“If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ was not there?”-John Piper
That is a good question because I had to think about it more than 5 min. I will be honest here to the point that I’m a little ashamed but in the end was a good exercise for me. Initially I knew the “correct answer” was to not be satisfied without Christ in paradise. Then I gave myself a split second to consider the alternative “perfect world”. I continued to imagine that kind of life and even went to thinking it might not be such a bad heaven. Being kind of torn then-frustrated because I couldn’t seem to justify my thinking, nor did I like not being able to come to a conclusion-I mean what kind of Christ-seeking girl can’t make up her mind here??? Isn’t this as straightforward of an answer as they come? What is wrong with me that I can’t be so sure?
So I continued my week, and the question kept popping into mind and little by little God helped me to pick it apart.
*this is just how I’m interpreting my thought-talking with God on the question, basically putting it to a dialogue between me and God, not that I can speak for God, just how my thoughts were going.
God—“Rebecca, what part of this ‘heaven on earth’ do you think makes it paradise?”
Me—“Well, it’s hard to pick one because I’d want all of it. I do love admiring nature and seeing such beauty continually growing around me in all it’s forms, forests, mountains, oceans-God I don’t think I can pick what I like most out of living among natural beauty. The other main thing would be still having all my friends and other human relationships. I never want to lose those, to not have people to share life (or in this case afterlife) with.
God—“Would you say that retaining human relationships without conflict would be your choice then?”
Me—“I suppose I would, but the mountains are a close second…are you angry with me?”
God—“No I am not angry with you. I love you. I want you to grow deeper in understanding of that love and recognize how every pleasure the world can give pales in comparison. Remember that all Good comes from me, the pleasures you are listing of an alternative heaven are only known to you because I’ve allowed them to manifest themselves on earth. The best of the world is really just manifestations of me in smaller doses. You see the mountains, forests, oceans and are in awe at their majesty. If they just existed alone without being my handiwork they’d simply be physical spectacles, still pleasing to the eye but the wonder of how they are and what they mean is gone. The oceans plainly large bodies of water, the forests simply untamed plants, mountains a bunch of rocks and dirt.
Me—“so you’re saying they’re more than beautiful objects?”
God— “All of these physical “earthly beauties” are so much more than nice to look at. I made them, they reflect pieces of my glory. They are illustrations, just as human relationships are illustrations and pieces of myself that I want you to experience and grow deeper into relationship with me. For example, forests are indeed unyielding and deeply rooted-as is my unyielding love for you and how I want you to strive for a deeply rooted and constantly growing relationship and with me. Oceans really are huge deep bodies of water-even deeper my love is for you. So deep that you cannot even see it all just like the ocean. The mountains are glorious towers pointing to the sky-My majesty and righteousness.
(Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep-Psalm 36:5-part of 6)
Don’t you see why I become jealous when people idolize the things of the world that, although are from me, are not me? Human relationships, and admiration of natural wonders, are good things but their purpose is to bring you closer to me and when you don’t let them foster our relationship it’s like drilling holes in your boat while floating down a river. The river is pretty but where is it taking you? Don’t drown yourself because then you won’t make the trip.
Me—“I do not think that visual wonder would hold my fascination for long, always having mountians, forests, and oceans themselves might get old if they never had meaning. And yes, come to think of it people are restless and seem to tire of one thing after a while so physical earthly pleasures wouldn’t hold us out for long.
God—“I made you that way. You are meant to want more than what the world can give, that craving is from me. You have the ability to see the natural beauty around you and the human relationships you live in for what they are, my Creation and beautiful because of just that. Would they be worth as much to you without me?”
(‘who formed the mountains by your power, having armed yourself with strength, who stilled the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the turmoil of the nations…You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly. The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so you have ordained it…The grasslands of the desert overflow; the hills are clothed with gladness. The meadows are covered with flocks and the valleys are mantled with grain; they shout for joy and sing.’—Psalm 65:6-13)
Me-“If all the goodness of them is a piece of you, and that was taken away they’d just be things. Then ‘heaven on earth’ would never be enough and paradise wouldn’t exist for me. What is the point of paradise if the reason I’d lived in the first place wouldn’t be with me?”
God-“That is good to hear, I wouldn’t want you to settle for anything less.”