Dinosaurs may be extinct, but interest in them is very much alive. Millions of people testify to this, buying Michael Crichton’s book Jurassic Park, or seeing Stephen Spielberg’s movie version of it. Crichton’s thesis, in simplest terms, is that a scientist discovers how to extract dinosaur DNA from blood remnants in a mosquito petrified in amber. He then “creates” dinosaurs in the present, developing them in a wildlife preserve setting on an island. His dream is that people will visit it, like a fantastic prehistoric theme park.
I was bitten early by the “dinosaur bug.” As a kindergartner, my favorite books were about these creatures whose toenails were bigger than my whole house and who could eat the local grocery store for an appetizer. I shuddered at the fierce pterodactyl, a monster, bat-like reptile. And the Tyrannosaurus Rex– well, words fail to describe the terror I imagined, being caught in the vice-grip of those claws, thrust toward his reeking mouth… Oh my!!
Now that I’ve taken a step back (in more ways than one?!) from the vivid imagination of childhood, I’ve tried to understand our fascination with dinosaurs. I think it might be this: We are fascinated by a reality we’ve never experienced, something we can hardly imagine, but for which we have evidence existed. We are people of the five senses, but we find our greatest fascination in a sixth sense: the imagination. And the imagination (properly understood) is one of the primary organs of faith.
I think heaven fascinates us in much the same way. Heaven and life eternal (some theologians make a distinction between these—but I can’t explore that now), is planted within our hearts.
“God has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11 NIV).
Yet we can hardly imagine this unfamiliar and different mode of existence. Paul, drawing from the prophet Isaiah, communicates this in 1 Corinthians:
“What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”—
the things God has prepared for those who love him—
these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:9-10 NIV).
While thoughts of dinosaurs may be interesting for science and even entertainment, thoughts of heaven can serve the most practical purposes. Puritan preacher, Richard Baxter wrote in The Saint’s Everlasting Rest:
[Thinking of heaven as our eternal rest] is not our comfort only, but our stability. Our liveliness in all duties, our enduring of tribulation, our honoring of God, the vigor of our love, thankfulness, and all our graces, yea, the very being of our religion and Christianity, depend on the believing, serious thoughts of our rest [in heaven].
Jesus said to his disciples, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me, that you also may be where I am” (John 14:2-3).
Think now of that place. Let your imagination feast on the thoughts of dwelling in God’s house: the beauty, the joy, the freedom of heart, mind, body and soul. Our destination is not extinction, but eternity. God’s best is yet to be!!