The Joy of Mars and Heaven
Last night, I stayed up to watch the eagerly anticipated (by space geeks worldwide) and nerve-wracking landing of the NASA Curiosity Rover on Mars as it descended to the surface through the “seven minutes of terror”. Actually, I didn’t really stay up. I watched it on my laptop, wirelessly, in High Def, in bed.
Watching NASA’s men and women at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, live, wirelessly, on my laptop, in bed, is quite impressive in itself. My parents are old enough (94 & 88) and plenty non-techie enough to still be awed by my ability to use a laptop computer to watch re-runs of the Jetsons on Youtube. And when one stops surfing and texting and tweeting long enough to think about it, yeah, it really is pretty impressive. And we haven’t even begun to talk about smart phones yet.
This is the stuff Star Trek was made of. Portable laptops and tablets and “communicators” and interactive talking computer systems belonged solidly in the realm of science fiction/fantasy in the 60’s. Hand-held lasers that will blast rocks and monsters to smithereens cannot be far away. And who knows if we’ll ever develop a kind of “transporter” device so some Scotty wannabe can beam something somewhere. And then what? Warp drive?
It is the imaginations of men that drive them to pursue such exploits. The exploration of the created realm and the development of the tools to do so is a worthy work. Even more so when one understands he is exploring what God has made in order to give Him the glory He is due for His great wisdom and power as our Creator. And it is God who gives men the ability to do the exploring.
I cannot fathom being Columbus as he began to realize what he had done. As far as the world was concerned at the time, he had discovered another planet with alien races and curious, previously unseen (by Europeans anyway) creatures. Unknown languages and customs and foods and everything. It was a gigantic discovery, made possible by the technology of the day: wind-powered, wooden boats. How quaint.
What would Columbus think of landing an autonomously computer-controlled, six-wheeled, nuclear powered, laser-armed, robot on another planet 225 MILLION miles away (average), sending it there with rockets, traveling 47 THOUSAND miles per hour? He would say we are out of our Borg collective minds, or something very similar. He wouldn’t even understand the statement. “What’s a nuclear?”
Throughout recorded history, men and women have studied and observed the created world around us, giving us more and more information as to how this thing called the universe actually works. We have discovered the laws of physics that are so consistent and so precise and so predictable that we can launch a ship to Mars, have it travel for 253 days through the vacuum of space, bombarded by solar radiation, and have it land safely within feet of the desired spot, and get photos back within minutes. That is impressive. That is a nearly unbelievable feat of science and engineering. I’m tempted to say the human race has reason to be proud.
As I watched the men and women of NASA during EDL (Entry, Descent and Landing), you could see their nervousness all over their faces. Men wringing their hands and pacing back and forth. Eight years of work and research had come down to this most critical moment when numerous automatic systems had to function flawlessly in order to deliver the payload, the one-ton Curiosity Rover, gently to a soft landing on the surface of the Red Planet. If one electrical circuit was damaged, if one pyrotechnic explosive failed, if there was the slightest tear in the supersonic parachute, or if they landed in the martian equivalent of quicksand, all would be lost.
Then, the much hoped for announcement came: We have landed safely on Mars! This room full of stuffy scientific and engineering professionals instantly exploded in jubilation! Shouts of joy, jumping up and down, smiles that stretched beyond ear to ear, weeping, laughing, and unbridled exhilaration erupted and continued full blast for 15 minutes. And while I enjoy monitoring our scientific exploits when I can, just seeing the unabashed out-of-control celebration of success brought a tear to my eye. As far detached as I am from them and what they had accomplished, I laughed with them and shared in their victory. It was a sight to see and an emotional high to be felt.
I cannot help but wonder about this. If I can rejoice with those who are rejoicing over this milestone in the history of space exploration, being completely removed from them and a totally unknown entity to everyone there at NASA, . . . What will our rejoicing be like when the family of God lands safely before our Father’s throne? How will we be able to contain ourselves when we stand before the One who created Mars and all the stars with a word?
What will be our joy when we realize our final salvation and gather together as the redeemed and righteous people of God, a number no man can count, from every tongue and tribe and people and nation? How high will we collectively jump for joy? How loud will our shouts of jubilation be? How many verses will there be to our songs of praise and thanksgiving? How many tears of uncontrollable ecstasy will we shed before our Brother, our Brother! the Lord Jesus, wipes them from our eyes? And how great will be our amazement, how awe-stricken will we be, when we first see with our own eyes, the Lamb who was slain for us?
David tells us in the Psalms that in God’s presence there is “fullness of joy”:
7 I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. 8 I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. 9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. 10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. 11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:7-11 ESV)
I believe our joy in Heaven will be something like a sanctified Mars landing celebration. Only a million times better. Just like Columbus couldn’t possibly understand the scientific miracle of successfully sending a robot to another planet, so we cannot possibly understand just how incomprehensibly wonderful our happiness will be when we enter our new world. I suspect it will look something like the celebration of the NASA family last night. Kind like the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria resemble a space ship.
But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9 NKJV)
That, my beloved brethren, will be real joy. Fulness of joy for all eternity. Even better than going to Mars, wouldn’t you say?