the Real Deal about Heaven

(an archived post)

I first started thinking about this about one year ago when Dale Fincher posted a link to an article by NT Wright which was an excerpt from his book, Surprised by Hope. Both Dale’s blog post and the NT Wright’s article were fascinating. I was surprised, and completely confused at the same time. I strongly encourage you to read Dale’s post and the article by NT Wright: Heaven is Not Our Home

Dale left me some great comments:

Lorijo,

Yes, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Perhaps I have a goofy view of heaven, but all the description about streets of gold and jewel-studded walls are descriptions of the New Jerusalem on the New Earth. They aren’t descriptions of some place in the sky we float off to after death.

Now on my view, that certainly doesn’t mean we don’t go anywhere after death. Certainly not. Some groups believe we just cease to exist until the resurrection. Other’s think we just go unconscious until the resurrection. Yet Paul says he doesn’t want to leave the tent of his body and be found naked, but that will be the case when he dies (as he awaits the resurrection). But he adds that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. (See 2 Cor 5) I think that we will see the face of Jesus when we die, yet I don’t think that will be our home. Our home will still be coming after the resurrection.

I often describe heaven as a lay-over station. Kinda like when you fly a lot, you have to have a lay-over en route to your final destination. Well, heaven is like a lay-over station until the Earth is remade.

It’s good to have a body. It’s good to be human. One day all will be well and all manner of things will be well! :)

I said this:

Thanks for your response Dale. I first saw you speak at APU a few years ago and I have been following yours and Jonalyn’s blogs for a while now.

I guess I have been so caught up in our Christian cultural beliefs that I hadn’t really thought about it, or questioned it. I’ve just always accepted the idea that Heaven is my home. Doesn’t CS Lewis mention the idea that we don’t belong? “If I find in myself desires nothing in this world can satisfy, I can only conclude that I was not made for here” (Taken from the first line of a song called CS Lewis song by Brooke Fraser)
That idea is something that I really connect with…and I just need to keep thinking about it. I look forward to learning more and thinking about this more. Thanks for your thoughts! lorijo

and Dale replied with this:

Lorijo,

The Lewis line you refer to, I believe, is in Mere Christianity. And it is an idea that threads through a lot of his work. However, it may not mean exactly what it means on the surface, at least not in light of the rest of his writing.

[Before I go on, I must add that many writers substitute all ingredients of the afterlife into the word ‘heaven.’ So be on the lookout when people use the word as a placeholder for wider concepts.]

I think the Lewis quotation you refer to speaks directly toward knowing God and finding our place in him. It isn’t the earth itself that is unsatisfying for Lewis, but the world system. It’s the diversions humans have built around themselves. It’s the idols we’ve created to fill the hunger that only God is big enough to fill.

Most of evangelicalism has mistakenly thought that renouncing the world and “giving no place to the flesh” is an absolution against the earth and the body. When, in fact, the New Testament writers are referring to our tendency to do things unnaturally (‘flesh’ or ‘sinful nature’) and the world-systems of the kingdoms of men.

Apart from Lewis being a Christian humanist who values being human, the body, the earth, and all that God has provided for us and is preparing for us in this world, he also celebrates it with vivid metaphors.

Look at the metaphor of the New Narnia in the Last Battle. There we have a New Earth model. It wasn’t merely a ‘going to heaven’ in some sort of ethereal existence. Also look at Perelandra where Lewis paints the picture of what Earth would somehow be like, in all its innocence and meaning, had we never sinned. It is this meaning that God will one day restore to the earth.

Some may argue The Great Divorce is Lewis’ attempt to explain heaven. But we must also note that book is written as a dream. The concepts are clear enough but the actual places of heaven and hell in that book are mere pictures, not to be taken literally.

Do keep the questions coming, Lorijo, if you have some more!

This was my final comment:

dear dale,
I just wanted to thank you for provoking thought and for sparking a new interest in the theology of heaven. I have been reading through Randy Alcorn’s book, which is enormous, and will take a while to finish, but I have been fascinated by it. It is probably no coincidence that this has interested me so greatly as my dad just died. He is now in the present Heaven and we are so relieved that he is finally pain free and in a new body. He has fought cancer for the last 13 months until last April 20th. It hasn’t been terribly hard on me, we weren’t really close the last ten years, but I think that God’s gift of faith in my life has allowed me a wider perspective on life and hope and trust in my beliefs…in Christ’s Promises and the Truth of His Word. All that to say, I have always been a learner…I learn by studying, as my dad did, he earned his Phd in linguistics the year before I received my BA. He gave me a love for learning and seeking truth, he read CS Lewis to me as a little girl, he loved CS Lewis’ works very much, considering his rhetoric to be flawless. I highly respect his opinion, even though we occasionally disagreed, both of us are stubborn and stand strong in our opinions – both positive and negatively. (the positive side of stubbornness is perseverance). All that to say…thank you. I look forward to continue learning more about Heaven and helping more people get excited and looking forward to it!!

And his final reply was this:

Lorijo, I’m still sorry to hear about your father. And I’m glad you are finding comfort in exploring his current residence with God (how cool that will be!).

Alcorn’s book is good… and I find it encouraging how much of it is dedicated to the New Earth.

I had been reading Alcorn’s book, but hadn’t gone through more of it until NOW…

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