For Heaven’s Sake (Part 1)

101 5pm church update headerSeveral weeks ago (in preparation for the 5pm Church Mission) I wrote three articles on the wonderfully rosy topic of Hell!

  1. O Hell – why talk about it?
  2. What the Hell – why we don’t talk about it?
  3. Scaring the Hell out of you – What is hell! 

I said I would return to the more digestible topic of Heaven and given that we are now working our way through Revelation, this is a good time. From one of the most unpopular doctrines to one of the most!

A few years ago on TV there seems to be a run of those ‘talk- to-your-dead-loves-ones’ type shows. I can only remember the name of one. It was called Crossing Over with Jonathon Edwards. It boasted that Jonathon Edwards could tell you your future by speaking to your dead relatives who would in turn tell you what you needed to know. I always found that a bit amusing and sad. If the relative was dead, then I sort of assumed that it had not worked out that well for them! So why ask their advice?!  I mean if you want to find out about the living – why talk to the dead?!

What it does however tell us, is that our world – even our secular world, quite likes the idea that there is something there after death.

But there is a paradox in this – many people say they believe in heaven, but their interest in it is superficial. It has no practical impact on the way they live their lives, generally they ignore the future, and they live for the here and now. And even for Christians – we have a hope in heaven, but the idea is often just parked and little attention is given to it.

So why is the doctrine of heaven neglected?

Six quick reasons.

  • We are too preoccupied with the present

This does not need much explanation. The short-term easily overtakes the long term. The ‘now’ gets the attention at the expense of the ‘then’.

  • We are too comfortable

The second reason is related – it is that we are too comfortable.

We are rich – in fact we have never been richer, had more comforts, or been more materially supported at any time in history. We are generally happy, our concerns are there but compared to the concerns of even our grandparents – we should be ecstatic. We are healthy and, at least in the first world, we have a health care system that means we live longer, and better, and even when in sickness we are cared for more painlessly than ever before. And we live in the era of instant gratification fuelled by the desire for instant experiences, made possible thorough instant technologies (that all seems to start to the letter ‘i’) and provide us with instant and constant entertainment.

No wonder heaven is neglected – we think we are already there!

  • We think it is inevitable

Third – we falsely assume that heaven, if that is the next stage of existence, is a fait accompli. Everyone goes there and that even if everyone else doesn’t go there, I will!

I see this at just about every non-believers funeral I go to – and I am not talking about Christian funerals because in that cause it is highly likely that the dead person has already gone to heaven!

Here is what generally happens. It is sad especially for those who know the person best. But by the end of the service they are comforted because they have been told that their dead relative was a saint – in fact the eulogy was so amazing that it would be an honour for heaven to have the person there! We are told they were special in ways that no one else could be. That the person was ‘looking down from heaven’ (you have to hope that then don’t lean too far to listen in, in case they fall off that celestial balcony)! That they ‘did it my way’ and that it was highly probable that Frank Sinatra himself was singing their praises in heaven as we speak!!

The point – for many, heaven is inevitable and of no concern because they assume they will be going there.

  • We think that it is unappealing

The fourth reason heaven is neglected is that for some it just doesn’t appeal.

It is a boring place, located on a long white cloud, runs like an eternal church service, with angels playing harps for way too long. And I have to say, that if that is the picture – I am with them. That certainly doesn’t appeal!

  • We are embarrassed by it.

Fifth – we are embarrassed.

This is a shot across the bow of the Christian. We can be so eager to please those outside of church, and to downplay their faulty expectations, that we can fall into the trap of being embarrassed by something that we don’t need to be embarrassed about.

Heaven is not a pie in the sky idea. It may not be an airy-fairy celestial marshmallow but that does not mean you need to take your eyes off heaven. Yes, we should be earthly and real in the way we talk to others but unless you are heavenly-minded as well, then you will be no real earthly use when it comes to calling people to a very real heaven.

  • It is just too awesome

But the last reason that we neglect heaven is this. For many it is a reality that is just too awesome for our limited minds to grasp. And you know – that is the case!

The Bible gives us every reason to expect a magnificent, transcendent, glorious heaven that is simply beyond our comprehension.

Just as well, we are looking at the Book of Revelation – did you know that it mentions heaven 57 times?!

Try this for size!

After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it….                           (Rev 4:1-2)

Next week – why heaven matters!

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