Memory Eternal, A Teaching Unit on Bereavement (Lesson Six: Heaven)

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
– 1 Corinthians 2

How might an Orthodox Christian try to explain what or where is Heaven or Paradise? Though there are a number of images in the Scriptures, it would be appropriate to understand Heaven as not so much a place, as a relationship. At the time of the crucifixion the repentant thief was told by Jesus that “today you will be with me in Paradise” (Lk 23:43) and in Revelation it is said, “To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God” (2:7). Paradise, as a word, means “garden.” So, to be returned to the garden has all of the implications of life as relationship and communion with God that Adam and Eve had in THE garden before the fall.
– Talking To Children About Death By Albert Rossi & Fr. John Schimchik

The seed of a saint’s life has grown, fallen in death and then risen as a beautiful plant in the Garden of Heaven, but what is that like?

  1. No hunger, no thirst, no hot or cold in heaven

While Christ blesses those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness’ sake” here on earth, St. John the Beloved Disciple tells us in Revelation 7:16, that in heaven “they shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat.”

How come they won’t hunger or thirst, what will they eat or drink? The answer, in Revelation 2:17 and 7:17 respectively, is, “To him who overcomes I will give some the hidden manna to eat” and “for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters.”

  1. No weeping, no pain or sickness

In Revelation 7:17, “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” and in Revelation 21:4, “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” What a beautiful thing to know that in heaven the troubles of this world would be over! Sorrow and pain is a result of sin, and in heaven there shall be no sin; thus, we would always be in a happy atmosphere.

Holy Lent is a symbol of our life here on earth, and through Christ’s death and resurrection, we attain salvation.

  1. No lust or physical needs

Since Satan will be destroyed in the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, there will not be any lustful temptations from him. Also this is clear through Christ’s response to the Pharisees when they asked him about the woman who married several brothers and they wanted to know as to whom she would be married in heaven. Christ said, “For in resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven” (Matthew 22:30).

  1. No covetousness, no envy, and no hatred

As prophesied in Psalm 133:1-3, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron, running down on the edge of his garments. It is like the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion; for there the Lord commanded the blessing- Life forevermore.” We know that this is a prophecy about heaven because it’s referring to eternal life through the use of the term “Life forevermore.”

  1. More great things that will be found in heaven

No cursing but blessing from God; no darkness because God is the God of light; no ignorance, but rather full knowledge; living among the courageous Saints such as the blessed Theotokos and Saint Nicholas; and praising the Lord with the angels.

  1. Time

We read The Chronicles of Narnia to Mary Evelyn and those books helped her understand heaven. She was worried about missing her family in heaven, but we reminded her that the children in the Narnia books love their parents, but somehow they don’t miss them, and that time is different in heaven; so a lifetime here may be just a few moments there. We told her we’d be with her before she could miss us.

  1. Love

In Heaven we will experience the depth of God’s love, increasing all the time, we will truly love each other without the obstacles of selfishness, we will be open to each other without shame, we’ll be in love.

Activities and topics for discussion:

  1. People who have had near death experiences almost always talk about seeing a light and feeling intense love. They often change their lives because they have had an experience that shows them that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that God will reveal in us (Romans 8:18) How can that help us now?
  1. How can you bring a little more heaven into your life now? How can you act more like a citizen of heaven even while living on earth?
  1. Glue an icon card or a photo of someone who has died that you’d like to pray for onto a small rectangle of construction paper. On the back, write a prayer a verse from the Bible that will help you remember that heaven’s glory is beyond compare of the problems you are facing here.

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