By Ken Rolheiser
What will heaven be like? Let me attempt to describe our transition to that world in poetry:
My mind ends in silence
All knowing and free
Emptiness is gone
I am beyond sensation
Like dreams fulfilled
Not a fullness, but an absence of emptiness.
When I was conceived, I was a pulse, caught and bound. I rebelled and hate filled me. Subtle hate, a feeling like original sin. But leaving this physical consciousness is so different. Oh wow! O wow! O wow!
Words fail. There is only essence, the quality of what we are. Beyond imagination!
It is more knowing than learning, more being than becoming, more God than man.
John Milton tried to describe the eternal in Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained. These epic poems depict the battle between God and Satan, with man at the center. The fall of Adam and Eve.
“Paradise Regained” begins with the Baptism of Jesus and the Father’s voice, “This is my Son”. Satan is perplexed by this “Son of God” concept and determines to destroy Jesus. The temptation in the desert follows. Jesus does not fall for Satan’s offers. Political power? Food? Beautiful women? Power lies in self-control, and Jesus reveals that he is God. Defeated, Satan withdraws.
Much of the mystery of the afterlife has been revealed to us in various near-death experiences that have been recorded in convincing fashion. One of the more recent is that of a young boy who emerges from life-saving surgery with remarkable stories of his visit to heaven.
In Heaven Is for Real four-year old Colton Burpo, son of a Nebraska pastor, slips into unconsciousness and enters heaven. There he meets God and various family members who have died previously. The movie version is very convincing as actual events in the life of this believable family support many theological truths about heaven.
Scripture has given us glimpses of what heaven will be like. “…eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
We will be like the risen body of Christ: “…the Lord Jesus Christ… will
transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:20-21). We will shine like the sun (Matthew 13:43). All tears will be wiped away and all pain gone. Mourning and death shall be no more (Revelation 21:4).
And then there are the many rooms in the Father’s house (John 14:2). That’s where we can enjoy multilocation, the chance to see all our long-lost family and friends. I will see my Godparents again. And I hope to see my ancestors who kept the faith in Russia.
And of course, there is the Isaiah 25 banquet scene with the well-aged wines. This is a place to pause and enjoy the Lord’s favour. But there is time for all that since we shall not sleep (1 Corinthians 15:51). This will come in the twinkling of an eye.
But time is another dimension that changes in heaven.