Heaven is for Youths

Heaven updated! 1968 B.C. or A.D.?

RICHARD W. COFFEN, Pastor, Worcester, Massachusetts

A sincere and earnest minister of the gospel, a teacher of youth at one of our large colleges, was deeply concerned when he was asked why it was that our young people are not eager for Christ to come or for entrance into the glori­ous kingdom of heaven.

Perhaps one of the reasons many of our young people are not inter­ested in going to heaven is because we have failed to make heaven sen­sibly real. Let us put the Biblical concept into twentieth-century pic­tures. It will then be meaningful and desirable. It is the purpose here to take those ancient pictures of the Biblical heaven and, like old jewelry, smelt them down in the crucible of investigation and recast them into the pictures of our contemporary civilization.

Exclusive Emphasis

Heaven is a paradise (Rev. 2:7). The word "paradise" is an Oriental word first used, as far as we know, by the historian Xen­ophon to denote the private parks and gardens built by the Persian kings and nobles. Literally it means "walled around." These ancient parks were enclosed by a high wall, which thus made them exclusive gardens—available only to those to whom the owner gave entrance. Here, then, is a place where no unwanted or unwelcome intruder can enter. Only the friends of the heavenly Father will have access to this exclusive park—this "paradise." Only a se­lect group—those who are continually overcoming will be allowed entrance into this exclusive place.When young people are together, inevi­tably some unwanted intruder (s) will barge in. Oh, how they love privacy, but how little they get of it. So it is that young people form gangs—exclusive groups where only their friends can join. Adults do the same thing; they establish exclusive country clubs. Ah, here it is!—heaven is a paradise; it is like an exclusive country club. And what young person would not thrill at the prospects of joining an exclu­sive country club?

Reason for Pearl

Then there are those gates of pearl. Pearls are the products of suffering. A tiny irritant gets inside the shell of an oyster. The little oyster suffers, but in the process it transforms that irritant into a lustrous gem. The entrance to this heavenly coun­try club is a pearl—that is, a certain amount of suffering is required to enter. The members must suffer for the cause of Christ. But what young person is unwill­ing to suffer for some cause? Look at the young people of the United States today suffering for the cause of integration—they are arrested, beaten, pulled, pushed, and dragged. Youth are ready to suffer for a cause, and to prove it they invent causes—such as student freedom movements and anti-Vietnam demonstrations. Let's chan­nel their energies into a real cause, a cause with eternal results—the cause of Christ. Young people have been without a cause for long enough, so today they are making causes. It is time for us to confront our young people with the issues of Christian­ity. They aren't afraid to suffer. Challenge them with words like these:

Be scorned for your crucified Saviour;Be mocked for your now living Lord;Be flogged for your soon-coming Master;There's suffering for you for His Word.Here is a cause for your vigor;Here is a cause for your youth;Here is a cause for your Saviour.This is the cause with the truth.The doors of this country club are pearls.

These doors are engraved with the names of the tribes of Israel. Look at the sons of Israel! See their imperfections of character; see their virtues too. Human na­ture is still the same—be it Jew or Gentile. Can't you see yourself in one of those groups—Benjamin, Judah, Reuben, Levi, et cetera? Challenge our young people con­tinually to overcome. There is hope for them. What "tribal" characteristics do they have?

Superman Surpassed

Oh, yes, that street of gold and those wings—what a way to travel! The old cob­blestone streets of ancient civilizations are gone. A street of gold is there—smooth travel, no sore feet, no stubbed toes. Wings —flight! Why was Superman such a suc­cess? Because every young person envies the birds, and again so do adults; hence Orville and Wilbur Wright's brain child, the airplane. But who cares about air­planes in heaven when we shall have trans­portation that will make Mary Poppins antiquated? Wings have always stood for flight. Who will have to walk in heaven? Who will want to?A brilliantly lighted city of gold and gems awaits us, and what can surpass the beauty of gems set in gold? Adventists wear no jewelry here, but heaven is one grand jewel box! It is a land of color, light, and brilliance. No gloom will lurk there, but what young person likes the gloom anyway? Young people like light and brilliance. Heaven is all light and color.Let us not overlook the tree of life and the river of life, either. Imagine it—life; ever young, never old and gaunt. What young person looks forward to wrinkled skin, white hair, arthritic joints, and wob­bly legs? None! Then heaven is for them—a place of perpetual life and vigor. Here all will have abounding energy.

Heavenly Tuxedos

Oh, yes, the robes—white for purity, righteousness. There we shall have charac­ters to match the splendors of the country club. Jesus talked about this robe also. He called it a wedding garment (Matt. 22:1­14)—in other words, a tuxedo. To keep the color the same, we could call it a white dinner jacket. Everyone who will go to the heavenly country club will wear a tuxedo, a white dinner jacket that will be neatly cleaned and pressed—"without spot and wrinkle."

The Lyre-Guitar

Then there is that lyre. The lyre was the most common instrument of Bible times. Everybody, it seems, played one. Like our harmonicas, ukuleles, or guitars, always it was used to accompany songs of joy. Rarely —perhaps never—was it used in times of sorrow and affliction. It symbolized joy and happiness, as exhibited in singing.The laurel wreath of victory was the prize given to the winner in the ancient sports contests. It was the symbol of vic­tory, of athletic ability, of endurance and physical stamina. Today we give loving cups or medallions in its stead. Ah, yes, only winners—only champions—will be in heaven, and everyone will have a trophy to prove it—a trophy of life everlasting.This crown is not a perishable chaplet of flowers, but the glorious crown of everlasting life, which awaits all who, having completed the Christian race, love the appearing of our Lord.—Ellen G. White in Review and Herald, Oct. 18, 1881, p. 241.Every saint in heaven will be a prize winner, one who has won the Christian race, who has fought the good fight. Heaven is a challenge! Only winners will be there. What a country club! Only cham­pions will have membership in it. Say, it is exclusive, isn't it?

White-Pebble Day

Then comes that white pebble. The figure of the white pebble comes from many ancient customs and seems to em­brace a composite idea made up from the concepts involved in each of these customs.First of all, the white pebble signified festal days—holidays. Black pebbles stood for days of calamity. There will be no black-pebble days in heaven. Every day will be a holiday, and who doesn't like holidays? With no more sickness, suffering, sin, death, and catastrophes, there will be no need for any black pebbles. Every day will be a day of rejoicing and praise and victory.Second, black and white pebbles were used in courts of law. If a person was found guilty, the judge would hand him a black stone—the stone of doom. However, if he was found innocent and declared ac­quitted, the judge would hand him a white stone. Of course, to those who are in Christ Jesus there is no condemnation, and so our heavenly Judge will hand each one a white stone. For the person who lives in Christ there is no black stone of doom—only the white stone of pardon and freedom.Third, a white pebble was called a tes­sera. Wealthy persons and government of­ficials gave these white pebbles to their special guests of honor. Usually the guest's name was engraved on this tessera. Thus it served as a pass to all the entertainments provided by the one who issued it. Here again we see the selectivity of heaven. Not everyone will be admitted to its endless round of glory and joy. Only the special friends of the Father, the King of the uni­verse, will be allowed to enter. Is there a pass for you at the entrance to the heavenly country club?Fourth, a white pebble was given to every victorious gladiator, and it was en­graved with his own name. Such a stone was called the pebble of victory, and not only served as a charm or trophy, but also entitled the owner to special privileges, one of which was maintenance at public ex­pense. Never again would the gladiator have to worry about his finances and the future. As long as he had that white pebble engraved with his name all would be taken care of.We are in a constant battle. We are not fighting against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers of evil. We can be victorious—Christ has guaranteed this for us—and if we are victorious, He will give us a white pebble of victory. On this pebble our name will be engraved, and this will give us the status of heroes of the king­dom, and we will be under the constant care of the King of the universe.But what about God's name in each fore­head? The forehead, the mind—here is the difference between apes and man. God's name will be there. We will belong to God; we will be His people. He will dwell with us, and we shall think like Him! We'll be like Him in character. Remember, the mind, the thinking, is the seat of character. With God's mind we shall be godlike in character. "Higher than the highest hu­man thought can reach is God's ideal for His children. Godliness—godlikeness—is the goal to be reached."—Education, p. 18. What a goal for every youth in the world today!

Animated Pillars

What about the pillar? The word used for "temple" here does not mean the whole Temple complex, but only the innermost shrine where the presence of divinity was manifested, i.e., God's own throne room. The purpose of a pillar, of course, is to lend stability and support. Without pillars the ancient buildings would have collapsed (they did not have steel girders and lam­inated trusses then). The redeemed will be the pillars of God's throne room. How? God's government and right to rule have been under attack by Satan. The presence of overcomers, human beings who are on God's side, who have seen and shown that God is both just and loving, will add sta­bility to His government. It is their pres­ence in heaven with their background of struggle with sin and victory over it and all its baleful results that will guarantee that sin will never rise again. God is count­ing on us, on our young people; they will be pillars in His throne room, they will lend stability to God's government.Furthermore, these pillars will be per­manent. God's victorious children will never leave His presence. They will hold a permanent and important place in His government.

The Mystery Food

Then there is the "hidden manna." "Manna" is the "what is it?" food, a mys­tery food. Called in the Psalms the "corn of heaven" and "angels' food" (Ps. 78:24, 25), it signifies the fellowship with the hosts of heaven that the overcomer will experience. He will become a member of the heavenly family and eat the same won­der food that they do. Now, eating the same food as the family eats each day means complete acceptance of the individ­ual. We shall not be treated as guests, but as members of the heavenly family partak­ing of the heavenly family board.

Heaven a Synonym of Progress

Heaven must be made a synonym of progress to our young people. Read to our youth from The Great Controversy, pages 677, 678, and also the following:Even if we do not lose our souls, we shall realize in eternity the result of our unused talents. For all the knowledge and ability that we might have gained and did not, there will be an eternal loss. —Christ's Object Lessons, p. 363.In the light of all this, heaven is at once a challenge and an advancement. Heaven is progress. This is something to get ex­cited about! This is something to look forward to. Heaven is a place for young people and all people of the atomic age, of the space age!Tell this to our youth. And hurry! Hurry, before it is eternally too late. They must see that heaven is for them, that it is infinitely desirable and not just slightly more desirable than hell. Tell it soon! Tell it often!

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RICHARD W. COFFEN, Pastor, Worcester, Massachusetts

August 1968

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