I have never been to Disney World or Disney Land myself. I know many people who frequent these places with their families, and some are even married couples without children who contend that December is the best time to go because there’s fewer in attendance. I’ve just never been one for theme parks. I’d go farther to confess that I’ve never even been on a rollercoaster, I’m not ashamed to admit. It’s not my thing though I know many have a taste for such excitement, and that’s fine. Walt Disney conceived an excellent notion with his films and animations and would bring it to life in his theme park despite not living to see it come to fruition. On its opening day in 1955, Disney said,
To all who come to this happy place; welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past…. and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams and the hard facts that have created America … with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.
As marvelous and wonderful as I hear Disney is, the sad thing is that it doesn’t last long enough for those who desire to be there. You can always go back, but you’ll find yourself leaving again. It’s a vacation spot. It’s not where you live. It may seem to some as heaven on earth, but it’s not heaven at all, because of the time restrictions and a few missing elements. It may be the happiest or most magical place on earth, but it only pales in comparison to the ideals to which it aspires. Heaven is that place, and it’s where we get to spend, not a week only to leave, but an eternity.
There’s certainly a lot of material that could be studied in Revelation 21–22, such as renewed creation. Still, I’d instead look at reasons we Christians look forward to heaven regardless of how one may understand it. It’s fantastic when you consider the value of missing. For example, any team that played against the Chicago Bulls loved with Michael Jordan missed a basket. It wasn’t right for Jordan, but it was for the other team. A deer can always be pleased when a hunter misses that shot, and it has the chance to run away. Obviously, for one, missing is disappointing, while for another missing is sweet. Note what’s missing from heaven: sea (i.e., chaos; cf. Gen. 1:1–3), death, sorrow, crying, and pain (Rev. 21:1, 4; cf. v. 8).
Furthermore, the curse no longer exists—neither the night (Rev. 22:3, 5). These are absent for one particular reason, and that’s because of God’s presence. Joy displaces sorrow and suffering—something comforting to persecuted believers in the first century, and even all those who live now with sadness. Those who persecute use such things to oppress and injure others, but the faithful of God will relish the absence of them in heaven. These are often the first things we might think about when we envision heaven. This is what is obviously most appealing to us, especially in times of hardship and heartache, but it’s not all that there is.
What next appears is the reality and eschatological expectation that God dwells with men and men with Him (Rev. 21:3). Heaven is the “tabernacle” of God—skene in Greek; mishkan in Hebrew; skin in English. The same three-letter root appears for each; skn. Initially, the term noted a large tent often made of skins, which is what the tabernacle was in the wilderness. As a metaphor, this indicates the divine presence of God (cf. Rev. 7:15; John 1:14). This tabernacle, New Jerusalem, is actually the Holy of Holies itself (Rev. 21:16), and the entirety of the city is the tabernacle (Rev. 21:22). I’ve mentioned in preaching before that when God created the heavens and the earth that He did so as a temple. Our sins alienated us from Him and corrupted the world which resulted in His wonderful creation being unclean. Through the tabernacle, temple, and church, He has set holy precincts back in the earth so that He could live among humanity. However, since the planet still contains sin, the new heavens and new earth will be the totality of His original design. This demonstrates a beautiful cohesiveness to the entirety of Scripture and the heart of God.
Finally, there’s the quenching of one’s thirst (Rev. 21:7). Throughout Scripture, a person who thirsts is one who has a need. Those that hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied (Matt. 5:6). As an invitation to an abundant life, Israelites were encouraged to come to God if they thirsted (Is. 55:1), and the psalmist depicted their longing for God as a thirst (Ps. 63:1–2). Blaise Pascal was a seventeenth-century philosopher, among other things. He wrote a work entitled Pensées (pron. pawn-say; “Thoughts”) in which he wrote
What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.
Centuries before Pascal would pen his words, Augustine would write, “Restless is our heart until it comes to rest in thee” (Conf. 1.1.1), so God’s angel would show John the pure river of water of life (Rev. 22:1). Our thirst is quenched. Our desires are satisfied.
There’s a lovely poem entitled, “A Letter from Heaven,” that reads:
When tomorrow starts without me;
And I’m not here to see,
If the sun should rise and find your
Eyes, filled with tears for me.
I wish so much that you wouldn’t cry,
The way you did today,
While thinking of the man things,
We didn’t get to say.
I know how much you love me,
As much as I love you,
And each time you think of me,
I know you’ll miss me too.
When tomorrow starts without me,
Don’t think we’re far apart,
For every time you think of me,
I’m right there in your heart.
“And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears says, ‘Come!’ and let him who thirsts comes. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17).
 Blaise Pascal, Pensées (New York: Penguin Books, 1966), 75.