Friday, October 21, 2011

What is Heaven Like?

Mansion Over the Hilltop
I've got a mansion just over the hilltop, in that bright land where we'll never grow old.  And some day yonder we will never more wander, but walk on the streets that are purest gold

I love this song and enjoyed singing it as a part of a quartet in a small church years ago.  It really brings back fond memories.  Unfortunately it's just not true, at least as far as I can tell.  This song, and many others, paint a picture of heaven as a place where we can kick back, stroll streets of gold and live in a mansion on a hilltop, probably with lots of servants to wait on us for eternity.  An eternity of bliss as a reward for accepting Jesus as savior.  But that really doesn't make sense to me (after all I did nothing to deserve it), nor do I really find that sentiment supported in the scriptures.

Ones answer to the question about what heaven's like is, I believe, shaped by their view of God's purpose in creation.  Why did he create a habitable universe with at least one planet populated by intelligent beings?  I can't help but believe that if the previous statement is true, and I believe it is, that he must have had a reason for doing it.  And that reason must include our current existence as a step in the process.  If life here is nothing more than a time to determine who the believers are that will be rewarded with paradise, and he already knew who they would be prior to creation, then why not just jump to the end game and skip this messy and often painful part?

So it seems to me like life here is playing some part in the long term future God is working us toward.  There are at least a couple of passages in the New Testament that give support to the thought that my life here, as a believer, has an impact on my future in the Kingdom of God.  The first of these are the parables recorded in the gospels (Matthew 25:14-30 & Luke 19:11-27) of the king who entrusted possessions to servants, goes away for a while, and then returns for an accounting of their stewardship.  There is praise, and more responsibility, for those who performed well and condemnation for those who failed to satisfy the king.

The second passage is in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 where Paul talks about building on the foundation of Christ. There are a variety of building materials that could be used, some of value and some not.  If the life I build on the foundation of Christ has value, there is reward to come.  But if I build on that foundation will lesser materials I will be saved because of the foundation, but will experience a lesser, or no, reward.  There is no mention of what that reward is, although in the gospel parables the reward was two-fold, sharing in the Master's happiness and additional responsibility.

These passages tell us that what I do now in this life will have an impact on the life to come.  How successful I am by human standards will have nothing to do with it.  Rather how faithful I am to the God who called me and equips me for his service will be the key.  We need to serve God here as if our future depends on it, because to some extent it does.

So, what is heaven really like?  I must confess that I really don't know.  I do believe that my future though will not just be a time of kicking back, swinging in a hammock and having fair maidens drop grapes in my mouth for eternity.  Rather it will be a time (time will likely have no real meaning) of serving along side our creator in carrying out whatever purpose he created us for.

BTW, the streets of gold?  That comes from Revelation 21:21, part of a description of the New Jerusalem, specifically identified as the bride of Christ (21:2, 9-10).  We will not be walking on streets of gold.  We will potentially be a nugget in the street. :)

6 comments:

  1. "There are at least a couple of passages in the New Testament that give support to the thought that my life here, as a believer, has an impact on my future in the Kingdom of God"

    Well, we must rid you of that thought immediately.

    Because if that is so, God is not omniscient, since your life still has a future, and you are not done impacting. On the other hand, if God already knows what you are going to do in the future, then there is nothing you can do to impact your future.

    And on that thought, we have Biblical evidence that the Son of God aka Jesus is not omniscient.

    Here is an unambiguous reference to something he does not know:

    http://bit.ly/pLNchK

    So he cannot be of the same substance as at least one other member of the trinity, because that substance is omniscient

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  2. Aw, the old argument about the incompatibility between free will and omniscience. And it would make sense if God was in time like we are. But I do not believe that to be the case. His knowing my future does not lock it into place. His seeing my future choices still leaves them as my choices. If a time traveler was able to go forward in time 20 years and read a newspaper and then return, would that future be unchangeable because he had a glimpse of it? Would he then be the cause for everything that was reported in that newspaper?

    Indeed Jesus, in human form, was not omniscient not omnipotent nor omnipresent. He was 'made like his brothers in every way' (Hebrews 2:17).

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  3. I said nothing about free will.

    "Indeed Jesus, in human form, was not omniscient not omnipotent"

    Except that the one who returns is not the one in human form. He is the one visible to everyone everywhere round Earth, so human is ruled out.

    Also, when it said "No one but the Father", it specifically excludes the Son.

    It doesn't say "No one but the Father except his Son in human state"

    Nice try.

    "Jesus, in human form, was not omniscient"

    So he was lucky when he said this?

    http://bit.ly/rq7jHD


    And what was he when did this non-human thing?

    http://bit.ly/nbsat4

    Confused omnipotent being?



    "If a time traveler was able to go forward in time 20 years and read a newspaper and then return, would that future be unchangeable because he had a glimpse of it?"

    Nope.

    Know of any time travelers who have done that?

    Would such a time traveler be omniscient?

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  4. Indeed you did not use the term 'free will', but that is what your argument is about. If the future is known how can we make choices that would affect who we are. And yet you reversed your stand if it was a human time traveler who knew the future. Curious.

    Have you ever played with children? Do you play with them as an adult, or do you descend to their level and play with them as a child, self limiting the power and abilities of an adult?

    That Jesus could forecast the future and perform miracles, including raising the dead, puts him on par with the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles who did the same things. He did not do those things because he was God (although he was) but because God was working through him.

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  5. "Indeed you did not use the term 'free will', but that is what your argument is about"

    No, it is about Jesus not being omniscient. In fact, lack of omniscience enables free will, so if I were trying to argue that free will does not exist, the last thing I would try to disprove is omniscience.

    Jesus not being aware of the "end time" makes it logically impossible for him to know what people are doing until that time.

    You cannot know everything that happens prior to a moment and then everything that afters on or after the moment unless you know the moment.

    If you do not know the moment then you do not know events preceding that moment either.

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  6. Then I am not sure why you are continuing this. Please note that in my first response to you I agreed that Jesus, as a human, was not omniscient or omnipotent but was human just like we are.

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