Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Heaven -- Picture Yourself There

I've been reading a lot about heaven lately. Well, to say heaven isn't really accurate. The Bible talks about a new heaven and a new earth. It is where we will live in the age to come, where there is no more day and night, no more death, and no more marriage. I've not read much outside the Bible about what this will be like. We are left with our misconceptions about living on clouds, singing in one huge choir, talking and talking to Biblical characters and lost family, and living in our own mansion that is surrounded by the most beautiful nature. But these aren't very Biblical pictures. In fact, we will most likely live on the new earth rather than in the new heaven (See Revelation 21).

The prophet Zechariah (yeah he's in the Bible) described the new kingdom with these words:

On that day there will be no light, no cold or frost. It will be a unique day, without daytime or nighttime—a day known to the LORD. When evening comes, there will be light. On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half to the eastern sea and half to the western sea, in summer and in winter. The LORD will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one LORD, and his name the only name. -- Zechariah 14:6-9 (NIV)

The prophet Ezekiel appears to be describing the new kingdom as well:

He then brought me to the outer court and led me around to its four corners, and I saw in each corner another court. In the four corners of the outer court were enclosed courts, forty cubits long and thirty cubits wide; each of the courts in the four corners was the same size. Around the inside of each of the four courts was a ledge of stone, with places for fire built all around under the ledge. He said to me, "These are the kitchens where those who minister at the temple will cook the sacrifices of the people." -- Ezekiel 46:21-24 (NIV)

Kitchens... in heaven? There is certainly this picture of a community with each person having their own task. (There are still a lot of questions of exactly when and how all this will happen.)

The problem is we can't picture ourselves there. We can't picture ourselves walking through the Kingdom of God. Part of the problem is that it will be so different from where we live. Another part is we don't feel like we belong. 

But we absolutely do belong there. We were created to be there. And by accepting the sacrifice offered by Jesus Christ for the corruption in our lives, we can once again find our destiny there.

Just as an exercise, I tried to picture some people from my church in this new kingdom. This is just my imagination at work, hopefully helped along by the Spirit of God.

In the New Kingdom, Mary is a confident, beautiful, and regal woman (the Bible says there is no male and female in Christ, but I'm only beginning to imagine). She stands straight, not proud, but whole. She is gracious and welcoming to all who come her way. Her task is to care for people. She houses travelers (Read Zechariah 14:16-19 if you wonder where the travelers come from). They love staying at her place. She makes them feel accepted.

Josh is strong and tall. His body is lean and muscular. His stance is tall and confident. He is the right-hand man to one of the great leaders in the city. He is trusted and responsible. His love for God shines in his face and in his flowing hair. With courage and integrity, he carries out his duties. (The Bible says we will all reign with Christ, but there seems to be some hierarchy. I could have pictured Josh as one of the great leaders, but that may not be who he was created to be.) His soul is satisfied when his leadership complements a bigger task.

Joe is quiet yet confident. He is usually at a desk studying ancient texts, but when he stands I am surprised by his size. He has enormous hands and strong arms for someone who spends most of his time reading. His official title is "Keeper of the Mysterious." (I was hoping that all would be clear, but there are still things not understood even in the New Kingdom. We are still learning and growing.) Joe is also a liaison to the angelic beings.

As for myself... I'm not sure. I can see myself visiting, but not finding a place. (Do you feel that way? You can picture others there, but not yourself?) There is so much turmoil, so much conflict in me. Sometimes I forget about the turmoil. Lately it has been stirred. Conflict lives in me. But the new nature will release it. I am created in the image of God. I can feel that too! I am destined to be there. I have placed myself in Christ's hands for healing.

So... who am I? A champion for the underdog. A visionary of a better future. A voice of reason. My tasks will not be ruling in any major regions. That isn't my giftedness. My tasks will be more local. Though I am curious, I will not be an explorer (yes, I believe there will be places to be explored. Will the new kingdom be smaller than this temporary one?) But my tasks will be clear; my creation will make sense. My soul will be satisfied with my place.

Again, this is only an imaginative exercise. But I found it helpful. It brought me closer to my final destiny. That is the power of imagination and story. Sit down and do the same. Write the destiny of your friends first. Share it with them. They probably can't picture themselves in the Kingdom either. Then give your own a shot. Send them to me. I'd love to read them.

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