When Heaven Explodes
our blessed hope, the coming of
our Savior, Jesus Christ (Titus
by John Yocum
The age to come
Advent is the
season in which the Christian people focus on
the return of the Messiah and the day he comes
again in glory. This is the day when the “age
to come” will finally be here and the saints
will enter into heavenly life: “We await our
blessed hope, the coming of our Savior Jesus
Christ” (Titus 2:13).
If we are
honest, however, that hope at times seems less
blessed than we might want to admit. I have a
friend who, in her honesty, sometimes fears
that she won't really enjoy heavenly life that
much. The thought of an eternal time of
worship doesn't always appeal to her.
misgiving feeds on the notion that the age to
come will be like our experience of the
'spiritual' things we do in this life, only
longer. But the age to come will mean not the
elimination, but the re-creation of everything
in this life. It will not be a narrower, but a
broader, deeper and fuller experience of all
the good in the world we now know, with none
of the effects of sin. We ourselves will be
changed (1 Corinthians 15:52).
The world as
it is now is often at odds with God's
intention, and even the good things God
created to be enjoyed can entice us away from
Him. When I'm deep in prayer, I usually close
my eyes because the things around me are a
God's glorious presence
In the age to
come, what we see and hear won't distract us
from God's glorious presence. Rather, they
will magnify it.
describes that day in one of the Sunday Advent
wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,
blooms; everything explodes with life in
Isaiah's vision. The dusty, hostile desert gives
way to running streams and bubbling springs.
Flowers spring up in the desert. Nature itself
sings. Everywhere the world is alive with God's
glory, and testifies to his majesty.
Shall rejoice and blossom;
crocus it shall blossom
rejoice with joy and singing....
see the glory of the LORD,
the majesty of our God.
Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis depicts a
cosmic bus ride from a dismal, grey hell to
heaven exploding with color. When the
passengers alight, what they find is a more
colorful, more substantial earth. The light at
first is nearly blinding. The blades of grass
are like needles to their tender feet. The
guide who conducts the travelers on a
tour of the new creation explains that heaven
is brighter, firmer, more solid, because it is
more what is meant to be than what we know
now. To fit in, the pilgrims in Lewis’ tale
need to become people they were meant to be.
Those who choose to remain in the heavenly
land must go through a period of adjustment,
shucking off what is weak and deformed, in
order to put on what is noble and strong. They
become royal and dignified because they are
meant not only to live in the new world, but
to reign there (Revelations 22:5).
adjustment Lewis imaginatively describes
mirrors the training that is meant to be
accomplished in this life, according to Paul.
As he reflects on his own hardships, Paul
says, "this slight, momentary affliction is
preparing us to carry a weight of glory beyond
all comparison (2Corinthians 4:17). "The
Hebrew word for "glory' means "weightiness."
Though 2 Corinthians is written in Greek, the
rabbi Paul probably has that Hebrew metaphor
in mind. This life – especially its
difficulties, persecutions and temptations – is
preparing us to carry a heavy load of solid,
heavenly glory, the burden, you might say, of
kings and queens.
A life of training for
Holy Spirit, God is training our hearts,
teaching us to turn aside from our sinful
passions and our irreverent attitudes, to
learn to live our lives by the truth, and to
imitate God's own character (Titus 2:11-14).
Like weight training, or physical therapy, the
discipline can be painful at times, and we
wonder if it's worth it.
Paul says the life of training for glory is
one in which 'we look not to the things that
are seen but to the things that are unseen;
for the things that are seen are transient,
but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2
Corinthians 4:18). What Paul means by 'unseen'
is not permanently invisible, but not yet
visible. Deferred gratification is part of
gratification there will be in abundance. And
it won't be poorer, but richer than the
pleasures of this life. At the end of the day,
we'll need new bodies just to cope with it.
We'll need new equipment to handle heaven's
higher voltage (Romans 8:22-23). We find some
things in life a struggle just because we get
tired, or sick, or hungry. Even when our
hearts are right, our bodies don’t always
cooperate. Our bodily weaknesses came
together with the spiritual corruption of sin.
Some day that will all be behind us.
meantime, we look to the things we don't yet
see; to the day when what is mortal will be
swallowed up in life; when the lame will leap
with joy; when the dumb will shout aloud; when
the deaf will hear the music of heaven; when the
blind will open their eyes and see – along with all of
us – the
glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God.
Yocum (Doctor of Philosophy, University of
Oxford) is an elder of The
Servants of the Word, a lay missionary
brotherhood of men living single for the Lord
and a leader of Word of Life community in Ann
Arbor, Michigan, USA.