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Youth Article: Myths about heaven

1 March 2011 | by Lowri Iorwerth

Youth Article: Myths about heaven

On 24 November 2008 The Streets released the first single from their eagerly awaited album, ‘Everything is borrowed’. The single was called ‘Heaven for the weather’ and the chorus went like this:

I want to go to heaven for the weather
But hell for the company;
I want to go to heaven for the weather
But hell seems like fun to me.

It was a big hit and continues to get a lot of airplay several months afterwards. It’s an upbeat, feel-good track, with a catchy tune designed to get you singing along. But I wonder how many people agree with Mike Skinner as they sing along with him?

When I was in school I studied Dr Faustus. At the beginning of the term, my teacher asked us to share our opinions on heaven and hell, angels, demons and damnation. I was surprised at the things my classmates believed. Many of them were surprised by my own opinions, the difference being that mine were drawn from the Bible and theirs were more influenced by the Simpsons.

No-one can say that what happens after death doesn’t apply to them, yet so many people go through life with no idea of what lies beyond the grave. What’s more, many Christians wouldn’t know where to start to put people right. So here are three common myths about heaven that we should set straight:

Myth #1 – Heaven is where good people go when they die

If you asked a stranger on the street ‘Who gets to go to heaven?’ they might tell you that they think everyone does. But very few people really believe that. After all, nobody would expect to see Stalin or Hitler in heaven. Whether they realise it or not, most non-Christians believe there is a standard to be met to get into heaven. The mistake is they set the bar far too low, and rate themselves too highly. They think that being good, in their own terms, is enough.

But, what does the Bible say?
‘There is no-one righteous, not even one’ (Rom. 3:9-11).
‘All our righteous acts are like filthy rags’ (Is. 64:6).
‘Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect’ (Matt. 5:48).

The standard for heaven is perfection. Nothing less will do. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to spend eternity in a place that wasn’t perfect, that had all the failings of this world. The problem is that none of us can achieve perfection, no amount of good deeds or church attendance can make us good enough. The only way sinners like us can gain entry is to see ourselves as we really are, have Jesus deal with our sin and to swap our ‘filthy rags’ for His spotless life. Jesus Himself summed it up perfectly when he said ‘…no-one comes to the Father except through me’ (John 14:6).

Myth #2 – When people go to heaven, they become angels

When most people think of heaven, they think of a scene not unlike a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Bugs Bunny gets crushed by a falling anvil; his soul (a partially see-through version of Bugs) comes out of his body and floats up to a cloud where he sits in a white robe with wings and a halo playing a harp. Many like to think of their deceased relatives as being their ‘guardian angels’ watching over them and keeping them safe.

But, what does the Bible say?
‘What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings [angels] and crowned him with glory and honour’ (Ps. 8:4-5).

The Bible tells us that angels and humans are not the same. God created the angels before He created the earth, they are a different creature altogether. Angels are God’s messengers; they appear regularly in the Bible to make a public announcement (like the birth of Jesus) or to pass on a message to a particular individual (like Gideon). Angels live in heaven with God where their job is to serve Him, not us.

A major difference between angels and us is that, although the angels worship God as we should, they know Him only as their Creator, not as their Father as we do. God didn’t send His own Son to die for the angels. Because He sent Jesus to pay the price for our sins, we know that He loves us more than words can express, and therefore our worship is all the more pleasing to Him.

Myth #3 – Heaven is boring

To so many, heaven seems like a rather dull way to spend eternity. If heaven really is about wearing white and playing a harp, then I’m sure we’d all get bored eventually. We crave excitement and entertainment, but there’s no place for thrill-seekers in the heaven of our imaginations. Perhaps the reason why so many people live by the rule ‘eat, drink and be merry’ is because once they reach the ‘for tomorrow we die’ part, it means the party’s over. No more fun, no more freedom, no more doing whatever you want.

But, what does the Bible say?
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ (Rev. 21:4).
‘And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory”’ (Is. 6:3).

There are two things we need to understand about heaven. First, we need to have the right picture in our minds. In Revelation 21 John describes what he saw when God gave him a vision of heaven, and it is breath-taking. But not only is heaven beautiful, it is a place where sin does not exist. No-one can hurt us there, nothing will go wrong, everything is perfect, and we will be too.

Second, we need to understand what the point of being there is. The thing that makes heaven amazing, far beyond all the things we’ve already mentioned, is that God is there. Imagining heaven without God’s glory is like a football match with no ball. You could run around the pitch and put all your energy into it, get all the exercise benefits, but without a ball there’s really no point. Heaven is a wonderful place, but without God there would be no purpose to our being there. The continuing thrill, the never ending excitement of heaven is found in experiencing the glory of God that brings uninterrupted delight. There’s nothing boring about heaven!

So now that we know what heaven is really like, wouldn’t it be selfish of us to keep that to ourselves and let our friends go on thinking that hell would be more fun? Why don’t you pray for an opportunity to tell them about how amazing heaven really is, and you never know, they might be interested in finding out how they can experience it for themselves?

Lowri Iorwerth works for The Evangelical Movement of Wales. The text from this article first appeared in The Evangelical Times.