This problem – and its Scriptural resolution – surfaced recently here in Austin when Benjamin Chen, a well-established minister originally from China, visited from New York City. It happened as he shared an anecdote from his childhood in Asia. Even as a youth, he said, he came to realize he had this problem with the Christian faith: the idea of heaven didn’t appeal to him. The New Jerusalem with its golden street and pearly gates as a physical heaven sounded nice but completely unsatisfactory.
He asked us to imagine entering the heavenly New Jerusalem for the first time. We’re told the gates are each made of one pearl (Rev. 21:21). Wouldn’t you want to take a good look at those gates? Wouldn’t it be amazing to actually walk on a street of pure gold? It sounds incredible, right?
…But how about after a year or a few hundred years? Could the New Jerusalem with its golden street and the pearl gates still be interesting to even the simplest among us? Wouldn’t you eventually, ahem, get bored in that golden wonderland?
Bored or Burn?
Such was Benjamin’s conundrum. Heaven seemed too boring for him. When he asked an older Christian whether it was true that heaven would be boring, his answer was disappointing at best. Yes, it’s true that heaven might be boring, he said, but if he didn’t believe in Christ, he would burn in hell, which would be much worse. This answer couldn’t satisfy Benjamin. He kept seeking the meaning of the Christian life.