Don’t get me wrong, I was not longing for the alternative. But as a little girl with an imagination big enough to transform three sheets and six precisely placed dining room chairs into a castle fit for a queen or the energy to ride a bicycle four miles with a flat back tire just to get a cotton candy snocone, I had absolutely zero interest in sprouting wings, sitting on a cloud, and strumming a harp for ALL OF ETERNITY.
It’s an image of heaven that begins ingraining itself through tradition early on, in cartoons, in books, even in our language.
My grandfather died of a difficult battle with leukemia when I was 13 years old. I remember exactly what happened the day I heard the news. A woman’s voice came crackling over the speaker in the science lab requesting my teacher send me to the office with my things. For most of my classmates, this loud interruption was a welcome reprieve to the teacher’s monotone explanation of all things cells. But I had expected this day to come, and as I methodically returned my pencil to its pouch, my nervous gut knew what was waiting for me down the hall. I turned the corner to enter the front office of my middle school, finding exactly what I expected – my teary eyed mom waiting for me.
She told me the news I already knew, and I cried in her arms a little. When we released our embrace, the compassionate middle-aged woman who occupied the front desk grabbed my hand and kindly offered her condolence, “Today your grandfather got his wings. Now you have a very special guardian angel.” I never told her, but no sentiment could have hurt me more than the thought that my grandfather, who loved to golf and eat ice cream sundaes, had just been issued his harp and confined to his cloud.
That was twenty-five years ago. It’s no longer a secret I carry around, not because I’ve chosen to admit it, but because I know now it isn’t true.
The Bible is very clear that we do not become angels when we die because God created angels to be angels, to serve and worship Him.
You alone are the Lord. You have made the heavens, the heaven of heavens with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to all of them, and the heavenly host bows down before You.
The Bible is also very clear that heaven isn’t some cosmic space filled with clouds and lacking in activity. Instead, Heaven is God’s “Plan A.”
But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.
2 Peter 3:13
When God created the earth, He created it to be a perfect place filled with all things to satisfy, lush trees with limbs perfect for climbing, clear streams with cool water perfect for swimming, ripe fruit with sweet juice perfect for running down your chin, and His glory, in all its fullness, something so marvelous and satisfying no combination of letters on my keyboard could create the adjectives sufficient to describe it. Adam and Eve may have messed that up for a while, but God never abandoned His original plan because a Holy God doesn’t need a “Plan B.” Heaven is God’s “Plan A,” in all its perfection.
I’ve had the privilege of teaching third-grade Sunday school for almost 18 years. I’ve asked dozens of kids if they are worried they won’t like heaven. After almost two decades, it still surprises me to find so many boys and girls, just like me at their age – trusting they will like it, but seriously doubting how. Maybe at age 25 or 43, you fit in that category, too.
You don’t have to worry anymore. When someone tells you that a loved one who has passed away is your special angel, you can smile because they mean well, and goodness, it’s hard for people to know what to say to grieving friends. But take heart in this, God isn’t intending believers to become a cloud-sitting choir in celestial cosmo for all of eternity.
He created you to be a person made in His image. It’s His “Plan A;” it has been since He created the world, and He’s sticking to it.