I painted this Acrylic two weeks ago from the photograph of an area we visited on a family trip years ago. I like the bright colors and contrasts of sky, landscape and lake. To me it speaks of ‘shalom’ or ‘peace’ with beauty.
It’s a tangible reminder of what was originally intended in the first two chapters of Genesis and its account of original creation, coupled with the last two chapters of Revelation speaking of the renewed creation. It seemed to fit well with our Thought for this week—Heaven.
One Sunday morning a California Pastor stood before his congregation and presented three inquiries: (1.) If you believe in Heaven, raise your hand. Every hand shot up ! (2.) If you believe you will be in heaven when you die, raise your hand. Every hand he saw was raised. (3.) If I had a bus outside waiting to take you to Heaven this morning, and you would like to get on board now, raise your hand. Guess how many hands went up? None! Does that little story have a point? I think so. It possibly begs a number of questions. One centers around what we know about Heaven.
Mark Twain’s Answer
I think it was Mark Twain who, when asked by his Sunday School teacher if he wanted to go to Heaven when he died, responded immediately…and with force “No!” Why? He was asked. “I don’t want to float around on clouds all day singing songs in a church service that never ends!” To Mark Twain his life right now wasn’t perfect, but it was a whole lot more fun that anything he had ever heard about Heaven. “I’ll just keep what I’ve got. Thank you very much!” Mark Twain’s knowledge about Heaven was near zero.
Mary Smith’s Answer
By contrast, Mary Smith, in her mid 90s, lost her husband last week following their 70th Wedding anniversary, is now depressed, bedridden, nearly in constant pain and resides in an assisted living facility with no family to visit. When asked by the Chaplain if she would like to go to Heaven when she passed away, her immediate response was, “Yes, today would be good! I don’t know much about Heaven, but I know the Bible says there will be no more “sorrow, tears or pain” that’s good enough for me!” Unlike Mark Twain, Mary was quite willing to trade her present life experience for Heaven, even based on the little knowledge she possessed.
Most of us fall somewhere between Mark Twain and Mary in age and knowledge about Heaven. Age comes automatically. Knowledge about Heaven comes intentionally. We either make the choice to place ourselves where we may gain such instruction, or we don’t. Since life’s urgent daily challenges keep us busy seeking other answers, questions about Heaven get pushed to the back burner. And, if we are in the habit of Church attendance (prior to COVID19) and perhaps a Small Group Bible Study, even that may be of little help. The Sermon topic of Heaven seldom appears in the Worship Folder of churches or on Small Group topic lists, except for Funeral or Memorial Services.
Since my Ordination November 8, 1967, I’ve preached hundreds of Sermons, taught Bible Classes, facilitated Small Groups and written papers and articles. Few of them were specifically on Heaven. Heaven was often mentioned but was not the subject itself. I’ve had many Pastor friends during these fifty plus years, who would make the same confession. Why haven’t we been more helpful with this instruction? Not sure I have a definitive answer.
Now what? In my formal theological studies, the subject of Heaven was always part of Systematic Theology…I’ve read on the subject in dozens of Bible Commentaries and…listened to many recordings. Through the years, I’ve discovered two resources that have been of greatest value to me. My plan is to take a few weeks in these Thursday morning Blogs to address my understanding in answer to typical questions on the subject of Heaven. My prayer is that it will be helpful to you. You may want to reread Genesis 1 & 2 as well as Revelation 21 & 22. Isaiah 65:17-25 will also be helpful.
COVID19 deaths are rising daily in this country and around the world. What’s ahead for followers of Jesus?
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.”