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Images and Our View of Heaven
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Some things that help us focus on and understand Heaven more clearly are images, or pictures. We humans need earthly things that we know and understand to help us appreciate Heaven better, (Lewis,Glory 107) and images are one of these things. Some people believe that images are not needed for our understanding of Heaven. I believe that images are necessary because our perception of Heaven is better when we have images to help us see Heaven with our finite minds. We as Humans need something like a picture, or image to label a thought with to help us understand and relate to it better. Heaven is all the more understandable when we relate it to earthly things (Lewis, Glory 33) that are in our experience and knowledge, for we can not really understand Heaven any other way. For without images the real things of Heaven can not be encompassed by our minds.
Some skeptics say that we do not need images to understand Heaven. The believe that the promise that born again believers will live there forever one day with Christ is enough. But wouldn't it be nice to be able to truly understand, to the best of our ability given that we have earthly minds, what Heaven will be like? You are going to be there forever, wouldn't you like to understand it as best you could? Even Heaven as it is described in the Bible uses images to feed and fuel our imaginations. In Revelation 21 and 22 John describes Heaven using earthly terminology such as crystal and Jade to describe the River of Life that flows through Heaven, and the great gates of the New Jerusalem. God’s promise that He has given us of Heaven should be enough for us. But we as humans want something that we can see that we can associate with our imaginings. We are not satisfied in just knowing that we will go to Heaven someday, we want to have the images of golden streets and grand mansions to go
through our mind when we hear the word “heaven.” Images may not be necessary to appreciate Heaven, but why should we settle for a bland description? Why only be satisfied in thinking of Heaven as strictly a place we go after we die? Why only settle for a “black and white” knowledge of Heaven when we can use our God-given imaginations to add life and substance to
an already good and wonderful promise. The promise of Heaven is made all the more spectacular when we think of it as being a great place of light, where we can walk on Golden streets with our Savior. I’m sure pictures of these things are going through your mind right now. Now think of what you would see Heaven as without those pictures. It would not seem as special now, would it?
Images that we use for our imaginings of Heaven should be chosen wisely. The reason that some people
discourage the use of images is that they think that we will mess up our view of Heaven with worldly images.
Heaven can never be fully comprehended, so to use earthly images is not wrong, for that is all that we understand. We just need to keep in mind that Heaven will not be exactly like we imagined it, because our minds are earthly. But if we use the images too flippantly, our idea of Heaven may take on a very unappealing “earthly” type feel. to avoid this, the images that we choose, must be chosen carefully, wisely, and used reverently. Also, in order to not
be mislead in our understanding of Heaven, we need to be careful what images we choose to use to heighten our understanding since some of these images are wrong in the fact that Heaven is not always made up of some of the things we use to describe it. Yet the true feeling behind some of these images and what they give, such as joy, is what Heaven is really made of. It is not always this way, for some images can be right, and could actually be in Heaven, what we are imagining can be real in some cases and not just symbolism. (Lewis, Glory 113)
The reason that images are vital to our understanding of Heaven is that we are not to love the world, or anything in it, (I John 2:15) and are not to be conformed to This world (Romans 12:2). And if we are trying to divert our gaze from this earth, and trying not to be citizens of it, then we must be constantly looking toward Heaven. And if we have our gaze set on Heaven, then we are obeying God’s Word. Focusing on Heaven, and Christ helps us not to focus on ourselves and get attached to this world that we are not of. When we have images in our minds, such as golden streets and mansions we tend to think less about our present situation and more about our Heavenly home. We know that this is something that we want, and with the help of images we are all the more eager to see this wonderful place and experience it for ourselves.
Without images or pictures that we can use to dream about Heaven with, we might not care about it as
much as we could. Yes, we have God’s promise, which is more then enough for us, but without something we
relate Heaven to with earthly imaginings, we might soon forget about our true country. We are to keep our eyes fixed on Heaven, and to help us accomplish this, God has given us images.
Lewis, C.S. The Weight of Glory. San Francisco: Harper Collins, 2001
New American Standard Bible. California: Foundation, 1995
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