Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. That they may rest from their labors…. (Revelation 14:13)
My friend Bob was dealing with a difficult family situation. Bob was getting up in years and his health was poor.
At one point he said to me, “I can’t wait for heaven.”
I agreed and said, “They don’t call it ‘rest’ for no reason.”
I’m remembering when I was a kid, we would sometimes hear a ditty called The Big Rock Candy Mountain. We enjoyed its silliness and thought nothing more of it.
It turns out that during the Great Depression, that was the hobo’s national anthem, of a sort. And it gives us his own unique picture of paradise.
Harry McClintock (aka “Haywire Mac”) wrote the song, we’re told, in 1928. Here’s a little of it….
“In the Big Rock Candy Mountain
You never change your socks
And the little streams of alcohol
Come trickling down the rocks.
The brakemen have to tip their hats
And the railway bulls are blind.
There’s a lake of stew and of whiskey too
You can paddle all around in a big canoe
In the Big Rock Candy Mountain.
My favorite is this verse….
“In the Big Rock Candy Mountains
The jails are made of tin
And you can walk right out again
As soon as you are in.
There ain’t no short-handled shovels,
No axes, saws, or picks,
I’m bound to stay where you sleep all day
Where they hung the jerk that invented work,
in the Big Rock Candy Mountain.”
This song received a revival of sorts in the Coens Brothers’ delightful movie O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Well, you might have known that eventually someone would adapt that song to other groups. Here is a little of a children’s version written by Gil McLachlan….
“In the Big Rock Candy Mountain,
you’re going on a holiday,
Your birthday comes around once a week
And it’s Christmas every day.
You never have to clean your room
Or put your toys away.
There’s a little white horse you can ride of course
You can jump so high you can touch the sky
In the Big Rock Candy Mountain.”
Squire Parsons enjoys telling about the minister who was preaching across Russia with his interpreter. Once, the man of God got carried away in his message on Heaven and broke into singing “Beulah Land,” Squire Parson’s wonderful gospel song. Afterward, the preacher sought out the interpreter and apologized for springing it on him. “I hope you were able to handle that.”
The interpreter said, “Pastor, you might want to sit down. I didn’t know what the Russian was for ‘Beulah Land,’ so I made it ‘Disney Land.’”
Which, when you stop to think about it, is the idea a lot of people have of Heaven!
Mark Twain used to say he would prefer hell for the company and Heaven for the climate.
Sci-fi writer Isaac Asimov said, “I don’t believe in an afterlife, so I don’t have to spend my whole life fearing hell, or fearing heaven even more. For whatever the tortures of hell, I think the boredom of heaven would be even worse.”
I used to work with a pastor who would say facetiously that “In Heaven, you can eat all the lemon icebox pie you want and never gain weight.”
All of this is so much silliness or foolish speculation of course, none of it to be taken seriously. The only insights about Heaven we should be paying close attention to are those revealed in the Scriptures. God’s Word calls Heaven by many terms….
–it’s home. II Corinthians 5.
–it’s a place prepared for you from the foundation of the world. Matthew 25.
–it’s the Father’s house. Psalm 23 and John 14.
–there are “pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16
Best of all: What Jesus taught
Now personally, I’m going to attach a lot of weight to anything Jesus said about Heaven. He said to Nicodemus, “No one has been to Heaven except He who came from there, even the Son of Man,” referring to Himself. (John 3:13)
Jesus Christ is the authority on Heaven, period.
John Newton–ex-slave-trader, then redeemed brother in Christ, pastor and song-writer (“Amazing Grace”)–said, “When I get to Heaven, I shall see three wonders there. The first wonder will be to see many there whom I did not expect to see; the second wonder will be to miss many people who I did expect to see; the third and greatest of all will be to find myself there.”
We will end with this from Joni Eareckson Tada:
“Can you hear the sighing in the wind? Can you feel the heavy silence in the mountains? Can you sense the restless longing in the sea? Can you see it in the woeful eyes of an animal? Something’s coming…something better.”
Even so, come Lord Jesus. (Revelation 22:20)
Whatever the Father has planned for us in Heaven will be wonderful, beyond our fondest imaginations. My single advice to God’s people about Heaven is get ready to be surprised.