1. It would be way too crowded for them.
One of the basic tenets of Christian fundamentalism is the belief that they’re basically going to be the only people who get there. I frequently watch some of their dialogues in online groups (painful opposition research), and what’s sad is that they’re not just out on the streets condemning everyone else to hell– they’re quick to condemn each other as well. By the standards I often see laid out by fundamentalists (such as the belief that a truly “saved” person never, ever sins again after they’re “saved”), no one, not even themselves, would ever get in.
While I’m not a universalist, everything I see in the God fully revealed in the person of Jesus shows me that heaven is going to be much more crowded than I ever imagined growing up. If they were to go there, they’d discover that so many of the people they thought were “out” were actually “in” and that so many they thought were “in” might actually be “out”. This would make heaven a bit of a fundamentalist hell because it’s going to reveal the generous heart of God.
2. They’d have to mix with people they really don’t like.
At the end of the Bible, we see God’s story end with a “healing of the nations” where every tribe, nation and tongue come together to worship and live in harmony with God– just as was the plan in the beginning. Fundamentalists would hate this, because they’d have to have to mix with a lot of people they really didn’t like here on earth. One of the hallmarks of modern fundamentalist in a separatist and exclusive mindset– the closest they’ll often get to anyone who is different than them is when they’re behind the barrier of the free speech zone yelling at people on the street.
Imagine the torture it would be for them to worship God along side Catholics, Mexicans, and (gasp) gay people who all chose to be reconciled to God through Christ? It would be misery.
3. That “last shall be first” thing would feel really unfair.
Modern fundamentalists have the same problem some of Jesus’ disciples had: they’re convinced that they are somehow greater than everyone else. Jesus confronted his disciples when they lapsed into this mindset, telling them that in God’s realm the people we think are “last” will actually be “first” and that the greatest in all the Kingdom will be the little servants. Notice he didn’t say the “street preachers” who won’t step across the barriers and enter into the messy world of relationships will be greatest, but rather the greatest are the unknown people who were just busy serving.
When we get there, I think we’ll find that the greatest in all the Kingdom were the Jesus hippies who lived and died completely in the background of life because they were too busy washing people’s feet to amass wealth, fame, or followings. Oh, and WOMEN will probably at the top of the list over and above us men, so really– if you’re a fundamentalist you might not want to spend eternity there.
4. They wouldn’t have the joy of watching the people they hate smoulder in hell beneath them.
I think one of things fundamentalists most look forward to is watching the people who rejected their crappy street preaching methods burn in hell for all of eternity, almost as if that will be what we do for entertainment once we get there. Unfortunately, as we discussed in the hell series (which I may still do a few more of), I don’t believe scripture teaches that the unjust will be consciously tortured in a fundamentalist hell. The two alternatives (annihilation, universal redemption) which seem more likely based on what we see in scripture, will be utterly infuriating.
I think Jesus pointed to this truth when he told a parable of some day laborers. In the parable some of them show up early, work all day and receive a fair wage for their work. Other workers join in at the very end of the shift, but still get paid the full day’s wage which enrages those who worked longer for the same amount. Jesus uses the parable to show that this is how things are going to play out with God: there’s going to be a lot of people getting in, who fundamentalists don’t think should get in, and it’s going to make them really, really angry. When you take away eternal conscious torment, and add in people who showed up to the party late but get treated equally anyway, it would really take the fun out of heaven for them.
5. They’re not going to find Jesus because they wouldn’t recognize him.
Sadly, if fundamentalists arrived in heaven in their current state, I think they’d spend eternity wandering around and searching for a Jesus that they’d never find– frequently missing him when they do. Instead of the God we see fully revealed in the person of Jesus throughout the Gospel accounts, they’re still stuck on portraits of God that look nothing like Jesus. While they’re searching for a fire breathing dragon, they’re going to miss their opportunity to sit at the feet of the humble, nonviolent lover of enemies who made his inner circle among the despised and rejected of society– the same people fundamentalists can’t stand to be around other than in a street preaching context.
Rarely do I ever see or hear a fundamentalist describe God the way we see Jesus in Matthew 5, in fact, they usually laugh and mock you when you do. Blessed are the meek? How silly.
This only tells me one thing: they probably won’t recognize Jesus, and when they eventually figure it out, they’re going to be really disappointed.
Fundamentalists in heaven? Sure, I believe in the God we see in Jesus– slow to anger, rich in mercy and abounding in grace. However, I don’t think they’d enjoy it too much, so it would probably just be less painful to skip it altogether.