Heaven Is Not What You Think It Is

I’m a 90s kid. That means I watched a lot of TV. And one scene from a cartoon (Looney Tunes maybe?) is forever etched in my mind.

I can’t remember the context of the episode but it’s a picture of heaven. It’s portrayed as an expanse filled with clouds. A chubby little baby in a diaper is an angel seated on a puffy cloud playing a harp.

Apparently this is paradise for all eternity.

This image shaped my theology of heaven more than anything when I was a kid. It made me not want to go to heaven. Ever. I’m going to be a fat, diapered baby sitting alone for all my days? No, thanks.

If we’re honest, most of us would think of heaven to be some version of this boring, awkward scene. Maybe not the diaper part. But an ethereal, vague, and serious place full of light fog.

This isn’t the picture painted by the Bible. Even the idea of heaven as a location “out there” that we “go to” is foreign to Jesus and his apostles.

In the end, Heaven comes down, as the New Jerusalem, the New Creation, the New Heavens and New Earth. It’s the place God lives and where his people live with him as they were meant to originally in the Garden. This time, without the possibility of rebellion.

The picture painted of heaven in the Scriptures has more continuity with this world than we might dare to think. Does it feel a tad bit unspiritual to consider “heaven” being like this earth? Remember, God made us for this world. It is our home. And it will be our home (see Romans 8:22-24).

This world simply isn’t the finished product yet. Neither are we.

In the the last two chapters of the Bible, Revelation 21-22, we see the finished product. And it’s glorious.

There’s no need for security at the city gates. The very best of human culture is ushered in and celebrated. There’s no off-season for harvesting crops. God and his people dwell together in sweet intimacy. They see each other face to face. There’s no more sun—God’s brilliance lights up the world. And his people will reign with him.

It’s the place where everyone looks out for everyone else. Where everyone is more concerned for their neighbor than themselves. Where there is always perfect joy and delight and laughter. Where there is no pain or tears or mess-ups or accidents or disease or disaster or devils or death.

It’s a world of love, because the God who is love is there and we will finally be with him in his presence.

In other words, “heaven” is the place and society “that we long for, [but] that we feel so far away” from, this side of Eden. It’s what this world was meant to be. And will be…someday.

It’s way better than what the cartoons told us. And it can’t come soon enough.

Come, Lord Jesus. Come.


When God Seems Distant

If you’ve been a Christian for more than a day, God has seemed distant. What I’ve learned over the years of walking with Jesus (and I’m still learning, of course) is that the the emotions we feel when God seems distant are signals that God wants to do something important in our lives. What in the world does God want to do when we think he’s so far away? Among other things, he’s training us to ask, “In these seasons, what kind of God do I want? A god I can control? Or a God who is in control?” Second, he’s training us to hunger for him. Just him. When God seems distant, we long for him more than ever. There’s probably a thousand other things. But those are two big things.

When God seems distant, he’s teaching us what we can only learn through experience. And, in that way, these times are a gift. Backwards as it seems.

Of course, what we come to see in the gospel is that Jesus is really the only one who has actually been abandoned by God. On the cross, what you and I sometimes feel, Jesus actually endured. God really left him alone. Why? So that you and I would never have to actually be alone.

The miracle of Christmas is “God with us.” The miracle of the Passion is that the One who is “God with Us” was abandoned by God so we would forever have God with us. You can’t make this up.

So what about the times we feel like God is incredibly distant, even when we know intellectually and theologically he is not distant? In those times, God is giving us a gift, backwards as it seems. We are being made more like Jesus. He’s saying to you and me in those moments, “I have been there. I’ve been to hell and back. When you feel God is distant, like he’s abandoned you, he’s not. My Father—your Father—is preparing you for resurrection.”


“1 Corinthians 15:55”

A song by Johnny Cash, taken from the Apostle Paul:

O Death, where is thy sting?
O Grief, where is they victory?
O Life, you are a shining path.
And hope springs eternal, just over the rise,
When I see my redeemer beckoning me.

Oh row my ship over the waves of your sea
Let me find a safe port now and then
Don’t let the dark one in your sanctuary
Until it’s time to pack it in

O, row, row my ship
With the fire of your breath
And don’t lay a broadside on your ship as yet
Blow ye warm winds
When it’s chilly and wet
And don’t come to soon yet
For collecting my debt

O Death, where is thy sting?
O Grief, where is they victory?
O Life, you are a shining path.
And hope springs eternal, just over the rise,
When I see my redeemer beckoning me.

Oh let me sail on
With my ship to the East
And keep my eye on the North Star
When the journey is no good for man or for beast
I’ll be safe wherever you are

Just let me sail into your harbor of lights
And there and forever to cast out my night
Give me my task
And let me do it right
And do it with all of my might

O Death, where is thy sting?
O Grief, where is they victory?
O Life, you are a shining path.
And hope springs eternal, just over the rise,
When I see my redeemer beckoning me.


Divine Irony on the Way to Emmaus

In Luke 24:13-35, Jesus takes a seven mile walk with a few disciples. The passage drips with irony. Irony, as a literary technique, occurs when the full significance of a character’s words or actions are clear to the audience or reader although unknown to the character. In Luke 24, we readers get to eavesdrop on Jesus talking with a couple clueless disciples. Luke—and ultimately the Holy Spirit—wants to turn our attention to the blindness of the two disciples and the truth that spiritual sight only comes when we see the all the Scriptures as a testimony to Jesus.

  • Irony 1. Verse 18: Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” Jesus lived what happened.
  • Irony 2. Verse 19: And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people.” Jesus is more than a prophet; he is the Messiah.
  • Irony 3. Verse 21: “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.” Jesus death did redeem Israel.
  • Irony 4. Verse 22: “Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened.” Jesus himself predicted he would die and rise after three days.
  • Irony 5. Verse 24: “Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” They see—yet don’t see—Jesus who walks alongside them. 

The climax of this exchange is, of course, this:

And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself (vv. 25-27). 

Only when Jesus interprets the Scriptures in light of himself are the ironies blown away. The disciples eyes are opened (v. 31) and their hearts burn within them (v. 32).

Why is irony so effective in getting our attention? Can you find other ironies in the passage that I missed?


Why should I believe Jesus rose from the dead?

What is the meaning of Easter and how was it understood by the early Christians? What are some reasons people should believe in the resurrection of Jesus? John Dickson, an Australian scholar, talks a bit about this:


HT: Centre for Public Christianity