What goes on in heaven?
I've often wondered what happens when we die, and for those of us lucky enough to reach heaven, what is it like? Bear with me on this, as I am not doing this as a joke, just as an exercise in speculation. Obviously, Heaven is the place of total peace and harmony, where its inhabitants are promised eternal life. That's all well and good, but did you ever what you would be doing up there once you got there? I do. But first, let us ponder what happens at death.
Once we die, do we linger on earth until the funeral happens, watching over ourselves and our loved ones as they mourn our passing? Do we have to wait for someone to get us to show us the way to the afterlife? And can we stay on earth for awhile until we feel it's time to go? Do we go right away? According to the book of Revelation, when Gabriel's trumpet blows, all the dead will rise to heaven. Ummm,...aren't they already there? And if not, what are they doing until that time? After all, mankind has been around for a long time. That's a lotta traffic to handle if it all comes at once.
Once we enter the afterlife, we will be judged. If you've ever read Jack Chick's tract "This Was Your Life", we see a sinner taken to Heaven and watching his whole life on a giant movie screen, which shows all the ungodly things he has done in his life. And afterwards, God asks his angel if he appears in the Book of Life. The guy doesn't, so he is cast into Hell. Is that how it's done? Or do we simply wait in line at the pearly gates for St. Peter to look in his book and treat us like the doorman at the local nightclub. Yeah, you can come in,..you, too. No, not you. You're not in the book! Seeya! (There's a very funny Buster Keaton depiction of this in his 1921 film "The Haunted House", where he dreams he climbs the stairs to Heaven, only to be rejected by God, and the stairs collapse under him, and he tumbles all the way to Hell.)
Or are we judged before we make our take our leave from this Earth. Do souls just automatically end up in either Heaven or Hell, taking all the suspense out of the situation? It might be easier this way, I think, because we know where we are going immediately.
And what happens to us when get to Heaven? We arrive, but in what form? Do we take the form of beams of light? I don't think that would be too pleasing. Do we get new bodies, and what age will we be? Those who die as babies or young children, do they stay as kids, or are they allowed to grow up? The heavenly population are given a new painfree existence in the afterlife, but what will we look like? Will we resemble our earthly selves? (Granted, some of us won't want to, but,...)
And what do people do in Heaven? Do they just sing and try out their wings, flying everywhere? That would be pretty cool. Just flying around the clouds with no particular place to go. But even that would get old after a few decades. Some people have been in Heaven for over 8,000 years, if we believe the Hebrew calendar. They need something to do up there to keep them busy. I imagine there are trees to cut, streams to walk by, maybe even cookies to bake. Or games of Chinese Checkers for my Great Aunt Dell to play. She loved her Chinese Checkers. There must be a clock up there, saying "This Much Time Until Armageddon." So the chosen ones must be doing something to occupy their time.
Some of them are chosen to come back to earth as Guardian Angels, I'm sure. Or some are allowed back to earth to help a loved one. How are they chosen? Is there a waiting list for this? I'm sure some of them want a break from the monotony up there, and find coming back to earth refreshing. Plus, there's the challenge of saving souls and changing lives, which must be a rush, no matter how long you've been away.
Are there animals in Heaven? I well up when I read the Rainbow Bridge poem about a special part of Heaven where animals can run and play and are restored to full health while waiting for their earthly companions to arrive, to be reunited forever. That's a good poem, but nowhere in the Bible does it say that animals are there. So are they, or aren't they? And if the poem is correct, when my mother arrived, was she besieged by all her pets at once? God forbid if you were someone who ran an animal sanctuary. It would be pretty unnerving to see an elephant, a lion, and two tigers running full speed in your direction.
And will our loved ones be there to greet us? As a child, I went to an independent Bible Church in Gamber, whose pastor was a rambunctious little man named Reverend Little. He never had a sermon laid out. He just felt the spirit of the Lord and let it move him and his loud congregation for about an hour, and then would close the service with an altar call. Two or three people got saved every Sunday. But one thing he said about Heaven stuck in my mind. He said, "Once you get to Heaven, if you think you're gonna sit around with Paul, hearing his stories you read about in the Bible, forget it! You won't recognize anybody, because you're all gonna be new creatures in Heaven, and your memories of this world will be done!" I don't think that would be a good thing. I want to see my family in Heaven and want them to recognize me and love me again, and I them as well. I get Rev. Little's point, RIP, but would God really deny us the pleasure of reuniting with our loved ones, reminiscing, and talking over good times? (This is something else that would keep us busy up there, meeting all our relatives from 400 years ago.)
And is it always daytime up there? Do they have days like we have on earth? And is there any concept of time? I guess it doesn't matter, but it might be useful to know how much time you're passing away.
Do people in Heaven eat? And what do they eat? Fruits and vegetables, I would imagine, as nothing gets killed up there. No wonder they're all having a good time with that diet.
Do people in Heaven go to the bathroom? And where do they? Do they know when their stomachs are full, or can they just gorge themselves on pears and apples without filling up?
Do people sleep up there? I imagine there is no real need for sleep, but it might be peaceful to take a walk by a heavenly stream and catch forty winks, Again, this is a way to pass the time up there.
Do people have homes up there? Rooms? Tents? Or is there a need for such a thing. I would want some time alone from all those folks up there, so a room would be something I would like.
I think it would be hilarious to see the reactions of some of the fundamentalists once they saw Jesus in his hippie attire. Jesus was not only a hippie, he was a communist! Well, maybe that's a little strong. He was a socialist, though, who believed in sharing everything, and he wasn't too keen on capitalism. Read about when he confronted the money changers in Matthew 21, and you'll get the idea. I think that some of those people who thought that judging people would get them to Heaven might have gotten a big surprise when they met God, or St. Peter, or whoever's at the door.
And finally, how big is Heaven? it has to be pretty big to house over 3 trillion people, give or take a couple million. And it has to keep expanding to bring in all the newbies. It would be interesting to see how many people from each century actually made it, and what the reactions were from those who had been there since the beginning to all the overpopulation up there.
Yes, this is some of the stuff I think about at night, when I can't sleep. Perhaps I'm wrong to judge Heaven by the standards of earthly behavior. Maybe these questions are moot because Heaven is a place unlike any other where our secular ideas don't matter. We won't until we get there, if we get there. Until then, I dream of a little piece of Heaven where I can sit in a deck chair on the beach next to a Heavenly ocean, with a straw hat pulled over my eyes, the temperature never getting over 80 with a nice breeze blowing by, the ocean waves being music to my ears as I take a nap and enjoy a painfree afterlife.