It is a natural human desire to live in a place of peace. Such a place would be free of threat and marked by a certain amount of comfort. There people and purpose would intermingle not as competitors but as satisfied participants in this thing called life. Imaginations like this are phrased in many fashions the emphasis landing here or there depending upon the shimmering of the author’s character.
I use the term imaginations because we are not born into a such a world; neither does maturity grant it. Always hopes must be counterbalanced somehow, someway. All too often when we open our windows and stick our heads out into life in the wind we feel on our faces we also hear a warning: DUCK! INCOMING! THINK FAST! Take your pick or add your own word to that. No matter whether our response is optimism or a bleaker something else we still have to pull our head back in, or lose it. Sometimes we are not quick enough.
Heaven. Is it for real?
If you have studied the Bible or been influenced by it through the culture of your upbringing you know of heaven. Most don’t study what the Bible says about it and neither shall we here. The word heaven, though, surely fits itself somehow to your view of what life should be like. A Biblical view of heaven is a topic others have treated well, and a thing I’ll not attempt to craft here. Mainly I just want you to come along recognizing that we have inbuilt, engendered takes on what a good existence is. Many if not most times our lives are ill-fitted to what we can only imagine and then label heaven. We will hope for them, try for them. Achieve them, though? Probably only fleetingly, rarely at best.
Heaven may be but a figment of humanity’s imagination, but our hopes love that figment. The Bible fuels that figment by declaring it as real, but there are caveats. Caveats humanity as we know it has never, never liked.
The Bible speaks of a time long ago when God made a perfect world with perfect people. He went and walked there. That brings us to our first caveat: love is a two way street. God makes amazing things people included, but meaningful connection needs meaningful engagement. So God set people free. “Look what I made,” he said to the first parents. One rule he placed among them to prove their return to him. Have you heard of the “apple” in the garden? That “forbidden apple”? Our culture includes that, makes much of it one way or the other1
Caveat #2: Our first parents, the first people, failed that test. The first alert humanity heard as they stuck their faces into the wind was guilt. Clang! Out of the garden they went. Memories all alone in their moonlight were haunting. “That place, oh how I wish I could get back,” was the result of guilt
Our third caveat: Getting back is impossible. Why? Well, the connection between God and man, the essence of heaven, permanently fractured with that failed test, and separation (a.k.a. death) was the penalty.
Caveat #4: If the penalty of death is paid then that fractured relationship can be healed. God did that by the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The fifth and final caveat: Restoration requires repentance. Life in God’s house (a.k.a heaven) only comes by living his way. There is no such thing as forced repentance.
Have you heard of this guy?[footnote]Maybe I should ask, “Have you heard this guy?”
For some reason I can never forget his song: My way. It is so final, so much a ballad of a life not lived by rules God would be pleased with.
His voice was so full of pathos and reflection. It expressed humanity’s very core and coupled it to our psyches by that wonderful compelling voice.
This song was of a life lived unapologetically and for self. Haven’t we all seen older people who declare their behavior to be “just who they are”? They cannot see how their behavior stings others and if they do they may dismiss it as irrelevant; a something others must adjust to.
Guess what? That is a fifth caveat problem (see above). How my mind fears, mourns even, for men like Sinatra, Presley, Jackson. Such talent. Such ability. Where did their way take them? Were they fifth caveat men? Did they repent or did they do it their way? Hope I can that they did not put their ships into the river Styx, but the current of their lives, their songs, their deaths (maybe less Sinatra’s heart attack) seems more aligned with Hades than Heaven.
What is going on in Revelation 8?
It may seem that I have run terribly far afield with Sinatra, caveats and heaven, but there is a point, a rationale for my having run like this. The point is that the book of Revelation is about a finishing of the world order of Satan’s dominance and humanity’s rebellious stance.
Let’s review the first 6 seals. The first four are a judgment on the people. The 5th is a respite of sorts, but within it is a call for justice. The 6th seal unsettled the earth sending people great and small running for mountains and caves. My Sunday school lesson suggested that people prefer to be cavemen than God-men. At the end of chapter 6, as that 6th seal concludes the people know their struggle is against Jesus Christ. They run for shelter in the mountains and cry for those to fall upon them and hide them. To me this represents a destruction of the safe places, the dwellings, etc. where men made their home. As of the 6th seal they stopped being habitable. The next and final seal will be dismantling of the world itself.