Since it is still snowing in Minnesota, I need a brief glimpse of “paradise” to give me hope. Many of us tend to recreate the new heaven and earth in our own favorite images and struggle with the images that scriptures uses. Rob Bell in Love Wins has a comical reference to this:
Think of the cultural images that are associated with heaven: harps and cloud and streets of gold, everybody dressed in white robes. (Does anybody look good in white robes? Can you play sports in white robes? How could it be heaven without sports? What about swimming? What if you spill food on the robe?)
All of our images of heaven are somewhat speculative since they are describing something beyond our present ability to comprehend. All language is symbolic, especially when it comes to God. C. S. Lewis wrote a wise sermon, called The Weight of Glory. In it he categorizes the Scriptural images of heaven:
The promise of Scripture may very roughly be reduced to five heads. It is promised, firstly, that we shall be with Christ; secondly that we shall be like Him; thirdly, with an enormous wealth of imagery, that we shall have “glory”; fourthly that we shall, in some sense, be fed or feasted or entertained; and, finally, that we shall have some sort of official position in the universe — ruling cities, judging angels, being pillars in God’s temple. The first question I ask about these promises is: “Why any of them except the first?” Can anything be added to the conception of being with Christ? . . . . I think the answer turns again on the nature of symbols.
Lewis goes on to describe how we each turn our perception of “being with Christ,” into our own version of what friendship or camaraderie or human love is like here on earth. Lewis concludes,
The variation of the promises does not mean that anything other than God will be our ultimate bliss; but because God is more than a Person, and lest we should imagine the joy of His presence too exclusively in terms of our poor experience of personal love, with all its narrowness and strain and monotony, a dozen changing images, correcting and relieving each other, are supplied.
What image of heaven most surprises or unsettles you? What could that say about you?