The other day I fell asleep in the library. Those locking up must’ve somehow overlooked the cranny I had squeezed myself into, as they left me in the dark. There I slept alone among the vain and voluminous endeavours of human knowledge. Being, of course, in the theology section, I awoke in the early hours of the morning to a soft and bright iridescence before me. A reasonably bored looking angel stood there and reflected on my fruitless mis-attempts to come to any useful conclusions. “Come on”, he said, “I’m just on my break. I’ll take you ‘upstairs’, give you a taste for what things are really like”. “Yeah,” I said, “Ok, that’s cool”.
If you ever ate chocolate with those crackly bits in it that pop in your mouth, going to heaven is kind of like that, only that you’re eating the chocolate and you are the chocolate at the same time.
My first impressions were, “Why are there so many white people here?” which I incidentally spoke aloud, as private thinking is more so a thing of the earth. My angel (‘Milhouse’, as his friends called him, in jesting reference to that popular show, ‘The Simpsons’) noted that we were in the white part of heaven, and it probably wasn’t such a good idea to go any of the ‘ethnic minority’ parts at this time of night.
As we walked on, Milhouse told me how he was going to take me to see the ‘apostles’, to give me some ‘real theology lessons’. For almost two millenia, these first century men of God had met together every Tuesday night in heaven to play poker. James the Just was notoriously good at it. And it didn’t take long to get there either. Apparently you can go anywhere in heaven in just about twenty minutes walk at the most.
When John opened the door he welcomed me with an affectionate hand shake, which pulled me into an embrace. “Good to see you boy! Where you from?”. I was a little offset by his enthusiasm. “I’m from Christchurch… the one in New Zealand… it’s like quite a wee way from, uh, Palest-, um, Israel”. “Christ Church? Well I’ll be!” he beamed, “welcome home, son!” And he pulled me into another hug.
The men of God had just finished their game, and James had wiped the floor with them all again. I took a chair next to Matthew the Evangelist (on counting there were actually about nineteen people in the room), who had struck up a conversation with Paul, the one whom I was most eager to talk to. Matthew was deeply serious, “I’m telling the truth. I just really hate the taste of bacon. Like, really, I see nothing wrong with it at all, but bacon, pork, ham, etcetera, whatever cut of pig it is just cannot convince my tastebuds”.
After some awkward introductions, the saints addressed me, “So I hear you’ve been studying a bit of theology. You must have some questions then! Just don’t you cite us in any of your ‘essays’. They prefer you to put your own ‘spin’ on things down there!” They all laughed. Paul was a crack-up. “Well,” I started, “I always wondered who wrote Hebrews”. The air suddenly grew thicker. I was regretting what I had just asked. Clearly it made everyone uncomfortable. Seeing the need to take some leadership here, Paul solemnly addressed me. “Anastasios was a good friend of ours. But he didn’t quite make it here”.
The ‘spotlight’ was still on me so I attempted to change the subject. “In Acts, Paul, Luke portrays your theology quite contrarily to how it appears in your own letters. How much of it is in line with what you actually believe, or believed at the time?” John looked at me affirmingly and with a nod said, “That’s a very clever question, you!” Paul chuckled. “Luke and I always ‘had each other on’ a lot. One time I ‘put’ some worms ‘in’ his bedding!” Everyone laughed again. This was obviously part and parcel of some eternal prank exchange that the boys delighted to recall. “So then this one time Luke ‘sends’ me a copy of his new ‘work’, The acts of the apostles. On first reading it I was unsettled by how he ‘portrayed’ our ministry, but then I realised the pun in the word ‘acts’. It was a ‘hilarious’ bit of ‘weekend’ reading! He’s got a really ‘ironic’ sense of humour”.
I was intrigued. “Hey, and what about Peter’s sermon at Pentecost then? Did he actually say those things or is Luke having another laugh? It always seemed to me like he takes Psalm 16 out of context”. A new face emerged from a shadowy corner of the room. Paul stood up. “Come on Pete-” “No! I’m just sick of people making fun of me!” a determined, hurt and irritated Peter attempted to wrestle through the crowd before humphing and stomping out the door. John got up concernedly and followed after him. “Look, I’m sorry about that,” Paul looked at me. “But if you ever ‘get’ to heaven, then you realise there’s just a lot that you can’t ‘talk’ about. Poor old Pete was just ‘new’ to the whole ‘preaching’ thing back then. He’s very sensitive about it”.
Milhouse looked at his watch. “Righty-ho! I’ve got to get you back, otherwise I’ll be late for work!” I gave a few rushed “Pleased to meet you”s and “Thanks for your hospitality”s (they offered me an otherworldly selection of ‘fruit juices’) before racing out the door to head back to the library. My ten minutes or so in heaven had been an ‘eye-opening’ experience. But I had one more question.
“What about the girls, Milhouse? Are they in a different part of heaven too?” I was eager to know. The angel laughed. “Are you for real?” He paused to double-check if I was ‘for real’. “Take a look at your ‘body’. That’s what happens when you get to heaven”.