Monday, September 13, 2004

I Think I'm Gonna Die

But what happens then?

Is heaven my final destination or just one leg of a roundtrip experience? It seems to me that the only reason people go to heaven is because of sin in the first place. If Adam and Eve hadn't blown it, they would have continued to live forever in the Garden of Eden -- which seems to have been a place on this planet -- enjoying the beauty of creation and walking in intimate fellowship with their Creator.

Now everybody's gonna die. And death is an event that separates our souls from our bodies. Our bodies are in the process of decaying; once we "die" the process seems to rapidly accelerate. But our souls continue to live, right? Either in hell -- a place completely devoid of God's presence -- or in heaven with Jesus.

That being the case, it seems strange that this place called heaven isn't talked about much in the Bible (2 Corinthians 5:6-9; Philippians 1:21-24; 1 Thessalonians 4:14, 17). It's certainly not a primary focus of Scripture.

I'm coming to believe that at least one reason why the Bible is relatively silent on heaven is because heaven should not be the source of our Christian hope. Christian hope comes in the fulfillment of Emmanuel, "God with us." Now, we experience it in part, and should be experiencing it to a greater extent as we mature and become more like him. One day, however, we will see him face-to-face and live in his fullness. That is heaven, isn't it?

But Dallas Willard notes that while we are caught in the tension of an already/not yet kingdom, "The heavens are also here." He points out that a central portion of Jesus' teaching shows that "a totally good and competent God is right here with us to look after us. And his presence is precisely what the word heaven...conveys in the biblical record" (The Divine Conspiracy, p. 67).

I don't want to give the impression that I've got this riddle solved. But it's not as black-and-white as I once thought it was.
Oh, the depth and the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
"Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?"
"Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?"
For from him and through him and to him are all things.
to him be the glory forever!
Romans 11:33-36
Here's what I know:

I am going to die.
Death cannot separate me from God.
What comes next will be better than anything I can imagine.
Until then, God's competence makes this universe a perfectly safe place for me to be.