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HUMOR IN HEAVEN based on Rev. 21:4

By Pastor Glenn Pease

W. Douglas Roe pastored a large Baptist church in Philadelphia, where he had a weekly radio broadcast. He was also going to seminary, and the load became to heavy, and he had a breakdown. He was out of the pulpit for many months. He had to learn to relax, and so he became a sort of comedian. He discovered his sense of humor, not only saved him, by bringing healing, but it was a useful tool for saving others for eternity.

He was asked to speak at a noon service in a large industrial plant. He was told about a certain worker who was a ardent atheist. He would never attend the service. Roe deliberately walked up to this man's bench, just before the meeting, and said to him, "Did you ever think how much we have to thank God for?" Before he could respond, Roe continued, "Take your nose for example. If anyone else but God had given it to you, it might have been turned upside down. Then if it rained, you would drown, and if you sneezed, you would blow your hat off." Roe just walked on up to the pulpit. The man was so intrigued by his humor, that he stayed to listen. He heard the Gospel, and made a decision for Christ. Humor became his first step on the way to heaven. Humor never saves, only Christ does, but humor may bring one to Christ.

A study of the great preachers of history, and the most popular in our contemporary world, will reveal that humor is a powerful tool in bringing people to Christ, and thus to heaven. Spurgeon used a lot of humor, and he wrote, "It always makes me laugh when I am called a sour Puritan, because you know there is nobody with a quicker eye for fun, or with a deeper vein of mirth, than I have." D.L. Moody loved to get together after an evangelistic service, and relax by telling jokes. A lady once asked him how he could laugh so soon after the serious labor of dealing with souls. He said, "If I didn't, I'd have a nervous break down at the pace at which I live."

Calvin and Luther, and even Jonathan Edwards, the hell-fire preacher, had a keen sense of humor. Some of the great Christians of history had to learn to control their sense of humor. David Livingston, who opened up Africa to missions, and who suffered enormous hardships, said to his wife, more than once, as they would recover from their fits of laughter, "Really, my dear, we ought not to indulge in so many jokes. We are getting to old. It is not becoming. We must be more staid." It is almost universally accepted as a fact of life, that it is a great virtue to have a sense of humor. The question is, will we go on in enjoying a sense of humor in heaven? Will we laugh forever, or will laughter be to earthly to be a part of the perfection of the holy city?

The Bible is our only source for reliable information on heaven. Let me share with you those texts which convince me that humor is not merely temporal, but eternal. I am convinced that humor is a part of the image of God, and that it is not the result of the fall. Here in Revelation 21:4, John tells us plenty about what will not be heaven. There will be no tears, no mourning, no crying, no pain, and death will also be no more. The whole point of these negatives, is for the purpose of magnifying the positives. If death is gone forever, then it follows, life is present forever, for there can be no end to it with death gone. If tears and mourning and crying are gone forever, it follows that there opposites, joy and laughing, are free to be experienced forever. There need be no fear that some sudden tragedy will turn our laughter to sorrow, as is the case in time.

If it can be established that laughter and a sense of humor is good, then it follows, naturally, that they will be a part of eternal life, for nothing that it good will be eliminated from heaven. Jesus settles this issue for us in Luke 6:21 where he says, "Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh." Jesus could not have called laughing a blessing if it were part of the kingdom of evil. It is, therefore, a part of the goal of Jesus, for the redeemed to cease all weeping, and to enter into laughter. The weeping prophet Jeremiah will weep no more, but enjoy the laughter of heaven's final victory over all evil. Weeping and gnashing of teeth is reserved for those in hell. It is over forever, in heaven. This promise of Christ can only be perfectly fulfilled in heaven. Many who weep do so in time of persecution, and they are killed as they weep. There's no way this promise can be kept unless there will be laughter in heaven. Deny it, and you empty the words of Christ, of all meaning, to those who die in sorrow.

Laughter must be a part of heaven, just as weeping will be a part of hell. They are opposites, and what is absent from one is present in the other. Rob heaven of laughter, and you drag it nearer the abode of the lost. If God laughs, why should His children be deprived of laughter in His presence. Luther said he would not wish to go to heaven if God did not understand a joke. The Bible reveals that God does laugh, and laughter is already a part of heaven. Look at the three references to God's laughter in the Psalms.

1. Psalm 2:4 "He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord has them in derision."

2. Psalm 37:13 "The Lord laughs at the wicked, for He sees that his day is coming."

3. Psalm 59:8 "But Thou, O Lord, dost laugh at them...."

God laughs in scorn at the pathetic folly of puny men trying to outwit Him, and challenge His authority. It is the laughter of great superiority. Men trying to plot against God are as silly as nats plotting to attack a tank. It is a joke. It is funny when the weak do not recognize their weakness, and try to use it, as if it were a strength. We have here the humor that makes the husband laugh when his wife tries to overpower him. I have exploded in laughter, as Lavonne, in grim determination, has tired to push me onto the bed, or into a pool. It is the laughter of a parent, when a small child tries to, by sheer force, get it's will done in defiance of theirs. It tickles the funny bone, and you cannot help but laugh.

God cannot help but laugh at the folly of men trying to defy His power. This kind of laughter will cease, for men will no longer be trying such folly in eternity. But the point is, it reveals God's nature, and a sense of humor is a part of it. God is not a machine or a stone. He is a person, and is affected by the reality of humor. God never changes in His nature, and thus we know, He will have a sense of humor forever. In Eccles. 3:4, it says there is a time to weep and a time to laugh. In this life the times vary and alternate. But John says there will be no more weeping in heaven. Therefore, it will be a time for laughter. This does not mean we will spend eternity in laughter, but it does mean, we will spend it in a state of joy, where laughter is always potential.

Humor has been abused and vulgarized by the sinful nature of man. But the abuse of anything is not to be allowed to rob us of it's proper use. Sam Shoemaker in his book, Under New Management, writes, "How many of you still have a sneaking suspicion that religion and humor don't mix-that you can be humorous until you mention God, but then you must be solemn? This is heresy-but there are thousands who believe it, and by their solemn piety drive people away from the stream of life!"

We need to think more seriously about the nature of humor to grasp it's importance in the nature of God. If I can laugh at the monkey's, little children, and other funny things of life, but God cannot, then it would mean, I have a positive quality of character that God does not have. This, of course, can never be, for I am made in His image. Laughter must either be a part of that image, or be a result of the breaking of that image in the fall. Since all agree that a sense of humor is a positive quality in man, we have to conclude, it is a quality of God's nature, and will be eternal.

If the angels rejoice over every sinner who repents, I am sure that God the Father and the Son do not sit in solemn silence, but join the celebration. The father of the Prodigal Son called for a celebration when his son returned, and they began to make merry. If that father could go out and sulk with the elder son, and not enter into the joy and laughter of the party, then we would have a picture opposite of what Jesus gives us. He portrays this father, who represents God, as entering fully into the joy and laughter of the celebration. It can be assumed that God will do so in the eternal celebration of heaven.

I link laughter to joy, because it is almost impossible to conceive of a joyous banquet, where there is no laughter. Laughter is a part of a joyous time. It is not likely you would call any occasion joyous, if there was no laughter. If you could sit at the marriage supper of the Lamb, and never laugh, you would be able to say, this is great, but I remember a time on earth that was even greater. You can count on it, there will be no memories in heaven, that recall times on earth of greater joy and laughter. If laughter is not a part of heaven, it will lack a value we all treasure in time. This can never be.

Jim Elliot, the missionary martyr, wrote in his diary, when he was a senior at Wheaton, "God has blessed me with a queer twist that makes me laugh at almost anything." Dr. Donald Gray Barnhouse, the great preacher and author, wrote, "There is no objection to laughing at something funny. I read some magazines just to laugh at the cartoons, and then throw them down without reading any of their articles or stories." One of Wesley's favorite sayings was, "Sour godliness is the devil's religion." Proverbs 15:15 says, all the days of the afflicted are evil, but a cheerful heart has a continual feast." Because this is so, we should be a people who long to develop our sense of humor, and pray with the poet-

Give me the gift of laughter, oh, I pray

Though tears should hover near;

Give me the gift of laughter for each day-

Laughter to cast out fear.

This is a worthy prayer, and the good news is, it will one day be fully answered, and all God's people will laugh and enjoy forever the humor of heaven.

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