I have been in more than one church service in which someone (usually the music minister) enthusiastically states, “And when we get to heaven, we can do this all the time!” This statement sometimes follows the umpteenth repetition of the same song, or even the same line of a song. When I hear this, I inwardly groan and the following inner dialogue begins: “Do I really want to be in that kind of heaven? Then again, maybe I will want to sing songs of praise forever when I am in the presence of God. Does it make me a bad Christian if I don’t want to sing ‘I Could Sing of Your Love Forever’… well … forever?”
I am not sure what heaven will be like, and I definitely think that given the diversity of people and personalities in the world and throughout history, everyone can’t possibly think that singing for all of eternity will be the greatest experience ever. That’s why I really enjoy C.S. Lewis’s description in The Last Battle:
“Perhaps you will get some idea of it, if you think like this. You may have been in a room in which there was a window that looked out on a lovely bay of the sea or a green valley that wound away among the mountains. And in the wall of that room opposite to the window there may have been a looking glass. And as you turned away from the window you suddenly caught sight of that sea or that valley, all over again, in the looking glass. And the sea in the mirror, or the valley in the mirror, were in one sense just the same as the real ones; yet at the same time they were somehow different – deeper, more wonderful, more like places in a story: in a story you have never heard but very much want to know.”
One character in The Last Battle describes it as a homecoming — to his true home. In another section, the characters meet people they have lost over the years, and it is a joyful reunion. That’s the kind of heaven that appeals to me. Who really knows what it will be like?
Although the question about heaven is intriguing, I do not dwell on it too much, because I believe what we do in this life matters. We miss the present when we focus too much on the future. Jesus speaks of the Kingdom of God/heaven as something we participate in now, but its ultimate completion has not yet happened. This means we have a responsibility to take care of things on earth, including (among other things) loving our neighbors and our enemies, being good stewards of creation, and promoting justice.
So, when these church services happen and an enthusiastic worship minister imagines what heaven is going to be like, I remember the passage from C.S. Lewis, and I remember my responsibility to live the Kingdom of Heaven on earth and in the present.