Twenty years ago, when I was in seminary, I failed a test. I was invited to speak to some kids in a Christian school about heaven. I should have been able to do that, but I learned two things that day. One: you can’t fool kids. Two: I knew squat about heaven.
I think I spoke of images: streets of gold, the waters of the river of life, and so on. But I had a hard time explaining exactly what it would be like. And no matter what I said, I had to admit that the way I explained it, it sounded kind of boring.
I wish I had just read and unpacked Isaiah 35:1-10.
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad;
the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus;
it shall blossom abundantly
and rejoice with joy and singing…
They shall see the glory of the Lord,
the majesty of our God.
Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who have an anxious heart,
“Be strong; fear not!…”
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy…
And the ransomed of the Lord shall return
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain gladness and joy,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
Read the whole thing. It’s an amazing chapter.
What strikes me is how physical all of this is: deserts exploding with life, bodies that work the way they’re supposed to. I also love the images of joy: anxious hearts strengthened, leaping, singing, gladness.
You see this in the ministry of Jesus as well. His miracles point to what life will be like when his kingdom comes. Dead are raised. The unclean are made clean. The sick are healed, and there is bread enough for all.
I used to be bummed about the part about no marriage (Matthew 22:30). But maybe that means that the emotional intimacy that some of us now experience with only one person will be a reality in all of our relationships. What’s most rare now will be enjoyed by all.
It’s not boring. It’s not about floating in clouds. It’s the earth being restored to what it was in the first place. We’ll enjoy the best of food; we’ll do our best work; we’ll drink deeply from the joy we’ve only tasted sparingly in this life. And, to top it off, God will dwell with us, and we will be his people, and God himself will be with us as our God (Revelation 21:3).
I don’t always long for this as much as I should. But that’s only because I don’t think of it enough. I’m thinking about it now, and as Advent begins, I’m filled with longing. Even so, come Lord Jesus.