Heaven is not really compelling. The resurrection is.
Heaven doesn’t answer the problem of suffering. It is a place that provides comfort and an escape from this world. It is a place without the evils of this world that tempt us and draw us away from God. It is a place of being with Jesus. But, it is out there, somewhere.
Heaven is not something I can wrap my head around. It is too foreign a concept for my little intellect to understand. It is easy to talk about, but hard to really get.
Maybe if I read “Heaven is Real” or one of those other books about heaven, or hell for that matter, I’d get a better understanding of it. Heaven simply has not real impact on me when I think about death, pain, evil, or suffering. That isn’t the case with the resurrection.
Now the resurrection is something I can wrap my head around. It is a joyous and life-giving thought that makes me hopeful and more at peace with the world in which I am surrounded and live.
The resurrection of the dead gives me answers to pain, suffering, evil, death, poverty, and injustice. That answer is pretty simple: Death loses. Suffering loses. Evil loses. Pain loses. Poverty loses. Injustice loses.
Look at this passage from Isaiah 11.3b-10:
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
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.
The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest.
They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious.
And listen to these words from Isaiah 65.18-20:
But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy.
I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more.
“Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; he who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere youth;he who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed.
That sounds like a great day, indeed! The “Natural Order” of the strong devouring the weak, the rich oppressing the poor, and all the other things like death and mourning will be gone…forever!
Finally, look at this passage from Revelation 21.1-4:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 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. 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.”
This great day doesn’t happen somewhere out there, but right here. This world will be recreated. We will be transformed, the earth will be made new. Death, disease, violence, suffering, pain, poverty, injustice, hatred, war, and the rest of the stuff we think is ‘normal’ will be history. Heaven will be on earth!
We have the opportunity to be with our departed loved ones again because of God’s great love for us.
Real hugs with real arms.
That is something I can get my head around. That idea, the Resurrection of the Dead, gives me strength for today and a bright hope for tomorrow.
Until then, I will be announcing the hope and promises of God’s coming Kingdom.