Unfamiliar Territory

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When my parents announced to us that we were going to Taiwan, my first thought was we were going to have to get a Teepee and a tomahawk. I thought missionary girls probably sat around making beaded necklaces when they didn’t have to be grinding grain for their mothers. I really wasn’t sure my dad would be very good at hunting buffalo, but I was willing to learn. I thought it could be fun. Not the my-brother-in-a-loin-cloth part, but outside of that….

As the plane descended over Taipei’s airspace, I was a bit surprised. Taiwan was what the natives called a “concrete jungle”.  Taiwan is just a bit larger than Maryland. pproAximately 20,000,000 people lived on the island, and most of them crammed around the coastline as the mountains afford a lot of unlivable terrain. Taiwan is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Apartments stacked to the sky; Taiwan was a far cry from what I expected.

Apparently, I wasn’t what they expected either. Taiwanese modeling companies often hired American kids to model for them. After I was there for a year, one of these modeling gigs presented itself. My brother and I were accepted to model a new line of clothing they were promoting. When they thought of American cultures and what American kids would like to wear the result was pretty hilarious. I was a bit disappointed when I realized what their idea of American fashion was.  Did they get these ideas of American styles from movies? Who wore this stuff?

I had some preconceived notions about Taiwan, and their perception of American culture was not quite accurate either. Without either of us having the opportunity to experience the other, we both adopted a notion that was not reality.  

In scripture we have some vague descriptions of heaven, but as with my experience in Taiwan, we can’t really understand it till we get there. I did a deep dive this week trying to organize scriptures talking about heaven versus which scriptures talk about the church, and frankly I drove my husband crazy asking him millions of questions.  Especially if we read Revelation and get caught up between the terms “My Father’s House” “New Jerusalem” “Heaven” And “The Kingdom of Heaven”. I was chasing my tail around trying to understand promises made to Christians on earth and promises made in eternity.

The conclusions I have drawn is this:

In scripture we have some vague ideas of what we think heaven is going to be like, but we can’t really understand it till we get there. Most of the songs we sing about heaven are found in Revelation 21. The pearly gates, the street of gold and the Sea of glass. The pearly gates, and streets of gold are described as a part of New Jerusalem which descends from heaven or out of heaven. This makes sense if we understand it through the framework of the church. This passage is talking about what we have right now, in the church. The apostles were not foundations of heaven but rather the church. The Jewish faith (which the pearly gates represent) is the gate through which we received the church. Ephesians 2:20

That was just a bone for those cynical types, who like to slash long-standing myths we have all thought were true for so many years. (I am one of those)

The song says, “I can’t get to heaven on roller skates, because I’ll roll right past those pearly gates.” And so there you have it! Pearly gates are not in heaven, they conflict with scripture.

We often so extremely anticipate the glory of heaven; we might be missing the majesty of the church. The Israelites spent their whole life waiting for the Messiah, now the Messiah has come! Often, we look back and wish we could ask Elijah what it was like to be on Mt. Carmel, or we wish we could have walked through the Red Sea. However, they look to you, and wonder what it would be like to be a part of the “Kingdom of Heaven” “The Bride of Christ”, They would have liked to ask you what it is like to live in the age of the church.

Now, about the promise of heaven, there are a few things we can know.

He is preparing a place for us, John 14:2

God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. John 7:15-17

Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord. 1Thessalonians 4:17

 We can’t comprehend what it will be like to be in the presence of God. To see his face and to fall and worship Him for eternity. As the saying goes “You would have to just be there”.