I wanted heaven, but I didn’t want the gold
Weeks like this one, I’m happy when they’re over. In this kind of week I don’t get rest. And there’s disappointments and failures. And life’s overwhelming and relationships seem impossible. This isn’t a breakdown, this week is just the slow ache of living that sometimes happens.
Weeks like this one, I don’t want to be here. I would really rather be in paradise because my life is so far from it. I would really rather have rest and peace and love and satisfaction and beauty and joy because all those things can seem so fleeting now.
Heaven. That’s the word that a lot of people use for paradise, that’s what the Christian scriptures call it. There are a lot of songs written that sing about what heaven will be like. They talk a lot about rest and peace and forgiveness and love and healing. They talk about reuniting with people and seeing God.
Heaven is a Place on Earth
According to the Christian Bible all of those things are true about heaven. But, if you look at the longest, most detailed description of heaven in the Bible (Revelation 21–22:5), it spends its time a lot differently than we do.
One of the first things that the Bible says (Revelation 21:2) is that heaven will come down to earth. Heaven will be a place on earth. Then it talks about seeing God and there being no more sadness or pain. But, most of the time is spent talking about how heaven is physical. I never think about that, I never sing about that. But the Bible talks about that a lot.
While talking about the physicalness of heaven, the Bible then spends a lot of time talking about the riches in heaven. When I think about heaven, I don’t usually think of physical things and I certainly don’t think of riches. The pain that I sometimes have in living life everyday isn’t because I’m not rich, so my longing for paradise never includes longing for riches.
But the description of the riches in heaven isn’t just a little beyond what I have. It’s over the top extravagance. It’s grandiose, perhaps even ostentatious. There are descriptions like this:
The city’s wall is made of jasper and the city is pure gold, like transparent glass. The foundations of the city’s wall are decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation is jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. And the twelve gates are twelve pearls — each one of the gates is made from just one pearl! The main street of the city is pure gold, like transparent glass.
>< Revelation 21:18–21 NET
This is a description of the heavenly city, the new Jerusalem, the dwelling place of God and of Man. But, even in this context, this city isn’t ordinary.
The City, a Wedding Dress
The Bible often uses the language of marriage to describe God’s relationship with his people. According to the Bible, the marriage happens in heaven. If you look at the 21st chapter of Revelation, you see that this city is like a wedding dress. Our wedding dress.
And I saw the holy city — the new Jerusalem — descending out of heaven from God, made ready like a bride adorned for her husband. …Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven final plagues came and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb!” So he took me away in the Spirit to a huge, majestic mountain and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God. The city possesses the glory of God; its brilliance is like a precious jewel, like a stone of crystal-clear jasper.
>< Revelation 21:2,9–11 NET
This helps me with perspective. At times, when a girl wears a dress, it’s possible for her to be too fancy for the occasion. Unless it’s her wedding day. Wedding dresses are meant to be spectacular because the marriage covenant is spectacular. The spectacle of a wedding dress is about the beautiful spectacle of the covenant of love in marriage. The rich spectacle of the new Jerusalem is about the beautiful spectacle of the covenant God made with us. And it’s over the top extravagance because that’s the kind of covenant God made with us. That’s how God loves us.
Wedding Symbols & Treasured People
Around the world & throughout history, not all wedding dresses look the same, but they are all symbols of something. So this city means something beyond it’s jewels.
Revelation 21:11 says “the city possesses the glory of God; its brilliance is like a precious jewel, like a stone of crystal-clear jasper.” From this it may be unclear if the city actually contains jewels or if those are just ways that the author is trying to describe what he sees. But, we can be sure of this. The jewels are about the glory of God. If you are Christian, according to the Bible, at least part of that glory will be you.
The Glory of Purity
In the Bible, there’s a passage that’s very famous for talking about how a husband should treat his wife. It is useful for that. But, this passage talks about heaven.
Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her to sanctify her by cleansing her with the washing of the water by the word, so that he may present the church to himself as glorious — not having a stain or wrinkle, or any such blemish, but holy and blameless.
>< Ephesians 5:25–27 NET
Right now, we can all be blamed for something. We all have blemishes—in our character, in our personalities, on our faces. From time to time, we all find these things disappointing. Even to the point of distress and tears. We are not who we want to be, we’re not who we ought to be. Even with all our effort, we’re not.
The glory of God is that he can make us that way, he’s strong enough. He is making us that way and he will finish. And when he’s done, we will be glorious to him. And that glory will be in heaven.
In Revelation when it says the gold is “like transparent glass” it’s actually talking about something clean, something of the highest purity. It’s talking about something without blemishes and without stains. It’s talking about what you, Christian, will be like.
This helps to understand the meaning of the purity of the material found in heaven. But, this material isn’t just pure, it’s supremely valuable.
God’s Glorious Treasure
There’s something about heaven that’s not just glorious, it’s also treasured.
I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you spiritual wisdom and revelation in your growing knowledge of him,—since the eyes of your heart have been enlightened—so that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what is the wealth of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
>< Ephesians 1:17–18 NET
This passage implies that God’s going to feel rich in heaven because you, Christian, are there. Sure there will be gold there, but you are a treasure.
I Throw My Trash on the Street
In the beginning, after God created everything and it was perfect, he said that everything was very good.
But then sin came in and at some point we decided that some things weren’t very good. At some point we decided that some things weren’t valuable and so we threw them out on the streets like trash. At some point we decided that some people weren’t valuable and we threw them out like trash.
But in heaven even the streets are gold. And even if you’re rich, you don’t put trash on gold. From this I can’t help but think that there’s no trash in heaven. Nothing is anyone’s trash in heaven. No one is anyone’s trash in heaven. Everything is valuable. Everyone is valuable.
In heaven the streets aren’t for trash, they’re precious. Because they’re the foot paths of the treasures of God. They’re where you’re going to walk.
Golden streets sound over the top. Golden streets may not be what you think about when you think about paradise. But golden streets mean that you are valuable to God and you are loved by God.