What We Know About Heaven (and Hell)
I was on a spiritual high at the time. I was looking out the window of an airplane, flying high over the Atlantic on my way home from a short-term missions trip. And I was thinking about our awesome God.
If you've ever flown, you know how amazing the clouds look from 35,000 feet. You're actually looking down on them for a change, and it's quite a sight—almost like you're looking at things from God's perspective. Well, maybe that's a stretch, but you know what I mean.
Anyway, there I was, thinking about heaven.
And then a special news report came on the airplane's TV. They showed scenes of a house in California, surrounded by police. They were bringing out bodies, 39 in all. A mass suicide. The corpses were all dressed in black, right down to their Nike sneakers.
Eventually, we learned that they were members of a cult called "Heaven's Gate." They followed a guy with the nickname "Do," a guy who taught his "flock" to put aside earthly desires and prepare for heaven instead.
Somehow, "Do" had convinced his people that they could catch a ride to heaven on the tail of the Hale-Bopp Comet, which was passing relatively close to our planet at that time.
So, they all literally packed their bags, dressed for the trip, ate a last, lethal "meal" of poison-laced pudding followed by vodka, laid down and died, ready for their journey to what they called "the next level."
Weirdos, I thought. How could they be so stupid?
But when I thought about it some more, I realized they really weren't so different from me. Or you. Or most of us.
We all share something in common:
We all long for heaven.
We all look forward to the day when there will be no more pain—just joy and peace forever.
That's what the Heaven's Gate people wanted. They just were looking for it in the wrong place.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
OK, we all memorized John 3:16 at Vacation Bible School, and we've heard it a zillion times since.
But look at that verse again, especially the last two words: Eternal life.
Wow. Believe in Jesus. Live forever. In heaven.
What do we know about this place called heaven, anyway?
Is it, as "reported" in one of the supermarket tabloids, "a shimmering city floating eerily in the blackness of space"? Is it, as that same article suggested, "a radiant object three billion light years away, close to what scientists believe is the edge of the universe"? (Those same "scientists" calculated that it takes "3 million years for a human soul to reach heaven" and that "no one from Earth has arrived there yet!")