Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[b] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.
– Revelation 21:1-7
”Let us picture a woman thrown into a dungeon. There she bears and rears a son. He grows up seeing nothing but the dungeon walls, the straw on the floor, and a little patch of the sky seen through the grating, which is too high up to show anything except sky. This unfortunate woman was an artist, and when they imprisoned her she managed to bring with her a drawing pad and a box of pencils. As she never loses the hope of deliverance she is constantly teaching her son about that outer world which he has never seen. She does it very largely by drawing him pictures. With her pencil she attempts to show him what fields, rivers, mountains, cities and waves on a beach are like. He is a dutiful boy and he does his best to believe her when she tells him that that outer world is far more interesting and glorious than anything in the dungeon. At times he succeeds. On the whole he gets on tolerably well until, one day, he says something that gives his mother pause. For a minute or two they are at cross-purposes. Finally it dawns on her that he has, all these years, lived under a misconception. ‘But,’ she gasps, ‘you didn’t think that the real world was full of lines drawn in lead pencil?’ ‘What?’ says the boy. ‘No pencil marks there?’ And instantly his whole notion of the outer world becomes a blank. For the lines, by which alone he was imagining it, have now been denied of it. He has no idea of that which will exclude and dispense with the lines, that of which the lines were merely a transposition – the waving treetops, the light dancing on the weir, the coloured three-dimensional realities which are not enclosed in lines but define their own shapes at every moment with a delicacy and multiplicity which no drawing could ever achieve. The child will get the idea that the real world is somehow less visible than his mother’s pictures. In reality it lacks lines because it is incomparably more visible.
“So with us. ‘We know now what we shall be’; but we may be sure we shall be more, not less, than we were on earth. Our natural experiences (sensory, emotional, imaginative) are only like the drawing, like penciled lines on flat paper. If they vanish in the risen life, they will vanish only as pencil lines vanish from a landscape; not as a candle flame that is put out but as a candle flame which becomes invisible because someone has pulled the blind, thrown open the shutters, and let in the blaze of the risen sun.”
– C. S. Lewis, ‘Transposition’
Our Sunday school class is finishing our study on the book of Revelation. I wrote about a week ago regarding a Loss for Words when it came to the new Jerusalem. When I read this fable, as C. S. Lewis calls it, I felt I had to add his fable to what has already been said.
My wife says that whatever we imagine as our idea of heaven, we’ll be wrong. Maybe a more accurate word would be ‘inadequate.’ John Eldredge said, “You cannot out-dream God.” This may not have been the context of his quote, but whatever we say regarding heaven, it will be so much more that we cannot describe it.
Elsewhere in his essay ‘Transposition’, C. S. Lewis addresses the question regarding boredom in heaven. There is the classic idea, portrayed in countless cartoons, of sitting on clouds and strumming harps or standing in a Holy Choir singing all day. I doubt that those concepts are real. Just sitting down with Jesus and having Him tell stories of wonderful things in the old world could take eons, but why do that when we have a New World to explore.
But one should never hear a description of heaven and think, “Oh, I wouldn’t like that.” Case in point: a country farm boy reading about the New City of Jerusalem. He might not like the hustle and bustle of a city. Even our distastes will be washed away in our new body. We sill simply love where we are, and who we are with.
When someone gets excited about what they think heaven will be like, don’t rob them of their pencil marks. Simply smile and say, “And more.”
Soli Deo Gloria. Glory to God Alone.