I intended to blog about this on Monday, but worldwide events prompted my thoughts elsewhere. Now, back to the serious business of heaven. Sunday I preached about heaven from a skeptics perspective, not necessarily from a pastoral perspective. In that context there were several things I did not say which, I could certainly have included but for reasons of time or rhetorical arrangement I did not.
1. Anything else heaven might be, I do not think it will be a time when I will be justified in decisions or actions I’ve made on earth. My perception is that I will be vindicated as a follower of Christ, but not, for example, taking it on the chin when that loud mouth bully insulted me and I did not answer in kind. Part of it wants me to be the case, though. Part of me wants for Jesus to stand next to me and rip into someone and say, “Jamie was right all along and you are a moron for not listening to him.” It is a scenario I play in my head whenever I have had to endure other people’s troubling perspectives. The other part of me is glad this is not the situation in because I believe I would spend far more time having Jesus rip into me for all the people I wronged. It wouldn’t be heaven if I spent most of it avoiding Jesus to stay out of a tongue lashing. Heaven just can’t be a place of eternal “I told you so.”
2. Oddly, one of the most frequent questions I get asked about heaven is about pets. Those who love me the most know that this drives me insane because I hate pets. I like animals on my plate not on my chair. People often assume that in the resurrection Jesus will bring back to life our dear pets from the past and let them live in heaven too. Animals will be in heaven, that much I affirm, i.e. lion and the wolf frolicking together. But your pet kitty cat Tubby or beloved dog whom you named Mr. T will probably not be there. I could be wrong, but I don’t think I am. I push back with—if Heaven is really about being where Jesus is, does it matter whether your Tubby or Mr. T (the imaginary pet, not the actor, fool) are there? That is the real heart of the pet issue for me. Why do you want to go to heaven?
3. As a writer the Bible has such a beautiful denouement with the book of Revelation ending with a view from heaven. It brings everything full circle. Humanity started in an idyllic garden called Eden which was perfect until we messed it up. Humans have spent all of our history systematically destroying the rather gorgeous world and striking out at the image of God in each individual. But dramatically at the end of everything God puts us back in Eden. Heaven is best understood as a return to Eden. There are trees, picturesque waters, and beautiful natural wonders. Note that the “city” is made of natural products—not concrete, brick, or even planked wood. The Bible, as a piece of literature (although it is more than literature) begins by casting us as prodigals out of our home, and then winds us slowly through time until we, like a Hollywood ending, come home again to live happily ever after.