I don’t write or preach a lot about heaven, and I’ve been trying to figure out why I don’t. I suppose one reason is that most people seem to think it’s the place everyone goes to when they die: as if you enter heaven merely by the act of dropping dead! This leads to all those funereal floral phrases, such as ‘In memory of Fred, gone to that great dog track in the sky’, or ‘To a wonderful Mum whose religion was doing good’.
Another reason I’ve been reluctant to preach about heaven only as the place of the after-life is that Jesus spoke constantly of the Kingdom of Heaven, not as the next semi-automatic stage in human development, but as the Realm of God – past and present as well as future: spiritual and material. In the gospels, the Kingdom of Heaven is not an improved version of earth all over again. It is the dimension where God rules, where his holiness is the air breathed, and in which God, and not you nor I, is the centre of all. Heaven’s dimensions are not measured in miles or light years, but in terms of restored love, relationships and forgiven sins.Heaven is God’s creation and home, unspoiled and unpolluted by the plague of human ego-mania and its destruction. We simply cannot picture it.
Another reason is that the Bible emphasises that we cannot imagine or conceive the realm of heaven. It’s beyond us in every way, and no one can earn a place in it – no, not one. Admission is not by merit, nor by religion, but by accepting in brokenness the free gift of God’s forgiving acceptance from the hands of Jesus. For most folk that’s too simple, too easy – they’d rather try to do it for themselves. Like saying “No thanks, I don’t want any charity. I’ll pay for what I get”. But how do you pay for all your sins? That’s the work of Jesus.
I also worry about the over-devout in every age, who seem just a little too cocksure about going to heaven. Jesus said there would be some shocking surprises and it seems too arrogant to assume that nothing would ever rule me out! So I don’t give many sermons about heaven as the after life, except as the present Realm where God rules in glory supreme, and that’s a mighty thought, for earth and heaven.
Jesus looked at him and said “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God”. Luke 18:24-26
Thought for Today:
Christopher Marlow wrote: “When all the world dissolves and every creature shall be purified, all places shall be hell that are not heaven.”
“Your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.”
Now read Isaiah Chapter 35.