A serious problem among Christians and non-Christians is drastic misconceptions of heaven. Frankly, most people who have any familiarity with Christian teaching seem to think of heaven as an eternity of nothing to do but tell God over and over how good he is for what he did in the good old days back on earth. Everybody has a crown, so anarchy reigns. God is a narcissist in love with himself who demands constant praises to bolster his ego. Gold and gems are so common that they have no real value except as paving stones. Nothing else to do for all eternity except to sit around and reminisce about the good old days.
If you’ve seen the movie The Preacher’s Wife, you can see this represented well. Denzel Washington portrays an angel thrilled to be back on earth because earth is obviously better than heaven. He has been sent to help a preacher, and he tells this preacher that in heaven there is this long line of angels just waiting for an opportunity to get back to earth for a mission like his. Obviously, heaven is much worse than earth! With that kind of heaven, who needs hell?
But the picture Jesus gave of heaven, though very limited, is of a place where those who get there are given rewards commensurate with the skills and abilities they learned to use for God on earth. The differences from this earth are pretty dramatic. In no particular order:
• The physical environment is unpolluted beauty beyond description (lots of great vacation opportunities)
• The social environment is unselfish, generous, caring love from every person to every person
• The soul environment is no tempter and full understanding of what sin is (rebellion against God) and what terrible damage it can do
• The activity environment is some meaningful task for which you are well suited and in which you will find great joy (with the implication that if you ever get close to being bored with this task, there are plenty more just as exciting)
• And the spiritual environment is the very intimate presence of God’s Holy Spirit at any and all times
All of this brings an environment of joy so powerful that yes, we will be praising God forever, but not for what he did back in the good old days—for what he is doing in the here and now of our experiences in heaven. And you can only begin to imagine what vacations with those in heaven would be like! It’s a forever party filled with people excited about what they are doing in an environment filled with joy and love.
—Charlie Webster, Director