I can’t remember what TV show came on after Ed Sullivan on Sunday nights when I was nine, but I definitely remember pouting when my parents firmly enforced the 9:00 bedtime. “When I grow up,” I informed them with just a hint of defiance in my voice, “I’ll stay up as late as I want!”
John and I thought of this common childhood scenario this morning when I told him about a Tweet my friend Jennifer posted on Twitter last night:
Surely envisioning heaven as a place of eternal self-indulgence is every bit as childish as envisioning adulthood as an existence liberated from rules and regulations. Islam may depict Paradise as a place of unmitigated luxury, and less mature professing Christians might make such an inference by misconstruing Luke 16:19-31 (of course completely missing the point of Jesus’ parable).
In fact, I remember otherwise fairly Bible literate friends telling me, “Heaven will be what each of us wants it to be. If you like ice cream, God will let you have all the ice cream you want. And Deb, your mansion will have an enormous library full of Victorian novels and poetry!”
To quote Jennifer, “What a gross, man-centric view of the eternal state.”
Even a cursory reading of Revelation will demonstrate that heaven focuses on the Lord. Yes, His redeemed saints will spend eternity rejoicing, but rather than rejoicing in selfish pleasures like fishing, ice cream and libraries, we’ll be rejoicing in the Lord, lost in worship and adoration of Him!
9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” ~~Revelation 7:9-12 (ESV)
Those of you who read yesterday’s Bible Study should instantly think of 1 Corinthians 15:28. Once all things are subjected to Christ, He will in turn subject Himself to the Father “that God may be all in all.” In other words, heaven revolves completely around Him, and the pleasure we derive will come as we praise and glorify Him.
Our self-centered fantasies about heaven are just that — self-centered fantasies. They diminish heaven, ignoring its true splendor. It’s one thing for children to idealize adulthood. It’s shameful, however, for Christians to propagate such an immature, self-centered view of God’s throne room.