Playing Harps for Eternity?

And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps.

  • Revelation 14:2

The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass.

  • Revelation 21:18

“There is no need to be worried by facetious people who try to make the Christian hope of ‘Heaven’ ridiculous by saying they do not want ‘to spend eternity playing harps’.  The answer to such people is that if they cannot understand books written for grown-ups, they should not talk about them.  All the scriptural imagery (harps, crowns, gold, etc.) is, of course, a merely symbolical attempt to express the inexpressible.  Musical instruments are mentioned because for many people (not all) music is the thing known in the present life which most strongly suggests ecstasy and infinity.  Crowns are mentioned to suggest the fact that those who are united with God in eternity share His splendour and power and joy.  Gold is mentioned to suggest the timelessness of Heaven (gold does not rust) and the preciousness of it.  People who take these symbols literally might as well think that when Christ told us to be like doves, He meant that we were to lay eggs.”

  • C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

The pictures of Heaven from my youth were almost always of someone sitting on a cloud and playing a harp.

My wife and I took a joke from a joke book (unknown origin at this point – I’m thinking Richard Lederer, in Anguished English, but unsure) and converted it into a skit for Cub Scouts. 

You see, there were two clams that were madly in love, Sam Clam and Suzy Clam.  Sam owned a disco, and they loved dancing.  Suzy died, went to Heaven, and became quite accomplished at playing the harp.  But after a while, she got bored.  She thought if she could just go back for one night and dance with Sam, she would be fine.  She cried and argued with St. Peter and he finally let her go, but she had to be back by midnight.  She danced with all the gusto that she could do, but as the clock struck midnight, she ran back to Heaven.  The next day she was more despondent than ever.  St. Peter asked why, and the angels replied (in song), “She left her harp… in Sam Clam’s Disco.” – Do I have to say to the tune of “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”?

This joke (skit) is such bad theology on so many levels, it is cringe worthy.  Jesus will wipe away our tears and there will be no tears in Heaven.  There is nothing about sitting on a cloud strumming a harp.  The Scripture above about a harp is the sound that sounded like a harp, but even then, do we strum it?  Living in Heaven cannot compare to the story of Cinderella.  Other than a few notable exceptions, people do not come back, and I doubt if any of them came back to dance at a disco.  We know that God lives outside time and space, but we do not know what kind of time-space continuum will exist in Heaven, if any.  Regardless, I doubt if boredom will exist.  From a technical standpoint, how does a clam play a harp or dance?  Remember what Mark Twain said, “Explaining humor is a lot like dissecting a frog, you learn a lot in the process, but in the end you kill it.”

But the joke is funny.  It is punny, and that’s what makes me think of Richard Lederer since he calls himself, “Attila the Pun.”  I think one of the sections in one of his books was “Get Thee to a Punnery!”  And the skit version allows the boys to play multiple parts and act goofy on stage.  A mother could be Suzy.

But all joking aside, Heaven is our great reward and we trivialize it.  While serious thought about Heaven is whimsical, it is pretty much a waste of time.  Whatever our earthly minds can conger will be a tawdry imitation at best.  We might run out of words and talk about harps, gold, and crowns, but it fills me with Joy just letting my imagination run wild.

Even so, if we really knew what Heaven was like, there would be no words on earth that would be adequate.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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