Heaven. And Maybe Hell. And Our Limited Capacity
I'm not at all certain we realize what all Adam's sin did to us. One of the things it did, which I've been thinking about a lot lately, is really not connected to sin in us. It's simply a trait which seems more or less neutral.
It's our tendency to grow accustomed to things.Oh, it has a few manifestations we don't like ... losing the excitement of salvation ... taking people from whom we benefit, for granted ... losing sight of how blessed we are ... traits of that sort.
Sometimes it's a good trait. We used to live within a block of the Monon Railroad Line in Carmel, Indiana. Shortly after bedtime every night, there'd be a freight train come through town. After a few weeks living there, we never noticed it again.
As we age we ... at least this true for me (to Peg's constant amazement) ... sometimes become accustomed to waiting, and become more patient.
A long commute to work seems to get shorter, the more we do it.
Flying was a nerve irritant for me until I took a job that had me in 100 airports all over the country, in just about 8 years. After that long, I recall one time I went to sleep after the plane stopped at the runway, but before it took off. So this trait can be a good thing.
But there's one area where this would be a huge problem. Namely, in eternity.
As a little background, Peg and I have traveled a lot. Plus, I've been on several foreign mission trips. All in all, I think I've been in 45 states and 22 foreign countries. The number represents a combination of the aforementioned mission trips, vacation trips with Peg, business trips, and trips we won from several sources.
Needless to say, travel has lost its glamour. There isn't anyplace we want to visit badly enough to actually go there.
So, when someone paints a word picture of heaven with golden streets, jasper walls, pearl gates, etc etc, I know in my heart that I'd get used to that in pretty short order. Unless, in eternity, there's a really big change in ME. And it may well be that the biggest difference in Heaven, after the Personal Presence of the Savior, may be the difference in me. Maybe, since it's eternity, we will simply live in the present .. live in the moment .. without anticipation, regret, or any other thoughts of the past or future.
Let's hold that thought for a second.
I recall the first time we vacationed in Phillipsburg, Ste. Maarten. We went downstairs to the restaurant for supper, just after sunset, and it was simply delightful. It's under a canopy, adjacent to the "boardwalk" ... which is actually concrete ... along the beachfront. It was a delicious and delightful time, and in that moment I could have wished to stay there forever.
A week later, I was ready to go home. Same as had happened 20 years before, in Hawaii.
So I figure that, if I can get tired of the nicest places I've ever been, I .. in my present form .. could get tired of Heaven, too. Hence I figure there's likely going to be a huge change in the "ME" that makes me me.
I think the doubts and fears that creep up, from time to time, are a good thing. Things that put the "but what if" thoughts in our mind. What's good about them is that we must continually, as often as they crop up, reaffirm in our own mind, what we believe. And that's a good thing. Hence, I think that, when we die and are immediately in God's presence, we're going to have a giant humongous dose of that "I'm so glad I'm here" feeling that I got that first time in the Restaurant at the Holland House, on the beach at Phillipsburg, Ste Maarten.
Can you imagine what it would be like ... awash in delight, amazement, wonder, relief that it's really true and our faith was not in vain ... and that feeling never ever goes away?
On the other hand, imagine a non-believer who doesn't to to heaven, who simply dies. And is alone. Forever, realizing that he's there because of his own choices, that he could have done something about it, but didn't? And that first realization never, ever, goes away? He never gets relief?
Wade Burleson wrote a blog post recently, about Hell, and the fact that it is Holy. Not just physical flames of a conventional fire composed of rapid oxygenation of combustible materials. And, he may well be right.
Think about it this way: we've most all done something or other, in our lives, that hurt someone else, that grieved us immensely at the moment. Sure, we did what we could to rectify the situation, but still we bore the pain of what we'd done. But then, over time, the wounds we inflicted on ourselves and perhaps others, have gradually healed. We stop thinking about our offense and begin to think of it only occasionally, then rarely, then not at all.
Can you imagine dying, finding yourself separated from God, and from everyone else, realizing you could have done something about it, but didn't? And that feeling never ever goes away .. Gnawing at you every moment, for eternity? Never getting used to being there?
Sounds like hell to me. Oh, I'll never really know, as I have made alternate arrangements for eternity.
Ones I'll never want to get used to....
Of course I know the Bible talks about streets of gold, walls of jasper, a lake of fire, etc. But the Bible also talks about the "hand of God" and plenty of other things that are obvious euphemisms or allegories. Also, think back to the times those things were spoken or written. Wouldn't God portray heaven in the most glorious and wonderful way they could comprehend at the time, and wouldn't He also describe hell in the worst possible terms they could understand at the time?
I think that just may be the case.