Lately, due to things going on in my life, I've found that I've had a growing homesickness for a place that I realize I know little about. Heaven...what's it REALLY going to be like? I've been doing some digging among scriptures and theologians to get a better grasp on what I/we can expect.
I think I had a vision of heaven that many of us, unknowingly, share. I envisioned that I would be some sort of ethereal, angelic type being with no real human-like features. I'd be sitting among the clouds, and I would be strumming a harp and singing praises. Yes, I would be with Jesus and with God which has huge appeal, but beside that, honestly....heaven sounded kind of boring and unappealing.
Actually, the final destination of believers is not an ethereal place somewhere out in space. Our final destination is the renewed heavens and earth that Revelation 21 speaks of. Heaven will be a very physical and concrete place. The Bible has over 600 verses that speak to what heaven will be like, but we, too often, get our ideas from movies, literature, and television.
Revelation 21 talks about how heaven and earth will not be brand new, but instead will be this creation renewed. We forget that when God made heaven and earth, He pronounced it good. Earth was not just good, it was perfect. That was, of course, until sin came in and messed it up.
The type of "newness" that the Bible speaks of in the Greek translation is kainos which means a "newness in quality" - something that is, is made better or different. It's quality has changed.
God will renew, transform, improve, and refresh His creation. It will be a kainos heaven and earth.
Actually this makes sense to me, because I have seen some things that I have had to believe were glimpses of heaven. I've seen views from mountain peaks that have taken my breath away. I've had the unconditional loving licks from my dogs. I've smelled the newborn heads of my children. I've seen animals, birds, fish, and flowers - large and small - that just ooze of the creative nature of God. I've seen colors that have dazzled my eyes, heard music and seen dance and art that have made my heart leap with emotion. I've felt kindness in someone's smile, and love in an embrace.
I believe that all things good in this world will continue to exist in the next, but they will be transformed and improved in the renewed creation. It will be THIS creation, renewed.
So...what can we expect in Heaven?
* Physical bodies (Yes, I'll finally be a "10")
* Emotions and relationships (joy, happiness, peace, love, but no drama!)
* Nature with daily cycles of day and night and weather
* Animals (including pets)
* Work (Gen. 2:15)
* Learning (1 Corinthians 13:12)
* Arts (Rev. 14:2-3)
* Entertainment and Activities
"This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day." (John 6-39)
So to answer my son's question, "Will there be ice hockey in heaven?" I think I would now have to definitely say, "Yes!"
What will not be present: no evil, no curses, no brokenness (emotional or physical), no more sin, no death, no more suffering or sadness, no war, no famine, and no temples. This last one made me pause for a moment, but in heaven we will be in God's presence continually so there will not be a need for a separate house of God.
The closeness of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit 24/7...Wow! Most glorious will be that heaven will be a place where Jesus (the very definition of "love") will be present and we will bask in His love.
So what does heaven mean to me now? It gives meaning to this life - as in it is a preparation for the life to come. God is about building our character for our eternal life to come. Therefore, hard times now, will reap future rewards I believe. It reminds me that in those very hard times, that there is more to life than this world.
It gives me hope for my future destination and strength for life in the present. It gives me something perfect to hope for when this life is far less than perfect.
It reminds me that this world, and its present troubles are but a blink of the eye in God's timing. Heaven (perfection) will be eternal. There will be no sorrow, or regrets, or guilt. Rather, love, compassion, gentleness, tenderness, and other emotions that will be felt with new heights and depths. Relationships will be all we can imagine and more.
Heaven, however, is more than just a hope for the future, it is the very heart of God's plan for creation from the very beginning. It is also at the very center of the human heart.
Dear Heavenly Father, I praise you for the plan for creation that you have had since the very beginning. Thank you that your desire is not to leave us in this sin-filled world. I bless you for the hope and even the homesickness that lives in my heart and yearns for eternity with you. Your creation is not evil and we look forward to when you will renew, transform, improve, and refresh what sin has tainted. What you began in Eden you will fulfill in Revelation. Oh, what a glorious place heaven and earth will be and how awesome it will be to kneel before you in your presence. Thank you for this hope that keeps us/me going. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.
What about you? What misconceptions have you had about heaven? What do you most look forward to in heaven? What do you think it will be like when Christ returns? What do YOU envision that gives you joy and peace? What do you see yourself doing in heaven?