There is an old hymn called, "When We All Get to Heaven" that we often sang in the little church where I grew up. If you spent much time in a Protestant church during your life you are probably familiar with this little tune. It joyfully details the wonderful encounter the followers of Christ will one day have with Him in the ever after. It's a happy song as it kinda makes you look forward to dying and having a giant heavenly potluck.
The concept of Heaven has become a difficult one for me lately in life. I used to be able to accept it wholeheartedly as a place I could look forward to when I die, but I have to admit, I'm beginning to struggle with certain aspects. I struggle with the idea that many Christians are so focused on Heaven that they don't really take the time to appreciate this life in the here and now. I struggle with the idea that Heaven is some sort of a reward for living a good life or accepting Jesus. How good of a life am I really living, if my motivation is to inherit an eternal reward? How genuine is my decision to accept Jesus if part of the reason for doing so is to obtain eternal bliss? This is compounded when we also consider the idea of also trying to avoid an eternal Hell. I've come to the conclusion, at least for now, that the existence of Heaven and Hell are a bit disappointing in that they take away from the genuine decision to follow the teachings of Christ. Do this and you get Heaven, don't do it and you get Hell....any questions?
Wouldn't it be much more genuine if there were no Heaven or Hell, if you just got this one shot at life to live as you please? To see the true value of following Christ for exactly what it is, a truly better and more fulfilling way to live. No punishment or reward, just a genuine desire to live that way. Now that would be genuine! I know that's probably blasphemy, but that would just make more sense to me. (Not that I wouldn't want a heaven after I die of course)
Lately, I've found myself quite enamored with an often over looked statement Christ made in Luke 17 when He said this:
And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. (Luke 17:20, 21 KJV)
What if the heaven Jesus was talking about isn't some place we have to wait until we die to get to? What if it isn't some place we go to or have to find? What if it is actually something we become? Perhaps we become heaven part of heaven when we learn to live with the love and freedom with which Christ taught us to live. Perhaps when we choose not to repay evil for evil, when we choose love over hate, when we choose the peace of forgiveness over revenge, when we cast off our masks of insecurity and have the courage to be vulnerable, when we choose to see the beauty that lies within each other......perhaps we don't go to heaven, perhaps we become heaven and take another step toward bringing it to Earth. Is this what the Prophet Micah meant when he made this prediction about the last days?
"But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." (Micah 4:1-3 KJV)
Maybe this is what the world might someday look like................. when we all get to heaven?