Wim Wenders created a now-classic foreign film, Wings of Desire, several years ago in which an angel renounces his angel-ness to experience human romance with the woman he’d fallen in love with. (Wings of Desire was remade a few years later in the American film City of Angels, with Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan.) One of the major conceits of Wings of Desire was that, when an angel, our lover saw the world — and we saw the film — in black and white and shades of gray. When he gave up his “wings” and became human, the film turns to color to reflect his now fully-realized vision.
This is bass ackwards.
Only in the mind whose treasure is set on earth are the heavenlies seen as drab and the earth seen as glorious (by comparison). Our world is glorious, of course, because the skies declare the glory of God, the mountains and trees declare his majesty, and as Calvin reminds us, every blade of grass is meant to make us rejoice. But heaven is far, far better.
Our problem, then, is probably not that this fallen world is seen too beautiful (I could argue it’s not seen as beautiful enough, actually), but that we have a deficient view of heaven. It is more colorful than this world, not less. It is, as CS Lewis depicts it in The Great Divorce, thicker than our world.
Do you realize that Christ’s glorified body is in the heavenly space? His is a body that is tangible, real, space-taking. It can eat food and be touched. But it can also pass through locked doors, defy matter and space. Elijah and Enoch are there, in their bodies in some real sense.
Heaven is not some thin place, some cosmic hyperbaric chamber for disembodied spirits only. It is realer, truer, grander. Lewis may have captured the best illustrative parallel of how heaven “works” with his Narnia stories. Narnia is a real place with its own time, space, matter, contents. Narnia is bigger than our world but nevertheless within our world, or at least accessible within our world. It is not outer space, it is inner space but outsized space. Bigger inside than it looks outside (to steal from Lewis again).
The staggering beauty of this realer reality is that heaven is not a holding pattern but an approaching land. Our own world is groaning for our and its redemption, and in the consummation of the kingdom at the swiftly coming return of our Lord, every nook and cranny of this world will be restored, covered with the glory of God like the waters cover the sea. The new heavens and new earth will make this place more colorful, not less. Thicker, realer, truer, better. As I wrote in Your Jesus is Too Safe, heaven’s subsuming of fallen creation will be in “an eternal splash of glory the likes of which will make the aurora borealis look like a Lite Brite.”
Imagine there is a fuller range of more vibrant colors than our complete spectrum. Imagine a new creation. The Himalayas, the pink of dawn, Angel Falls, the emerald hills of Ireland, the “deep magic” of England, the pearl of Sudan, the coral reefs of Australia, the secret wonders of the Chinese wilderness, the crystal beauty of the Arctic — all pale signposts to the world that is coming.
We worship a God whose wonders we will marvel at for eternity, because eternity cannot exhaust his wonders. We’ve got a ten-dimensional Jesus in a heaven so heavy our thin space can’t conceal it much longer; it must crash into this world. Maranatha!