We all seem to have the same set of questions (at least, these are some of our questions): what is it like? What is death like? What is heaven like? What does the next life, the eternal life, that God has promised us look like?
In an attempt to try to answer this, we look to Revelation and to John's description of the "new" Jerusalem, the new earth. Full of its streets paved with gold and its precious gems and light reflecting everywhere...it's still hard to imagine, and even hard to fathom. And we don't really get a sense of what we will be like there. Of what life will be like. What will we do? How will we exist?
We have had, in our lifetime, a surge or two in "near-death experiences," in the tales of those who claim to have died briefly and seen a glimpse of this eternal life and then come back to us. They tell us all kinds of things about light and brilliance. Occasionally, they might say something about someone they know or should know and have seen on the "other side." But even these experiences don't really help us a whole lot, except to make us want to ask the questions all the more.
We also know that there have been at least a handful of recorded instances of resurrection. Elijah resurrected the widow's son. Jesus resurrected Lazarus. Jesus resurrected Jairus's daughter. Jesus Himself was resurrected.
And not one of them has the common decency to tell us anything about death or life or eternal life. They just don't tell us about their experience. (You would think the little girl wouldn't be able to keep it to herself, that she'd burst with the joy of a unique experience and ramble on and on and on about it, talking incessantly the way that little kids do when something exciting has happened to them...or something they think is exciting. But...nothing.)
The Bible doesn't give us a single word about this topic around which we have so many questions. Even when Jesus is on the road to Emmaus with His disciples, after His resurrection, they talk about the truths that led them here and the prophecies about the Messiah. Neither disciple asks, nor does Jesus offer, anything about life on "the other side."
Which seems kind of cruel, doesn't it? To tell us this beautiful, glorious, unbelievable thing is not only possible, but that it happens, and then to not let the living witnesses of death speak to us. To not let them tell us the things that we want to know. To not let them talk about what they've been through, what they've seen, what they've heard.
There are all kinds of teachings about this, everything from "God doesn't want you to understand" to "it's just supposed to be one of the beautiful mysteries of the faith" to "you wouldn't get it even if they told you." But I think this isn't quite helpful.
I can't think of another single promise of God that God doesn't want us to understand. That He wants to keep a mystery. I can't think of another single time that God says, "I am doing something wonderful...but that's all I can tell you." He's usually pretty clear about goodness. He's usually pretty clear about promise. He will create a covenant with Abraham, make his descendants as numerous as the sand and the stars, lead Israel into a land flowing with milk and honey, send a Messiah (who must then die and come back to life)...God has made some pretty incredible promises about which He's been pretty incredibly clear. So I think we're back into this thing again where our "answer" isn't really an answer at all, where it raises more questions than it satisfies, when we say that God doesn't want us to understand or that we're not supposed to.
But something is going on here because the truth remains - God doesn't let the resurrected tell us anything. So...what's the deal? What's up? We'll look at some of that this week.