Starbucks in Heaven?

Article by   June 2006

Will there be a Starbucks store in heaven? It's a crazy question, I know, but humor me for a second or two. Perhaps we should ask the more theologically precise question: what exactly will heaven be like?

It is initially surprising how little information we are given about the exact nature of the life that is promised to us in Christ. Hints abound, of course. Jesus tells his disciples in the Upper Room, of "many mansions" (Jn 14:1), adding that whatever kind of domicile we may imagine this to be, it's vista is filled with the same panoramic vision of God as that beheld by the ascended and glorified body of Jesus--'where I am there you may be also' (Jn 14:3).

But this does not answer the question we have raised, and we need to consider the biblical portrayal of the world to come in terms of the expression 'the new heavens and the new earth' (Isa 66:2; 2 Pet 3:13). The reference in Peter is especially interesting because of what he suggests will occur to this existing world order before the new heavens and new earth are established: in 'the day of the Lord... the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat!' (2 Pet 3:12).

Protestant interpretation of these words has been sharply divided. Some traditions have suggested that this present world order will experience total destruction at the coming of Jesus Christ and the judgment that follows. The new heavens and new earth will be created ex nihilo--out of nothing, repeating the divine fiat of the initial day of creation. It is not surprising, therefore, that such traditions have also disclosed a certain pessimism about this world, suggesting that withdrawal is the better part of piety. Engagement in a 'world and life' view (weltanshaung) emphasizing political involvement, social reform or cultural engagement which sees positive value and not just criticism, is 'worldly' and 'unspiritual'.

On the other hand, those who have suggested that Peter's words do not imply the complete destruction of this world, but its transformation through purging--the removal of all that is corrupt so that what remains is holy--have entertained a far more positive view of our involvement in this world as well as suggesting the shape of the world to come.

All of this, of course, begs a thousand questions about the nature of Christian engagement in this world but my concern now is with the nature of the world to come. Will there be a Starbucks in heaven? It belongs to same order of inquiry as, Will my dog be heaven? Reticence in affirming the latter (and readers should consult Augustine and Lewis for responses) often stems from a view of the world to come as non-material--visions of floating about on clouds sprouting wings come to mind. But a robust doctrine of the physicality of the resurrection, of the template of Jesus' resurrection body eating fish for breakfast by the Sea of Galilee, and a more compatible view of God's redemptive purposes with his creation would argue for a new heavens and a new earth which is reflective of this one. If, as Calvin suggested, fallen man's reflection of the imago dei is akin to ruined castles which only faintly reflect their former glory, the new heavens and new earth will beautify what can be faintly glimpsed even now in this world order.

In order to picture this in our minds we have to do several things: we must try and eradicate what sin has distorted; try to imagine what perfect fellowship with God would be like in a physical [resurrected] existence; think of what gives us true satisfaction and then multiply it by infinity! What makes heaven what Jonathan Edwards called 'a world of love'? It is seeing the glory that shines in the face of Jesus Christ (Rev. 22:4)!

And speaking personally, it is hard to imagine heaven without good coffee!

 

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