Next Stop: Heaven
by Rich Bregitzer
(St. Louis, MO)
Revelation 21:10-11, 21-23, 27; 22:5-7
Rev 21:10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.
Rev 21:11 It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.
Rev 21:21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass.
Rev 21:22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.
Rev 21:23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.
Rev 21:27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
Rev 22:5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.
Rev 22:6 The angel said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.”
Rev 22:7 “Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book.”
Not that long ago someone asked me to share my thoughts on what heaven will be like. Well, I have to tell you I am not exactly sure. I do like the way that Revelation talks about heaven, but you have to remember that Revelation is a very figurative book and that not all of it is to be taken literally. In fact, much of the book, it is believed, was written in code so that Roman adversaries could not decipher what John was attempting to relay to his audience.
And yet I have to say that the description of heaven that we just read a minute ago sits very well with my spirit. The power of those words paint a pretty strong mental image and one that I am sure each one of us view a bit differently. After all our ideas about what heaven could be like are all varied.
I had a good Christian friend who use to say that when he got to heaven he wanted to slide down the streets of gold in his socks. Some other friends think they’ll be content to cling to Jesus’ feet and worship for all eternity. I have some family that believe we will all be given some sort of glorious work to do when we get there.
I think if we were all honest then we would probably agree that heaven is a bit of a mystery. The NIV mentions heaven 403 times; that’s 1.5 times the mention of faith, twice as much as peace and 29 times more than hell. So, heaven carries about it some importance.
Here is what I walk away with when I consider today’s verse; probably the chief thing I notice is the mention of light. To dwell in the light means that we are finally comfortable with showing ourselves; it means we have nothing left to hide, that all of the shadows we dwelt in have been chased away by the light of God. We can see what is around us and so there is now nothing to fear.
There is no house of worship in heaven. The scripture calls it a temple. Remember the temples of Bible times had their temple laws and regulations, but in heaven God and the Lamb are the temple; they are the perfect dwelling place and in heaven you dwell with them. You no longer have to go to a place of worship because the perfect place of worship is the heart of heaven where you now reside.
We can see all this because the light emanates from Jesus. Heaven is lit up by Jesus. That sounded a little strange to me at first, sort of like Jesus is some sort of walking generator, but then I remembered a time when I went fishing as a kid.
My dad had a little voltage reader with some wires extending from it. We caught a cat fish and touching the wires to the fish made the meter register. So, if a catfish can generate a little electricity why can’t Jesus light up heaven?
And here’s another thing…heaven is enormous, because it’s not just you and I there. Nope, every single person who has called on the name of the Lord, in faith, from now to the dawn of time is there. Friends, family, people you don’t know. Americans, Asians, Africans, even a few people from California….it’s amazing.
There are Republicans and Democrats in heaven and they get along! Baptists are there amazed that Lutherans are standing beside them. There are Catholics and Methodists and Mennonites and Quakers, Shakers, butchers, bakers and candlestick makers.
There are children and men and women in heaven. And we’ll be shocked at some of the folks we see there. People who never came to church even though we invited them every Sunday for 10 years…they’re there and so are a group of people we vehemently disagreed with; they’re in heaven.
Yuppies, hippies, soldiers, sailors, tailors, Barretts, Fees, Allens, and who let in those Bregitzers? I mean heaven might not be crowded, but I think it’s going to well populated and here’s why: the scripture tells us that the walls of the city of heaven have 12 gates. You know them as the pearly gates. Well, there are three gates on each of the walls.
You know why heaven is crowded? Because those gates are left open. Yep. Contrary to popular opinion Peter is not standing outside of a gate checking names and sending some people to an elevator that only has a down button.
Nope, if you made it that far then it is because your name is written in the Lamb’s book of life. And I like the fact that there are gates on every side of heaven because, to me, that means God is calling us home from the four corners of the world. He is not just the God of the west or the east, but he is God of everywhere and every time.
Now, some look at this scripture and they say “Heaven sounds great, but what do we do when we get there? Will I sit on a cloud and play a harp?” Others are more concerned about their “reward” or their “mansion in the corner of glory”.
I don’t know, but I can’t help to think that heaven is a little bit like grandma’s house. Let me explain. When I was 13 to 16 I had a hard time in school and sometimes at home. And sometimes things were just more than I could handle. Its sort of like life...we all come to those point where we struggle with the here and now. Mom was on to this and so whenever she could my mom would get us into the car and take us to grandma’s house.
My grandmother, Addie, was an amazing woman. Now we never knew what our visit to grandma’s would be like, but we always knew it would be amazing. Grandma could cook the best food you ever tasted, she could shower you with sweets and affection before you even knew what hit you…her house was a treasure trove ready to be explored; complete with an attic and basement always ready to yield up long forgotten treasure. And I don’t want you to think it was just the things offered that were so great, because the main thing grandma gave us was sanctuary and safety.
So, when I think of heaven I think of grandma. I think of a place that I might not completely be able to conceptualize, but a place I know that will be good and safe when I get there.
So, I don’t beat myself up trying to form a great mental picture of heaven, nor do I spend too long on the theology surrounding a place I’ve never been to and can really give no account of.
You’d think that might affect my enthusiasm or my ability to be share with you, but I don’t feel that way at all. 403 times this place of strength and peace and power and home calls to us from the scriptures. Dozens of authors and biblical characters testify to its existence…but what matters the most to me is that I know this life has its travails and I know I can trust Jesus, when he says, at the close, of our scripture: “Behold I am coming soon.”
We will all go somewhere for eternity: some say heaven, some say hell and still others say the cold hard ground. I trust our Jesus who says “He has prepared a place for us and he is coming to take us where he is” to that place with streets of gold, lit up by the Lamb of God where dwell the faithful of gone by years.
I pray we see each other there.