There I sat on the plush red pews of our small country church, flipping through a hymnal between covert glances at my watch. Of course I wanted to go to heaven, but not right then. The sermon made it sound like a nice place to visit but not a place I’d like to live. If you like the thought of a never-ending liturgy and eternal repetitions of How Great Thou Art, it was perfect; but as a ten-year-old it sounded–well, to be honest–boring. An eternal routine seemed like a big step back from all the fun I was having here. I consoled myself with the thought, “Maybe it’s one of those ‘you’ll understand when you’re older’ things.”
Now I’m older, and yes, now I understand. Heaven wasn’t dull. My imagination just wasn’t sharp. My experience was too small to grasp how good life with God could be. I hadn’t yet sunk deep enough into the depths of pain or flew high enough into the heights of pleasure to begin to fathom what God has in store for those who love Him.
I was well acquainted with the joys of snow days and summer nights, but I didn’t yet know the God who had made them. To me, a boring place like heaven seemed like a big step backward. I understand now what my ten-year-old self couldn’t. Heaven won’t be boring, because God isn’t boring. My misconception wasn’t just about heaven; my misunderstanding was about its Architect. It seemed to me He only knew two words, “no” and “don’t.” It never crossed my mind that fun was His invention and His no’s were meant leave my hands free to receive better yes’s.
Pleasure was God’s idea. The Psalmist writes that at the right hand are of God are pleasures forevermore. For those trusting in Christ death is not a retreat signal, it’s an order to advance. Revelation, chapter five, describes one of the most powerful scenes the universe will ever know as all of creation falls down before the Lamb in worship. As striking as the scene may be, we have to remind ourselves that the book doesn’t end with chapter five. Nor is that all God has to say about heaven. Will there be worship in heaven? Of course; but that does not mean that it will be an unending church service. It will be, however, an eternal adventure with God.
Scripture teaches that our wildest imaginations can never measure up to what we will experience when we get home. Still, we wonder as we wait, what will heaven be like? God doesn’t spoil the surprise by giving us every detail, but He has given us enough information to piece together a snapshot of the place Jesus has gone to prepare.
On the Isle of Patmos, God pulled back the curtains and allowed the Apostle John to peek at the prize. The beauty he saw was so overwhelming it left him nearly speechless. He gave us a sketch of the city of God–the New Jerusalem–in the last few chapters of the Revelation. He said the foundations of the city’s walls are adorned with rare jewels, blood red jaspers and royal blue sapphires. Often, he used the word “like” to describe things he saw. I believe he used that word because comparing the things he saw with earthly things was the only way he could begin to describe them.
In no uncertain terms he told us that the buildings there are built of purified gold clear as glass. Think about this–if the only activity of heaven is corporate worship, then why build a functional city? If I were privileged to visit Paris, I don’t think I would give much attention to describing the roads to my friends back home, but John made a point to speak specifically about heaven’s main street. It’s hard to imagine a highway paved with gold and always pothole-free. I like to think John must have laughed when he realized that gold is as common in God’s country as gravel is in ours.
In heaven, everyone is on city water, yet no one ever gets a bill. The unpolluted River of Life flows without any hint of contamination from the throne and into the city. Groves of trees grow along its banks that produce a different kind of fruit every month. Their leaves have the power to heal the wounds of the nations. Unsightly power plants that litter the sky with smoke and ash have no place there. God will dwell with His people, and He will be their light. The glory of God will saturate His whole creation with warmth and illumination. Imagine no more sun, yet no more night, for the Lamb will be the lamp and light. How the jewels will sparkle, and the gold will shine, basking in the radiance of Love divine!
The emerald city will leave us wondering why Dorothy ever wanted to go home. Our hearts will discover paradise was never lost, it was just temporarily out of reach. Set free from the curse, every sensation will be fuller, every taste richer, and every emotion deeper. Life on this polluted ball will seem to have been a pastel prison when we behold the sharp, bright, contrasting colors of home. And to think, that’s all just within the city limits!
In heaven, every day is Christmas and every discovery a new gift from our Father, to be unwrapped and enjoyed. Understanding this changed the way I think about heaven. Once, it was a boring nightmare; now it’s the land of my dreams.
I can’t help but smile when I think of so many I dearly love who went to sleep here and woke up in a land where the nightmare is finally over. Like the arms of a girl running to embrace her man who’s been away at war, someday soon pearly gates will swing open wide to welcome us in. I’m looking forward to life in the light, in the land where dreams really do come true.