Summary: Heaven is all about harmony, unity, a place where divisions will be past and we will be one Body. Heaven is a symphony where each movement is better than the one before. "You ain't heard nothin' yet!"
What’s the best concert you’ve ever been to? I have several: I remember going to Lincoln Center to hear the NY Philharmonic perform Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto #2. Seeing Paul McCartney in Frankfurt, Germany was quite an experience. Wynton Marsalis playing jazz in San Antonio was pretty awesome also. And while most Americans haven’t heard of him, I’ve seen Scottish folksinger Dougie MacLean in concert twice, and both times I got to talk to him. Have you ever heard music that seemed to transport you? Music is transcendent--it’s a bridge between this world and another. My favorite musical piece is The Lark Ascending, by British composer Ralph Vaughn Williams; when I hear it, I ascend also, and I get a sense of Heaven’s glory.
Robin Williams was asked if he believed in Heaven, and what he hoped God might say to him when he arrived. He answered: “Mozart will be conducting a symphony in a few minutes, so please take a seat and enjoy the performance.” You know, this isn’t wishful thinking, because music is a big part of Heaven. Theologian Peter Kreeft states that Heaven’s music will be “something not merely pleasant but profoundly meaningful, a high and holy mystery.” People who’ve claimed to have visions of Heaven say the music was of a far different quality than earthly compositions. We all have our favorite pieces of music…but we haven’t heard the best.
Music has been called the “first language”, and some believe God sang the world into existence. Those words, “Let there be light” were sung, not merely spoken. In the beginning was the “music of the spheres” and so it will be in the world-to-come.
Heaven is described in Scripture as a concert of praise. The imagery comes from the musical concept of unity, of diverse musicians playing together, or of a choir singing in harmony. The word “symphony” means “agreement, concord, sounding together.” When musicians are in synch and the chemistry’s just right, something special occurs. You can hear it, and see it on their faces.
In our Scripture reading, the Apostle John records a heavenly hymn of praise. A multitude beyond number is worshipping Jesus in song, because He has ransomed us with His blood and has gathered people from every nation to His Kingdom, making them priests, appointing them to rule over the earth. The Lamb is sung a seven-fold praise in verse 12--seven being the number of fullness, perfection, and completeness. He is truly worthy of worship. No one is being made to sing praises; all do so willingly. If our principle occupation in Heaven will be worship, what are we doing to prepare for that now?
The multitude sings “worthy is the Lamb,” a chorus that in Handel’s Messiah is (in my opinion) even more powerful than the “Hallelujah Chorus.” The praise ends with a resounding “Amen”, the worshipping affirmation to the God who affirms us.
In a symphony, the instruments blend together. Heaven will reflect such harmony. Divisiveness will be long gone. Sadly some people think their denomination will be the only residents of Heaven. This reflects a limited view of the Body of Christ. In fact, one of our former Conference Ministers said that he’s looking forward to the day when there’s no more Congregationalists…when in Heaven there will just be believers, dwelling together as children of God. There’ll be no Baptist section, Methodist section, Catholic section, etc. We’ll be as one, singing God’s praises.
It’s been said, “To dwell above with saints we love, oh that will be glory…to dwell below with saints we know--that’s a different story.” In order to really enjoy the harmony of Heaven, we might want to practice some harmony now. The Christian church is way too divided. We need to reach out and work together with other Christians. Last week I went kayaking with Fr. Dan of Blessed Sacrament, and I didn’t push him into the river! What unites us in Christ is greater than that which divides us.
Heaven celebrates the original harmony of Creation in perfect unity. We see some of that in our country, a unique nation of immigrants, yet because of sin, we struggle with accepting people who seem “different” from us. We don’t always celebrate our differences; we have “hyphenated” Americans, and we express our prejudices. In Heaven we will all be one.
Is the idea of music in Heaven merely symbolic? I firmly believe there will be actual music and singing. No matter how impressive the music we’ve heard may sound, what awaits us will make Beethoven’s 9th sound like a toddler banging on a toy xylophone. “You ain’t heard nothin’ yet!”
When I taught leadership at the Air Defense Artillery School, Ft Bliss, I described various leadership styles. One focuses on harmony within the work force. Harmony in music is important; it’s even more important in relationships. When people are able to work together as a cohesive team, they usually achieve the desired results. Heaven is a place of harmony. All the power struggles will be gone.