Popular images of heaven include the idea that we will inhabit celestial mansions, waft upon fluffy light clouds and worship eternally. These images are certainly better than eternal torment and suffering, but do they really represent the stuff we would choose to do forever, especially given the activities and tastes we choose right now? Even as a Christian, if I spend my entire life indulging my personal tastes, why would I want to focus on Someone Else for eternity? I would be trapped in heaven eternally.
He concludes that the answer to this is that heaven is the experience of coming ever-closer to God. But I think this just comes full-circle to his original question: “why would I want to focus on Someone Else for eternity?”
Even more importantly, what kind of Someone Else would give us the choice between complete and eternal devotion and torture? What good father would want his children to have no other life than devotion to him? If we flawed creatures can raise our children to balance pride and respect, knowing that too much of either makes a poor adult, how much more perfect balance should the Master of the Universe teach? If we can let go of our children, but be there for them always, how could we imagine God would demand we never leave?
What human parent should follow the example preached each Sunday of how the Heavenly Father treats His children? Even the Prodigal Son had only to return. The father didn’t need a blood sacrifice to allow it. The son didn’t have to bow down and worship his father. The son wasn’t cast out of his father’s home with a flaming sword to block his return. He left. He lived foolishly. When he returned from his misery, his loving father was so happy, he welcomed him back. Perhaps Jesus meant this story to train his father in what sinful man already knows: how to love our children.