Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
A common image that eulogists share at funerals is that once we die we sit in a comfy chair and smile as we look down at our loved ones as they go about their lives. This notion is not biblical but is, instead, a certain extrapolation of the Greek idea that we have an enduring soul or spirit. I cringe at this thought! My mother was a wonderful person but had a predilection to worrying and it was worse when she felt she was not able to help the person she saw at risk or in need. The idea that she is spending eternity watching her loved ones screw up while she can do nothing about it sounds more like demented torture than heavenly bliss. While there can be no direct trace, this notion is found a letter written in 1923 to fellow English writer John Middleton Murry, where D H. Lawrence wrote, “The dead don't die. They look on and help.”
And they cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb."
All the angels were standing around the throne and
around the elders and the four living creatures.
They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: "Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom
and thanks and honor and power
and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!"
John the Revelator was a visionary not a lexicographer. He did not intend to define or limit our own heavenly anticipations. Instead, his portraits were to open up our minds and hearts to the radical greatness that words will always fall short of capturing. I would never say there are no comfy chairs in heaven but visions such as the multitudes before the throne in Revelation 7 are surely offered to us to imagine that heaven includes something much greater than mundane observations of the life you left.