I laughed that day, but I have thought about it a lot. All those descriptions of Heaven are supposed to be motivators, and this little girl was not motivated. “If you’re good you get to sit still forever and listen to boring sermons.” What have we done? We know those descriptions are figurative. We know there will be no streets paved with gold. Gold is notoriously soft. Can you imagine what it would look like by the time we all walked on it? Yet, even though we know these things, we seem to have missed the point.
Those first century Christians lived a day to day existence. They prayed for their “daily bread” because they had no idea if they would have enough that day, let alone tomorrow. The farmers among them existed at the mercy of the weather and natural disasters. The shopkeepers and artisans lived at the mercy of the economy. No one was going to “bail them out.”
To those people, a place so wealthy that gold and precious jewels were used as construction material, meant security. It meant rest from working long hours day after day to simply exist.
Those people lived under the rule of a foreign king. Doubtless they had all seen wars and battles. They knew, in fact, that the Barbarian Hordes could still come over the mountains and wipe them out. Did 9/11 cause you some concern? Has it made you worry more about the possibility of terrorists under every bush? Those first century Christians lived with that sort of uncertainty every day of their lives. In fact, they probably had more safety as a conquered people than ever before. But the picture of a huge city with huge walls meant safety and peace forever. Security—that is what those pictures of Heaven were all about, not materialism. I have no doubt that if John were writing to us, he would use other motivators.
And that is my point today—give your children motivation that means something to them. Say something like “Heaven is a place where you never have to go to bed. It’s a place where you can play all day and never be scolded.” And as they get older perhaps, “Heaven is a place with no homework, a place where you can play video games as long as you want without your thumbs aching, a place you can hang out with your buddies forever.” You tell them that whatever Heaven is like, it is as wonderful to the soul as these physical things are to their physical lives. As they get older, you will have directed their training and teaching so that the motivators become more spiritual and less material.
But you know what? There are still days I think Heaven should be a big kitchen I can cook in all day without my back hurting, with the dishes magically cleaning themselves, and with all the finished products looking exactly like the pictures in the cookbooks and tasting just as wonderful! Sometimes you need that sort of motivation and so do your children. .
But at this stage of our lives, Keith and I have a different motivation—he knows he will HEAR those beautiful songs, and I know I will SEE the glory of God. Is that still just a little physically-minded and materialistic? Maybe, but it works.
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth are passed away; and the sea is no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven of God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband…having a wall great and high; having twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names written thereon, are of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: And the building of the wall thereof was jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto pure glass. The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony; the fourth, emerald; the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, chrysoprase; the eleventh, jacinth; the twelfth, amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the several gates was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass… and there shall in no wise enter into it anything unclean, or he that makes an abomination and a lie: but only they that are written in the Lamb's book of life, Rev 21:1,2,12,19-21,27.
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