Someday, if we choose to do so, we can party with the once dead.
And no, I am not looking forward to a monster mash, a zombie get together, or Spike coming over for coffee. The souls in Paradise are not undead, but alive again. The distinction counts: as even fairy tales show, a person wants life and not just not-dying. To not die could be wearisome, to have life and that abundantly, is joy! (As an aside: In a long list of culturally illiterate Internet atheist* errors, calling Jesus a “zombie” is a not favorite. The undead are good literary fun, but whatever he might be, a risen Jesus would not be undead. The living are not the undead.)
Instead, the promise of Christianity (based on best reason, revelation, and human experience) is that a Day is coming when the dead will be raised and time will end in a Holiday. This holy Day is described as a wedding, a party, a feast and everyone is invited who wishes to come, though nobody must party. Of course, God Almighty could make us come, He has the power, but God loves us and so waits our consent.
He will take any “yes” as “yes” and even provide the party clothes, so we come as we are to become more what we really should be.
Stop for a moment and think of everyone you know being their best self, transformed over eternity Godward. Maybe you do not believe this to be true, but surely everyone would wish to see those lost to us. The mere possibility makes a tender heart hope and when the evidence of two thousand years of Christian philosophy and experience are added to hope, then we have reason for faith!
We are so lonely in time, cut off by death from our spiritual fathers and mothers. We should be able to talk to our great-great-grandparents, but we are left with a narrow range of experiences and voices. The paradise of God will be full of the diversity of times and seasons of all of human history.
Sometimes people think of those they did not like (especially religious people!) and react to the endless party by saying if “he or she is there, no thank you.” Let’s grant the judgement, assume it to be true that he or she is wearisome or just odious. If this person is There, then they will have chosen to be transformed into their best self and, of course, we are there, then we too will have been transformed. The odious, the wearisome will have passed away. Our judgmental natures that find too much odious and wearisome will have gone as well. This is not because we will have become dull or merely not bad, but because we will be becoming (always becoming) good. Goodness is beautiful and in those who are becoming good full of diverse expressions of goodness.God is. The rest of of us will be becoming as He is and so His City will overflow with personalities.
Note: it is a City where the party will be held. The living, most of whom passed from death, will be urban by choice. We left childhood in a garden and so people drawn from every nation, tribe, people will experience a plentitude of pleasures!
I experience a taste of this as one does in a nation still deeply Christian when I visited the nation of Georgia. There meals are events where nobody could clean the table, because the food and drink kept coming. Nobody ate too much, but instead had bits and tastes of a multitude of tasty foods. The conversation was sweet, sometimes with singing!
Too often we think of parties as merely physical pleasures, like food and drink, but the Eastern and Christian idea of a party is to engage all soul and body. A good party, a symposium of joy, will stimulate the mind, warm the heart, quicken the spirit, and engage the body. A great feast, a royal symposium, will have the richness of Socratic discourse, the keen wit of Chesterton, the music of Bach, and Shakespearean entertainments: all done as we bask in the uncreated light of the Good, the Truth, and Beauty.
There Nana, Papaw, Granny, Papaw, my aunts and uncles now gone, Al, Father Michael, Angie, and our dear son Edmund Saint John will join so many other friends in the beginning of the Holiday that will have no last day ever again.
I cannot wait.
*Internet atheism is a form of anti-theism that is adverse to philosophy or serious discussions about religion. Atheism has a long and proud history of thoughtful philosophers and I am honored to have learned from some.