A loving son recently had the experience of tucking his aged mother into bed for the night. She had lately experienced a series of medical issues that had severely taxed her already frail 105-year-old body and everyone was wondering whether this latest crisis might portend her final decline. As he leaned over to kiss her goodnight, she looked him in the eye and said: “If God takes me tonight, I’ll see you in the morning.”
Now the son was pretty sure that she had probably intended to say: “Unless God takes me tonight …” but he decided that he much preferred her version! It summoned up warm memories of rolling out of bed as a small boy on a sunny spring morning and bounding into the kitchen where she would greet him with a happy: “Well, good morning sunshine!” Her inadvertent choice of words that night reminded him that it was precisely that kind of joy-filled morning that they could both look forward to – a ‘morning’ when they would see each other again, not in the creaky bodies and mental anxieties of the present, but in the brightness of God’s new day, clad now in their eternally-ageless resurrection bodies.
What a wonderful assurance we have in our Christian faith! We face every nightfall, including the darkest ones where we say “goodbye” to our loved ones, in the confidence that this is only the prelude to God’s glorious morning where all things will be made new and He and His children will be united in a joyful homecoming (Revelation 21:1-5). The nights are still dark, and sometimes terrifying, but we know that God’s morning will dawn!
The Bible doesn’t really provide us with much detail about what heaven will be like – the visual descriptions of “pearly gates” and “streets of gold” (Revelation 21:21) are probably just metaphorical hints at the indescribable splendor of what awaits us – efforts to express in human language glories that no human experience has prepared us for. Consequently, Christians have had a lot of fun over the centuries speculating on things like: “what will we look like? “ and “what will we be doing for all eternity?”
Speculating on questions like that can be entertaining (the son in our story once kidded his mother that heaven for her must surely involve quilting!), but they probably bring us no closer to the reality. You see, it’s not only that we don’t have the mental framework to comprehend what the place will be like, but more importantly, that we can’t begin to imagine what we will be like! Heaven won’t just be an improved version of our present reality, but it will be the perfect reality for which we were each created. So, though it’s open to question whether there will be actual quilting in heaven (or fly fishing, or shopping) – when we finally do taste heaven, we will experience the pure essence of joy for which those earthly pleasures were merely an appetizer! We will not be limited to what we are now, nor will we be stamped into copies of some ideal other, but we will be the unique splendors that God created us each to be. Our ‘morning’ will be when we discover that the creeping caterpillars that we now are, were always destined for the beauty and freedom of butterflies!
From what the Bible does say, it seems clear that the sensory attractions of heaven, wonderful though they will be, will pale relative to the joy of our heavenly relationships – starting with God. We are repeatedly assured that we will be physically in His presence and will know Him personally in the intimacy of being His dear children reclaimed in the blood of Christ.
But what about our present relationships? Will we know our loved ones? On the one hand, when Jesus describes Lazarus as lying in the bosom of Abraham (Luke 16:19-25) He seems to clearly imply the comfort of human relationships. Yet Jesus also is clear that formal relationships, such as marriage, will no longer be observed (Matthew 22:29-30). However, this does not at all mean that the intensely loving relationships that we cherish on this earth will be lacking in heaven. Rather, it seems implied that when we are restored to the image of God we will acquire His infinite capacity to love ALL of His children with a pure intensity that we can now glimpse only imperfectly in our relations with a few. So, the son and his mother can indeed look forward to being reunited in the freshness of God’s morning. But they can scarcely conceive of the joy of being welcomed by all of God’s heavenly saints who love them just as dearly!