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Saturday, October 30, 2004

The New Heaven and Earth

When I was a kid, I remember looking at photos of this strange amusement park in Singapore called Har Paw Villa, aka Tiger Balm Gardens. One of its famed attractions is the depiction of the ten courts of Hell, where you can see grotesquely realistic images of supposedly wicked sinners suffering from varied kinds of eternal tortures and mutilations based on the kinds of sins you commit while in this life. Imagine the terror such images evoke in the minds of youngsters.

I don't know whose idea it was to build the "attraction" and I don't know what the motivation is to have such a monument. Reportedly, many parents would take their young ones to go view the surreal exhibitions, warning them of evil-doing less they end up with these insufferable eternal torments. While it most assuredly struck terror in the hearts of the young, I am not sure if it were much of a deterrent for most to sin. Not when
the power to do so is so strong even those the most godly seem to be struggle with it. Even so, those images traumatized me as a youngster. So, when I became a Christian and read about the gnashing of teeth and the Last Judgement and the lake of fire, familiar images filled my mind about this place of eternal banishment from God.

Over the past few years, I have spent quite a few moments pondering on the nature of heaven and hell. When Mom was on her death bed, and when she was screaming out in pain, clutching onto my arms, pleading me to "save her" I wanted to tell her that Jesus will wipe away her tears in heaven. I wanted to. I never did. In fact, no words left my mouth. That experience haunted me for quite a while. In any case, I sometimes return to that image of heaven. And to the image that God will wipe away the tears from the saints.

Recently, reading a post at
Jolly Blogger's where he was re-telling a conversation he had with the family about heaven, hell and what's on the dining menu in heaven once again reminded me about my "heavenly reflections." By the way, if JollyBlogger had ever enjoyed Chinese style Vegetarian Peking Roast Duck, and a host of other vegetarian delicacies made out of soy, tofu and other non-meat products that can even be more delicious than the real McCoy, he needed have worried about how to get meat in heaven! Anyway, I digress... I was saying that his post reminded me of my ponderings about heaven, hell and crying. Specifically, about the image of God wiping away all tears.

I often wonder what that image means. It says that there will be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. But before that, it spoke about God wiping away all tears. I wonder if there is a time when there will still be crying, so that God will wipe the tears away. Unless it is a symbolism to mean no more crying, how could God wipe the tears unless there first be crying?

Precisely how would we be feeling in heaven? Would we still remember the sorrows and pains of today? Would there be regret? Would we miss those loved ones who reject His offer to enter into glory with us? If we do, won't we yearn to be with them? Won't we feel a loss for them? Won't we cry for them? Perhaps, there will be such emotions -- if not in heaven, then maybe in the forecourts of heaven. Maybe before the establishment of the new heaven. Perhaps that is when God will wipe away our tears.

Perhaps there is a stage we go through where there will be tears as we cry for those we left behind, those who suffer in the lake of fire, but the tears will be wiped away by God Himself. So God Himself will comfort us. Perhaps all this happens before the establishment of the new heaven and new earth. Then, it says the former things would pass away. There will be the second death. And a new heaven and new earth. So maybe before the new heaven, the tears will still be there so God can wipe them away. And then, comes the "no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain." The new heaven and earth. Perhaps. Or perhaps not.