Most, if not all Christians, believe they are going to heaven. Those Christians who sin believe Christ died for their sins and they will be welcomed into heaven. Most of those same Christians believe that everyone else is going to hell.
Most Christians have no idea of what heaven will be like. They make statements such as “it is paradise”, “it is a perfect place”, “it is a place where I will be with God”, “it is a place where I will be with my loved ones”, or “it is a place where I will be happy forever.”
In general, the concept of heaven as a better place then this world developed as a promise of a reward to those who have suffered during their time on earth. The Hebrews of the early Bible believed only God and his angels lived in heaven and that when a person died, they were dead. People who were good in this life were rewarded in this life and, similarly, evil people suffered. It did not take long for ordinary people to see that life did not work as promised. By 200 BCE, this was source of deep dissatisfaction as even righteous Hebrews were suffering under foreign conquerors.
The Hebrew theologians of 200 BCE needed a way to deal with that contradiction. Their solution was to adopt and adapt the Persian ideas of the duality of good and evil and the afterlife.
Briefly, the Hebrew theologians promoted the idea that a good person might suffer in this life but they will be rewarded in the afterlife in heaven. Bad people may prosper in this life but they will be punished in the next by being sent to hell.
Even if we accept this idea, it does not give any insight into what happens in heaven. Early Christian writers seemed to delight in detailing the punishments of hell. The hellfire stories are a form of religious porn.
At a time when most people were illiterate, live performances and story telling entertained most people. Perhaps the writers said little about heaven because it did not have the titillation of hell?
I have written previously about the idea that heaven is a vague concept and that filling out the details of that concept makes it less desirable. You can check out those articles in my suggested reading list.
In the August 22, 2012, Sioux Falls Argus Leader, Billy Graham deals with the issue of what happens in heaven, again. Billy’s reader says, “I hope you won’t take this in the wrong way, but to be honest, heaven sounds kind of dull to me. I mean, if all we’re going to do is sit around on a cloud strumming harps, well, I’ll be bored before the end of my first day there. Am I misunderstanding something?” You can read all of Billy’s answer here.
Billy clearly has a vested interest in promoting heaven. It is all he has to offer to people who debate following his lead and becoming Christians. Since his followers are the people who donate to Billy, his life style is at stake.
Nevertheless, Billy has some strange ideas about heaven. The first weird idea is that the dead will work for God in heaven. Billy has no idea what that work will be, but he claims that the dead will not get bored by doing the work.
Consider that doing work produces a change in something. The act of picking up a penny and stacking it on another penny changes what was (two pennies side by side) to what is (one penny on top of another). Work, as a form of energy, was expended to change the energy of the pennies (stacked pennies have a higher potential energy than un-stacked pennies).
Billy and the preachers claim that heaven is a place of perfection. Any change must then make heaven less perfect. If the dead are doing work in a perfect heaven, then heaven is becoming LESS perfect. One could argue that something like stacked pennies are more perfect than un-stacked pennies. In that case, heaven is not perfect since it can be improved and perfection is, by definition, the best that something can be.
There are many other questions raised by the dead working in heaven. The human body is able to do work by burning food in the cells of muscles. That food must be replaced by eating and the waste products of the burning must be eliminated.
If the dead need to eat in heaven, what do they eat? Do the dead in heaven get hungry and thirsty? Hunger pains and thirst are afflictions of the living. How can they exist in perfect place? If they don’t exist, how do the dead know when it is time to eat or drink?
(I was going to insert an “angels and pinheads” question here by wondering how much food a person would eat during an infinite time, but I decided that would be silly.)
Do the dead urinate and defecate? What happens to the urine and feces? Does God’s garden need heavenly fertilizer?
Do the dead in heaven have bacteria in their gut to aid digestion? Many preachers deny that pets and other animals go to heaven, but e-coli does?
All of these questions are beside the point. I ask them only to highlight the silliness of the concept of the dead working in heaven. Why does Billy suggest that the dead work? It is Billy’s answer to the question, “Isn’t heaven boring?”
Since work in heaven is silly, perhaps heaven is boring.
Another suggestion Billy makes is that the dead study in heaven and learn everything there is to know about the universe. “… we’ll also have all eternity to discover the riches of God and His wisdom.”
Billy has difficulty with the concept of infinity. Eternity is not merely a LONG time, it is FOREVER. If the dead are able to learn in heaven and they study the knowledge of God, over an infinite period of time, the dead will come to know everything that God knows. Will this knowledge make the dead into gods?
Billy ventures off the reality dock into the waters of weirdness when he says, “I’ve even wondered if God will take us on a tour of the universe, visiting galaxies we can’t even see today with our most sophisticated telescopes.”
Does Billy think those galaxies are populated? If not, once you have seen one galaxy, you have seen them all, and an unseen galaxy beyond the reach of current telescopes is not going to be different from the ones we can see. Also, the image of God as a tour guide is rather silly.
One of the most disturbing aspects of heaven is Billy saying that the dead watch the living as a spectator sport. How can the dead be happy as they are viewing the suffering that is going on here on Earth? Has God removed their sense of morality and justice so they can revel in the misfortunes of the living?
Speaking of happiness, for many people, the greatest source of happiness is their family. Many believers have told me that they believe only because they cannot accept the idea of being separated from their beloved family and friends by death. Yet, the odds are that some of those family members will end up in hell, suffering for eternity. This is supposed to make the dead happy? I wouldn’t think so.
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