[Taken from “Inheriting the Kingdom of Light:Essays on Heaven“]
I like to imagine a heaven similar to my Bible school experience: lots of Bible study, fellowship and evening worship. Oh, and I met my wife there. Maybe there’s the drawback: current human relationships. There is no marriage in heaven. My wife of 52 plus years (at the time of this writing) will be an “ordinary” and “other” child of God in His kingdom. The marriage, the special love relation we shared, is not anticipated there. She will be like all the other “women.” No! No women ….all the other children of God. I am already missing her!
now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known.1
Romance has been an integral part of my adult life. Heck! My interest in girls goes back to 5th grade and my first kiss. And now a major part of my emotional life no longer has relevance in heaven or will we, as the Bride of Christ, have a new collective passion for, a love relationship with, Christ alone?
There have been a couple special relationships in my earthly sojourn that I already miss. Will there be no opportunity to renew these in glory? In heaven, will these relations no longer be a part of who we are!?
I had only four loves in my adult experience and one of these still lingers in the heart. From time to time over the decades, she has unannounced intruded on my memory. I took opportunity to pray for her well-being. I would pause in deep thought to wonder how life was working out for her. It all became a pleasant recollection mingled gently with a longing to find her in heaven’s crowd—if just for a moment. But now I am thinking this is all unimportant in a heaven where the focus is understandably on God.
Throughout this work we have maintained that a bodily resurrection keeps alive the persons (personalities, personhood) we have become in Christ during this life. But does this mean that heaven will necessitate drastic and new relational changes? My passionate love relation with my wife—very much a part of me—will no longer exist!? Or might it be transformed into another and deeper level of closeness? I will have 2 arms? So, I will give my love of over half-a-century a christian hug but not a romantic one?
Our personalities are defined in part by memories, good and bad. These memories represent who we have become, the person our life’s experiences helped form. The only plus for a believer is that God is the Potter. So, what about memories? Might heaven provide me with a quickened memory, a complete memory, of all the good things God did for me, all the moments in life when He graciously intervened to keep me on track for His will in my life. Will I be able to look back on this life and make sense out of circumstances that now seem spiritually irrelevant or worse—out of His will! And can I share those memories in fellowship with the woman who experienced much of them with me while she does the same in return! In a word: will heaven provide opportunity to all God’s children to share the rich testimony of the Lord’s involvement in our lives during our pilgrimage here?
God will wipe away all tears but what about tears of joy? Tears of joy have played an important role in an emotional release when we were overjoyed or we were surprised with something we thought would never be. Heaven is a different place; so, our glorified body might not have this feature. We only know that in the Bible “tears” are tears of sorrow and grief—and these are wiped away! But discussing tears leads me to think that our new body will come with a panoply of new feelings—and intense ones—which we could not have handled in this life.
The question I ask is: What happens to the “old” feelings? I already mentioned ”romance.” Someone once listed 104 great feelings2 that support our interests in this life. Our new body might come with thousands! We don’t know. Perhaps, the new emotions—and all the sights and sounds of heaven— will cause me to forget about my old life that I currently ponder.
Bible School Days
I want to return to my school days and relive memories of indulging in all things Bible. I had no television set. The radio I brought with me in my sophomore year was never turned on. [I don’t recall where I left it.]
Prayer was always a welcomed opportunity to let the Lord know how my day was going. I enjoyed talking to Him.
Men students used to discuss theology into the night draped like so many lifeless forms about the chairs and couches in the dorm lounge. [Some, I was told, welcomed the morning sun.] Across the dinner table, after a meal, discussions continued—sometimes with a comedic twist because teachers often strolled by.
And then there was the spontaneous worship, the a cappella harmony, among the kitchen staff that silenced an entire dining room of students. I also recall the exceptional Friday night missions services where we learned God’s Spirit from time to time takes worship in a different direction—and faculty leaders needed to discern the change and encourage us, as students, to submit to whatever the Lord had in mind. How real God was to us!!
These spiritual experiences took place in a quiet, partly hidden, glade which opened up to us only after walking the lane through the trees that lined it. Will the Lord return us to campus but in a more exciting experience in heaven? Or does another life await us?
All Things New
My wife, Joyce, and I took a walk out the lane that circles our condo. Upon hearing the birds chirping in the nearby trees and smelling the fragrances we past, I thought to engage her in conversation about heaven. “Will there be birds in heaven? “ I asked. And what about the fragrances that in this life excite fond memories.
She shut me down in her classical woman-of-a-few-words way, “Hon, everything will be new!”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”3
New! There are 2 words for new: something new in time or recently having been made or born, like a “newborn.” >New also in quality. New wine [in time] is a new batch. New wine in quality might be a sweet after dinner red compared to the usual white wine.
The new you and new me are both:4 We are born again, newborn in Christ [new in time at salvation] and we are new inside, [new in quality] new in nature, not a repeat of the person we were but a brand new “creature” or life in Christ.
“All things new” regarding heaven means all things new in quality. A brand new earth speaks of an earth [not newly created, though God might]. This speaks of an earth not yet experienced. It is not a replay of this life. A new earth means a new experience! This we have been saying throughout this work.
I still do not know about the birds on my walk, though.
I can hardly wait to find out!
3 Revelation 21:5
4 Ephesians 4:24 and to put on the new self [in quality], created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Colossians 3:10 and have put on the new self [in time] which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.