Thinking Out Loud

June 11, 2017

What Will We Do in Heaven (Part 3)

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:15 am

…From there, the discussion moved on to look at the question of why “do things” now?

I think the answer to that question is because we were commanded to.

Luke 19:13b:
“Engage in business until I come back.” CSB
“See what you can earn with this while I am gone.” GNT
“Occupy til I come” KJV

— the KJV, in today’s context hasn’t got the business-specific reference. We obviously use occupy differently today but in its contemporary vagueness it makes allowance for creative projects as well.

It’s odd because sometimes we talk in terms of “doing great things for God” and yet his mandate in these verses has more of a “carry on” tone to it.

The apostle Paul talks about making good use of the time: (there’s that word again!)

Eph 5-15-16
Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.

It strikes here that we’ve been given a stewardship, not of the earth but of days, to use our talents; for God to see how we glorify him (this is, you’ll remember, the chief end of man) through labor and vocation with the gifts we’ve received.

A chapter later he writes:

Eph 6:7 NLT
Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.

This is where we get the idea to “do everything as unto the Lord;” the KJV translation.

The Bible is also clear that things don’t have to continue even within the confines of a lifetime. Things can be for a season.

Eccl. 3:1
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens

I’ve found Skye Jethani’s writings and podcast episodes to be helpful here in two different ways. First, he’s written and spoken at conference on the idea of “the theology of work,” but it wasn’t in the sense here, but rather the opposite, that the Millennial generation is obsessed with it. (Search his name also with respect to vocation.)

Second, he has written on “the myth of continuance;” the idea that things will always be as they now are; and I think that mindset may be creeping into the question of wanting to see things we do on earth carry forward into eternity. Personally, I see the next life as operating on an entirely different paradigm, with an entirely different set of measurements for fulfillment, accomplishment, etc. I think heaven should come with a welcome disclaimer: ‘Any similarity between this and your past life is purely coincidental.’

So we try not to read Ecclesiastes too often or become too philosophical about our current projects vis-a-vis what comes after this life. We carry on. We work hard. We rest well. We create beauty. We pursue excellence. We seek truth. We treasure friendships. And we try to honor God in all of these things. 

At the end it’s all measured. Some of it is wood, hay and straw, but hopefully some of it is gold, silver and precious stones. While “it’s all gonna burn” may be discouraging to some, trying to hold on to a sense of what we’re doing here and now as “taking it with us” then and there I think will seem rather silly. You can’t take it with you because in a glorified body in the presence of God, you wouldn’t want to take it with you.

 

 

 

June 10, 2017

What Will We Do in Heaven? (Part Two)

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:36 am

…So the conversation continued:

I find it kinda weird to think of heaven as not having growth or progression to it, in general and in regard to the new creation having a fixed population in the end apparently. I find it difficult to get excited about a place where things don’t continue to unfold.

Of course, the first thing I thought about was the article by the late Christian musician Keith Green, “Will You Be Bored in Heaven.” You can read that online at this link. Here’s a sample:

The Lord made me realize recently that if I do not absolutely relish His company now, desiring to be with Him more than anyone in the whole world, then I would not really be comfortable in heaven at all – for it is there that we will spend all eternity in the company of the Holy One who made us…

Be honest, would you be thrilled for the Lord to come back right before you get that college degree, or if you had your choice would you prefer He wait until right after graduation day? Maybe you’re engaged to be married. How would you like to go to heaven the day before your scheduled wedding? See what I mean? Paul really desired more than anything else to go to be with the Lord. We desire long, fulfilling “Christian” lives on earth – but we’re willing to die and go to heaven … when we really have to!

As the discussion continued however it occurred to me that some of the problem is that we’re currently trapped in linear time.

Progression = distance traveled (literal or figurative or incremental) over time.  OR  d/t
where the distance could be referring to a journey including accomplishments, learning, etc.

I then continued:

But if time as we know it — linearly — has ended, then the whole notion of progress collapses. If you “find it difficult to get excited about a place where things don’t continue to unfold” then your vision of the next life is too stuck in linear time. 

C. S. Lewis’s analogy of a train is helpful here. I tried to find the exact quote, but essentially it concerns the difference between being stopped at a level crossing waiting for a very long freight train to pass. One by one, the cars click by; you’re counting them; there’s been 150 so far. But up above someone is watching the entire scene from an airplane. They have a very large picture in front of them, and they are aware that there is a train on the tracks, but from that height, it does not appear to be moving at all.  

The person on the ground experiences the train linearly, but to the person in the plane the train is perceived differently; they see the first car and the last car all at once.  

Speaking of Lewis, our oldest son got involved in the discussion by email and noted, “C.S. Lewis would not concur with the idea that there isn’t progression in Heaven (see The Last Battle).”

One website offered this:

The linear nature of time can be summarized by the concept of the “arrow of time,” a phrase coined in the 1930’s. It turns out that there are many obstacles to overcome when studying the arrow of time, the first of which is to figure out why it exists to begin with. Why do people recognize a past separated from a present time, which is, in turn, separated from the future? So far philosophers and physicists have not established a definite reason.

Why does it exist to begin with? I think the Bible addresses that:

Gen 1:4 “Then he separated the light from the darkness God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.” — this where John Walton says we can read this as “And God created time.”

I shared an email with John Walton once about this:

…When you were a guest [on the Phil Vischer show] you mentioned the distinction in Genesis 1 with the words used, “And God called the light day;” and said basically this verse could be read, “And God created time.”

And then took it one step further:

In one of the ‘heaven’ verses, there is a reference something like, “We do not need the light of the sun…” because God is that light.  (Sorry, I’m writing this in a hurry!) I’m wondering if in that verse we’re witnessing the end of time; that the sun is extinguished and things return to the original order.

This would give greater meaning to the phrase, “passing into eternity.”  That at a certain point time stops in the same kind of crisis moment in which it began.  If so, this would also give some help to the “Will I be bored in heaven?” people who are continuing to think of the ‘afterlife’ in terms of linear time, and therefore aren’t wrapping their heads fully around the new order that ‘life’ becomes.

Professor Walton wrote me back and said,

You are referring to Revelation 21:23 and yes, I believe you are on the right track

So from there, the subject drifted to, “Then why do anything now?” Why indeed? If there’s no permanence to it, if it [itself] doesn’t continue into eternity, what’s the point?

We’ll look at that tomorrow in Part 3.


Image: Last Days Ministries

 

 

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