When I say that we have lost our imagination for Heaven, the primary culprit must be our shallow view of worship. In a world in which worship is nothing more than singing, Heaven can never be more than men on fluffy clouds strumming harps and singing, "Holy, Holy, Holy."
This is the image we get when we say that Heaven will be a place of eternal worship, and it is because we know nothing any longer of worship but its music.
Worship, however, involves much more than this.
It must be, as to read "singing" in place of "worship" throughout the Scriptures would sometimes result in the most laughable readings. In Genesis, for example, we are told the precise generation when men "began to worship the Lord." It is comical to consider a sudden generation of musicians. Over and over again, we are told of men who "bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord." Our modern mind sees the prostration, but the worship throws us off - did they bow their heads and begin singing? A hilarious thought! If, at any point, we read "worship" as "singing" or even "making music" in the Scriptures, we see how limited this understanding is and how often it simply doesn't work.
Yet we continue to insist that it works for us. We continue to insist that our worship is our song, that it is nothing more than the musical part of our "service," which is the broad name that we have given to our act of coming together at all. None of this could be further from the truth, and it has not only limited, but killed, our imagination for Heaven.
Only when we recover the depths and the breadth of true worship will we begin once again to dream of Heaven with a longing in our hearts for its perfect wholeness. Only when we bring the posture of worship back to that which honors the Lord, rather than strengthens our voice, will we understand again the true gift of eternity that awaits us.
Only when we understand that worship is song, yes, but it is also prayer, reverence, discipline, silence, wandering, wondering, aching, and all of the other holy things we do, will we understand how Heaven not only heals us; it also holds us. We live there in perfect harmony with our Creator and our created design. We become who we were intended to be, unique products of our Creator, each bearing a unique mark of His image, an image which we will see perfectly in Him in that day.
How can we ever see the image of Him that we hold if we are not in union with Him, if our worship does not require this union or even expect it, if our worship is nothing more than music? The trouble with the image of heaven and harps is not that it is boring (although this is a profound concern); it is that it is godless. Where is He? Where is the Lord? Have we labored our whole lives in order still to not see Him?
This is not the promise. The promise is that we will see Him fully. We will walk with Him, as Adam and Eve did. We will know Him well and be known. The glory of God will be revealed, and we will live our lives in worship of that - worship that includes song, yes, but also prayer, reverence, discipline, silence, wandering, wondering, aching. Yes, I think our hearts will ache in heaven because even then, they may not be able to comprehend the beauty. Even then, they may not be able to comprehend the glory. My head says that the Lord will grant our hearts the restoration necessary to bear such things, but my aching heart does not know how that is possible.
But it begins with redefining our worship, re-expanding it beyond the confines of treble and bass, broadening it once again to include all of the formative things that we do that bring us into deeper communion with God, for that is the end of all worship - to know Him and to glorify Him with all of our being. And when we do this, when we redefine worship in its true biblical understanding, we recapture an image of a Heaven that truly is a hope, an eternity that reads like a promise, written on our very hearts, the way He always said it was.