If This Isn't Heaven, I Don't Know What Is

Biblical Reasons Why We Should
And Practical Suggestions on How We Can

Create Heaven on Earth

There are more myths than facts circulating about heaven. One way to expose the gaps in your own thinking is to work through the chart we just looked at. Here are some questions you can ask yourself:

Things human beings enjoy doing in 2004 that they couldn't enjoy in 1804 Things human beings will enjoy doing even more in Heaven
harvesting more food in a day than 100 slaves could produce all season long. Do we eat in heaven? How many times a day? With whom? There will be countless people in heaven. How do they all fit in the Dining Hall?
keeping my family comfortable by warming up the house -- without having to chop wood and breathe ashes. Are there families and homes in heaven?
cooling off the house with the push of a button Is the temperature the same all the time in heaven? Will you be able to sit in a hot tub at a ski resort?
having healthy teeth Will we have teeth in heaven? Will they all be shaped alike? Or will different people have different-looking smiles? Will some people's smiles be cuter than others? (See L.P Harley's novel, Facial Justice.)
traveling on a 4-lane highway, arriving at my destination hours, maybe days, before I would have in 1804 Will we get to go anywhere in heaven? Or will there just be clouds everywhere? Will there be picnics and camp-outs? Will anybody say "Daddy, are we almost there?" Will anticipation exist in heaven?
flying in a Boeing 757 I guess we'll all have wings, right?
driving safely in a car made of steel  
living safely in a home that can withstand a moderate earthquake or severe storm Will there be earthquakes in heaven? Having grown up in California, I think they're kinda cool. Are there thunderstorms in heaven?
having pure drinking water available with the twist of a wrist  
keeping food fresh with refrigeration If there is food in heaven, can it spoil? Some might say, "Oh no, nothing bad ever happens in heaven." If it can't, does that mean there will be no wine and cheese in heaven?
having hot water available at all times, for only pennies  
enjoying good health with the help of antibiotics Of course there will be no disease in heaven. Will we lose the satisfaction of finding a cure for diseases?
Human beings were created to be of service to others. Of what use can you be to perfect, need-less heavenly beings?
enjoying the benefits of instant electricity Think of all the things that run on electricity. Will none of them be available in heaven?
doing more and producing more with gasoline engines Will creative inventors no longer be able to convert natural resources into mechanical energy?
completing assignments, making calculations, designing buildings, learning about the world around me, aided by computers  
watching a NASCAR race  
learning and being entertained by television; seeing important events around the world as they happen Is there entertainment in heaven? Is there learning in heaven?
eradicating diseases like smallpox, polio, with vaccines  
preparing food quickly with microwave ovens  
watching the Lord of Rings (the movie) in Dolby® stereo I suppose the "special effects" in heaven will be much greater than anything Hollywood has yet come up with.
watching Alabama (the band) in the front row of an arena with 10,000 other fans  
eradicating pests and disease with DDT  
bringing a symphony orchestra into my living room with a stereo CD. I understand the music is pretty good in heaven.

The Bible really doesn't say much about heaven. Most of what we "know" about heaven is myth. Playing harps, bouncing on clouds: not really in the Bible.

Elsewhere on this website we talked about a popular novelist's story:

And now I want to tell you about my late Uncle Alex. He was my father’s kid brother, a childless graduate of Harvard who was an honest life insurance salesman in Indianapolis. He was well-read and wise. And his principal complaint about other human beings was that they so seldom noticed it when they were happy. So when we were drinking lemonade under an apple tree in the summer, say, and talking lazily about this and that, almost buzzing like honeybees, Uncle Alex would suddenly interrupt the agreeable blather to exclaim, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”

I like that. I think gratitude is a powerful and Godly attitude.

This gave me the idea for a "spiritual exercise" -- a way of stretching the mind and building spiritual muscle to be able to lift heavy theological truths with greater ease.

As someone who has long been committed to working for the prayer of Jesus -- that God's will would be done on earth as it is in heaven -- I suspected that this exercise might be a way of making that task appear easier, and might be a way of casting doubt on all the theological rationalizations offered for silence, inaction, and just "waiting for the rapture."

Can you say to yourself or to others, several times a day, "If this isn't Heaven, I don't know what is"?

What if we imagined that this is heaven, that we're in heaven now, and spent our time appreciating all the wonderful, marvelous, and beautiful things there are to appreciate?

If someone who lived more than a thousand years ago were to be transported through time and see the way we live, he would be astonished. His jaw would drop to the floor. Turn on a CD and let your guest enjoy a symphony orchestra in your climate-controlled living room. Talk on the phone about the symphony with people in Japan. Or you and your friend in Japan can turn on the TV and watch an Olympic event in Russia at the same time -- as it is happening live.

Your guest from the past might think these amazing feats were the work of demons. Could you convince him that they are not?

Our technology, our global society, the absence of a tribal dog-eat-dog spear-chucking world, would fill the Apostles with awe. We live lives of unparalleled wealth and luxury. And the rate of progress is even more amazing. Even my own mother's dentist extracted teeth without anesthesia. Diseases can now be cured which killed thousands just a few decades ago. The genetic code is just being cracked. Atomic teleportation has been achieved, and every home business will soon have supercomputers.

Your first reaction is to think it's ridiculous to think that we're in heaven now. Usually this reaction is based on a lot of unBiblical myths about heaven. It stems from a belief that the Bible says that Jesus is going to come again, resurrect us into bodies that never die, and we'll live in a new care-free world. There are many problems with this reaction.

     Chuck Colson: "An Everlasting Playground"
     David Brooks: “Hooked on Heaven Lite,” New York Times, March 9, 2004
     Adam Kirsch: “Paradise Lite,” Slate.com, February 5, 2004

First, as the articles in the box at right argue, the modern concept of "heaven" is self-centered. Many people find it impossible to say "If this isn't heaven, I don't know what is" because they think they know what heaven is: a place of eternal self-indulgence. A place of no work, no responsibilities, no challenges, no growth. These people understand that here on earth we have all of these things, so this can't be heaven. Logical, but unBiblical.

These people are convinced that our present life of work, responsibility, challenges and growth will very soon -- "any moment" -- be ended by "the Rapture," in which we are relieved of our duties and ushered into eternal vacation. These people are waiting, not working.

Stated negatively, many people could never say "If this isn't heaven, I don't know what is" because "heaven" is a perfect place, with no sin, no sickness, no death. Since we have those things now, thinking how "heavenly" things are creates "cognitive dissonance."

Ironically, any attempt to do away with sin and its effects -- to create heaven on earth -- is also viewed as wrong, "humanistic," or even blasphemous. They believe we are in "the last days" and things are predestined to get worse and worse as the prophecy clock ticks on down toward the Second Coming. Thinking of this as heaven, or working to create heaven on earth, is seen as contrary to the prophetic timetable, and if successful, may even delay the Second Coming.

This is a vicious cycle. This can't be heaven because there's war, sickness, poverty, ignorance, and sadness, but working to overcome war, sickness, poverty, ignorance, and sadness is wrong because we are supposed to be waiting to be raptured into heaven at any moment.

There's more irony: the people who spend the most time waiting for heaven and the least time working to create heaven on earth are probably least likely to be comfortable in the heaven of the Bible. People who aren't interested in a systematic, disciplined, hard-working, international effort to create heaven on earth are not mature Christians. They have a childish view of heaven and an adolescent mentality here on earth. If the Pearly Gates are opened for them, they're going to be very surprised.

"And for fear of him the keepers did shake,
and became as dead men
Matthew 28:4

First, cherubs (cherubim) are not cute and cuddly little baby-faced angels. They are big, fearful and awesome; visible indications of the presence of God. They are heaven's "bouncers," God's thugs, divine henchmen. A 1904 US Supreme Court opinion declared: "The flaming brand which guards the realm where no human government is needed still bars the entrance."[1] We'll talk about the Court's view of human government a few chapters from now, but it's true that man never went back to Eden -- nobody dared to cross the path of the cherubim that blocked the entrance. When human beings see cherubim, they usually fall on their faces in fear. That's usually the first word out of the mouth of a cherub: "Fear not" (Daniel 10:11; Luke 1:13, 30; 2:10; Acts 27:24). And heaven is full of these menacing toughguys. Which is one reason why people who long for escape from earthly dominion -- re-creating heaven on earth -- might not be comfortable in the real heaven.

The descriptions of heaven in the Bible are almost nightmarish in intensity. The King James phrase "heavenly host" really means "heavenly army."

When they moved, I heard the sound of their wings like the sound of mighty waters, like the thunder of the Almighty, a sound of tumult like the sound of an army; when they stopped, they let down their wings.
(Ezekiel 1:24, NKJV) 

The visions of heaven given to John (Revelation) and Ezekiel are filled with the noise of innumerable crowds, earth-shaking peals of thunder, and worship -- worship day and night, worship which cannot be described as "warm fuzzies" that come from "feeling good about yourself."

I've been to a few churches in my day. And I've read the Biblical descriptions of heaven. They are poles apart. Preachers won't offend, music ministers won't challenge, knuckle-rapping in Sunday School is long gone. The goal of modern churches is to make the audience feel good. But in heaven the goal of the audience is to make God feel good:

Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple
Revelation 7:15

These visions of heaven are designed to spur us on in the work of creating heaven on earth, of seeing that God's will is done on earth as it is in heaven.

Most Christians can't imagine being in church "day and night,"
but they claim they want to spend eternity serving God.
Millions of Christians are longing for "heaven lite"
and they refuse to serve God day and night by working in this life to create heaven on earth.
I think there's a surprise or two in store for them.

So here's the whole point of this book:

Only those who in this life
are working in the fear and presence of God
to create heaven on earth
have a legitimate hope of spending eternity in heaven.

Millions of Christians are longing for "heaven lite" and they refuse to work in this life to create heaven on earth. I think there's a surprise or two in store for them.

I'm not saying nobody has anything to look forward to after death. I'm suggesting that our present focus should be on making earth more heavenly. Or put another way, if you want to go to heaven when you leave earth, you should have been working to create heaven on earth while you were here.

I emphasize again that the purpose of this book is not to talk about what happens when we die. The purpose is to talk about what we should be doing now, in this life.

But another purpose of this book is to act as a series of spiritual exercises which push us to the limit and expand our flexibility and stamina. So the next two paragraphs will push the limit and will be the only to paragraphs to discuss this issue: do we spend life after death in heaven? Does the Bible ever say that anyone goes to heaven when they die, either immediately upon death or thousands of years later at a "general resurrection?"

For millions of people, Christianity means little more than the correct answer to the question "Where will you spend eternity?" or "Are you sure you're going to heaven when you die?"

Here are two thoughtful essays which encourage the reader to search the Scriptures. These essays suggest that the Bible nowhere says that anyone "goes to heaven" when they die. A Berean will search the Scriptures, but most church-goers don't know their Bibles well enough to answer the most basic question: where in the Bible are we told that believers will go to heaven when they die?

Take these essays with a grain of salt. My point is that our priorities have been misplaced. Too many Christians believe (though they would never state it this way) that God's idea of putting human beings on earth was a bad idea and a failure. Some actually come right out and say it, even to say that Christ returning to earth and ruling from Jerusalem for a thousand years will be a failure!

Table of Contents

continued click here for next chapter