Monday, June 25, 2007

"I can only imagine..."

A few years ago I was at a retreat and the soloist sang a Mercy Me song called "I Can Only Imagine". It's about heaven and it brought tears to my eyes. The song is about trying to imagine how we'll respond when we go to heaven and are in God's presence. The chorus goes like this:

Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel? Will I dance for you Jesus or in awe of you be still? Will I stand in your presence or to my knees will I fall? Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all? I can only imagine.

Lately though, I've noticed that when Christians talk about heaven, there's a bit of hesitation - a little squirming in our seats. On the one hand, we've been taught to think that heaven is great - perfect, in fact! What's not to look forward to? After all, there will be no more pain or suffering or tears. No more sin. Evil will apparently be completely absent from heaven. We'll be free to worship God 24/7. It seems a bit heretical to even think that such an existence may be, well - a bit boring.

Sure, we joke about sleeping in and eating all the chocolate we want, but what's heaven REALLY going to be like? As I ponder this, I have a bunch of questions:

  • will we still have free will in heaven?
  • if we do, what will our choices be and what will prevent us from making the same mistakes humanity has always made?
  • if we don't, will we really be human?

Come to think of it, if Adam and Eve had obeyed God and resisted the lure of knowing good and evil (and thus, being like God), would they have lived on in the Garden of Eden in ignorance? Would we be innocent today, not knowing the difference between good and evil? Will heaven be a return to ignorance - I mean, innocence?

Or, will the context have shifted so dramatically that the only reality we know on earth - the perpetual battle between good and evil - will be transformed into a totally different reality? One beyond our knowing or even our imagination. But if this is possible, why have we had to go through all of human history with its injustices and abuses, greed, corruption, selfishness, etc.?

Will being "like Jesus" mean that we will choose not to do evil, even though we could? But how is that a fair scenario, if evil has been removed that is, if evil is absent, we can't really choose it and if we can't choose it, can we really be like Jesus in resisting evil and being obedient? So you see - lots of questions!

For the sake of this posting, the key one is this: will we have free will in heaven? Any thoughts? Until I hear from those who are wiser than I on this topic, I can only imagine...

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