Summertime is a wonderful time for all kinds of parties: picnics, BBQ’s, beach parties, pool parties. At the time of this writing, our family is getting ready for a 4th of July party with family and friends. We hope the weather will be good and the long summer day will allow us the time to get in all the activities we have planned.
In our last Adult Sunday School class before summer break, we discussed the myths and realities of heaven and hell. (Yes, at our church the adults keep learning and are sometimes reminded of what they learned as kids.) Heaven and Hell myths come from people’s guesses which then become popular culture. The realities come from God’s Word and what Jesus said about these two eternal locations.
One popular myth goes something like this: “Well, I wouldn’t want to be in heaven, I want to be in hell where all my friends are.” It sounds a bit cavalier, as if the speaker is hoping that he won’t be going, but if he is, then the consolation prize would be being with liked-minded people and being at the “party to end all parties”.
A myth on the other side is a bored-to-tears newly minted “angel” alone on a cloud with a harp. He looks bored because all his life he really wanted to learn guitar. Also, he has no instructor or sheet music. This myth is totally contrary to what Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 2:9: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man — what God has prepared for those who love him.” The wonders of this world are just a hint of what God has in store for those who love Him.
Regardless of what both non-believers and super-staid believers think, heaven will be a party mainly because Jesus said that it would be (Matthew 22:1ff). The metaphor of a wedding banquet is as close to what our finite minds can understand. Christ is the groom, the universal church is the bride (Eph 5:23ff), and the Old Testament saints and others are the guests (Rev 19:9).
If you have ever been to a Jewish wedding, you know that there is lots of laughter, fun, food, drink, dancing, kibitzing, etc. which goes on for a very long time. If you have never been to one, try to find an opportunity to do so in this life but especially accept Jesus’ invitation to go to the best one ever. (Matthew 22:4C)
On the other hand, hell will be like an eternal hang-over with the accompanying eternal regrets. If Jesus is the creator, then He has created all souls who have the “knowledge of eternity in their hearts” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). He also has created food, drink, music, family, friends, laughter, fun. In C.S. Lewis’ famous book, The Screwtape Letters, “Hell has to admit that it has never created a single pleasure”.
So heaven is a party and the best one you can ever go to. Jesus invites all to repent (change your mind and turn towards God). Some will respond and others will not in that crucial tension between God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. Not only will we get to meet our Savior and have all our questions resolved, but we will get to also meet all the redeemed of all the ages. And if you really want to learn the harp you will be able to – along with a harp coach and sheet music.