Your Idea of Heaven

My friend Bob has been dealing with a difficult family situation. It’s not as though he needs the grief, because Bob is getting up in years and his health is bad.

Bob said to me, “I can’t wait for heaven.”

I agreed and said, “They don’t call it ‘rest’ for no reason.”

That’s a reference to Revelation 14:13. “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on….that they may rest from their labors.”

When I was a kid, a song we’d hear occasionally was called “The Big Rock Candy Mountain.” We heard it, smiled at its silliness, hummed along and thought nothing more of it.

It turns out that was the hobo’s national anthem during the Depression. And it gives us his idealized 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.”

The more cultured among us will remember that this song received a revival of sorts in the Coens Brothers’ movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”

Well, sir, you might have known that someone would revise that song and adapt it 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 the story of the preacher who was doing a crusade across Russia with his interpreter. One day, the man of God got carried away in his message and broke into singing “Beulah Land,” Squire’s wonderful gospel song about heaven. Afterward, the preacher apologized to his interpreter and said, “I hope you were able to handle that.” The fellow 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 actual 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

Personally, I’m going to put a great deal of weight on anything Jesus said about Heaven. To Nicodemus, He said, “No one has been to Heaven except He who came from there, even the Son of Man,” referring to Himself. (John 3:13) That makes Jesus the authority on Heaven, for my money.

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)

7 thoughts on “Your Idea of Heaven

  1. At times in my life, the thought of heaven is one of the main things that kept me going. I pity those who don’t believe it heaven – who think that this life on earth is “as good as it gets”. Even though God has blessed me in many ways, the thought that this is “as good as it gets” is actually frightening and depressing to me.


  2. Scripture says God created this world, and it’s beautiful. It also says He made a better one, therefore I want to see it!

  3. I use an illustration that I read a few years ago. It is about a medical doctor who had to take his dog to the veternarian after work and since he did not want to come home to get the dog and then go back to the vet’s he took the dog to work with him and put him in an adjacent room to one of the examation rooms.

    During the day, he had an appointment with an elderly deacon from his church that asked “doc, what is heaven like?” The doctor was at a loss for words because if anyone should know better than him it would be the elderly deacon.

    Just then he heard his dog scratching at the door and said these words: “My dog has never been in this room, does not know what is in here. All he knows is that his master is here and he wants to be with his master.”

    I think Dr Paul summed it up well in a previous comment: “Jesus is heaven to me, to be with him is heaven”.

    Dr J

  4. I agree with the person who said, “I might not be ready to leave yet, but I’m powerful curious about it more than I want to stay.”

  5. Heaven is a hard concept to understand. We hear many stories about heaven being a perfect place. A place where there is no suffering, no loss, no sin. It is the place where God is – there is no doubt about that. I follows that hell is a place where God is not. But what is heaven? What will we “do” there. The truth is that we do not know the real answer. I have heard it said that we need the Lord but the Lord doesn’t need us. I disagree. I can conceive that before time began God was all there was and I think God was lonely. God needed companions. God could create legions of angels or an creature but these did not have free will as God does to choise. God does not need puppets that can only do what God tells them to do. As far as we know on this world humans are the answer to that creature. There may be others somewhere else in the universe and those creatures could be better or worse than we are but that really does not change the fact that we humans need to deal with God. At somepoint in our development mankind became aware that there was something else in this world that could not be seen but could be felt and appeared to have power over their world as they knew it. Mankind began to know there was a God that caused everthing to be. Mankind has been trying to deal with this ever since. God wanted us to know him so we could be with him but being only human we failed over and over to know God. God repells sin. We humans have not learned to not sin. God came to us as Jesus so that we might know him. Jesus told us exactly that. He said to know me is to know the Father. We still could not get it. Jesus paid the price for our sin and now we are saved by that. Now we can be God’s companions if we choise. As God’s companions I feel it is safe to say that we will have plenty “to do” in heaven. We are talking about forever and ever here. I believe the things we do and learn to do in this life will prepare us for what is to come. I am not so sure that everything will be perfect in heaven. There will need to be challenges for us. Perhaps one of the things God wants his companions to do is to “fix” things that need to be fixed. Otherwise the free will part of our soul has no use. There can be no good without bad, otherwise good has no meaning. Bottom line, in my opinion heaven will be a grand place that you want to be in. The opposite of that is Hell.

    God becasue Go

  6. I was just sitting here working on my sermon for this Sunday. It’s about John being caught up into heaven in Rev. 4:1, and Paul in 2Cor.12. I was thinking about what we will see, who will be there, and how different things will be. Then I paused to read your blog. Again, it’s Joe to the rescue! Another sermon saved! Seriously…Thanks for the insights, quotes and the “Beulah Land” story.

    Don Davidson

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