The Easter season is a wonderful time for Christians. It is during this time of the year that we celebrate the glorious resurrection of Christ. But, it doesn’t stop there. We are also encouraged to contemplate the Kingdom of God in which we now dwell, and the glorious day of Christ’s return when we will dwell in a new heaven and a new earth. Unfortunately, many Christians do not possess a biblically healthy picture of our future life in heaven. Some have the idea that Christians will go to heaven and float around on clouds for all eternity, playing harps, and wearing golden halos.
Over the course of my Christian life, I have discovered that there is always something to worry about. Worries, like weeds, choke all of the joy out of life. Idols of “control” and “manipulation” possess our thoughts. We stress out about our government, our family, our finances…it really doesn’t take much to get us going. We put ourselves in a prison of worry, while the evil one, the devil (I refuse to capitalize his name – he’s not worth it), does all that he can to rattle our cage. A couple of days ago I compiled a few quotes that are helping me to regain some perspective. I sense the Holy Spirit reminding me that one of the ways that I should hide myself in the gospel is by enjoying the life that Christ has given me. Out of a sense of worshiping Christ, I need to listen to good music, laugh with good friends, and give my life in service to others. As theologian Eugene Peterson puts it, I need to learn “to care, and not to care.” Below are few of the quotes I’ve read that are helping me with this endeavor. Martin Luther has been especially helpful.
- The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn. — Martin Luther
- If you are not allowed to laugh in heaven, I don’t want to go there. –Martin Luther (1483-1546)
- It is pleasing to God whenever you rejoice or laugh from the bottom of your heart. –Martin Luther (1483-1546)
- Beautiful music is the art of the prophets that can calm the agitations of the soul; it is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us. –Martin Luther (1483-1546)
- Nothing on earth is so well-suited to make the sad merry and the merry sad, to give courage to the despairing and to make the proud humble, to lessen envy and hate, as music. — Martin Luther
- Music makes people kinder, gentler, more staid and reasonable. The devil flees before the sound of music almost as much as before the word of God. — Martin Luther
- Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. — (Luke 6:21)
- “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven” — (Luke 6:23).
- C. S. Lewis depicts laughter in Heaven when his characters attend the Great Reunion on the New Narnia: “And there was greeting and kissing and handshaking and old jokes revived (you’ve no idea how good an old joke sounds after you take it out again after a rest of five or six hundred years).” — C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle
- Father, today, right now, feeling as I do, with deadlines and health issues and friends who are hurting and world events in flux, I need to hear your promise that in Heaven we will laugh. I picture Jesus, laughing with his disciples, and I can’t wait to hear his laugh in person. I look forward to laughing with him at banquets and on walks and in conversations. Thank you for the gift of laughter. Thank you that you invented it. Thank you that we do not have to wait until Heaven to laugh, but that laughter can carry us on its back through difficult times. I think of the release that laughter brings at memorial services for people who have followed you faithfully, people who are already laughing on death’s other side. I have enjoyed rich laughter, mingled with tears, with friends and family in difficult days. When we weep now, Father, remind us that in Heaven, partaking of your joy, we will laugh. — Randy Alcorn
- In early Christian Greek tradition, Easter Monday was a “day of joy and laughter,” called Bright Monday. Only the followers of Christ can laugh in the face of persecution and death because they know that their present trouble isn’t all there is. They know that someday they will laugh. — Randy Alcorn
I wrote the following poem from the perspective of a dying maple leaf. Several years ago I was driving along Interstate 81 heading toward Roanoke, Virginia. It was autumn and the leaves were absolutely gorgeous. I pulled my car over to the side of the road to enjoy a breathtaking view that overlooked a valley filled with white farmhouses and green pastures. The surrounding trees were brilliantly splotched with every color that autumn could possibly render. As I stood there drinking in the scene, I noticed a maple tree on the side of the ridge beside me. Its head was stretching in the wind. The tree grew out sideways over the valley and as a result it had lost almost all of its leaves. I took special note of one bright yellow leaf that hung on tight, shivering all alone in the wind. That leaf held fast when almost every other leaf had given way, falling hundreds of feet into the valley below. I wrote this poem with that leaf in mind. I cling to life. Just like that little leaf. I hang on with the vain hope that I will live forever, scared to death of the “undiscover’d country, from whose bourn no traveler returns.” Yet, a day will come, sooner than I realize, when the Autumn Daystar (the beloved Savior – Jesus Christ) will call me to let go of that which was never mine. As that day moves closer, I am learning how to die – how to bear the Cross, how to die to myself, how to die to sin, idolatry, selfishness, and anger. I am learning to surrender to the call of Christ’s sacrificial love. I am learning to surrender to the music that will one day sound my departure from this life. Until then, may Christ prepare me for that day, so that I may release my grip with joy and worship, singing “Autumn Daystar, bid me come.”
The Song… it emerges with a multi-rhythmic crescendo, churning with chord progressions that rise and fall like a train engine, The Edge’s haunting, unique, signature delay, Adam Clayton’s understated, impellent bass, and Larry Mullin’s driving percussion – at 1:55, Bono’s haunting voice booms like a prophetic trumpet; The Band – like a four horse chariot, on fire, and galloping down from the clouds – announcing the advent of that heavenly city, leading us to a place – where the streets have no name.
There are Gospel songs about heaven – like “I’ll Fly Away” and “When we all get to heaven”. And there are Gospel songs about earth – like “He’s got the whole world in his hands” and “This is my Father’s World“. And then there is this Gospel song: a song that weaves the stuff of heaven into the stuff of earth, creating one tapestry, where heavenly sunlight comes down and the rain clouds of earth go up, where a city floods but a highway leads us up to a desert plain, where the walls all come down and where love does not rust, and we’re blown by the Wind to touch the burning flame, and it’s all we can do, I want to go there with you, where there is no more sorrow, there is no more pain…where the streets have no name. Click tab to see Video and Lyrics. Continue reading
I would like to recommend an excellent book that I am presently reading called “Heaven is not my Home” by Paul Marshall. In his thought-provoking book, Marshall asserts that God is not seeking to destroy the earth, but to restore it to its original splendor. He shows us how the redemption of all things should shape the way we look at every aspect of our lives. He especially fleshes out some of the things I’ve talked about in regard to developing a healthy theology of play. (See “Christian Impact and Football” and “C.S. Lewis and a Theology of Christian Hope“). However, Marshall’s work goes much, much further. His fuller emphasis is focused on broader aspects of the Kingdom of God ‘yet to come’ and connecting those to the Kingdom of God that exists ‘right now’.
For a healthy, reformed view of the “New Heavens and New Earth”, I would recommend “Surprised by Hope” by N.T. Wright. I’m reading it now and, boy, it’s so good. Our theology of heaven is often confused with Greek mythology along with a plethora of gnostic ideas that we get from ‘Left Behind’ and other such popular works. Wright is a little tricky on some of his theological views (like justification and his interpretation of Paul), but by and large you won’t find any of that in “Surprised by Hope.” The book basically outlines for us a demythologized version of heaven that’s rooted in Biblical exegesis, and a robust, covenantal, eschatalogical view. I recommend it highly.