For years I have contemplated heaven. Recent physical challenges have highlighted the idea of “no more pain.” As a Christian, I have been taught (and taught others) the amazing future for believers in Jesus Christ: no more pain, tears, or the inevitable aging breakdown. I had a professor during an oral exam ask me if I thought that dogs would be in heaven. I gave him latitude because he was close to dying with cancer. Some Christian cults or sects believe in a heaven of sorts (paradise on earth, etc…) but there are differences from Christian orthodoxy. Starla maintains that Heaven will have herds of Guinea Pigs running through the streets (of course, guarded by Marines). The same professor also asked me if we would read books in Heaven…I fumbled through that answer.
However, the overarching teaching from most pulpits, books, and even sectarian Christianity is the emphasis of the elimination of human frailty and pain.
The most piercing question I have had to face (and have asked many others) is: “Would you be OK with the Heaven as advertised sans Jesus Christ?” In other words, would a pain-free, peaceful, eternal life-after-death satisfy your earthly salvation experience but Jesus was absent? Please do not mistake this as a soteriological question as to HOW one gets to Heaven. This only addresses the post-physical life existence in Heaven after one makes the approved journey.
I am terrified personally that I often fall into the category of viewing Jesus as an auxiliary benefit of celestial citizenship and the physical remedies as the primary draw. I am ashamed to admit that I also have unconsciously taught this as well.
Reading books, I answered the terminally ill professor, compared to the presence of God that no desire would exist for anything else. It did not satisfy him and I am not sure I believed it at the time. He simply and reflectively replied “Eternity is a long time.” The answer has bothered me ever since.
There is a country song lyric stating that “when I die, I want to live on the outskirts of heaven.” The sentiment is reflecting his love for God’s creation as he experienced in the rural country. I understand that, but as I think on the teaching of the Bible and who the wondrous Triune God is, when I die I want to be as close to Jesus as possible all the time. If the description of God Almighty is true, even the “baby-talk” version we comprehend exposes an endless and limitless source of beauty, truth, wonder, excitement, and my mind fails to adequately continue.
I daily forget this reality as the pain or challenges of this fleshly existence seem overwhelming but I often try to “renew my mind” with the truth of the wholly other, limitless, Creator of the Universe knowing that I will be completely satisfied (at peace and healed) simply in His presence. Before anyone thinks that I am too sanctimonious and self-righteous to be around…it only happens when the Holy Spirit reminds me to STOP WHINING!