're like the Predator. Our human eyes can't comprehend the majesty and beauty of Heaven. What we have are images of what people imagine it to be -- clouds, pearly gates and chubby babies with wings.
What if Heaven isn't like that at all? What if Heaven is this beautiful country with a vast desert, deep jungles, miles of unblemished coastline, mountains that stretch for miles and miles and miles, rivers that roar with whitewater one moment and, in the next, gently trickle across smooth stones. What if our house is a modest little place right on the beach with a hammock out by water that's so clearly blue you can see right through to the bottom. What if you could sleep on that hammock for hours and hours and no one would bother you. Ever try to explain color to someone who is completely color blind? What if you wake up from your nap on that hammock -- I'm talking a real good nap, too, one that's a whole lifetime in the making -- and you're just in time to see the sun set and look like it's sinking into that pale blue water, and when it does there are colors in the sky that you and I have never seen, colors so beautiful we'll sit and stare for days on end just trying to come up with names for them all.
What if it's this great big party, the best outdoor barbecue you've ever seen, with scrumptious grilled lobster, steamed crabs and juicy steaks? What if there's a live band, and everyone gets along?
What if there's no fear of walking alone because no one wants to hurt you. Indeed, everyone loves you with a perfect love. And you love everyone else, too. What if every bad thing that's ever been done to you isn't just erased from your memory ... it never happened in the first place. That means you'd never need forgiven for anything you'd done to someone, either. What if you knew no emotion but pure happiness?
What if you could tell your granny how much you missed her? What if you could tell your grandpa you were proud to bear his name while on earth? What if they looked as wonderful as you remembered?
And what if, in the middle of this fantastic country, is this majestic city with a skyline that stretches for miles, and it's full of mansions and high rises and five star restaurants with the most wonderful food you can imagine; there are deluxe hotels where you can sleep in when you visit, stunning monuments more beautifully sculpted than anything you've ever seen, art galleries where painters and musicians display the masterpieces a finite life on earth never allowed them to finish.
What if, best of all, Jesus is in the middle of it all, calling the shots and making sure the whole thing runs perfectly? Because, you see, Jesus makes ALL things new.
What if you could visit Him anytime you wanted? What if you could have lunch with Jesus, go on a walk with Jesus, shoot pool with Jesus? Does that sound silly? It's not.
What if you could touch his hands that bore the nails that pierced your sin? What if you could hug Him and feel the warmth from his arms and feel His heart beat against your chest and hear Him say, more beautiful than any song, "I love you."
What if that is Heaven?
Yeah, me too ... I want to go there.
(copyright 2007 by andrew j. beckner. all rights under copyright reserved. contact me at ephesians514@gmail.com for terms of use.)