What will heaven be like?

Scan0010This past weekend we spent Sunday touring the Cowboys Stadium. It was amazing. The best part of the tour was at the very end where they just let us play on the field. I will be fifty-four in a couple of months but I had a blast. I kicked the ball, threw the ball and I caught the ball. I did things I had not done in more than 20 or maybe 30 years. I felt like a kid and it reminded me of a theological dilemma I tried to work out when I was thirteen.

When I was thirteen years old I heard a sermon about heaven and it caused me great concern. You see, the preacher, said we were going to spend all our time in heaven singing praises and worshiping. Now, I have always loved to sing and I probably enjoyed church as much as any kid but singing praises and worshiping 24/7 sounded like torture. In all honesty it still does. Now at thirteen years old the thing I loved to do most was play football. I literally slept with the football in my bed and I carried one to school every day, not just in season, but all year long. 2013-06-16 165c

One day I heard another preacher say that heaven would be better than the best world we could possibly imagine. I began to dream about what I hoped heaven would be like. In my dreams every day was Sunday, we got up, went to church, worshiped and then we played some football. The theological dilemma was not whether there would be football in heaven, of course there would be. I could not imagine heaven without football. My theological dilemma was how people in heaven could experience the thrill of victory if no one there ever experiences the agony of defeat.


The concept of winning and losing just did not go together with Bible verses on there being no pain or sorrow in heaven. I actually remember struggling with this in my mind night after night and sometimes during the day. Eventually, I decided they would probably not keep score in heaven or maybe they would only keep up with the difference. Either way, I imagined if one team got too far ahead we would just pick teams again and start over. 1014571_10151662331954883_1117832724_o

As I got older I realized that this is completely childish thinking and eventually I decided to take a closer look at what the scriptures say about heaven. My favorite scripture on heaven is in Luke Chapter 23. There were two common criminals who were crucified side by side with Christ. One of the criminals was defiant until death and railed against Christ, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other repented and he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Did you here that; Jesus said, “in Paradise.” What did Christ mean by paradise? I honestly still don’t know but I like the sound of it. At fifty-three it is enough that Christ described heaven as paradise. 2013-06-16 176

As an adult I have reconciled myself to the fact there is probably not going to be football in heaven. I am now 40 years older and way too mature for such childish dreams. Still, deep down inside of me there remains a tiny flicker of hope that after worship on my first morning in heaven, someone will pull out a football, and ask, whose pick is it?

Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

1969 - Vietnam - Baptism 01

In 1969 my father, Kenneth A. Warford was an Air Force Chaplain serving in Vietnam. Baptist Chaplains rarely perform the baptism of soldiers and airman. Baptist Chaplains normally may only baptize a soldier or airman with the permission of, and in conjunction with, a local Baptist Church. Obviously there were no local Baptist Churches in Vietnam and making arrangements with a local church back home could take months. Communication with preachers and congregations back home were far more difficult than today. This put Chaplains like my father in the position of denying baptism to new believers for months or even years. Baptist do not believe that baptism is necessary for salvation but most new believers have a strong desire to be baptized. Some chaplains, including my father, were also concern that denying baptism to new converts sent a message to other soldiers and airmen to put off getting their lives right with God until they got home. On most occasions the young men were encouraged to wait until they got home for baptism but there were times when some Baptist Chaplains felt led to bend the rules. In the winter of 1969, Chaplain Kenneth A. Warford baptized Airman 1st Class Robert E. Douglas off the coast of Tuy Hoa Air Force Base in the South China Sea. There were other such baptisms in Vietnam but as far as I know this is the only picture and record of one.

“Then Jesus came to them and said, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Matthew 28:18-20