Friday, January 25, 2013

Bored in Heaven

Listening to Wretched Radio, Todd Friel had what I consider a marvelous point that I'd like to think about a bit more here.  The question is: what about heaven will be so great?  Friel was playing some clips from a Barbara Walters special on heaven.  In the special, she interviewed several people from a multitude of faiths about what they believed heaven to be, and what their thought was about what it was like.  Each of their explanations was pretty predictable: heaven is a wonderful place where everyone loves each other, and everyone is happy, and everyone gets and receives everything they've ever wanted.  Relationships are restored, pets come back from the dead, there's great food, and so on and so forth.  This was the typical answer, although some insisted that heaven and hell were not eternal future realities, but instead existed on earth in the form of nice people (heaven) and mean people (hell).  Lame.

Suffice it to say, all of these religious explanations of what heaven will be like were decidedly unChristian, although some claimed to be so, however nobody who claimed to be a Christian supported their view with scripture.  Their answers were full of plenty of statements that started with "I think...."

Todd Friel made a marvelous point about these descriptions: they were all full of things and experiences that people will ultimately, some day, bore of.  In other words, even if I get to restore relationships with long-lost loved ones, and even if I get to eat the best food in all the world, and even if my dog comes back to live with me for all eternity, and no matter how wonderful heaven is and how happy everyone is, someday it will all be...boring.

Think about it: what have you ever done and really enjoyed that you don't enjoy less and less as you do it or experience it more and more?  Think of your favorite food.  You really love it, right?  What if you had it every week?  Every day?  After not too long, you'll tire of it and after a while, you'll want to be done with it altogether, even if your favorite food is bacon cookies.  So if all heaven is, is enjoying the things we like most we'll eventually tire of those things.  Relationships, food, activities, whatever.  Fill in the blank.  If you do it for all eternity, your level of happiness will decrease.  And if you're not happy in heaven, is it really heaven?

The Christian view is that heaven will be ultimately satisfying and full of overwhelming happiness, but not because of stuff.  Heaven will be fully satisfying and pleasurable because it contains that which has no end, and that which can never be fully comprehended, experienced, or understood, namely God himself.  One can never completely understand or experience God.  There is always something new to learn, know, or enjoy about God.  You will get bored of baseball; you will tire of Chipotle steak burritos (maybe); your long-lost loved ones will eventually get on your nerves; but you'll never get tired of searching the depths of who God is and what he has done.  It will literally be an eternally satisfying endeavor that will never end.  This is why heaven will be good and glorious, and the reward of all those who have believed the gospel - they will get to spend eternity searching for the ends of God's magnificence, and they will never find it.  That's what I'm looking forward to.  You can keep your good and pleasant cliche thoughts about what heaven is like.

Consider Romans 11.33-35: "Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!  'For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?'  'Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?'"  Heaven will afford those who love God the opportunity to mine the depths of God's wisdom and knowledge without ever coming to the bottom.  They will be able to search out his judgments for all eternity, only to find them eternally unsearchable.  They will not know his mind, though they will endeavor to for eons.  Although they can give him no gift that he will ever be fully rewarded for what he has done for them, they will give him gift after gift.  It will be an all encompassing task that never ends.  Mind blowing.

In Ephesians 3, Paul prays that the Ephesian believers might know "the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge..."  It's interesting that Paul is asking for them something that he knows they can't have: full knowledge of the love of Christ.  But he wants them to have more of it.  This is why heaven will be great.  We'll be looking for a full knowledge of the love of Christ, and the more we learn about it, the happier we will be.  But we will never know it fully.  What does that mean?  An ultimately satisfying and joyful pursuit of this knowledge.

Moreover, just a few verses later, Paul says that God has the ability to do "far more abundantly than all that we ask or think..."  In this sense, we'll never know what heaven is like this side of the grave, and so in some sense, to speculate is somewhat foolish.  It'll be better than we can ever imagine.

Will there be food and friends and loved ones in heaven?  To be sure.  But you'll get bored of those things.  They will be utterly insignificant to the main attraction.  You'll never get bored, even after an eternity of trying to wrap your mind around God.  That's what I'm looking forward to.

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