We've just wrapped up a series on Heaven at church, and I have to admit, it's kind of fun to think about. A few weeks ago, we talked about the City of Heaven. How big it will be. The extravagance of it. What it might be like to live there.
As I sat in my purple church chair, I couldn't help but think about my own little town, the way it gathers around its center. The way I think about Heaven having fun things like Fourth Friday down on the square.
Then I stopped. It couldn't be quite like that.
Because I live in a small town that also happens to be the county seat. I've traveled around these parts, as we call them, to other small towns that are also the county seat. The way all these little towns are laid out, town square is that area just surrounding the courthouse. When I first thought of Heaven, I kind of thought of this. Gathering in that common area with everyone else, running into people you know. But I realized my vision was slightly way off.
Heaven Square isn't built around a courthouse.
And why would it be? The predominating promise of Heaven is not justice.
My mind started to wander sitting there, half-listening to the sermon (sorry, Guy) while fully engaged in the imaginative process of what Heaven Square might hold.
Some might say it must be the Judgment Seat of God. That from the center of everything, God will sit and judge the world. I think that seems like kind of a waste, don't you? When Heaven becomes our "here," God comes in judgment one time. A final judgment. One that has less to do with justice than justification, I might add. Then what? Then Heaven is built around this place that once upon a time, God sat and in an instant, judged the world, and then abandoned that seat for eternity because the work of judgment was done? I don't see God doing that.
You might say then that it must be the Throne of God. The City of Heaven is built around the Throne of God. Seems plausible, as we always imagine this place where we fully understand God and therefore cannot stop exalting Him. Where we're constantly praising Him for His goodness and grace, for His sacrifice and salvation. This seems inconsistent with God's character to me. If our faith is based on a God who wants nothing more than a relationship with His people, why would He work so hard to interact with us in this life, even to send His Son to walk in our flesh here, only to distance Himself in Heaven by retreating to His throne? That doesn't seem like the God who created this world. It doesn't seem like the God who created me. It doesn't seem like the God who created Love. (Nor does it seem like the God whom I love.)
The Trees, then. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life. Those must be in Heaven Square. Maybe. Although I'm fairly certain that when that day comes, I won't need a piece of fruit to tell me what's Good and what's Evil, and neither will you. Having trudged through this life and upon seeing the fullness of His glory, I'm confident that question will be firmly answered. Forever. The Tree of Life is more plausible, in it the gift of eternal living. But that might not be necessary, either. For when I am recreated in Heaven and given my new body, one that is not prone to death or disease or decay, my body will already be eternal by its perfect, intended creation. Once we reach Heaven, an apple a day...just doesn't make a difference.
Maybe Heaven doesn't have a Square at all. In a place where we use our town square for everything - festivals, feasts, parades, parties - it's hard to imagine that Heaven wouldn't have a place like that.
Heaven, however, is a place like that. Heaven is a festival. It is a feast. It is a parade and a party and a pow-wow. It is a celebration. It is worship. It is community. Heaven is Heaven Square.
If that thought is offensive, if (like me) you're wishing Heaven is built around something, if you think there has to be some center to this place that is our eternal home, don't worry. It is, and there is. Heaven is built around God. It is centered around Love. It doesn't need a courthouse or a judgment seat or a throne or a tree; this City of Heaven is established around the relationship of Creator and created.
I think that's pretty awesome. That Heaven isn't going to be this place you go to, this place you congregate, this place you commute across to get to whatever's going on. Heaven is this place where you're just going to be. And God is just going to be. And Love is just going to be. Like original creation in the Garden of Eden, Heaven is this place where you're just walking around and there's no place in particular any more important than any other because God is walking with you and there's just all this open space so that, even though it's numerically crowded, you don't feel Heaven pressing in on you. You feel yourself expanding into Heaven. And all this space and all this promise and all this eternity with all of our God simply is.
It simply is Heaven.