I just received an e-mail from Scottie Dancy, Area Director of Young Life here in Sullivan County. Scotty related the need for prayer for the family and friends of a student at Dobyns-Bennett High School who has tragically died today after a freak accident on a golf cart yesterday.
Apparently the young man was a Christian, and so while still tragic, he is with the Lord. But his death has left hundreds of students stunned and hurting. No doubt each of them has been rudely slapped by the reality of our mortality.
As I write this post I cannot help but recognize that same stinging blow comes to all of us from time to time, whenever we are faced with death, but particularly when it is so sudden and/or involves someone young. And while being a Christian is able to give us some perspective, I have found that it is a jarring jab, nevertheless.
The Apostle Paul reminds us that we are not to “mourn as those who have no hope”. But I regularly remind people who have experienced loss that this does not mean that we don’t mourn at all – only that the Gospel gives us a perspective that shapes and colors our grief.
Yet I know that many, many Christians are still not sure what to expect or what to think about heaven. Surely there is more than in Brad Paisley’s song, When I Get Where I’m Going! (Great Song, but awful theology.)
What will heaven be like?
Randy Alcorn, of Eternal Perspective Ministies, has written a masterful book called, simply, Heaven.
I have to confess that when I first read it I learned quite a bit perhaps I should have aleady known. My friend Matt Bohling, who read it at about the same time, said it was life changing for him. At first I thought that was a bit of an overstatement, but the more I thought about it I realized Matt was right. The better we understand what God has revealed about heaven, the more our thoughts and lives are oriented toward eternity.
Alcorn, in a brief article, addresses what he percieves to be the four biggest misconceptions about heaven:
Misconception 1: That the present Heaven, where Christians go when we die, is the same place we will live forever. In fact, when we die we go to be with Christ, which is wonderful, but we are incomplete, in a pre-resurrected state, anticipating Christ’s return to earth, and our resurrections. The place we’ll live forever will be where God comes down to dwell with us, on the New Earth (Revelation 21:1-3).
Misconception 2: The physical realm is evil, and God’s plan is to permanently destroy it and deliver our spirits to live without bodies. In fact, God created the physical realm and called it “very good.” He has never given up on his original plan for physical human beings to rule the earth for his glory. God sent his Son to permanently become a man and redeem and restore the physical universe-including our bodies and the earth-to become all He desires it to be. That’s why Jesus spoke of the “renewal of all things” (Matthew 19:27-28), and Peter preached that Christ will “remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets” (Acts 3:21). Isaiah and other prophets speak in detail about the Earth being returned to the perfection God designed for it. Speaking of an earthly kingdom, an angel reveals, “But the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever-yes, for ever and ever” (Daniel 7:18). This is not for a thousand years, but forever.
Misconception 3: There will be nothing to do, and it’ll be boring and predictable, without adventure, discovery, process and progress. This is as wrong as it could be, as I develop in the book.
Misconception 4: We’ll be absorbed with God and lose our identities. That is Hinduism, not Christianity, but surprisingly many Christians seem to believe it. In fact, resurrection means we will retain our identities and be forever reestablished as individuals, liberated to see God and worship him as our primary joy and the source of all derivative joys. Job said, “And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes-I, and not another” (Job 19:26-27).
I write this post with Scotte and the sudents at D-B in mind. But I hope everyone who reads it will benefit from thoughts of heaven.