“Look, the days are coming – this is the Lord’s declaration – when the plowman will overtake the reaper and the one who treads grapes, the sower of seed. The mountains will drip with sweet wine, and all the hills will flow with it.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Modern imaginings of Heaven – especially in cartoons – are generally terrible. The common caricature is that we will be sitting in the clouds with wings and harps and halos doing…nothing. That doesn’t sound like an exciting place I long to spend eternity. It sounds like a boring waste of time. I’ll take the fun of sin and whatever bit of torment Hell offers over that, thank you very much. At least, that’s how the all-too-often and totally understandable reaction to that image goes. The devil got a win when he inspired that vision. Yet this vision is nowhere found in the pages of Scripture. Let’s talk about what we do see and why it is so much better.
I want you to imagine with me for just a minute a time when you were working really hard at something, but it was something that you really enjoyed doing. Imagine that you finished the task, whatever it was, and you felt good. You felt refreshed by it. You were tired, but it was a good tired. And it was the kind of tired that if you had to get started doing whatever it was again, after only a little bit of rest, you would be ready to go. What is it that you are doing?
Now, imagine that you could spend your entire life doing work like that. I don’t mean necessarily doing that same thing over and over again, but doing work that filled you up and left you totally satisfied. Does that sound pretty good? Now, imagine you could spend all of eternity pursuing that kind of work – work that made you feel good, and which made the world a better place. I don’t know about you, but that sounds a whole lot more like the kind of eternity I would like to enjoy than the cartoonish caricature we often see nowadays.
When you survey the various pictures of eternity in the Scriptures, they are fairly scant on details. We don’t know what it is going to be like. But as you read closely, a few things do start to emerge. For starters, we won’t be in the clouds. We are going to be here on earth, but it will be totally renewed and restored. Sin will be removed from the equation entirely. We won’t do it. We won’t struggle with it. The people around us won’t be involved with it. Temptation will be gone. Everything will finally be like God designed it to be in the beginning.
Another important detail is that all the futility of sin will be gone. No longer will we experience starting something that we can’t ever finish because of a lack of time or because someone else got in our way or even from a lack of knowledge. If we have something we need to learn (for there is no indication we will somehow automatically know everything in Heaven), we’ll have all the time in the world – literally – to learn it and then to apply it in some creative, God-honoring way.
Speaking of applying our knowledge in a God-honoring way, work is going to be a part of eternity in God’s kingdom. He made us to work from the beginning. We won’t be workaholics. There won’t be futility to our work. But we will have work to do. It will be that kind of good, satisfying work we were just talking about a second ago. We will be working, God will be helping us, and every single project we ever dreamed of ourselves doing, but couldn’t imagine how we could do it, we will be able to do and do to a God-glorifying perfection.
One more feature of Heaven worth mentioning here is the one Amos introduces in this verse. Heaven will be a place of utter abundance. There will be no lack or need anywhere. The lavish abundance of our God will supply all our needs. But this won’t be an abundance that leads us to a familiarity-fueled contempt. It will be an abundance we receive and celebrate with gratitude. We will reap the abundance of His provision with gratitude, share it gladly with everyone around us, and no one will ever go without. As Amos describes here, the one planting will catch up with the one harvesting. Why? Because there will be so much to harvest that by the time we bring it all in, it will already be time to plant again. But lest your mind start to take that idea and wander back down the path of futility and frustration, Amos’s imagery here isn’t intended to be literal. It is simply a picture of this incredible abundance.
This all sounds like the kind of place I want to be. Forever. And I would love to have you there with me. There we will be able to enjoy giving glory to God without anything standing in our way. We will finally and fully become who He designed us to be. All our broken places will be restored. Our bent places will be straightened. Our selfish desires will be removed. We will be able to relate with one another and with our heavenly Father in perfect righteousness. Oh, and we’re not going to be angels or receive wings. It drives me absolutely crazy when I see or hear someone express that a recently deceased loved one has “received their wings,” or that “heaven has another angel.” Those ideas are completely unbiblical and are only ever expressed by people who don’t really have any idea what Heaven is really going to be like. We are human beings, created uniquely in the image of God. If God had wanted to make us angels, He would have made us angels. He made us people and people is what we will be. In God’s kingdom we won’t become something other than we are to be perfected in His image. We will become what He designed us to be in the beginning. I’m looking forward to being fully me, not being an angel. So should you be.
False thinking about Heaven abounds in our culture. We find it all too frequently in the church. This kind of thinking actually points people away from Jesus, so we do well to identify it and correct it every chance we get. We do well to make sure we don’t have any of it shaping our own thinking. We have an eternity with Christ waiting for us when the time for this world comes to an end. To borrow a line from the wonderful musical husband-and-wife duo, The Gray Havens, we’re “not sure what it means, but it’ll be better than we ever dreamed.” Let’s live toward that day and start enjoying its firstfruits here and now. We can do that in Christ. I hope you will.
And, just for fun, here’s the song that line comes from. It’s a song about losing someone you love, but who died in Christ. For a sad occasion, this song perfectly orients us toward the joy and hope that we have in knowing the truth of eternity found in Christ. I can’t think of another song that better obeys Paul’s admonition to the Thessalonian believers to not grieve as those who have no hope. Enjoy.