Reformed Articles

Is heaven like death?

This post was originally published on this site
The father I had once known and loved was now vaporized, leaving behind a few pounds of ashen remains. Resurrection means that these few pounds of ash are not the final chapter. On the contrary, they merely conclude the prologue of a never-ending story. 

Does this mean Rauser denies the intermediate state? Is he a physicalist who believes we pass into oblivion at the moment of death?                                                                                            
There is not much more to the story though. Perpetual bliss in Heaven, with no needs/wants/aspirations/dreams/sense of time/etc, is not much different than being dead, dead.

1. I wonder how representative that is what unbelievers think the doctrine of heaven amounts to. To begin with, it fails to distinguish between the intermediate state (heaven) and the final state (new earth). 

2. But for now let’s focus on heaven. Of course, what we think heaven is like is bound to be somewhat speculative, but we can piece together some things from Scripture along with analogies in human experience.  

i) I have no reason to think we have no sense of time in heaven, although the sense of time’s passage might be different. There’s a difference between physical time and psychological time. Time seems to operate at a different rate when we dream. Likewise, when we’re bored, time drags. On other occasions, time flies. Mountain climbers who’ve survived falling say they saw their entire life pass before their eyes in a matter of moments. 

ii) I don’t know if he means “dreams” in the literal sense or a metaphor for goals. If we dream because the body needs to sleep, then we won’t dream in heaven. But I view heaven itself as a kind of inspired collective dream. As if God is the dreamer and we’re conscious dream characters who interact with each other. And like a dream, it isn’t subject to what’s physically possible, so heaven might be liberating in the surreal sense that you can experience things in heaven that you can’t experience in a corporeal, earthly existence. 

iii) To say we have no wants in heaven is ambiguous. You can have no wants in the sense that you can have whatever you want. That doesn’t mean you have no wants. It means that if you want something, it’s available. 

Likewise, we can still need things. The point is that our needs will be supplied. We won’t go without. 

To take a mundane example, an icy drink is more enjoyable if you’re thirsty. A hot shower is more enjoyable if you’re feeling chilly. 

A lot of pleasures involve a temporary gap between desire and the satisfaction of desire. Some kinds of happiness have that paradoxical aspect. Not having it initially is what makes it enjoyable. 

iv) There’s no reason to think we can’t or won’t have aspirations in heaven. Indeed, heaven is where many frustrated aspirations will finally realized. A chance to make up for lost opportunities in this life. A chance to explore things we missed out on in this life. Endless adventure. A chance to revisit favorite moments from the past.     

Of course, these will be holy aspirations. In heaven we’ll realize that some of our aspirations in life were unworthy. In heaven we will want what we ought to want. And that will be more fulfilling.