By Deborah Reed

The following is just theory, just the way I perceive things. It is not, as my grandmother used to say, “gospel truth,” and some of it doesn’t come from, well, the Gospel. That said, here is what I think:

Only “good” people will make it to Heaven, but goodness alone will not get you there. This is like saying all dogs are animals, but not all animals are dogs. Being good is needed to get you to Heaven, but not all good people go there.

Let’s clarify this a little by looking at an earthly example. You desire to attend an important event, one that requires a ticket for admission. You arrive at the door, ticket in hand, only to be informed that it is a black tie event and you can’t get in because you aren’t dressed correctly. But I have a ticket, you argue (but I was good!), but your arguments fall on deaf ears. Ticket or no ticket, you are denied entrance.

There are those who think being good on earth is the only requirement for entrance into Heaven, but the Bible tells us otherwise. Jesus says the only way to the Father is through Him. He didn’t say “one of the ways,” He said the only way. Leaving Jesus out of the equation is equivalent to showing up at the event without a tie.

You might argue that this unfair, why would God set it up that way? I was good, let me in. The first argument for this statement is: Well, just how good were you? If you never studied Jesus and His teachings, how do you know you followed in His footsteps? You say you were good, but how do you know? You were a human, a flawed creature from birth, what made you think you were able to judge good from not-good?  Your judgment could not be counted on because of your lowly status as a mere human. There were times when you thought you were good when you weren’t and times when you simply did not see the opportunity for being good. You didn’t have all the facts because all the facts were known by one person and one person only, and you didn’t pay attention to that Person.

So this is our first argument against your case that you should enter Heaven simply because you were a good person on earth: You probably weren’t as good as you thought you were. The second argument involves Jesus Himself and His earthly missions. It could be said that He had two of them, one of which was to teach us how to be good. He did that a lot – through parables, the Sermon on the Mount, examples, etc. He was definitely a Teacher, a Teacher of what is good and what isn’t. Okay, you might say, I just have to read a book of Jesus’ teachings, follow them, and I can then go to Heaven. Well, not quite. You haven’t got that tie on yet. Because Jesus had another mission, and “Heaven-bound” people do not have the luxury of ignoring it.

The other mission Jesus had was to pay for the ticket. You wouldn’t even have had the price of admission if it weren’t for Him. It is as if we incur a debt every time we sin (and sin we do, daily) but we don’t have any coins in our pockets, so the debt just gets bigger and bigger. We’re drowning in debt, we’re unemployed, and there is no way we are ever going to be able to settle this debt. But Jesus can, and He did. During the course of three hours, he took this debt away from you and took it upon Himself. He settled it for you, even though He Himself was debt-free.

Thanks, you might say, what do I owe you? How can I pay you back? But Jesus doesn’t say, well, I suffered horribly for three hours, so to pay me back, you, too, must suffer for three hours. Then we’ll be even. He doesn’t say that because He doesn’t care about even. He cares more about you than He cares about getting His debt squared away. He willingly settled your debts with no thought of payback whatsoever. He asked one thing and one thing only of you: That you acknowledge Him. That you say to yourself and others: Hey, I have a Savior, one who frees me from the debts I constantly incur.

This acknowledgement cannot be merely lip service, something you say to others but do not truly believe in your heart. This knowledge must be complete, something you feel with your entire being. This acknowledgement must be something you strive for, something you work toward on a daily basis; it must be your main goal in life. This way, and only this way, do you have the chance of entering Heaven.

So now we have very simplistic idea of what we might face when we meet St. Peter at the Pearly Gates. He will ask us two questions: “Were you good? And “Did you acknowledge Jesus as your Savior?” The answer to the second question could be: Well, not all the time, but if you’ll notice, the times I was bad have been taken care of. The answer to the second question has to be a resounding Yes!

So what is this “Heaven” we have been talking about? It is almost a given that we all want to go there, that we believe some of our friends and relatives are already there, but where is it exactly and what is it like.

The answer to the first question—where Heaven is—I really don’t know. “Up there somewhere” is the best answer I have. I don’t know the answer to the second question either, of course, but I do have some theories.

I once had a dream that I was walking down a paved road talking to someone. I did not know this person, nor do I recall what we were talking about. We were just walking and talking, that’s all I remember. But I knew I was in Heaven. While most dreams fade when you wake up, this one remained with me all day because of the mystery it represented. Why did I think I was in Heaven? What was “heavenly” about walking down a road? I finally realized the answer to that question. It’s because I didn’t have a care in the world. I had absolutely no problems at all. I wasn’t worried about even the tiniest little thing.

This is certainly not true of our earthly life, is it? It’s always something. Sometimes it’s just a few little somethings, sometimes it is a major something, but it is always something. In fact, it is almost impossible to comprehend a world in which there are no problems whatsoever. But that is what I think Heaven will be like. We won’t have any problems at all, we won’t be worried about anything, our present will be problem-free and we will know that the future will be that way also.

So this is the first aspect of what I think life will be like when we get to Heaven: We will have no problems whatsoever; we won’t have to cope with anything. The second aspect of Heaven (I believe) is that it will be perfect for each individual, that somehow, someway, Heaven will look different to each of us. I love big cities. I love the tall buildings, the hustle and bustle, the throng of people on the sidewalks. Heaven for me would be living in Manhattan. My daughter hates big cities. Heaven for her would be living on a prairie. Now, if my theory is correct, when I die and (hopefully) go to Heaven, I will look around and say “Wow, I am in a beautifully clean, crime-free Manhattan.” Years later, my daughter will join me…but she will not feel like this is Heaven at all. How can that be?

I think it goes back to the Bible verse where Jesus talks about Heaven having many mansions, that He has already prepared a room for us. The implication here is that Heaven is not one gigantic place but rather a multitude of places, “rooms” in a “mansion.” Each of us will have our own room, one that is just perfect for us. Each of us will have our own little bit of Heaven.

Note that Jesus speaks of Heaven as an actual place, not simply a state of mind. Heaven (one could interpret from this passage) is not populated by amorphous “spirits”, but rather bodies that require a “room”, a place to “be.” Heaven will be comprised of matter. There will be things there—buildings, trees, roads, etc. Before you dismiss this concept out of hand, recall what C.S. Lewis said:  God likes matter; he invented it. It’s really not that big of a stretch to assume that he invented matter for Heaven also, that Heaven is comprised of “things” just the way this world is.

The third (and most important) aspect of what I think Heaven will be like is that we will feel the presence of God all the time, something few of us do here on earth. God’s presence here, of course, is always with us, but most of us don’t feel it every minute of every day, nor do we feel it to the degree that we will feel it in Heaven. This world, like the poet said is “too much with us;” earthly concerns continually intrude on our “God time.” In Heaven, it will always be God time – we can see His face, be in His presence, whenever we want.

And this, I believe, is a description of Heaven that all can agree on: Heaven is where God is.


2 Responses to “Heaven”

  1. […] “Heaven” is the third essay contributed by Deborah L. Reed. She currently resides in a small bedroom community in Central Texas with her daughter, grandson, and two dogs. She has had over twenty short stories published, one of which, ”Leah and Her Stuffed House,” has been nominated for a 2011 Pushcart Prize. […]

  2. […] Deborah Reed has contributed her third essay to LiturgicalCredo. In “Heaven,” Reed gives a fresh reiteration of the old Christian view of Heaven, and then speculates about what Heaven might be like once we’re there. Read “Heaven” here. […]

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