Heaven for Atheists

An atheist asked his Christian friend, “What’s so great about heaven?”

“Well,” he said, “I don’t know where to start, since everything’s great about heaven. It’s beautiful, to begin with. Streets of gold and pearly gates. Just takes your breath away. And there won’t be any hospitals or morgues there because, once we get into heaven, we’re all done getting sick and dying. You also get to be reunited with folks who’ve died, like your parents and grandparents and old friends. I can’t wait for that. And get this, even if there’s somebody there you didn’t really get along with in this life, no worries, because everybody is fine with everybody else in heaven. And of course, there’s the angels, and what’s there not to like about angels? There’s simply nothing but beauty and goodness and happiness there.”

The atheist mulled this over for a few seconds and said, “You know, that does all sound great. In fact, for one important reason, it sounds like just the place I’d like to be.”

The Christian, surprised, asked, “Really, why’s that?”

The atheist said, “You didn’t mention God. Now that’s my kind of heaven.”

Peel back the outward layers of churchiness, stick a microphone to heart of hearts of Christians, and ask, ”Why do you really want to go to heaven?” The answer, “to be with Jesus” will, I suspect, be low on the list, if it makes the cut at all. Give most people a choice between being with God in a one-room shack beside a cornfield in Iowa or and being without God in a mansion beside the beach on an island paradise, and the majority would be packing shorts and bikinis for the hereafter. It’s all about the destination, baby. Folks are dying to get there, whether God’s in heaven or not. So if you ever wonder just how much Christ is really in your Christianity, ask yourself whether being with him is the principle, all-embracing reason you desire to be in heaven. If it’s not, let’s think about why.

A few years ago, when I was going through a separation that led finally to divorce, I was also separated from my two children by a thousand miles. On my daughter’s birthday I wasn’t there. Months went by between visits. I would talk to them on the phone, but my son, who was only six, wasn’t much of a talker. And even though my daughter and I would speak, sometimes our conversations seemed only to make the separation more tortuous. I wanted to talk to my children face-to-face, to be with them, to touch them. The distance was emotionally debilitating. Choose whatever verb you wish—I craved, yearned, longed, ached, thirsted, hungered—to be with my son, my daughter, for they were all I had to live for. They were my life.

There’s a verse in the book of Psalms where David says, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living, God! When shall I come and appear before God?” (42:1-2). The closest I’ve ever come to experiencing an ache as intense as David’s was when I couldn’t be with the two people in the world that meant the most to me, that were my world. Love that intense creates a thirst that can only be quenched by being with the one you love. There are no substitutes.

To the extent that we love Jesus in this life, to that same extent we long to be with him in the life to come. It’s as simple as that. We don’t miss people we don’t love. Nor do we truly love people we don’t miss. The reason that anyone would choose a heaven without Jesus, or happiness without Jesus, or healing without Jesus, is because he doesn’t mean that much to them to begin with. He may be useful as a divine tool, if you will, to manipulate into getting what we want, when we want it. We become God-users. We use him to get into heaven, where what we really want awaits us: a life free from all the crap we have to put up with here, and full of all the stuff we think will make us happy here on earth. We never stop to consider that we fantasize about a heaven where atheists will be just as at home walking down those golden streets as anyone, for Jesus has become a disposable Lord.

A few Sundays ago, we were singing a song in church that I’ve sung a thousand times. But for the first time, I truly heard these lines:

Earth has no pleasure I would share,
Yea, heav’n itself were void and bare
If Thou, Lord, were not near me.

As happens so often, I realized that the words spoken by my mouth did not match the thoughts whispered by my heart. Would heaven really be “void and bare” to me if Jesus were not “near me”? Do I honestly have “no pleasure” in the pleasures of earth if the Lord is not “near me”? I may have been singing the hymn with gusto, but not honesty. The reason is found in the opening line of the hymn: “Lord, Thee I love with all my heart,” but, even on my best days, were I to sing honestly, I would say, “Lord, Thee I love with half my heart. The world has claimed the other part.”

David depicted his thirst for God as a deer panting for streams of water. I know what it’s like to thirst for the presence of a person I love, but I’m still learning what it means for my soul to crave God. Show me what that means, Lord. Surround my Jericho heart and shout heaven’s shout, that the walls may come tumbling down. Everything that stands in the way of a life wholly devoted to you, raze and replace. Create a clean heart in me—clean of pleasures that bring you pain, clean of idols that make you jealous, clean of desires that you desire not. And in this clean heart, teach me true love for you, thankfulness for your nearness to me on earth, but a thirst for your full presence in heaven—a heaven that is truly heaven for only one reason: because you are there.



Single Post Navigation

18 thoughts on “Heaven for Atheists

  1. Sandra Durand on said:

    Beautiful and thought provoking. Thank you.

  2. I think part of the reason we don’t factor Jesus into Heaven is because He is not someone we have seen and lost-He has always been at least seemingly far away. I find it hard to miss someone I have never met, so it’s easier to imagine a Heaven with my lost loved ones and with a pain and illness free body than I can with Jesus beside me all the time.

    Plus, some of the hymnody indicates that our time in Heaven will not be spent with God eternally with us; “For All the Saints” says, “The King of Glory passes on His way”, which to my fallen human ears sounds like I’ll get no more than a fleeting glance of God every now and then and the rest of the time I’m on my own with the other saints, God somewhere else far away.

    • Mark Fannin on said:

      The bible states that there will be no need for light in heaven because the glory of God will light heaven (I am paraphrasing). Therefore I have the idea that we will always be in the presence of Christ and God in Heaven. I am not familiar with the hymn you cite but I do not trust hymns the same way I trust the inspired word of God (the bible).

  3. Pingback: Heaven for Atheists | Where I Belong

  4. Very beautifully written. To be honest, I am still at the beginning of my journey with Jesus, but to me it isn’t difficult to imagine heaven–one that revolves around God. The choirs of angels and believers singing praises to Him without ceasing will be amazing, and I cannot wait to join that choir.

    Even so, as a person, it is difficult to give my whole heart to anything. Especially someone whom I have never seen or touched. Sometimes it is easy to forget every thing that God has done for me. Thankfully, He pulls me back to Him every time.

    “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

    My faith is Him may waver at times, but at the end of the day, to Him I belong.

  5. carol donaldson on said:

    I find this at once both beautiful and challenging. For me, it brings home with some force the evangelical/baptist/Pentecostal focus of ‘being saved’ and ‘saving souls’ as though that were the only point of salvation and that Jesus is simply our ‘ticket to heaven’, heaven being the ultimate goal and Jesus being something of a ‘middle man’. I’m now praying for my loved ones to come into a love relationship with Jesus that they may have Life before death rather than a passport to eternal life in order to satisfy my desire to be with them again. You’ve also helped me appreciate that a heaven without God/Jesus would be no heaven at all. Thank you for challenging my motives for praying for and sharing the Gospel with others.

  6. Marie Kirsten on said:

    I had to search my heart and found I could be in heaven without Jesus, as long as all was much easier and happier. I repent and trust that God would search my heart and show me His ways.and renew a right Spirit within me. Thanks for sharing

  7. A lot of the comments that talk about heaven circling around God ignore the fact that all creation will be made new, that there will be a new heavens and a new earth. I’m thinking it isn’t about pearly gates and standing around singing (sounds boring even though I enjoy singing) but rather that wherever we are and whatever we are doing in the new creation God will be visibly present to us. Don’t forget that one of the other images the Bible uses of heaven is that of a feast (Isaiah 25).

  8. Michael Knight on said:

    I love the Lord so much, and I know he loves me just as much, if not more. Thank you for sharing, this has really opened up my heart even more. I have no idea what He has in store for us in Heaven, but all I know is that it will be wonderful.

    Our Father, which art in heaven,
    Hallowed be thy Name.
    Thy Kingdom come.
    Thy will be done in earth,
    As it is in heaven.
    Give us this day our daily bread.
    And forgive us our trespasses,
    As we forgive them that trespass against us.
    And lead us not into temptation,
    But deliver us from evil.
    For thine is the kingdom,
    The power, and the glory,
    For ever and ever.

  9. Pingback: Stairs To Heaven | Sky & Galaxy Wallpapers, Wallsan.com

  10. Pingback: Project 4: Montage | Kaloni May Udall

  11. fernando on said:

    Remarkable, inspiring, illuminating! I’ve shared this to my brothers and sisters in the faith thru facebook and I’m sure they’ll be blest also. Thanks for sharing with us the real essence why a person must be there on that “beyond comprehension place” soon! Well, when I’ll be at heaven’s splendor, I’ll bow down and worship at the feet of my risen Lamb and my Savior! Thanks for letting me know heaven isn’t heaven if there is no Jesus there. May we find each other soon there and have our greetings with holy kiss beside our Saviour! JESUS is the joy of heaven and He is the heart of her! Let us aim heaven and continue the race God has set for us until at last we see the face of Jesus smiling, welcoming us home! God bless thee!

  12. I believe that you don’t go to heaven if Jesus is not in your heart or if you don’t love Jesus.

    • The Bible teaches that he who believes and is baptized shall be saved (Mark 16:16). Salvation is Christ and Christ alone. It is His love that saves us.

      • What about people who were once baptized but do not know or follow Christ? The Bible says that we are saved by grace through faith (Romans 3:24-26). Once we trust Him as Savior, then we are saved! First you believe, then you follow. I was baptized as a teenager, but I did not know Jesus. Getting baptized is a symbol of being made new in Christ AFTER you come to know Him. Christ loves everyone (even unbelievers), but we are ultimately saved by grace.

  13. I find all of these comments so interesting; however, any Christian can tell you (Baptist, Catholic, etc) that the Word became flesh and the Word is Jesus… Jesus is the center of all… Jesus said “If you have seen me, you have also seen the Father”…
    2 Tim 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness..
    If we would just all believe this, we would understand that the Bible is Gods Word and it became flesh and that is Jesus…
    The only ONE way to get to heaven is to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and that is in the SCRIPTURE

  14. Pingback: Wisdom from the Heart of Chad Bird | I Came, I Saw, I Concord!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: