What Makes Heaven Heaven?
When I was a Pentecostal, my understanding of heaven was shaped by those who had claimed to have visited, such as Roberts Liardon in his book I Saw Heaven. His book reads like a child’s visit to Disneyland, with magical creatures (". . . it seemed as if they were talking among themselves"), water fights with Jesus in the River of Life ("He dunked me! I got back up and splashed Him, and we had a water fight"), and our own personal mansions filled with gadgets too advanced for earth ("I sat down on a black velvet couch - it was alive - and comfort just reached up and cuddled me").
According to Liardon, heaven is a place where the Trinity has an office ("Sometimes when the Trinity are inside having conferences in the back . . ."), where there's a warehouse of unclaimed miracles ("On one side of the building were arms, fingers, and other exterior parts of the body"), and where there’s a Pentecostal-style worship service where-in Jesus is but a spectator ("Jesus and I were met by two angels who escorted us down to the second row, were two seats were reserved for us"). Indeed, like the rest of Pentecostalism, heaven is man-centered, and Christ is but an appendage.
Christ: The Glory of Heaven
To the contrary of Mr. Liardon’s “vision,” heaven isn’t a place dedicated to our pleasures and comfort, where Christ is a mere means to an end. Instead, it’s all about Christ and His glory--He is the center of all things, and worshiping and serving Him is our chief end (Rev. 5:9–14). This will be our privilege for all eternity.
Heaven is heaven because Christ is there, and He is there in the same glory that caused the apostle John to fall to the ground as dead (Rev. 1:17). Not a buddy to play with, but a king with a “name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9–11).
Dwight L. Moody once told the story of a girl whose mother became very ill. Neighbors took the girl in while her mother struggled with the affliction. After a time, however, the mother died. The neighbors didn’t know how to break the news to the girl, so they kept it from her. After the funeral was over, they returned the girl to her home. From room-to-room the girl ran looking for her mother until she finally asked, “Where is my momma?” After learning that her mother was gone, the little girl asked to go back to the neighbors’ home, for her own home had no further attraction without her mother. Moody concluded, “No, it is not the jasper walls and the pearly gates that are going to make heaven attractive. It is the being with God.”