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Describing Heaven’s Riches

In an issue of CT magazine, author Jen Wilkin writes of the difficulty in describing the glory of heaven:

I am a competitive game player. A few years ago at a party, the host brought out Pictionary for the evening’s entertainment. Ready to wow the room with my skills, I glanced at the word on my card: “Difficult.” I had played Pictionary for years and had never had a word that hard. My mind went blank.

Nothing seemed to rhyme with it or illustrate it. The timer ran out, and in utter frustration I said, “How ironic that my word was ‘difficult’!” Holding up the card as proof, I realized I had accidentally drawn not a card for game play but the instruction card listing each of the categories for different words. Difficult, indeed. I spent 60 seconds trying to illustrate an abstract idea, trying to draw the undrawable.

My dilemma made me think of the Book of Revelation. John, in describing the new heaven and the new earth, is playing the hardest round of Pictionary known to man—he is called upon to describe the indescribable. Talk about difficult. He writes “The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone,” (Rev. 21:18–19).

At first glance, it seems that streets made of gold are meant to stir our excitement to live in a place where opulence abounds at every level. But John’s description of heaven takes things we esteem the highest in this life and reduces them to the level of commonplace.

All of these elements—gold, precious stones, crowns—are things that we exalt. These are all the idols of this world. When John determines to describe the indescribable, he turns our human expectations upside down.

Heaven is a first-is-last place where the things we have exalted will be cast down to the level of their real worth: as mere metal and stone. Heaven is a place where precious metals and stones are trodden under foot as common road dust. Where our crowning personal honors are cast at the feet of God. Where the people and objects and institutions to which we have ascribed our worship will fall from their lofty places. It is a place whose inhabitants at last obey the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me.”

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