I’ve been thinking about heaven again – mostly because because it’s been the subject of recent small house groups at church lately I suppose. Anyway have a look at this verse from Revelation 6:
9When the Lamb opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been killed because they were faithful to the word of God and to the message they had received.10 These souls shouted in a loud voice, “Holy and true Lord, how long until you judge the people of the earth and punish them for killing us?” 11 Then each one of them was given a white robe and was told to wait a short time longer. There were still some of their fellow servants and brothers and sisters in the service of Christ who must be killed as they were. They had to wait until all of this was finished. ( Revelation 6:9-11 NCV )
The souls under the altar there clearly remember what they had to endure to get to heaven – including the painful stuff. This seems to be in conflict with the concept that all the tears in Heaven will be wiped away, there’ll be no more pain and no hurting. This vision of paradise could be somewhat marred by the thought that in the afterlife we’ll not forget the stuff we had to go through here on earth. Most of use would probably be content with just remembering the happy times wouldn’t we?
Or would we?
It strikes me that we need to remember the pain in order to give some point of reference to the good times. A glorious sunset is made even more glorious when comparing it to a dark grey and dismal drizzle from the day before. Even a simple meal can seem wonderful when it comes after a period of starvation. Similarly wouldn’t the joy of heaven would be made greater by the memory of what was endured on earth. Of course it’s true that such memories could bring anger, bitterness or remorse but we need to also remember that – in the case of the first two at least – such emotions are not heaven. As for the remorse, yes it’s possible that along with the painful memories of what happened to us will be the memories of the times we were less than humane, less than faithful or generally missed the mark when it came to our relationship with God and our fellow humans.
This is where the tear wiping could come into it. It’s also worth remembering that – no matter how hard we find it now – it’s much easier to believe in our forgiveness when we are being told – face to face – by the one who is forgiving us. When the hand that wipes your tears also contains the wounds that heal you, its harder to ignore or forget. Of course many times we are more than able to enjoy that forgiveness here, on earth. Sometimes we all struggle though and I find it comforting to know that it won’t always be that way.
Hope is a wonderful thing – don’t you think?