In heaven we will have new, perfect, physical bodies that can be tangibly nourished by the perfect feast that God has in store. For my non-Christian friend, hearing this seemed like a missing puzzle piece in making sense of eternal life. Never before had she conceived of eternal life as a tangible, physical reality and it seemed to help her make sense of heaven as something that is real and good and desirable.
Do your friends know the goodness of the Christian hope? Do you?
Recently I was talking to one of my most biblically informed non-Christian friends about life, the world, human nature and God, when she told me “I don’t want eternal life”.
I was taken aback. If anything, I was expecting to hear “Heaven isn’t real” or “I can’t conceive of eternal life”. Not “I don’t want it”.
It turned out she was imagining that heaven would merely be a prolonged version of this life. She saw her elderly relatives who had lived well but were now tired of their earthly existence and ready for it to end. If eternal life was more of the same—if it was tiring, wearisome and ultimately tedious—she would rather just cease to exist than live eternally.
How many people are like my friend? Not necessarily philosophically opposed to the idea of heaven, but certainly not eager for it—because they have never heard about the sheer goodness of our Christian hope. In ten years of friendship, and in a number of gospel conversations (this friend doesn’t shy away from talking about spiritual things), I had somehow missed sharing this all-important aspect of the Christian faith: eternal life will be amazing.
The Bible provides multiple images of eternal life in order to help us make sense of a reality that is good beyond our imagining—from a beautiful and holy city (Rev 21) to a place of peace among all creation (Isa 11:6, 2:4). But in that conversation with my friend, I settled on describing the great banquet that will take place in heaven. That image came to mind quickly because just a few days before that conversation I’d been at a wedding that had given me a taste of that great banquet and whetted my appetite for eternal life in God’s new creation.