I try to take a walk for my health every day. When I choose this one greenbelt path I see an intriguing sight. Looking through the trees I can just make out a merry-go-round like those in a carnival. Most of the colored lights still work and are blinking. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a single person near it and certainly no children. I’ve asked some neighbors about it, but no one seems to know a thing. It’s a mystery.
What could be the back story? Did a grandfather set this up for his estranged grandchildren? Was he once a kindly carni-worker? What happened that keeps them away? Is he still holding out hope that they will show up for a joy ride? I have no way to know, but just one more detail: The merry-go-round is behind a tall chain-link fence with a sign, “Private Property, Do Not Enter.”
Sadly, I believe this is the way many picture the hope of heaven. The lights are lit and blinking feebly, yet the way is barred against all entry. And even if they bothered to sneak over heaven’s gate, after a few rides it just gets boring. Besides, what did they ever do to get locked out anyway?
This is of course a gross caricature. Nothing could be further from the picture revealed in scripture. According to the Bible, God created us to enjoy intimate fellowship with him in an ideal creation, but man chose to believe the lie that he could be like God. That is, man chose autonomy from God. What came with this “freedom” was death. Death was the natural consequence of man’s choice against a right relationship with the only true God, and therefore the source of eternal life.
We might picture this sort of autonomy as follows: Imagine a claustrophobic man in an airplane. Obviously agitated, he refuses to wear a seatbelt and begins running up and down the center aisle. Next he starts raving, “I need to get out and nobody’s gonna stop me!” Finally, he grabs the exit door handle and pulls it open. As he gets sucked out the door he yells, “Free at last!” We might imagine him “flying” through the air with a big smile on his face. What right does anyone have to question this man’s desire for freedom? After all, he only wants to change his relationship with the law of gravity.
The fact is, we were never forbidden the way of freedom, just the way of death. So when we demanded our autonomy from God we simply demanded death.
Back to the merry-go-round. Our estrangement from God is not due to any divine chain-link fence and certainly not a “Do Not Enter” sign. The heavenly father is “God our Savior who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” 1 Tim 2:4, (NIV 1984). (1)
God has promised that heaven on earth will be the ride of our life with no pain, suffering, or death and certainly no boredom. And it won’t be a little fenced off area with a few blinking lights. It will be the whole magnificent universe transformed into a reflection of its brilliant creator.
In the concluding words of the Bible, after God describes the beauty and wonder of the restored creation, he invites us to receive the gift of salvation through his son’s death on the cross – granting free admission to heaven on earth:
“The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.” Revelation 22:17, ESV.
1. Some argue that Adam was banished from the garden for simply picking a little fruit. A common misunderstanding. Just as an unfaithful husband cannot continue to enjoy the benefits of marriage, it makes no sense for man to have access to the tree of life without a right relationship with God (Genesis 3:22-24).