When someone we love dies, it comforts us to think of them transitioning into eternity. We refer to the people with whom they’ve reunited, the antics they might be up to, the favorite foods they are enjoying with no guilt, the birthdays they celebrate, and so on. I understand the need to comfort ourselves, yet at what cost? Is our comfort the goal? It’s certainly not our loved ones’ comfort.
While we do not have the power to limit heaven, we certainly limit the scope of how we perceive it. We use the expression “heaven on earth” to describe a very enjoyable experience or location even though, of course, the experience or location has little to do with the realities of heaven. Perhaps we should start being honest with ourselves and use an expression “earth in heaven” to describe what we’re projecting onto our loved ones’ experiences and our own comfort.
What difference does it make? I’m not sure. Perhaps the impact is minimal. We may know heaven is a lot more than an extension and enhancement of life on earth, but what if we don’t? There’s a lot about heaven we don’t know, but based on Scripture, I’m fairly certain it has little to do with what our life on earth has been. The problem is we’ve experienced our highs here on earth. We have our favorites. When we think about living forever in heaven, we take the best of what we have here on earth and imagine taking it with us—even though we say we can’t take it with us. We leave all our material stuff behind. What is ahead is better. We leave what we need to live on earth behind. What is ahead is better. And what about people and relationships? Well, if you dig into Scriptures, while not specific explanations, there are indicators we will know and understand others more fully and that there will be community. But will the specific relationships we have on earth carry into heaven? I don’t know that we can assume or refute it. But just as heaven is purer in every other aspect, we can safely trust we leave a lot behind but only in store for better—better than the best of what we’ve experienced here on earth.
We’re not going into an eternal retirement community. Eternity is now and forever, and it is absolutely steeped in purpose.