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Looking Forward to Heaven
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Friday, September 04, 2015
Alf Cengia

All things change. You can't go back to the past. I remember visiting a school where I spent my first three years of learning. How many of us have done that? There were many good, and some bad, memories I'd left behind.

It was a lot smaller than I remembered, but I'd grown up by then. I wondered if any of the nuns were still alive and what had happened to my old school friends. They were no longer there. It was a different place. Now there were fences where there hadn't been. The wide street with the park in the middle, where we often played, had turned into a major road to handle the ever-increasing traffic volume.

On my last trip back to Australia I visited the street where I'd lived. When we first moved in it was a quiet, friendly neighborhood where just about everyone knew each other. For years my mother enjoyed good fellowship with the other ladies. By the time I left for America, it had radically changed. All the ladies had passed away. They were replaced by neighbors who were too busy to get to know each other. Family homes were demolished for apartments and there were far more cars traveling down the street.

Everything had changed and moved on. So had I.

One of my favorite Narnian Chronicles books by C. S. Lewis is The Magician's Nephew. There's a scene where the young protagonist Digory is confronted by the Witch Jadis in a Garden. He had been instructed by the Lion Aslan (a Christ figure) to visit this mysterious garden, pluck an apple and bring it to him. Aslan would use this apple to grow a special Tree in order to protect the newly-created land of Narnia from the evil which had been inadvertently brought in by Digory.

The Garden was surrounded by a high fence with the following inscription on the gate:

Come in by the gold gates or none at all,
Take of my fruit for others or forbear,
For those who steal or those who climb my wall,
Shall find their heart's desire and find despair.

As it turns out, the Witch had jumped over the gates to steal an apple, which she ate. The apple granted her immortality. Digory saw that she looked, "stronger and prouder than ever, and even, in a way, triumphant; but her face was deadly white..."

Jadis tempted Digory to eat one of the apples to attain immortality and rule with her. The boy, knowing that this was really Aslan's Garden, and heeding the injunction on the gates, refused to eat. So the Witch changed tactics - she suggested to Digory that he should at least take an apple for his ailing mother. Surely he couldn't be so heartless as to not care about her!

Digory responded that he'd rather not live on as an immortal while watching everyone he loved die. He'd rather live his time, die, and go to Heaven. Besides that, he told the Witch, his mother wouldn't approve of not keeping promises and of lying. She'd tell him it wouldn't be the right thing to do. Finally, it was when Jadis suggested that no one need know, and he could use his magic ring to leave his friend Jill behind in Narnia, that settled things for Digory.

When Digory returned to Aslan he was told that a stolen apple would have healed his mother. However:

"The day would have come when both you and she would have looked back and said that it would have been better to die in that illness."

Of the Witch he said:

"Things always work according to their nature. She has won her heart's desire; she has unwearying strength and endless days like a goddess. But the length of days with an evil heart is only the length of misery and already she begins to know it. All get what they want; they do not always like it."

Obviously Lewis' narrative echoes elements of creation and the Garden of Eden. We could note many parallels. When sin entered into the world, Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden so that they wouldn't eat of the Tree of Life and live forever in their sinful state (Gen 3:22-24). Such a state would have kept them from fellowship with God and Heaven.

Humans are still seeking immortality in one way or another. Science is trying to oblige. Yet while science seeks to bring immortality to humanity, it cannot save a dying world. It can't save man from sin, which it generally denies. Nor can it bring humanity into a relationship with the Creator God, which it often also denies.

Even if I were to take some New Pill produced by the magic of science, I would still have to confront a world with a dying sun in an indifferent universe. Just like Jadis who fled her dying world of Charn - I'd have to somehow find a way to a new world with a newer sun, and eventually move on again before that sun expired.

I was saddened to hear of the passing of self-help-spiritual guru Wayne Dyer this past week. He was a confused man who inadvertently deceived his readers. When Oprah Winfrey once asked him for his definition of "god", he replied: "God is the highest place within each and every one of us - it’s our divine self." Yet when he wanted to rid himself of leukemia he sought help from a "spiritual healer." His god failed him.

We aren't gods. The lie Jadis told Digory is the same lie the devil told Adam and Eve. It is also the same lie Dyer believed.

One of my favorite scenes in the Narnian Chronicles occurs at the end of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Aslan tells the girl Lucy and her brother Edmund that they cannot visit Narnia again. They were too old now and had to live out their lives in their own world.

Lucy tearfully objected, "It isn't Narnia, you know. It's you. We shan't meet you there. And how can we live, never meeting you."

Aslan responded that he could also be found in their world. But he was known by another name there, and they must learn to know him by that name. Of course Lewis was pointing his readers to Jesus Christ. How sad then that atheist Phillip Pullman despised Lewis' Narnian stories so much that he wrote His Dark Materials to counter them.

Unfortunately, this rebellious world doesn't want to know about sin or Jesus Christ as lord. It wants to save itself from death and a host of other things, but it is doomed to ultimately fail (Matthew 16:26). It rejects the notion that immortality without Christ means everlasting hell.

On the other hand we find some inexpressibly glorious promises in Romans chapter 8.

Because we've put our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, we become Children of God. Not only are we God's children but joint heirs with Christ.

Joint heirs! Think about it!

No suffering we experience now can compare to the glory which shall be revealed in us. Paul tells us that even creation will eventually be delivered along with the redemption of our bodies. Revelation chapters 21 and 22 promise a new Heaven and new Earth where we dwell in eternal fellowship with God and our loved ones. There will be no more death or sin. Moreover, we'll be like Christ because we'll see Him as He really is (1 John 3:2).

I'm looking forward to Heaven. Are you?

About Alf Cengia

Last week: Everything is Under Control

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