This is my last post on the theological series we did called Clear. This series was based on the book Clear by Chris Folmsbee and a few of the verses, ideas, and concepts found within the pages were adopted and adapted to help create these lessons for my students.
The culmination of the series and of the faith is found in the belief in Heaven. How that comes across, what that looks like, and how/who enters it is often a main topic of discussion.
We actually began our evening by hanging out and eating at Burger King. (I know, I know…not the healthiest option!). We were able seclude an entire section for our group and after about 45 minutes I introduced the subject and question of heaven. It was nice for a change of atmosphere to leave the walls of our church and venture into the community and still be able to have focused group conversations.
I asked our group a series of questions and simply listened to the wide and diverse responses to the following:
What do you think Heaven will look like?
What will we do in Heaven?
How old will everyone be in Heaven? Will there be babies in Heaven?
Where do you mostly get your views/beliefs/ideas/images of Heaven from?
*When providing space and freedom for students to share, it is amazing to hear their thoughts and questions. Answers to each of those questions ranged all across the spectrum and what also became clear is that most students’ views of heaven come from society’s portrayal of it.
A few spoke of a heaven they hoped would be discovered, and those answers and dreams seemed to come from a place deep within their heart and soul.
We returned to our youth room and entered into our more “formal” teaching time.
Pelly, my associate, found a great online text messaging polling system that we used as a follow-up
Here is the link to our poll:
What will heaven be like? Poll
Naturally, you cannot introduce the topic of heaven without a musical theologian’s perspective on it, so this song was played in the background:
The bulk of our group discussion focused around a recently published and vastly popular book called Heaven is Real.
It documents the “real life” story of a young boy who supposedly went to heaven and reported back to his parents what he saw and experienced and who he met.
Here is the video that we watched:
*I found the following video and did not have time to play it. It does raise several fascinating questions about the diversity of beliefs on Heaven found in different religions and even within Christianity itself. I would recommend using this if you have time, or even showing this video as the discussion starter with your students.
Barbara Walters on Heaven via MSNBC
Back to the Heaven is Real video.
Students shared whether or not the believed the kid’s story or thought it was fabricated and promoted by his father….who happens to be a pastor and now author of a widely successful book.
We then talked about the images and ideas that the boy’s story brought up
Everyone was young
People had wings
You can hang out with the Holy Spirit
Heaven was filled with many colors
It was crowded
I asked the group if those were common images or associations that people tend to have when thinking about heaven
*These are good to project onto a big screen or TV when discussing images of Heaven.
I also asked how do these contrast with what the Bible reveals heaven to be like?
Why do you think people are so afraid that heaven might be boring?
We divided our students into 3 groups. Each group was given a large piece of construction paper with around 8 words on them taken from the following list. Each member in the group was asked to circle the top 3 words that, to them, depict Heaven. After everyone in the group circles, the group passes on the sheet to the next.
We did this as another creative/expressionist way to discern public opinion on heaven before we looked at what the Bible had to say
Circle the words often associated with the term Heaven
Joyful Depressing Harps
Status Quo Interactive Friendship
Real Lonely Boring
Displeasing Sorrow Family
Celebratory Rewarding Overwhelming
Mysterious Music Feasts
Satisfying Fair Victory
The Hope of Heaven
Jesus coming back to right the wrongs, set things back in order
return the world and humanity back to God’s orignal dream and design
*For some great Biblical references and theological insights into Heaven read the chapter from Clear.
We simply did not have time to dive into specifics about the nature of Heaven or what it will look like, but I did make a point of saying that the physical images represented in the Biblical do not have to be taken literally. “Streets of gold” and “gates of pearls” are more metaphorical references to beauty and majesty than attempts to actually describe the physicality or location of heaven.
What we will experience….
A new body that will never die (1 Corin 15: 54-55)
Freedom from Sin and its Destructiveness (Rev 22:3)
Face-to-Face Relationship with God. (Rev 22:4)
We concluded that the Bible indicates certainly that Heaven will be hopeful and included the above mentioned aspects. Beyond those, it really comes down to speculation, opinions, and personal hopes and dreams.
Here are the Small Group Questions that we concluded our time with:
Fusion YG- SG Questions
1) What do you think Heaven will be like? Are you excited about that?
2) How would you describe Heaven to someone who asks?
3) What do you think Jesus meant when he prayed for his followers to bring Heaven here on Earth? Would would that look like?
4) Who will end up in Heaven?
*I have included some basic info from Wikipedia that you may use as general background for any lesson prep on Heaven. You may or may not find it helpful or useful.
In most religions, Heaven is a realm, either physical or transcendental in which people who have died continue to exist in an afterlife.
Heaven is often described as the holiest place, accessible by people according to various standards of divinity, goodness, piety, faith or other virtues.
Entrance into Heaven
See also: Salvation and Soteriology
Religions that speak about heaven differ on how (and if) one gets into it, typically in the afterlife. In many religions, entrance to Heaven is conditional on having lived a “good life” (within the terms of the spiritual system). A notable exception to this is the ‘sola fide’ belief of many mainstream Protestant Christians, which teaches that one does not have to live a perfectly “good life,” but that one must accept (believe and put faith in) Jesus Christ as one’s saviour, and then Jesus Christ will assume the guilt of one’s sins; believers are believed to be forgiven regardless of any good or bad “works” one has participated in.
Many religions[who?] state that those who do not go to heaven will go to another place, Hell, which is eternal in religions such as Christianity. Some religions believe that other afterlives exist in addition to Heaven and Hell, such as Purgatory, though many hells, such as Naraka, serve as purgatories themselves. Some belief systems contain universalism, the belief that everyone will go to Heaven eventually, no matter what they have done or believed on earth. Some forms of Christianity, and other religions believe Hell to be the termination of the soul.
Main article: Heaven (Christianity)
Traditionally, Christianity has taught “Heaven” as a place of eternal life, the dwelling place of God, and a kingdom to which all the elect will be admitted. In most forms of Christianity, belief in the afterlife is professed in the major Creeds, such as the Nicene Creed, which states: “We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.” In Biblical forms of Christianity, concepts about the future “Kingdom of Heaven” are also professed in several scriptural prophecies of the new (or renewed) Earth said to follow the resurrection of the dead — particularly the books of Isaiah and Revelation. In the 2nd century AD, Irenaeus (a Greek bishop) wrote that not all who are saved would merit an abode in heaven itself. One popular medieval view of Heaven was that it existed as a physical place above the clouds and that God and the Angels were physically above, watching over man. The ancient concept of “Heaven” as a synonym for “skies” or “space” is also evident in allusions to the stars as “lights shining through from heaven”, and the like.
The term Heaven is applied by the Biblical authors to the realm in which God currently resides. Eternal life, by contrast, occurs in a renewed, unspoilt and perfect creation, which can be termed Heaven since God will choose to dwell there permanently with his people, as seen in Revelation 21:3. That there will no longer be any separation between God and man. The believers themselves will exist in incorruptible, resurrected and new bodies; there will be no sickness, no death and no tears. Some teach that death itself is not a natural part of life, but was allowed to happen after Adam and Eve disobeyed God (see original sin) so that mankind would not live forever in a state of sin and thus a state of separation from God.
Not only will the believers spend eternity with God, they will also spend it with each other. John’s vision recorded in Revelation describes a New Jerusalem which comes from Heaven to the New Earth, which is generally seen to be a symbolic reference to the people of God living in community with one another; in a number of sects this is taken as more literal than symbolic. Heaven will be the place where life will be lived to the full, in the way that the designer planned, each believer ‘loving the Lord their God with all their heart and with all their soul and with all their mind’ and ‘loving their neighbour as themselves’ (adapted from Matthew 22:37-38) — a place of great joy, without the negative aspects of earthly life.