Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Streets of Gold

Another failure of our imagination of heaven comes from our taking too literally the descriptions in the Scripture of what this Heaven is going to look like. We are told, for example, that the streets will be paved with gold, that the gates will be adorned with the finest of jewels, that giant pearls will serve as doors.

Pictures have been drawn, renderings have been made, and the wealth and beauty of Heaven have been preached. But to what end? Are we living our lives in righteousness for the reward of earthly wealth?

It certainly seems so. Many of us are toiling away in our earthly lives, living in very little, and longing for this place when we will have more than a mere dime to our name. The enticement of luxury, of riches and jewels, is enough to make us want to go to Heaven. 

But this doesn't really sound like something God would do. Does it? Do you really buy that the Lord who demands us to live perfect and holy lives, who calls us to deep fellowship with Him, who continually begs us to rise above the mess and noise of this world, would respond to our greatest faithfulness, obedience, and love by giving us only what the world can give us, if only we would work hard enough for it here? 

The image that we have of Heaven, this Scripture where we get these ideas of streets paved with gold, of precious jewels built right into the architecture, of pearls as big as doors - it's metaphorical. It's not meant to whet our appetite for a place just such as this; it's meant to spark our imaginations for a place greater even than this.

When we think about the materials that we used to pave our streets, the asphalt and tar and concrete, there is nothing beautiful or particularly valuable about it. It's cheap, a dime a dozen. When we think about the materials used to build our homes, what are they? Dust and dirt and a little bit of water. Brick and dust and ashes. Ho-hum. When we think about our doors, what do we cover them with? Wood and windows. Trees and glass. Yet more dust and dirt, just in another form. We do not think often about these basic building blocks of our lives; they are so small, so inconsequential. Who honestly thinks about dust and dirt and ashes?

In Heaven, however, gold is dust. Precious gems are dirt. Pearls are ashes. The kind of wealth that the world can offer us is scut in comparison to the wealth of Heaven. The wealth of the world is so cheap in eternity that it is used to build the most basic amenities, the plain, ho-hum sorts of things that we just take for granted anyway. When was the last time you were thankful for asphalt, when you stopped driving your car or sat at a stoplight and prayed a heartfelt prayer of thanksgiving for the road on which you drive? In Heaven, you will have the same low opinion of gold. You won't even notice. The glory of everything else around it will far overshadow whatever it ever meant to you, and you will walk right over top of it every day without even a second thought. 

Heaven is that rich. 

And that mansion of yours? Yet another worldly richness! Jesus said He was going to prepare a room for us in His Father's house. This doesn't satiate our appetite for riches. It doesn't satisfy our desire for wealth. It doesn't play into our vision of Heaven as the place where we finally obtain all of the things we were never able to have on earth. The mansion fits well with our love for gold, precious jewels, and pearls, but it fits poorly with our holy imagination for more even than this. This room in our Father's house, this measly little room, this one tiny space in this whole bigger thing, this ought to spark our imaginations all the more. This ought to bring to mind the nature of community, of relationship, of truly living together with God. Not each man to his own mansion, but each man to the family room of God. Not having one another over to our vast expanses of yards for backyard barbecues and home shows, but coming out of our rooms and bumping into one another in the hallway on the way down to the dining room, where we all kick it back a little bit and break bread with one another. 

See, we got too attached to the riches of Heaven, and we lost sight of the real glory of it. We got too tied to these images of Heaven that satisfy our earthly desires, and we forgot to hope for something more. We have looked so forward to gold and precious jewels and giant pearls, and we have failed to imagine anything richer. 

From your room in the Father's house, you will look out your window and see that all the earthly riches you so longed for are nothing but scut in the kingdom of God; they pale in comparison to His glory, which is not a few blocks east and another few blocks north and then a little bit further than that, but right down the hall from the place where you dwell, a few intimate steps from your own sacred room. A room that He has been preparing for you from the very start. Your own little place in His house. 

Reimagine Heaven, my friends. For our current vision is far too small. 

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