Actually, I want to talk about the afterlife. But that’s what we mean. After death. After life comes death. After death comes?
I believe in Heaven and Hell. I believe that in the end, those who know Jesus will be in heaven. But will it be a city with streets of crystal and gates of semiprecious and precious stones? Maybe. But that wouldn’t be the part I’d be describing if I got to go there.
I had a dream, many years ago. God spoke to me and told me to tell a friend something. I woke up. I thought I should write it down. But then I thought, who could forget something God said to them? I repeated it word for word. No way would I forget a message from God. Then I went to sleep again. The same thing happened. I’d dreamed this twice. I definitely should get up and write this down. But I didn’t. Then I went to sleep again. This time I was in Heaven. I was behind two people, listening to them talk. And I knew that the 19-25 year old woman with the bobbed hair cut was my friend’s daughter. They finished talking, about what I don’t recall, and she looked at Jesus and said, “I’m going to get back to work now.”
That’s my first view of Heaven.
Last year, a friend of mine was dying. She died in November, but she started dying in June. There was nothing we could do and her condition got worse, regardless of what was tried. A few weeks before she died I dreamed of her. She was in her 30s in my dream, even though I didn’t meet her until her mid-40s. Her hair was electric blue and short. She was gardening. I know this was Heaven because she was wearing a dress and she trimmed the hedges by running her hand over the top of the plant. The big transparent yellow leaves that were edged in green just slid right off the plant.
That is my second view of Heaven.
At my aunt’s funeral this weekend I realized that there are people who know and love me who are in Heaven now. When I get there, I won’t just be meeting people I didn’t know, but folks I loved. Some I loved better than others, but still. I wonder bout some of the people I love, if they’ll be there, but I figure I won’t know if they’re not. How can it be Heaven if you’re sad because someone you love isn’t there?
Of course, I also wonder how it can be Heaven if there’s no hot sex and multiple orgasms. Jesus said there will be no marrying nor giving in marriage in Heaven. I figure he left out orgies as a given. But I still have trouble imagining perfection without sex. I admit to the possibility, God is omnipotent, after all, but I find it doubtful.
I Thessalonians says that Christians have “fallen asleep” in Jesus. (I Thessalonians 4:14.) At the funeral this weekend, the preacher says that the people get to rest, to sleep, till Jesus comes again. But that is not what the passage says and that interpretation contradicts Jesus, so I don’t that is what it means.
How does it contradict Jesus? Jesus told a parable. Now I know a parable is a story told to make a point, but do you think Jesus would tell a lie? Why would he need to? He knows every story from the beginning of time and before. If he wanted a story to make a point, he could use a true one. So I am sure that when Jesus spoke of the rich man and Lazarus, that it was true. The rich man and Lazarus were dead. The rich man asked Abraham for a favor. Abraham said it wasn’t possible to give him water. So the rich man asked Abraham to send Lazarus to tell his brothers the truth. That means his brothers were still alive; they weren’t dead. So I don’t think we sleep after death.
I think that we go where God is going to put us. Perhaps we are outside of time then, with God. Or perhaps we go and then we all show up at judgement for a formal hearing kind of thing. But we aren’t asleep waiting to wake up with Jesus. He said so.
It says in Hebrews 12:1, after a listing of many heroes of the faith, that “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders…”
You are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses. Now this word can mean testifiers and martyrs. But you can’t be surrounded by them unless they are around. And the Greeks had relay races, so if the writer had wanted to say they’d passed the baton, he could have. He’s saying as Christians we are surrounded by witnesses who are gone. That’s the one thing those people have in common. They’re in the afterlife. (Note: Enoch did not die. He “was not for God took him.”) So how can you be surrounded by a bunch of folks that are gone? Well, if they can see what’s going on. If the folks ahead know about the folks behind.
I admit my theology has trouble with that point. It’s not clear. But someone’s got to be able to see into this world because I Corinthians 15 clearly states that baptism for the dead is useless unless there is a resurrection. And how can baptism for the dead be useful if the dead aren’t around to know stuff?
Also, it says in I Peter 3:18-22 that Jesus went to preach to the spirits who were in prison from the days of Noah. What prison were they in? I’m thinking hell. (A Roman prison could resemble Hell I am sure.) Jesus went somewhere after his death to preach to spirits who had disobeyed God.
Remember when Mary saw Jesus in the garden and he said, “Don’t touch me. I haven’t yet returned to my father.”? Well, it seems to me that’s why he hadn’t. He’d been busy. However, please note that Thomas was told, two weeks or so later, to touch Jesus. So he must have gone home in the interim.
When someone you love dies, you want to know where they’re going. And you’re hoping it is not south.