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Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Holidays and Heaven

I have long seen some faint parallells with summer holidays and heaven...

The Similarities
For one thing you prepare for your holidays, sometimes months in advance, and  as the time draws nearer, so the pace of preparation increases.
Jesus encouraged us to prepare for heaven, for example by "laying up treasure" there, rather than amassing earthly possessions here.  The first way to prepare for heaven is to enter the narrow gate which leads to life. Have you done that?
Holidays are anticipated - they cast their light backwards in time and can brighten dreary days at work - weeks before we go. They produce a kind of temporary hope.
In the same way the return of Jesus Christ and the prospect of eternal life fills - or ought to fill - our daily lives with hope. We wait for the blessed hope, the glorious return of the Lord Jesus Christ, and we are enabled to persevere through all kinds of trials, filled with the anticipation of that blessed age to come.
Holidays are days of rest. Away from the forced routine of the normal - and sometimes painful or onerous - duties of life, we are able to slow down, take stock, and rest.
Heaven is described as "eternal pleasures at God's right hand" and as "rest". Away from the struggles of this passing world, away from our battles with sin or doubt or sadness, we will rest eternally with new resurrected bodies in a place where there is no unrighteousness.
Holidays are with family. One of the reasons holidays are relaxed is that we go away with people we most know and love. It could be stressful to spend a week with strangers, where mental and emotional energy would be spent getting to know and adjust to them. No, we go on holiday with loved ones. Heaven will be with the redeemed people of God whom we love and who love us -  and who perfected in glory will be free of all their flaws and sins! Above all we will be with our elder Brother, who loved us and gave his life for us.

The Differences
Heaven will be with Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus is with us by His Spirit in this world, but not in body.  But in heaven we will see him as he is. He is the Sun and Light of heaven, the One who will shed his holy light everywhere.

Heaven will be perfect. Every human holiday is marred, for we live in a fallen world. But that world without the curse will be perfect because we will inhabit the new heavens and the new earth. We must not think of perfect in Greek or human reason terms (angles, shapes, substances), but most supremely in relational terms: it is here that the lion will lie down with the lamb and perfect peace will reign.

Heaven will be for ever. We have to come back from holiday to 'the real world'. And not many days afterwards we can scarce imagine that we had been away at all, except for the photos (and tan?)! Indeed the prospect of the return itself clouds the latter days, for we are winding up to face the world back home.

But one day we will enjoy to the full what David had begun to experience in Psalm 21: "you have granted him eternal blessings and made him glad with the joy of your presence" and hoped for in Psalm 23, "I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever."