02 August 2009

Tarnished heaven

Have you ever pondered what it will be like when you get to heaven? In our humanness, even as we imagine heaven, we see a place full of glory for ourselves. Whether it be pearly gates, clouds and lyres, or endless golf courses, we think about how much of a paradise heaven will be for us. Some anticipate an endless buffet of heavenly food. Others seek a coffee talk with Jesus, a chance to ask Him all of life's unanswered questions. Whatever our interest, hobby, or avocation, we seem to find a place for it on the other side of death.

But consider Revelation 4. We read of One seated on the throne who appears as jewels. He is surrounded by an emerald rainbow, torches of fire and a lake of glass. On each side of the throne were living creatures who, day and night, sang "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God almighty, who was and is, and is to come." And whenever these creatures gave glory and honor and thanksgiving to the One seated on the throne (in other words, always), the 24 elders, who were each there with their own throne, fell down on their faces worshiping Him forever, saying "worthy are you oh God, to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things, and by Your will they existed and were created."

Consider the awe of this. We worship a God who is so magnificent, so awesome, so holy, that in His presence, heavenly bodies fall prostrate to worship Him continually, day and night, forever. As humans, we have no concept of something that incredible--something where our only desire is to offer up praise without ceasing, for eternity. When Isaiah the prophet encountered this scene, his response was to say, "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people with unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts" (6:5)

Nothing in my life commands awe, even for 5 minutes. I have had my breath taken away by majestic sunsets. I felt utter gratitude on my wedding day that my wife was willing to commit her life to me, in spite of my flaws. I felt inexpressible joy at the birth of each of my children. Yet, the luster of each of these things faded quickly. I have no concept of permanent awe. In my sin-stained humanity that knows nothing but fallenness and imperfection, I cannot fathom a God who is so incredible, so holy, so perfect, that when I meet Him, I will desire nothing else but to praise Him forever.

I believe that we will discover our vision of heaven, and consequently, our vision of God, has been too small. Our expectation of perfect representations of earthly things will prove profoundly absurd. We will instead discover the perfection we have spent our whole lives seeking after, not in idealized versions of earthly things, but in God Himself. Because of His holiness, we will seek after nothing else...ever again...except to cry "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty!"

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