I’ve got a mansion just over the hilltop, in that bright land where we’ll never grow old. And someday yonder we will never more wander, but walk on the streets that are purest gold. (Mansion Over the Hilltop)
I love this song and enjoyed singing it as a part of a quartet in a small church years ago. It really brings back fond memories. Unfortunately, it’s just not true, at least as far as I can tell. This song, and many others, paint a picture of heaven as a place where we can kick back, stroll streets of gold, and live in a mansion on a hilltop. Probably with lots of servants to wait on us for eternity. An eternity of bliss as a reward for accepting Jesus as savior. But that really doesn’t make sense to me (after all I did nothing to deserve it). Nor do I really find that sentiment supported in the scriptures.
God’s Purpose in Creation
One’s answer to the question about what heaven’s like is, I believe, shaped by their view of God’s purpose in creation. Why did he create a habitable universe with at least one planet populated by intelligent beings? I can’t help but believe that if the previous statement is true, and I believe it is, he must have had a reason for doing it. And that reason must include our current existence as a step in the process. If life here is nothing more than a time to determine who the believers are that will be rewarded with paradise, and he already knew who they would be prior to creation, then why not just jump to the end game and skip this messy and often painful part?
So, it seems to me like life here is playing some part in the long-term future God is working us toward. There are at least a couple of passages in the New Testament that give support to the thought that my life here, as a believer, has an impact on my future in the Kingdom of God. The first of these is a parable recorded in the gospels, in Matthew 25:14-30 and Luke 19:11-27. This is a parable of a king who entrusted possessions to servants. He then went away for a while and then returned for an accounting of their stewardship. There was praise, and more responsibility, for those who performed well. And condemnation for those who failed to satisfy the king.
The second passage is in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 where Paul talks about building on the foundation of Christ. There are a variety of building materials that could be used, some having great value and some not. If the life I build on the foundation of Christ has value, there is reward to come. But if I build on that foundation will lesser materials I will be saved because of the foundation. But I will experience a lesser, or no, reward. There is no mention of what that reward is, although in the gospel parables the reward was two-fold, sharing in the Master’s happiness and additional responsibility.
What is Heaven Like?
These passages tell us that what I do now in this life will have an impact on the life to come. How successful I am by human standards will have nothing to do with it. Rather how faithful I am to the God who called me and equips me for his service will be the key. We need to serve God here as if our future depends on it. Because, to some extent, it does.
So, what is heaven really like? I must confess that I really don’t know. I do believe that my future though will not just be a time of kicking back; swinging in a hammock; and having fair maidens drop grapes in my mouth for eternity. Rather it will be a time (time will likely have no real meaning) of serving alongside our creator in carrying out whatever purpose he created us for.
BTW, the streets of gold? That comes from Revelation 21:21, part of a description of the New Jerusalem, specifically identified as the bride of Christ (21:2, 9-10). We will not be walking on streets of gold. We will potentially be a nugget in the street. 🙂
The views expressed here are solely mine and do not necessarily reflect those of any other person, group, or organization. While I believe they reflect the teachings of the Bible, I am a fallible human and subject to misunderstanding. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions about this post in the comments section below. I am always interested in your feedback.
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