Many evangelicals assume that my eagerness for heaven stems from a desire to escape my disability. I understand their assumption. After all, Cerebral Palsy (especially such a severe case) imposes multiple restrictions on me, and those restrictions often carry a variety of subtexts. So of course one would conclude that the promise of a new body, free of the limitations currently thrust on me, holds a significant appeal for me.
In one sense, it does. But only when I view heaven in terms of how it will benefit me. And as I grow in understanding doctrine, I become increasingly convinced that most professing Christians hold an inverted view of heaven and its purposes.
Somewhere in my past, a friend posited the idea that heaven would be different for each of us, according to our interests, tastes and desires. Using her paradigm, heaven for me would be a giant art museum filled with works by Leonardo, Michelangelo, Monet, Sargent and Rockwell. With cheesecake for meals. Her heaven would be stables of magnificent horses for her to ride and sturdy oak trees for her to climb.
Such self-indulgent imaginings of heaven, however, bear more resemblance to the Muslim concept of endless pleasure as a reward for faithfulness than it does to the apostle John’s description in Revelation. Although I can’t go through all the verses in this one blog post, consider this one passage as representative of the essential Christian view:
22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, 25 and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27 But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. ~~Revelation 21:22-22:5 (ESV)
Clearly the apostle John depicts heaven as an emanation of the Lord’s glories. Earlier in chapter 21, he does describe some of heaven’s beauties, but the pinnacle of his description is the Lord Himself. He emphasizes the Lord’s preeminence rather than enumerating the various pleasures that most of us so eagerly anticipate.
Instead of making heaven about us, then, shouldn’t we anticipate the glories of being in the presence of the risen Christ? Or at least the joy of complete liberation from our sin nature so we can finally serve Him in holiness? Can we rejoice that He created us for heaven rather than selfishly assuming that He created heaven for us?
The apostle John knew that heaven abolishes sickness, pain and sorrow, but that it does so for the Lord’s glory and not to benefit us. Our liberation from those maladies will allow us to serve Him with greater freedom and to worship Him without pollution. I would be content to remain disabled in heaven, gazing on the wonder of His glory, but He will give me a body through which I can best serve Him. What an honor!