I tend to be patronizing at the popular images of heaven*. That is the reason for the asterisk and the following note:
*Heaven - I know that “heaven” is technically not the right word for eternal life but it is the word most people use. In this case I will bend to common practice.Common culture concepts of heaven tend to describe how the elites live: Mansions, servants, lavish dining and lots of gold and velvet. Think of how the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, Soros, Gates and members of the WEF live. It seems to be a natural desire to idealize what your heart yearns for.
Consider different ideas of this afterlife.
I don’t know if it is genuine or an European caricature but the American Indians supposedly had the idea of the Happy Hunting Ground. The reason that sticks in my mind is a meme before memes with an Indian saying that it reflects his idea of happiness just as Europeans think of streets of gold and such.
Islam has a number of places in the Koran that describe the afterlife. It tends to resemble the ideal oasis populated by servants both male and female. Surah 47, Muhammad has part of this:
“15. A picture of the Paradise which is promised to the God-fearing! Therein are rivers of water, which corrupt not: rivers of milk, whose taste changeth not: and rivers of wine, delicious to those who quaff it; And rivers of honey clarified: and therein are all kinds of fruit for them from their Lord! Is this like the lot of those who must dwell for ever in the fire? and shall have draughts of boiling water forced on them which will rend their bowels asunder?” Surah 47, MuhammadI find it interesting that in the afterlife Muslims will be able to drink wine.
Surah 56 starts with a description of what Christians would call the end times. The beginning deals with earthquakes and the division of people into three categories. Then it goes on to describe the delights of the top group. It is in poetic form in my version of the Koran.
verses 12-25. “In gardens of delight;Again we have wine plus the promise of no hangovers. I don’t know if there is a mention of 72 virgins in the Koran itself but here you have the “Houris” which I would assume will be furnishing further favors beyond filling your wine goblet. It is the ideal of a desert barbarian who had never been to the big city.
A crowd of the former
And few of the latter generations;
On inwrought couches
Reclining on them face to face:
Aye-blooming youths go round about to them
With goblets and ewers and a cup of flowing wine;
Their brows ache not from it, nor fails the sense:
And with such fruits as shall please them best,
And with flesh of such birds, as they shall long for:
And theirs shall be the Houris, with large dark eyes, like pearls hidden in
In recompense of their labours past.
No vain discourse shall they hear therein, nor charge of sin,”
Pagan polytheists tend to describe a boring underworld that must have reflected what it was like to be a peasant in an aristocracy. Some would go through special torments such as Sisyphus who was doomed to forever rolling a huge bolder up a hill and having it roll down again. The concept of the River Styx comes from this theology.
The Bible has several different pictures and words. In the OT you have Scheol. In the NT, starting in Luke 16:19, you have a description of Hades and Abraham’s Bosom. In John 14 we have Jesus saying He will prepare a place for us. The KJV says “mansions” but that is more the wishes of the translators. The more comprehensive vision is a host surrounding God’s throne and rejoicing in worship at the joy of being in His presence. Like many things in the Bible you need to assemble them all in an orderly manner.
The key point for me is that there will be a glorious eternity ahead when my time here is over.
Hope to see you there.
All Koran quotes are from the translation by Rev. J.M. Rodwell, M.A. provided by the Gutenberg Project.
homo unius libri