At a Bible study I attended some weeks back, the preacher asked the congregation what they thought Heaven would be like. The congregation was a bunch of Baptists, and we all know that Baptists are avid readers of the Bible and they believe every word, sentence, concept and idea to be literal. Of course, their answers were straight out of the Bible:
n It will be a place where there is no darkness, for the light of the glory of God will never be extinguished. There will be no sun, moon or stars, for there will be no need for them.
n There is a great wall around it, 1,400 miles long on each side and 1,400 miles tall.
n There will be three gates in each wall, and each gate will have a sign above it with the name of one of the 12 tribes of Israel.
n Each gate will stand open and never close; there’ll be no need to close the gates for there will be no night.
n However, just to make sure the place is safe and perhaps tokeep the riff-raff out, an angel will stand guard at each gate.
n Each gate will be a single, giant pearl.
n The wall will be 200 feet thick.
n The walls will be made of jasper.
n Main Street will be made of gold so pure that it is transparent.
n The walls will have 12 foundations, one for each tribe of Israel, and each foundation will be decorated with jewels: jasper, sapphire, agate, emerald, onyx, ruby, chrysolite, beryl, turquoise, jacinth and amethyst.
n Angels will constantly chant “Holy, holy, holy” over the throne of God for all to hear.
Well, after all the description, there was a slight lull in the conversation at the Bible study, so I took that to be an opening for my big mouth. Here’s the way I remember it:
“I’ll tell you what, preacher, that really doesn’t sound like an interesting place to live,” I said. “I’ve never really had a desire to live in a big city or in a gated community. This sounds like a really big gated community.”
“Besides, which,” I said, plodding on amidst the gasps from the congregation, “I like sitting out on the front porch of a night with a glass of sweet tea, listening to night sounds. The only chanting I usually want to hear is the singing of the crickets and the only light I want to see are the behinds of lightning bugs.”
There was a deafening silence in the hall at that time, but I wasn’t listening. I lack social skills, discretion and an inner filter, so I kept running my mouth.
Page 2 of 3 - “Moreover,” I said, “I’ve read that Jesus said he was going away to build me a room in a mansion and then come back and get me. That sounds like apartment living to me, and I prefer not to live in an apartment house. Of course, it beats the alternative, lakefront property on Lake of Fire.
“I’d like a place similar to where I grew up, a house out in the country where the sky is black at night and you can see lots of stars. Or where the moon glows like a big spotlight in the sky. Lots of trees and grass around. And a gravel road with no gold or gems, just rocks that you can pick up and throw and not worry that you are throwing away a fortune. And a good dog close by to reach out and pet. Now that is some heavenly living.”
Well, it was mighty quiet in the hall, and I finally heard the silence. So I shut up and let the preacher continue to lead the study and eventually I skulked out, kind of like I did the other time I went to that Bible study and the preacher declared that creation occurred in 4004 BC and I laughed out loud, then looked around and noticed that I was the only one who thought he was joking, the only one who believed the universe is billions of years old and the earth is millions of years old.
Here’s what I think: The wonderfulness of Heaven goes way beyond the meager descriptions in the Bible. At the time that was written, people sought the protection and security of city life. Darkness scared them. They were poor, hungry, oppressed. A description of Heaven as a safe city where there is constant light and no fear of invaders helped them understand that God has something special in store for them.
I think the descriptions of heaven are literary, not literal, for there’s no way to literally describe Heaven. I figure it’s even better than any biblical description.
I hope there’ll be a front porch I can sit on in the dark every now and again. I don’t think God minds darkness. The glory of God was present before creation; there was no light then, so I figure the glory of God can be present without light.
I expect my family will be there, and I hope my dogs will be there, too. Every dog I’ve owned has been more pure and more innocent than any human, so maybe the Lord will let them in, too.
Now you can see that the older I get the more I think about Heaven. Also, you can discern that I have theological views that are way outside acceptable evangelical Christianity. This is why I don’t attend church regularly any more. So breathe freely, you don’t have to worry that I might show up at your Bible study or your worship service, and aren’t you glad of it!
Page 3 of 3 - One thing I like about the description of Heaven in the Bible is that there is no temple, for there’s no need for one, since the Lord God Almighty and His Lamb, who is Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (by whom and through whom is the only way to get to Heaven), will be right there for us to look at them and worship them.
I take that to mean there won’t be any church or preachers either. No need for journalists either. What a relief! That’s something I hope is literal.
R.D. Hohenfeldt, a Georgia native, has lived in Rolla since way back in ’84 in the previous century. Currently, he writes regular columns for OzarksAlmanac.com, ozarksalmanac.blogspot.com and occasional columns on the registered forums of Smoker-Builder.com. On the night shift, he helps cover Rolla city and school government for The Rolla Daily News. To register a complaint with the editor about something R.D. has written, e-mail your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. To write to R.D. directly, send an e-mail to Rhohenfeldt@the rolladailynews.com. Photo of R.D. and Henry courtesy of Bea Bronebrake (facebook.com/B ThirtyOne).