On what would have been my mum’s birthday, I made this comment on twitter.
Some guy saw this as his opportunity to attempt to provoke a reaction, telling me how terrible, immature and unbiblical my theology of heaven was. I’m not quite sure why he saw fit to wade into the grief of someone he didn’t know but then the account seems to be primarily set up to troll Christian leaders and pastors.
However, it strikes me that his comments also reflect a lot of the confusion and uncertainty about heaven, and looking forward to life after life after death, the resurrection. I don’t know quite what he views as a mature understanding of heaven but in my experience, a lot of Christians struggle to envision heaven. Partly, that’s because heaven is beyond our imagining. Sometimes, we get little glimpses of it in dreams, Scripture itself gives snapshots and foretastes but I still think that it’s a struggle for us to get our heads around. What happens though, is that we end up with a thin view of eternity. We see life after death as less than life now. We think in terms of a spirit world that sounds and feels shadowy and gloomy.
Well, as we are seeking a Biblical view of heaven, it is worth looking at what Scripture itself says. The main glimpses into heaven we get are in Jesus’ parables. In Luke 15, Jesus tells the story of three lost things, a sheep, a coin and a son. Each story ends with the lost thing being recovered and so, there is a party to celebrate. Concerning the sheep, we are told:
5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbours together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’”Luke 15:5-6
Similarly, when the son returns home the Father gets out beautiful clothes and jewellery, then orders for the fatted calf to be killed. These earthly parties reflect what happens in heaven. Jesus says:
7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.Luke 15:7
Heaven is where parties happen. Whenever someone puts their trust in Jesus, heaven rejoices and celebrates. If there’s rejoicing and celebration when someone here on earth finds faith, how much more rejoicing do you think there will be when that person arrives home with Jesus. Don’t you think they’ll be received into their heavenly home with exceeding joy, with cheers and singing?
That imagery of feasting and celebration is carried over into other parables. There’s the people who find excuses and refuse the invitation to the party, there’s the bridesmaids who oversleep, run out of fuel and fail to get in, there’s the man who turns up in his own clothes and refuses his wedding garments. Then when you get to the end of Revelation, you discover that time itself will end with a great party, a celebration, a wedding feast. It’s the wedding supper of the lamb.
Now, we are of course dealing with images, metaphors, stories and similes rather than literal descriptions here. So, things may not be exactly like that. And perhaps if we have in mind an English tea party of little get together with a cake, candles and pin the tail on the donkey, then we haven’t quite grasped it. However, the point remains, heaven will be greater than our experience of parties here. If we say that it is like a party, then we mean that it is “more than.”
Yet, in so far as the language of scripture and the language of my tweet is designed to point us to that greater experience of life, joy, happiness, celebration, wonder, beauty, delight, then yes, heaven is the greater party. This is good news for believers. We have something wonderful to look forward to.