Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Heaven - a fabled or real destination?

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Isaiah 65:17-66:6

TO CHEW ON: "For behold I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind." Isaiah 65:17

I used to subscribe to "A Word A Day" a five times per week article that focused on interesting words. At one point the featured words were all names of what writer Anu Garg called "fabled destinations, places that exist only in our collective imagination." He included the Land of Oz, Shangri-la, the Garden of Eden, utopia and cockaigne. On reading today's passage, I think the "new heaven and new earth" the prophet describes would fit right in. Only, as people of faith, we resist the implication that this is a "fabled destination" existing only in imagination. Instead, we believe that the description is of someplace real, and that someday we will actually experience its delights.

Let's take a minute to note them:

1. New heavens and a new earth (Isaiah 65:17). A brand new creation? That's what it sounds like.

2. It will be a place where regrets and bad memories don't come to mind (Isaiaj 65:17).

3. There will be an abundance of joy ("the voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her, nor the voice of crying" Isaiah 65:18,19).

4. There will be longevity (Isaiah 65:20).

5. There will be productive, satisfying work (Isaiah 65:21,22).

6. Families will be blessed (Isaiah 65:23).

7. God's responsiveness will not be hindered (Isaiah 65:24).

8. Even members of the animal kingdom that now prey on each other will coexist in peace (Isaiah 65:25).

When will these things happen? A footnote in my Bible says, "These conditions will likely begin during the Millennium (Revelation 20:4-6)."

With our feet firmly planted on earth and our lungs full of the oxygen of here and now, it's easy to be cynical when reading such a description. It does all sound like someone's hopeful imagination gone wild. Until we look our mortality square in the face. As Joni Eareckson Tada says in her book Heaven:
"We really don't believe it's all going to end, do we? If God hadn't told us differently, we'd all think this parade of life would go on forever.
"But it will end. This life is not forever, nor is it the best life that will ever be. The fact is that believers are headed for heaven. It is reality. And what we do here on earth has a direct bearing on how we will live there. Heaven may be as near as next year, or next week; so it makes good sense to spend some time here on earth thinking candid thoughts about that marvelous future reserved for us." p. 15

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for these glimpses of Your future for me. Help me to live with their reality in mind. Amen.

MORE:  Victor Hugo at 80+

"When Victor Hugo was past eighty years of age he gave expression to his religious faith in these sublime sentences:

'I feel in myself the future life. I am like a forest which has been more than once cut down. The new shoots are livelier than ever. I am rising toward the sky. The sunshine is on my head. The earth gives me its generous sap, but Heaven lights me with its unknown worlds.

'You say the soul is nothing but the resultant of the bodily powers. Why, then, is my soul more luminous when my bodily powers begin to fail? Winter is on my head, but eternal spring is in my heart. I breathe at this hour the fragrance of the lilacs, the violets, and the roses as at twenty years. The nearer I approach the end the plainer I hear around me the immortal symphonies of the worlds which invite me. It is marvelous, yet simple."

Quoted in Streams in the Desert by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman (May 31st reading).

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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