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Aug. 06, 2014

In Heaven, Can There Be Thrills without Risk?

SkydivingA sincere young man told me that no matter what I might say, Heaven must be boring. Why? “Because you can’t appreciate good without bad, light without darkness, or safety without danger. If Heaven is safe, if there’s no risk, it has to be boring.”

His first mistake was assuming there’s no good without bad. God said Earth was “very good” before there was sin or anything bad (Genesis 1:31). Adam and Eve enjoyed Eden’s goodness before experiencing the badness of sin. This young man’s next mistake was believing that a person has to currently see evil at work to appreciate good and to currently be in danger to appreciate safety.

My father lived through the Great Depression. He told me stories of sleeping outside in the cold, covered only with newspaper. Dad first told me these stories fifty years after the fact. He’d been able to sleep inside for half a century, but he vividly remembered the hard times. Suppose someone had said to him, “You can’t appreciate having a warm fire and a warm bed unless there’s the threat of sleeping out in the cold tonight.” He’d say, “You think I’ll ever forget those days?” His memories didn’t make him miserable; they made him grateful.

After our bodily resurrection, we’ll still remember the darkness and dangers of this life. We’ll contrast our past experiences with the light and safety of the New Earth, and we’ll be profoundly grateful.

The same young man went on to say, “I like mountain climbing and extreme sports. I enjoy working hard and sweating. But there won’t be any challenges in Heaven. If there’s no risk of falling and dying, it can’t be really fun.”

Where does Scripture say there won’t be challenges or hard work in Heaven? Were there no challenges in Eden? The Bible says there will be no more evil or suffering—not that there won’t be challenges.

Did Adam and Eve work hard? Did they sweat and get sore? Everyone who enjoys sports knows that there’s a “good tired” and a “good sore.” It’s satisfying. It’s part of knowing you’ve stretched yourself. Why wouldn’t our resurrection bodies sweat? God didn’t create sweat glands after the Fall, did he?

Why couldn’t we tumble while climbing on the New Earth? Won’t there be gravity? Adam and Eve couldn’t die, but couldn’t they skin their knees? God didn’t originally create bodies without nerve endings, did he? Perhaps they could fall, do minor damage, and then heal quickly. We’re told that on the New Earth there’ll be no more death, crying, or pain (Revelation 21:4). But we’re also told, “The leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:2). No one will suffer or die on the New Earth, but this passage suggests that there might be enough minor damage to require healing.

But even if there’s absolutely no injury, fear of injury and death aren’t essential to excitement, are they? If you knew that in thirty years there hadn’t been a single fatality on a roller coaster, couldn’t you still be thrilled by the ride? When our daughters were small, they experienced the thrill of rides at the fair as I held them tightly. The fun was in moving fast, spinning around, feeling the wind on their faces. In the same way, couldn’t we parachute from a plane and have an exhilarating free fall even if we knew there was a zero percent chance of dying? (Some of us might consider that more fun, not less.)

I believe our resurrection bodies will have adrenaline and the ability to feel. On the New Earth we may experience adventures that make our current mountain climbs, surfing, skydiving, and upside-down roller coaster rides seem tame. Why do I say this? It’s more than wishful thinking. It’s an argument from design. We take pleasure in exhilarating experiences not because of sin but because God wired us this way. We weren’t made to sit all day in dark rooms, watching actors pretend to live and athletes do what we can’t. We were made to live vibrant lives. Some of us are physically limited, and others are emotionally unable to handle too much excitement. But those are just temporary conditions. There’s a new world coming—and a new us.

Because God’s design wasn’t an accident—because he doesn’t make mistakes—we can be sure that excitement and exhilaration will be more, not less, a part of our experience in Heaven than it is now.

Skydiving without a parachute? Maybe, maybe not. Scuba diving without an air tank? I hope so. Will we be able to tolerate diving to depths of hundreds of feet without special equipment? We know that our resurrection bodies will be superior. Won’t it be fantastic to test their limits and to invent new technologies that extend our ability to explore and enjoy God in the mighty realms he makes?

Those who know God and believe his promise of bodily resurrection can dream great dreams.

One day we will live those dreams.

Randy

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photo credit: Striking Photography by Bo Insogna via photopin cc | rounded corners added

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