Imagine a bird that can fly through space. This bird takes one grain of sand from a beach, then flies off to the furthest planet in the known galaxy and deposits the grain of sand there. Then it comes back, takes another grain of sand and flies off again and so on until there is no more sand left on the earth. The bird flies at normal bird speed (and doesn’t go through hyperspace or wormholes). Imagine how much time it would take for it to deplete all the beaches on earth of their sand.
And yet all that time, that hellishly long time, is just like a grain of sand in the sea of eternity.
I heard that illustration of eternity from a pastor when I was a kid (though not as poetic). It was followed by the question, “So where do you want to spend eternity?”
I had two choices, either in heaven with Jesus (happy, happy, joy, joy!) or in hell experiencing first-hand what lechon goes through, and it would never end. At least the pig doesn’t feel itself burned to a crisp.
Of course I went for the first choice, as did every other kid in that group. I thought, who in his right mind would want to be a human barbecue forever?
As I mentioned in Part 1, one of my first concepts of heaven was that it would be a happy reunion with relatives who had passed away. That hope is still very real in many people. Just listen to the words of comfort people give to those whose loved ones have just died. Listen to the sermons of the priests or pastors or any clergy in memorial services. There is always that hope of “meeting them again” someday.
In time, I acquired other images of heaven. John 14 begins with Jesus telling his disciples not to be troubled (this was after he had announced Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial) and to believe in him. Then he said “In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you.” What a marvelous dream this is especially for those who do not have a home, or who live in shanties or even modest houses.
Revelations 21 gives us more grandiose images of the new heaven or the New Jerusalem, which is described like a souped up version of old Jerusalem complete with the walls and the gates. Of course, the young me didn’t find anything suspicious then, but I felt awe and longing to see the gates made out of pearl, and the wall’s foundations inlaid with all sorts of precious stone, and the streets of gold.
“And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.” (Revelations 21:23 NKJV)
This was also the place where God “shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (Revelations 21:4 NKJV)
I must have been around 10 or so when my dad announced that there was a prediction that the world would end the next day and although it might not be true, it was best to be prepared. I was not only prepared, I was excited, and of course, a little afraid, but more excited than afraid.
With those images of heaven, who would not be excited to see it the next day? And I was sure I was going to heaven because I had said the salvation prayer and accepted Jesus into my heart — but just to be sure, I said it again, and was now sure. Sure na jud.
I woke up the next day and immediately ran to the window, expecting to see fire raining from the heavens, expecting to see Jesus coming down from heaven, and expecting myself and other believers to fly up and meet him in the air (because this is what I’ve always been taught would happen).
I was hugely disappointed that it turned out to be just another normal day.
Originally published in Sunstar Davao.