Once C.S. Lewis created a fable to attempt to communicate how the words and pictures in the Bible about heaven might relate to how wonderful it will truly be (The Weight of Glory, New York: Touchstone, 1980, p. 85). He had his readers imagine a woman in a dungeon that had just a little patch of daylight coming in through a grate on the ceiling. This woman was an artist and she was raising her son in this prison, who had never once seen anything outside of their room.
She had managed to bring into the cell a sketchpad and pencils. In order to communicate the wonders of the outside world to her son, she drew pictures. Imagine what it would be like to have never seen fields, rivers, mountains, cities, and ocean waves? But then think of your perspective of each of those wondrous things if you only had sketches and your mother’s words to help you grasp what they are.
Lewis said that the boy was a dutiful son and did his best to believe what his mother told him about the realities behind all of those pictures of things outside of their dungeon.
Isn’t that a marvelous picture of how the Bible’s words and pictures of heaven work? We have not seen heaven. We don’t even have the capacities we need to fully comprehend all of its wonders. But God cares for us so much that he speaks truth to us about that amazing place.
He wants us to know that this life is not all that there is. The wrongs will be made right. Your pain has purpose––many purposes, in fact. Sin and temptation will at last be no more. The reality of being in that holy place will make every hard experience in this life fade away. The Lord will be there, and we who believe in Jesus Christ will literally be with him. The joy of all of these hopes will never, ever end.
This ultimate hope of heaven is a flowing stream of refreshment. Christians must continually cherish heaven. It is not just a distant future escape hatch. It is so much better than that, and its pervasive hope transforms your perspective of the difficulties of this life.
Consider the ways the Bible speaks of heaven in the final chapters of the Bible. Remember that these words represent even better realities than in their raw meanings. God has to speak to us who have senses limited to the comparative dungeon-like reality in which we dwell.
Heaven is described as the new heavens and the new earth with a capitol city called the new Jerusalem. Apparently, there will be real connections to our current world and the world to come, only the new world will be better in every way. Resurrected bodies are meant to dwell in a physical realm. It will be a renewed version of our world.
In the ancient world of the Bible, the sea was a largely unknown, scary place. The new earth is said not to have a sea. As a beach-lover, I am not sure what to think about that, but what if the Lord is saying in that wonderful place there will not be any more vast, unknown, scary places?
The city is compared to a bride adorned for her husband. God’s dwelling place will be there, right with his people.
All of your tears will be wiped dry. No more mourning, crying, pain, or death. None. These bad burdens of your present life will be non-existent in the life to come.
All sinners without Christ will be punished. Justice, real justice, will be finalized at last.
The city will look like a jewel. It will have sparkling foundations and walls, and pearl gates. The fiery refractions and reflections will be from God’s pure glory radiating all around. The city is said to have the massive dimensions of a 1,380 mile cube. The only other cube shaped place in the Bible is the Holy of Holies, the place in the tabernacle and temple where God manifested his presence with Israel over the ark of the covenant. Will the city be one huge Holy of Holies for all of us in Christ?
These chapters in the Bible are where the streets of gold are describes. But the gold is said to be so pure that the roads are transparent. My mind returns to the sketchpad in the dungeon again. I don’t even think we should worry about these details––it will be better.
God’s glory will light up the whole place. Nations will come in and bring their good things, but nothing detestable will ever enter.
I’m not sure about a beach, but there is talk of a river flowing directly from Jesus’ throne right down main street. That river nourishes the tree of life, which yields its fruit every month and its leaves bring healing to the nations.
Heaven will be a blessed place filled with blessed people. There will be safety, security, and jobs to do for Christ with our new strong bodies that never wear out.
Paul says in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” In another place he adds, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Cor 4:17-18).
The little boy in the dungeon trusted his mother. He tried to believe her words and pictures. But one day, Lewis continued, the mother realized that her son had a major misconception. He thought the outside world must be filled with lead pencil marks. When she protested and told him there were no pencil marks in the real world, the boy’s vision of the world went blank.
The lines were what helped him imagine it all. I’m sure when that little boy finally emerged from the dark place, he realized that his mother was absolutely right in her pictorial efforts, but every single place she had drawn was so much more than pencil traces on paper.
The world beyond the dungeon would never be less than his mother’s pictures, it would be so much more detailed, rich, and textured that pencil lines became completely unnecessary. Won’t that be the case with heaven?
You can take heart because heaven is a real place. You can have ultimate hope because heaven will be so wonderful that the pencil marks that the Bible’s words and pictures have drawn for us will become unnecessary when we see it. The Lord Jesus Christ will be there with us his glory unveiled. What’s more, you will be so sin-free that you will be with him in his glory in pure joy and satisfaction. And still better yet, that joy and satisfaction with the Lord will never, ever end.