What do we expect Heaven to be like?
What an exciting Question! I was once with a 15- year-old boy who was dying in the middle of the night after a long battle with leukaemia. He asked me “What will Heaven be like?” I was not sure which answer would be suitable for him, so I asked him “What do you imagine Heaven will be like?” He responded, “I think Heaven will have waterfalls and dolphins.”
Everyone who believes in God, has a strong sense that Heaven is an existence of great beauty. Many earthly words and images have been used to describe Heaven as a garden, as a great feast, an abundant table, a beautiful house with many doors and windows, a place of green pasture, wonderful fragrance, a place of no pain or suffering and so much more.
St Paul the Apostle and other great Saints reported experiences of having been taken to heaven, then returning to their earthly existence. One thing they all reported in common was that they could not find words to describe their heavenly experience. However they gave the very strong impression that it was far, far beyond any positive experience on earth. They used terms like ‘indescribable joy and light’. St Mark the Noble said that whatever we think and imagine Heaven to be, we can be sure that is not what it is. Why did he say this? Because we humans think in terms of our human, worldly existence, yet Heaven is outside of that realm, outside of time and space.
Once when teaching about the kingdom of Heaven to thirty little children in kindergarten, all sitting on the floor, I must have done a very good job, because a little girl suddenly jumped up, shouting “I can’t wait to die!” While this sounds cute and amusing, it expresses the “nostalgia” for heaven that is experienced by all those who fully connect their lives with Christ. A Christian with a clean heart and a life given in full to Christ, lives and tastes the joy and light of Heaven in small doses. He waits in hopeful anticipation for the day when our Lord will call him to Heaven to fully experience this happiness, light, peace, and the glory of God.
We know that Heaven is being in the presence of God. God is love. He is light. He is life. By joining ourselves to Him as often and as sincerely as we can, we can enjoy little tastes of the happiness, the light and the love that He has so freely offered to us. We can taste Heaven now. St John the Baptist said that the Kingdom of Heaven is taken by force. That means that we must make an effort. We must make an effort not to sin, an effort to connect to God and our fellow man, an effort to love and be charitable, an effort to control our passions and build up our souls.
Finally, our Archbishop Stylianos once preached that when we are in this state of tasting Heaven, the whole world around us becomes a beautiful place, an earthly paradise. Everything becomes green, fragrant and joyously abundant. As a result, we enter a state of thankfulness and glorification. In that state we will even declare our love for beauty of the rock that we see before us, because God made it.
Source: Lychnos June 2018 / July 2018