March 3, 2006

When God Left Heaven

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:52 am by tobytaff

To all the friends I left behind:

Greetings from the land of the dead.  Generally they don’t let us communicate with the living, but an experience I had recently so impacted me that they let me write to a few brothers and sisters and share my experience.

I should probably start with where I am and how I got here. You all know that I died, but there is always the question, “What comes next?”  For a hint of what it is like I’ll direct you to the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16, but first I wanted to tell you that getting here was nothing like I figured it would be.

I suppose I had delusions of grandeur, but I had always imagined a magnificently glorious death for Christ.  I remember watching a Billy Graham film when I was a kid where the Christians were given the option of accepting “the mark of the beast” or death by guillotine.  This of course was happening during a tribulation period, but I don’t remember a rapture occurring in the movie.  I think it was just a picture about future Christian persecution, but whatever the situation, from that point on I had this “fantasy” about dying the martyr’s death by guillotine.  Not just any guillotine, though, a rusty, dull guillotine that didn’t kill me right away.  Instead, I suffered immensely, dying slowly while the executioner moved on to the next martyr.  Like I said, I thought I’d die a glorious death for Jesus, but that’s not what happened at all.

I also occasionally had thoughts about being “raptured” with the rest of the church before the tribulation period.  I could see Jesus coming and hear the trumpet blast, then whoosh, the fast track to heaven.  I’d be in glory and all the non-Christians would be suffering.  It seemed like a good deal to me, but again, I didn’t catch the express to heaven.  No, I made it to heaven the old fashioned way.  I just keeled over dead.  Apparently, I died in my sleep, suffocated by a gas leak.  But now, how I got here doesn’t really matter.  I’m here now and it’s a pretty impressive place.

The fact that heaven is a pretty impressive place is actually what prompted this letter.  I had always had a view of heaven like the view John paints in Revelation, streets of gold, pearl gates, crystal seas.  Every part of John’s vision was accurate, but Peter wasn’t at the gate to meet me.  That was a little depressing.  Anyway, I arrived in heaven and met a bunch of people; some that I knew, and some that I didn’t; and they were just living their after life with God.  I thought, “Wow! I’m in heaven and there’s God, and this place is everything that I had always heard it was.”  And then it happened.  All of heaven changed, and my afterworld was flipped upside down.

In what can only be explained as a moment of God’s omnipotence, God left heaven.  I know it sounds strange because we think of God as omnipresent all the time, but I guess the benefit of being God is you make the rules.  God simply told everyone that he had a reason for doing what he was about to and we would understand shortly, and then he disappeared.  I was shaken.  All of my Christian life I had believed that after I died I would be in God’s presence forever, and here I was surrounded by a multitude of dead people, in heaven, and God wasn’t there, but that’s only part of the story.

Not only did God leave, but when God left, everything that heaven is, disappeared.  There were no more mansions, no more streets of gold, no pearly gates, no light to speak of.  It reminded me of being out in the desert at midnight with no city for miles.  There was darkness and a faint glow that allowed us to see the forms of other people but that was about it.  It was very bland and bleak, but it was still peaceful.  There was an uneasy peace in heaven when God left.

I felt uncomfortable and confused, and it seemed like years passed when God left heaven.  Yet no one spoke.  No one moved.  No one searched for God.  We all sat there, still, experiencing the uneasy feeling and disbelief, and then God returned.  In a moment everything that heaven is, reappeared, and the awe and wonder that I knew when I first arrived returned.

My mind flashed, and everyone praised God for who he was.  With one mind we wondered where he had gone; why he had gone, but with one heart, we didn’t care.  All that mattered was his return.  All that mattered was his presence, and suddenly I realized the reality of heaven.  There is no glory in heaven except the glory of God.  The mansions Jesus built, the splendor of the gardens, the streets of gold, even the crystal seas are just reflections for us of God’s glory.  They don’t exist without God, and I fell on my face repenting.

I didn’t repent for my sins; God had already taken care of them through Jesus death on the cross.  I repented for the picture I’d painted a thousand times over of how glorious heaven would be in order to lure someone into the kingdom.  I repented of trying to sell God to unbelievers rather than letting God show his power and draw men to him.  I repented of standing in the way of the Gospel by telling people my version of the Gospel’s selling points, and God heard my prayer.

God told me that I wasn’t unusual.  I was actually normal in some way because I was trying to do God’s will, but my humanity got in the way.  He comforted me and then explained that the reason he left, was so that we would understand what the true glory of heaven is.  I asked why he had left for so long, and he replied that it had only been seconds.  I was amazed.  A few seconds without God in a glorious heaven was like years of uneasy darkness.  I cannot even fathom the extents of hell.

After this experience, I asked for permission to write to a few of my believing friends.  My request was granted on the condition that I simply explain the experience so that believers can better understand the focus of their faith.  It’s not, as many of us have made it, about making it to heaven or missing out on hell.  It is only about God.  God desires his people.  God created us for himself and we chose to be separate, but God created a means of redemption in Jesus Christ.  Being the creatures we are, we altered the point.  We highlighted the selling points, the side effects of being with him, and some people have missed out on a relationship with God because they were afraid of hell or they wanted heaven.  And neither of those things matter.

I guess the point of my letter about God leaving heaven is that Christians have the opportunity to really share God in the person of Jesus Christ, and I want to encourage you friends to do that.  Make the relationship with God the center of why we believe, and maybe when you get here God will never leave.

Your loving friend



1 Comment »

  1. Lex said,

    Who’s Theodore?

    I really like this post, Toby.

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