Sunday, May 07, 2006

Heaven isn't too far away...

Those words are from the chorus to a song called "Heaven" by the group Warrant. The next line says "...closer to it every day". It's such a different view of the idea of heaven than we typically tend to think, isn't it? We usually think of heaven as a place we go after we die, not a present reality. Sure, maybe there are glimpses of it at times, but overall, it does seem pretty far-off and evasive. But is the idea of a far-off place to go consistent with Jesus' message?

It intrigues me that the idea of heaven that most people generally have has to do with life after death, but when we look at Jesus' first words of his public ministry as recorded by the author of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near" (Matthew 4:17). Has come near. I wrote about this in a previous post so for this one I want to go in a different direction. Let's talk a little bit about this future place, and see just how far into the future it is.

We all probably tend to think, at some point or another, of sitting on fluffy white clouds playing harps. That's the image we've gotten over time, isn't it? It's also kind of boring, if you ask me. The idea probably comes from different images of worship in the Book of Revelation, but there is one image in particular that sticks with me. Let's take a look at it:

"After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying, 'Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!'" (7:9-10)
The part of these verses that strikes me is that this multitude is infinite; nobody can count it, and that it is people from all nations, all cultures. They are all worshiping together; they are all acknowledging God together. I also noticed it says they cried out in a loud voice, not in loud voices. There is no division among them, only unity. It's a beautiful image, isn't it?

Yet we don't have this yet. We have divisions between religions and within religions. We have our own ideas of how and what church and worship should be. Have we made it all too complicated? What would it be like if people could come together and worship God together? What would it be like if, instead of going to your regular church, you visited with and worshiped with people of a different denomination and/or culture for a short time, to see what it was like?

Perhaps, if we focused more on uniting with people worldwide, and less on "our church", more people would be influenced to turn to and worship God, and as Jesus and Warrant say, heaven will come just a little bit closer.

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