Thursday, February 18, 2016
Several years ago I was in recovery waking up from surgery. The nurse kept asking me if I was awake, did I know where I was and my name. I was awake enough that she asked, “Aren’t you a preacher?” When I said, “Yes,” she asked, “What happens to you when you die?” My reply was, “I don’t know. I haven’t died yet.”
At some funerals, unless the deceased is a known reprobate, most preachers will be kind by directing the departed toward heaven. There are different views as to what or where our eternal home will be.
Some believe we will float on clouds in leisure and enjoy an eternal existence of rest. Others cringe at the thought of an eternal period spent repeating, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, Almighty,” but prefer the repetition over the other destination! Some believe we will enjoy fellowship with Abraham, Lazarus and others until the judgment, then enjoy the presence of Christ for the rest of eternity. A few believe God will build a physical mansion in heaven for them, beautifully decorated in gold, and large enough to house a hundred people but reserved for that special one. Some believe the earth will be burned off and then restored to pristine perfection as a world wide garden of Eden. There, we will build our houses, work the land, and be vegetarians. Others believe we will have our bodies changed into immortal ones, become super human, and live in an unimaginable, spirit like world. Most go to Revelation 21 and 22 and see those words as a literal picture of heaven. So, what happens after death? What is heaven like?
Do we close our eyes in death and go to an intermediate place, like Abraham’s bosom, until the trumpet blast and the final judgment (Luke 16:19-31)? Do we leave our earthly body in the grave, but our spirit goes straight from death to fellowship with Jesus until the judgment (2 Corinthians 5:1-10)? Some believe we go to a place called Purgatory, where our sins are burned away to purify us, then we are allowed into heaven. Some believe we close our eyes in death, and instantly reopen them and we are in a heavenly place. Durng the short “blink” hundreds of years may have passed, but not for the departed. I might add that the atheist believes when a person dies, there is nothingness and he ceases to exist. Hence, eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we may die!
In Revelation 21 and 22 there are streets of gold, precious stones in the gates, a river, trees, and eternal light from God. Some interpret this as literal. Others see it as symbolic. Personally, I see some of the language describing the spiritual realm in symbolic terems. Does God, who is Spirit, have a physical arm, mouth, or legs and feet to physically walk? It is true that God’s word became flesh and dwelt among men for 33 years. But does God literally sit, stand, or walk? Some describe God as “that big man in the sky,” but is He? When man uses finite language to identify the infinite, isn’t the infinite reduced to the level of the finite so we can understand that His presence is beyond the grasp of our understanding? Man usually pictures God as a person bigger than himself. But God, through His Word became the lesser in order to reunite us in fellowship with Him. Through Jesus He made that reconciliation possible!
So, what will heaven be like? We will be even as he is (1 John 3:1-2). It will be like the kind of fellowship once enjoyed by Adam and Eve before sin destroyed it!