HAT IS heaven like? Of course, no one on earth knows specifically. There are many people, however, who have attempted to describe what it might be like. From Augustine’s City of God to Dante’s Paradiso to Mitch Album’s Five People You Meet in Heaven, there are plenty of portrayals of what might lie hereafter. One notable portrait of heaven comes from John, the Beloved Disciple, who put his vision to parchment in the fourteenth chapter of the Apocalypse.
He paints his portrait mainly with sounds. The scene includes the Lamb standing atop Mount Zion before the 144,000 elect. The author speaks of “the sound of rushing water,” then adds “a loud peal of thunder”; thereafter, he hears the sound “of harpists playing their harps”; finally, he reports that the multitude of saints “were singing what seemed to be a new hymn before the throne.”
The idea that heaven is filled with sound—even music—is intriguing. Having sung in choirs for many years, I have come to appreciate choral singing, as well as chant, as a premonition of the Kingdom. To sing well in a choir, one must listen to the other voices. This listening leads one to recognize and value the other voice. Only then is the chorister able to contribute his or her own voice to complement the others’ voices. No one, after all, can sing in harmony with oneself.
This strikes me very much like what heaven should be. In heaven, there will be no discord, no backbiting, no jealousy. In the words of John, “On their lips no deceit has been found; they are unblemished” (Rev. 14:5). According to the Christian vision of earthly life, heavenly life must consist in the perfect giving-and-taking, acceptance-and-bestowal of saintly relationships. There, love of God and love of neighbor will be perfected and overflow with song. It is so magnificently appropriate for the lover to sing for the beloved.
So, what is heaven like? No one on earth knows precisely. But I would not be surprised if it is, in fact, a place filled with music. At the very least, it must be a place of perfect harmony.