Heaven for Kids
By RANDY ALCORN LINDA WASHINGTON
Tyndale House Publishers Copyright © 2006 Eternal Perspective Ministries
All right reserved. ISBN: 1-4143-1040-4
Chapter One WHAT CAN WE KNOW ABOUT HEAVEN?
He showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God and sparkled like a precious stone.... The city wall was broad and high.... The twelve gates were made of pearls.... And the main street was pure gold, as clear as glass.... The glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light. The nations will walk in its light. Revelation 21:10-12, 21, 23-24
"I bet there isn't a country like this anywhere in our world. Look at the colours! You couldn't get a blue like the blue on those mountains in our world." "Is it not Aslan's country?" said Tirian.... "Those hills," said Lucy, "the nice woody ones and the blue ones behind-aren't they very like the southern border of Narnia?" "Like!" cried Edmund after a moment's silence. "Why, they're exactly like...." "And yet they're not like," said Lucy.... "They're more ... more ..." "More like the real thing," said the Lord Digory softly. C. S. Lewis, The Last Battle
Is Heaven a real place?
Before I answer that question, let me tell you a story. Starting in AD 1271, an explorer named Marco Polo traveled from his hometown of Venice, Italy, to China and didn't go home fortwenty-four years. Talk about a l-o-o-n-g trip! When he returned to Venice, he described a world that the people of Italy had never seen. Although China was a real place, it was very different from Italy. So Marco Polo had to use word pictures and ideas that people in Venice knew in order to describe what he saw.
In The Travels of Marco Polo, he described the city now called Beijing by saying, "It is walled around with walls of earth.... There are 12 gates, and over each gate there is a great and handsome palace.... All the plots of ground on which the houses of the city are built are four-square, and laid out with straight lines.... Each square plot is surrounded by handsome streets for the traffic. Thus the whole city is arranged in squares just like a chessboard."
Think about what you would do if you were trying to describe a place you've seen but no one else has. You would probably compare that place to other familiar places, saying, "It was like ..." or, "It reminded me of ..." That's what John, one of Jesus' twelve disciples, and other writers of the Bible did to help their readers understand what Heaven is like. They describe Heaven as a garden, a city, a country, a kingdom, and "paradise."
But many people still aren't sure that Heaven is a real place. They even believe people in Heaven are ghosts floatin on clouds. The Bible tells us that Heaven is a real place-just as real as planet Earth. In fact, God calls the place we'll live forever the "New Earth."
We're human beings. We're not made to live as ghosts in a ghostly place-especially on clouds! (No one can live on a cloud anyway. If you've fl own in an airplane, you've seen clouds up close. They're made of water!)
If we know Jesus, we will enter Heaven when we die. And some time after Jesus comes back to Earth, God promises he will bring us to live on the New Earth-a world with ground, trees, and water: "Look! I am creating new heavens and a new earth, and no one will even think about the old ones anymore" (Isaiah 65:17).
This place will be beautiful beyond our wildest imagination. (But that doesn't mean we shouldn't use our imaginations when we think about it now!)
Where do we get our ideas about Heaven?
What would you call someone who lies to you, steals from you, and is mean to you all the time? You'd call that person an enemy. (No, this isn't a description of your cousin or the kid who keeps annoying you at school.)
As you may know, Christians have an enemy. He goes by different names: Lucifer, Satan, and the devil.
In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the White Witch is like the devil.
"She is a perfectly terrible person," said Lucy. "She calls herself the Queen of Narnia though she has no right to be queen at all.... And she can turn people into stone and do all kinds of horrible things. And she has made a magic so that it is always winter in Narnia-always winter, but it never gets to Christmas."
Maybe you like winter. I do. But not one that lasts a hundred years! That's how long it has been winter in Narnia because of the Witch's spell. Most creatures have never seen another season. I'd hate to have winter without Christmas, wouldn't you? That's the best part about winter. But Satan doesn't want us to believe in Jesus or think about him. Just like the White Witch doesn't want anyone to believe in Aslan or think about him.
(By the way, in some stories, like The Wizard of Oz, white witches are good. But in Narnia the white in "White Witch" represents the coldness and death of sin. In fact, there is no such thing as a good witch in Narnia ... or in the Bible. Deuteronomy 18:10-14 is a warning against witchcraft, fortune-telling, sorcery, omens, mediums, psychics, and anyone attempting to talk to the dead. God wants you to stay away from those things, including Ouija boards and tarot cards, because he hates them. If friends try to talk you into these things, you need to tell them no and talk to your parents, and maybe even find other friends.)
The White Witch is always lying. If you've read the book or seen the movie, you'll remember how she lies to Edmund and makes him think she is going to be nice to him. And she tries to get him to betray his brother and sisters. The Witch lies about Aslan. In the same way, Satan lies to us about Jesus. And he lies about God's home-Heaven.
Jesus said of the devil, "When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies" (John 8:44, NIV). Some of Satan's favorite lies are about Heaven. He doesn't want you to know what an awesome place it really is! He doesn't want you to love Jesus or go to Heaven or look forward to it.
The devil was thrown out of Heaven for trying to make himself equal with God (Isaiah 14:12-15). He became bitter, not only toward God, but also toward people and Heaven itself. He had tried to take over Heaven but was kicked out. Maybe this sounds like a made-up story, but it's true. The Bible says it really happened.
We're told this about the White Witch: "It was part of her magic that she could make things look like what they aren't." Satan is always doing that. He's always doing it about Heaven, and unfortunately it has worked. He has made Heaven look boring. Satan doesn't need to convince us that Heaven isn't real. He only needs to make us believe that Heaven is a place we wouldn't enjoy. It's like planning a trip to Disney World or some other fun place and being told by a kid who has been permanently banned from there (because he tried to set it on fire or something), "Oh, you'll hate it at Disney World. It's boring."
If we believe what Satan says about Heaven, we won't want to live there or even think about it. But since we know that Satan is really good at telling lies, we should remind ourselves how important it is to look at what the Bible says. Then we can ignore the thoughts Satan puts in our heads about Heaven not being an awesome place to live.
So how can we know what Heaven is like if we've never seen it?
What's your favorite fantasy book? The Hobbit? The Lord of the Rings? A Wrinkle in Time? What's your favorite fantasy series? The Chronicles of Narnia? The Pendragon series? In many fantasy books, you can "see" the world described, because of the author's vivid imagination. Yet places like Middle-earth and Narnia don't really exist. (Don't you wish they did?)
Heaven isn't a fantasy world based on someone's imagination. It's a real place created by God. Yet many people believe it's impossible to know anything about this place.
When I mentioned to a friend I was writing a book on Heaven, he told me, "God's Word says that 'No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.'" (He was quoting a Bible verse, 1 Corinthians 2:9.)
"So what will you be talking about?" he asked. "We can't really know what God has prepared for us in Heaven."
Maybe you've thought about the same thing. How can we know anything about Heaven-a place we can't see? It's this simple: God tells us about Heaven in the Bible. My friend stopped quoting too soon, because verse 10 of 1 Corinthians 2 says this about what we haven't seen or heard: "But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit." So God has revealed unseen things to us in his Word, including things about Heaven.
God doesn't want us to shrug our shoulders as if there is no point in trying to learn about Heaven. Instead, he wants us to pay attention to what the Bible says about this amazing place so we'll look forward to what he has for us.
Of course, there are many things about Heaven we won't know until we get there. That's cool, don't you think? On Earth there are good surprises and bad surprises, but in Heaven God will give us only good surprises. And he has a lot of them waiting for us. I'm looking forward to them. How about you?
If we're good, does that mean we'll go to Heaven someday?
Many people believe that everyone who is good will wind up in Heaven. But the Bible says no one can be good enough to get there. We've all messed up (this is called sin). Like Edmund, who is addicted to the Witch's Turkish Delight in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, we get addicted to sin. It becomes a habit for us to do wrong things to get what we want, even though these things don't satisfy us. ( Just like the Turkish Delight doesn't satisfy Edmund, but he keeps wanting it anyway.)
Because God is so good and does only what's right, he cannot stand sin. The Bible says that "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). Based on that verse, here's how the Narnia book puts it when Edmund sins:
"You have a traitor there, Aslan," said the Witch. Of course everyone present knew that she meant Edmund.... "Have you forgotten the Deep Magic?" asked the Witch. "Let us say I have forgotten it," answered Aslan gravely. "Tell us of this Deep Magic."
"Tell you?" said the Witch, her voice growing suddenly shriller. "Tell you what is written on that very Table of Stone which stands beside us? ... You at least know the Magic which the Emperor put into Narnia at the very beginning. You know that every traitor belongs to me as my lawful prey and that for every treachery I have a right to a kill."
Every sinner deserves to die, and we are all sinners. When you read about Edmund or watch the movie, remind yourself that he isn't the only one who deserves to die for his sins. We all do.
One of the good creatures of Narnia challenges the Witch and her followers to a fight, to keep them from killing Edmund for his sin. Here is the Witch's response, followed by Aslan's:
"Fool," said the Witch with a savage smile that was almost a snarl, "do you really think your master can rob me of my rights by mere force? He knows the Deep Magic better than that. He knows that unless I have blood as the Law says, all Narnia will be overturned and perish in fire and water."
"It is very true," said Aslan, "I do not deny it."
The Bible tells us something very much like this in Hebrews 9:22: "According to the law of Moses ... without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness."
The magic written on the Stone Table is the same as the law of God written on the stone tablets given to Moses. Unless someone who is pure and righteous sheds blood, no forgiveness for sins may be granted and no one may go to Heaven. This is not the devil's idea, just as it is not the White Witch's. It is God's holy character that requires it.
After hearing that Edmund has to die for his sins, his sister Lucy asks Aslan, "Can anything be done to save Edmund?"
Aslan's response is powerful: "All shall be done. ... But it may be harder than you think." Then Aslan becomes very sad. Why? He knows the terrible suffering and death that await him. It is the only way to save Edmund.
Jesus experienced this very thing in the garden of Gethsemane. He told his disciples, "My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me" (Matthew 26:38).
Those serving the White Witch roll Aslan over on his back and tie his paws together, cheering as though they're being brave. Lewis adds, "Had the Lion chosen, one of those paws could have been the death of them all." Jesus said when he was arrested that he could have called on God, his Father in Heaven, to send over 72,000 angels for his protection (Matthew 26:53).
If you had the power to do that, wouldn't you have called on those angels in a heartbeat? I would have. But Jesus didn't. That's how much he loves us-because, remember, he went to the cross to save us.
Aslan makes no noise, just as Jesus didn't (Matthew 26:63). Even though Aslan's enemies tighten the cords so they cut into his flesh, he doesn't fight them.
The soldiers who held Jesus mocked him and hit him (Luke 22:63). In the same way, the Witch orders that Aslan, their rightful king, be shaved. They cut off his beautiful mane, then mock him, saying, "How many mice have you caught today, Cat?"
Aslan is willing to give his life for Edmund in the story. Jesus went to the cross to die for us, not just in a story, but in actual history. And he loves each of us enough that he would have died for us even if you or I were the only one who needed him.
Do you feel like thanking him for loving you that much? Go ahead. You can do it right now....
Fortunately, the story didn't end with Christ's death. He came back to life in his same body. (This is what is called the "Resurrection.") His resurrection is very important to our Christian faith. And it's the key that unlocks our understanding of Heaven and what it will be like.
Will we have real bodies in Heaven?
To understand what the Heaven we'll live in is like, it's necessary to understand what we will be like.
Fish don't live on land; they live in water. People don't live in doghouses or in gerbil cages. Your bedroom wasn't made for an elephant to sleep in-especially not on the top bunk.
Since Christ promised he is preparing a place for us, we should expect Heaven to be perfectly suited to the kind of people we'll be.
Good news. The Bible tells us what we will be like when we live in Heaven forever. After Jesus returns, God will put back together the bodies of his people who died, even thousands of years earlier, and make them into strong and healthy bodies. Our bodies will be like Christ's body after he rose from the dead. The Bible says Jesus will change our bodies "into glorious bodies like his own" (Philippians 3:21).
So by knowing what Christ's resurrection body was like, we know what ours will be like. The risen Christ said to his followers, "Look at my hands. Look at my feet. You can see that it's really me. Touch me and make sure that I am not a ghost, because ghosts don't have bodies, as you see that I do" (Luke 24:39). Jesus had a physical body people could touch and see. He ate with his disciples and walked on Earth. We'll do those things on the New Earth.
In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, after Aslan is killed, he comes back to life and tells the children just what the risen Jesus told his disciples.
"Aren't you dead then, dear Aslan?" said Lucy. "Not now," said Aslan. "You're not-not a-?" asked Susan in a shaky voice. She couldn't bring herself to say the word ghost. Aslan stooped his golden head and licked her forehead. The warmth of his breath and a rich sort of smell that seemed to hang about his hair came all over her. "Do I look it?" he said. "Oh, you're real, you're real! Oh, Aslan!" cried Lucy, and both girls flung themselves upon him and covered him with kisses.
You can imagine how glad the children are that Aslan has come back to life. That should help you envision how glad the disciples were when Jesus came back to life! They could hardly believe it.
Aslan is a picture of Jesus, the true Son of the Great Emperor, God the Father. And Aslan dying for Edmund's sins is a picture of Jesus dying for all our sins. Aslan coming back to life is a picture of Jesus' resurrection.
Excerpted from Heaven for Kids by RANDY ALCORN LINDA WASHINGTON Copyright © 2006 by Eternal Perspective Ministries. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.