God’s Keepsakes?

In chapter 13 of his book, Heaven, Randy Alcorn makes an interesting case for the possible future restoration of man-made objects from throughout human history. The exegetical evidence includes passages concerning the testing of believers’ works  (1 Cor. 13:12-15) and the eternal value of good deeds (Rev 14:13), together with the linguistic implications of a particular prayer of Moses (Psalm 90:17). I didn’t find any of this terribly compelling, but neither do I think he meant it to be conclusive.

The more I consider it, however, the more I find some of his logical/imaginative case pretty intriguing.

Alcorn points out the the earth will be renewed, and bodies will be resurrected, and that these are both physical things that God made and values. Mightn’t he then also resurrect and restore man-made objects that particularly touched his heart, spoke of a special relationship, or commemorated an important event?

Let’s use our biblically informed imaginations. Could a child’s story written out of love for Jesus survive this world, either in Heaven’s handwriting or the child’s own? Might certain works of art, literature, and music survive either literally (on the canvas and paper they were written on) or at least be re-created in Heaven? Obviously we can’t be certain, but isn’t the idea consistent with what we’ve seen of the nature of resurrection?

…Are they not as much a part of God’s “very good” creation as our bodies, and animals, lakes, and trees? What about the things we made to God’s glory? Could these be resurrected or reassembled?  (Alcorn, pg. 129)

Old Testament altars and stones of commemoration come to mind here. Could some of these be part of the landscape of the new earth? Will God decorate the eternal home he intends to share with us with sentimental objects that hold great meaning for him and for us?

For years Jesse (dear husband) has used the illustration of refrigerator art to describe God’s regard for our acts of love, worship, and service toward him. God likely cherishes our offerings the same way I cherish and display a badly distorted stick figure offered to me by one of my children. The result of the child’s earnest effort isn’t all that remarkable in and of itself, yet the drawing  is sweet, beautiful, and precious because of the heart it represents.

I am used to thinking of my efforts this way, and it is helpful when (as is all too often the case) I find their outcome to be a little on the pathetic side.

I am also used to thinking about the permanence of my deeds, in the sense that what I choose to do (or not do) in the present has eternal ramifications.

But Alcorn’s hint at the possible literal resurrection of select inanimate objects has added a new dimension to my meditations on eternal value.

I found immediate application to the words I write on this blog.

I am newly challenged to write with such purity and integrity of motive, such passion for God, and such genuine love for readers, that my written words would be the sort of thing God would be pleased and touched to display as precious expression of my heart for him—that they could be written somewhere in heaven as a physical, eternal commemoration of the love between us.

Whether or not God will do such a thing isn’t all that important (though it is a cool and interesting thought). It’s just a good way to approach the things I put my hands to.

Am I giving my heart to this in a way that the product might be meaningful to God—as a keepsake that speaks of our relationship?

As I craft this misshapen stick-figure, is it with great care as a gift of love for my Father, or is it a hasty scribble I made with little thought for him at all?

Daddy sees my heart. Who knows what he might want to hang on to…

11 thoughts on “God’s Keepsakes?”

  1. Love this post. It is such an interesting idea and one I hadn’t considered. Also have to tell you how much I appreciate your style. 🙂 I get tired of the sometimes-insincere and unnecessarily saccharine language about love and religion. You always treat such topics in a matter-of-fact, respectful way that makes their beauty and emotional impact all the more poignant.

  2. A beautiful idea, and as you say, it challenges every aspect of our lives, our every offering.
    It’s our children we love, not the things they do or create. But refrigerator art is an expression of who they are, so we collect them as a reminder them and of how they have journeyed. Perhaps God doesn’t need such reminders, but when we give them as an expression of our love, well, perhaps that’s a different matter?

      1. Wow! You’re absolutely right. I’m a bit slow so it took me a while to work that one out. What does God want with good and pleasing, from us? But he does; and the Bible confirms it over and over. More grace, in the sense of being undeserved and therefore unexpected. Thanks, Crystal.

  3. Have you read Randy Alcorn’s book “Safely Home”? If not, it’s a treat! He touches on those same ideas. A prized chair passed down through generations that was built for God and to remember and honor him in their home(s). There are concepts of physical areas of earth being in heaven. It is definitely interesting to ponder. He has expanded my ideas about what Heaven may hold. Strangely, even though the idea of Heaven is comforting to me, it’s even more comforting to know that some of the things on earth that were valued in some way by us may be in Heaven with us one day. Of course the greatest prize will be walking and talking with Jesus. There are poignant parts of the book where those family members in heaven can see us on earth and pray for us. They see the pain and unjust situations. In Heaven I had imagined no more pain or fears. I wonder if we will still feel that for loved ones left behind. Isn’t that what makes us human? Our capacity to love and care for those around us. To have compassion for strangers, people who are in need, those who are physically and/or mentally impaired? My mother-in-law and father-in-law are in Heaven. It has always given me great comfort that their bodies have been restored, that they are praising God and face to face with Jesus. It upsets the apple cart a bit to think they are aware of (but not that they are praying for) our trials here on earth. One day we will get to know the answers. Right now we just have to have faith in one thing, our Savior.

    1. I haven’t read “Safely Home” (or any of Alcorn’s fiction), but he mentions that novel on the very same page I took this quote from.

      In “Heaven,” he’s kind of busting the myth that ‘the Bible doesn’t really say that much about heaven, and that what it does say can’t be taken literally.’

      There’s a lot we’re not told, and I’m sure there will be many of delightful surprises, but there is much we are told, and that ‘much’ sounds an awful lot like here, in a lot of ways. 🙂

  4. Hi Crystal, the continuity / discontinuity between this world and the new creation is a fascinating issue. Randy Alcorn’s suggestion echoes interesting theological debates that folk like Miroslav Volf, N T Wright, Stephen Williams are engaged in – how much does what we do and say now ‘continue’ and how should this continuity shape our mission, our environmental concern, social action etc?

    I see a a wee bit of a distinction between your reflection and Alcorn though. Christian’s motive for action now is not primarily drawn from whether what we do, say and create now will literally ‘continue’ (or not). While there is some form of continuity (I don’t believe the earth will be annihilated but remade) we just don’t know what is will look like. But the motive for all we do should be from a desire to serve and love God and love others I see that motive expressed beautifully in what you write.

    1. Guilty as charged! 🙂 I definitely used Alcorn’s thoughts as a trampoline for an imaginative, devotional reflection that is not theologically water-tight. The question of the literal/physical continuity of the products of our creative efforts should in no way determine the degree to which we offer ourselves to God in love. Still, it can be an interesting and helpful assessment tool. Whether God hangs it on his heart alone, or remakes an actual memento, are my motives in this endeavor anything that God might even want a keepsake of?

      As to the starting from scratch/renewing question itself (of the earth, our bodies, or other objects), that is definitely the train Alcorn is on in this section of the book. I intentionally avoided going there because it is controversial, and I don’t feel I’ve given it enough thought to discuss it intelligently. Do you have any particularly helpful resource suggestions for me?

  5. a belated reply Crystal. I have bits and pieces collected (I’m a bit like a magpie). Maybe hard to get, but a book The Limits of Hope and the Logic of Love: Essays on Eschatalogy and Social Action by Stephen N. Williams would be good [Regent may have it, I think it came out of lectures he gave there]. He argues that a proper theological understanding of love is a better and firmer foundation for ethics and social action than what is inevitably rather speculative ideas of what continues and what does not in the new age to come.

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