Heaven Can Wait?
I recently watched one of my all-time favorite movies. It is an older movie entitled "Heaven Can Wait" and is essentially a romantic comedy. Warren Beatty plays the role of Joe Pendleton, a professional football player who is working hard to make the Los Angeles Rams football team. Just as Joe seems to be on the verge of accomplishing his goal, he dies, hit by a vehicle as he is riding his bicycle in a tunnel.
Actually, a terrible mistake has been made by his "guide", the person who has the responsibility to conduct Joe’s soul (after death) to the "way station." It seems that his "guide," new and inexperienced at his assigned role, pulled Joe out of the situation prematurely, not waiting for the actual outcome. The guide was so sure that Joe was going to die and his intention was to save Joe from the suffering involved in his death, but it turns out that, due to the reflexes of a superior athlete, Joe would have, in fact, avoided the vehicle and lived. The guide has to call in his supervisor, Mr. Jordan, who must now try to "fix" the mistake by finding Joe’s "soul" another body to inhabit.
If you are looking in your Bible for the verses which teach this view of life after death, you are searching in vain. The movie is pure fiction and has no Biblical basis. The plot is interesting, however, because of what it says about heaven.
Joe is determined to play for the Rams and take them to the Super Bowl. Not willing to let a little thing like death (and the fact that his original body has already been cremated) stop him from such a lofty goal, he complains about the guide’s mistake and Mr. Jordan finds him another body to "use", the body of a wealthy man murdered by his wife and personal assistant. The plot takes a few more turns, but Joe finally gets to play in the Super Bowl and actually scores the winning touchdown in a sudden-death overtime.
Joe Pendleton, as portrayed in the movie, is a likeable character, but his attitude toward the afterlife is startling. Rather than feel any joy about the fact that he is supposedly on his way to heaven, he is irritated that his "guide" made a mistake and prevented him from realizing his goal of playing for the Rams!
Contrast the attitude of the apostle Paul. As he wrote to the Philippians from a Roman prison, he spoke of the inner conflict that he felt as he contemplated the possible outcomes of his imprisonment. Although his release would mean that he could help the Philippian Christians even further, he viewed his death as gain, the opportunity to depart his world and be with Christ (see Philippians 1:19-24).
Do we look forward to the coming of Jesus and the opportunity to go to heaven, or are we so wrapped up in our pursuits here that "heaven can wait"?