BY: Deacon Tom Luley
Mark Twain, one of America’s best-loved authors, wrote The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn 133 years ago. This marvelously entertaining book has been justly criticized for its incorporation of racist terms, but I’d like to add another criticism here—for its promulgation of errant views about heaven. Perhaps even more so today, mistaken beliefs about heaven persist. Only Biblical truth can correct that!
Huck Finn would say to both of these charges, “I didn’t mean no harm.” But what could be more important than our eternal destination? So, let’s take a look at Huck Finn’s version and the Biblical version. First, check out this humorous passage from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, in which Huck describes an interaction with the prudish Miss Watson:
“Then she told me all about the bad place, and I said I wished I was there. She got mad then, but I didn’t mean no harm. All I wanted was to go somewheres; all I wanted was a change, I warn’t particular. She said it was wicked to say what I said, said she wouldn’t say it for the whole world; she was going to live so as to go to the good place. Well, I couldn’t see no advantage in going where she was going, so I made up my mind I wouldn’t try for it. But I never said so, because it would only make trouble, and wouldn’t do no good. Now she had a good start, and went on and told me all about the good place. She said all a body would have to do there was to go around all day long with a harp and sing, forever and ever. So I didn’t think much of it. But I never said so. I asked her if she reckoned Tom Sawyer would go there, and she said, not by a considerable sight. I was glad about that, because I wanted him and me to be together.”
We could say that this is simply an interaction between two fictional characters. What harm is there in that? A current TV show, The Good Place, also includes falsified portrayals of heaven. But here’s the danger: Those not into God’s word don’t recognize that these are fabrications departing a long way from the Gospel truth!
Both Miss Watson and Huckleberry miss the whole point of the Gospel– they think that their eternal destination is determined by their own behavior rather than by the redeeming blood of Christ. Miss Watson was “Going to live so as to go to the good place,” while Huck said, “I made up my mind I wouldn’t try for it.” But the Bible explains that our salvation is not earned in Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Acts 4:12 reports that “Salvation is found in no one else (but Jesus).”
Miss Watson describes the good place as a place of endless tedium, with nothing to do but strum a harp and sing forever and ever. Many today hold similar views of a boring eternity spent floating around in the clouds with no gainful activity. The prospect of going to heaven was so unappealing that Huck Finn preferred to go to the bad place rather the good place!
The truth of the matter is that the good place is the best place, and nothing else comes close. The Bible says, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2). But what is above? What does the Bible actually say about the good place?
Commonly held views of the good place describe it as an ethereal, non-physical place where there are no real gardens, cities, animals, banquets, or bodies. But the Bible tells us that when Jesus comes again it will be a time for “restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets long ago” (Acts 3:21).
Our Bibles promise that heaven will be a tangible but perfected place. It uses words like restore, reconcile, redeem, renew, return, and resurrect. God is not going to abandon His creation! Instead, His plan is “to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ” (Ephesians 1:10). God’s restoration project is spoken of in Revelation 21:1: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.”
The Bible dispels all notions that our bodies will become angelic spirits in the good place. Job 19:26 says, “And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God.” The resurrected Jesus said to the disciples, “Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me, and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see I have” (Luke 24:39). The resurrected Jesus walked, talked, and ate breakfast with His disciples. And so, we confess in the Apostles Creed, “I believe in the resurrection of the body.”
Because Jesus rose from the dead, all believers have the same assurance of resurrection. The Bible says, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body” (Philippians 3:20-21). God Himself will dwell in the good place with our risen, glorious bodies, and “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
What about that tiresome strumming on harps? Here’s what the Bible says: “Praise Him with trumpet sound; praise Him with lute and harp! Praise Him with tambourine and dance; praise Him with strings and pipe! Praise Him with sounding cymbals; praise Him with loud clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 150:3-6). If we think our earthly worship services are boring, that’s our fault. Worshipping God in the good place will be exhilarating, exciting, powerful, passionate, and fun. In heaven we will laugh, rejoice, and leap for joy! (Luke 6:21,23)
Scripture indicates that time will not stand still in heaven—it will continue to progressively unfold. Martyrs in the good place are told to “rest a little longer” (Revelation 6:11) until judgment. Those in heaven rejoice every time a sinner repents (Luke 15:7). The tree of life in the good place yields fruit every month (Revelation 22:2). Songs and music are played in heaven with components such as meter, tempo and rests that are measured by time. Lots of things will be going on in heaven forever—it is not a place of inactivity!
Our names and our relationships will endure in heaven (Isaiah 66:22). Jesus Himself will prepare a place for us (John 14:2). We will reign with Jesus (2 Timothy 2:12). The Lord will prepare a feast of rich food and fine wines for all people (Isaiah 25:6). Learning and discovery will continue (Ephesians 2:6-7). The scenery will be breathtaking (Revelation 21:18-21). Psalm 16:11 sums it up well: “You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence, there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
Huckleberry Finn said of his friend Tom Sawyer, “I wanted him and me to be together.” As Christians, we want to be in the good place with Jesus. We echo the words of King David: “One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple” (Psalm 27:4).