I’m not sure I want to go to heaven. Not that I don’t want to go to heaven, because I do. Let me try to explain. It might not help, but here goes nothing.
First, there are some people I don’t want to spend eternity with in heaven. If the curmudgeons I know here and now are going to be that same in heaven, count me out. As long as the mansion with many rooms doesn’t have us on the same floor and I don’t have to sit next to them at the dinner table; that might be okay. If we’re neighbors, forget it. They might feel the same about me.
There’s already tension because they believe I don’t pray or preach right and I don’t believe the right things the right way. Why would I want to aggravate the situation by living next to them in heaven?
Besides, what if they’re right? It would really bother me to have to listen for all of eternity about how they were right about Bible translations or that hymns are superior to everything else. Besides, I want to be the one that shouts, “HA! See?! I told you I was right!” If they are right, I don’t get to do that, they do. That would be unbearable.
Also, I think there will be more people in heaven than they do. One theologian said, “If God wants all to be saved, why can’t I?” That doesn’t mean that I think everyone will be there. I guess I just want the perfect sacrifice of Jesus to be the admission ticket to heaven and not my perfect theology. Does that make sense?
Finally, I guess the biggest reason I don’t want to go to heaven is I don’t want to live some place where we all wear white robes, play harps, and hang out in the clouds all day. I like trees and grass and flowers.
That’s not saying that I don’t want to live some place better. You may have noticed that this world is messed up. Have you ever watched a National Geographic movie where a lion kills a gazelle? As a kid I thought that that was just terrible…and horrifying. It was wrong and Nature was stupid. As an adult I just learned that’s the way the cookie crumbles…or the gazelle stumbles…and is eaten. People are killed, kidnapped, trafficked, blown up, and worse all the time.
Maybe that’s why some place other than here seems so inviting. Maybe we believe that heaven, to be heaven, has to be some place that isn’t earth or like earth.
The biblical writers describe it differently. They describe the world as being put back in order. Isaiah writes, “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. 7 The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. 8 The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest.” Isaiah 11.6-8
John writes in Revelations, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21.3-4 Emphasis Mine.
When you talk about heaven and you are talking about a world without sin, greed, envy, hatred, war, racism, injustice, poverty, hunger, and disease you can count me in. If you are talking about a place where we see and love each other like God sees us and loves us, I’m in.
Can you imagine a world like that? That would be heaven! That’s where I want to be.
So, I have to let God get me ready for that place. I don’t know what that looks like for you. For me, it has a lot to do with learning to love God and loving my neighbor as myself. I also need to learn to take the plank out of my own eye before removing the speck from anyone else’s eye.
When I get that, I will be far more ready for heaven than I am now. What about you?