Imagine All the People! Thoughts on Heaven and the Theology of John Lennon
“I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away…” – Revelation 21:1
In the fall of 1971, British rock star John Lennon was high on the music charts with his first major hit after the break-up of The Beatles, which had occurred just one year earlier. The name of his hit song was “Imagine.” It eventually became one of the most recognized songs of the 1970’s, and served as an anthem for an entire generation who sought world peace and harmony. Lennon’s lyrics summed up the overall philosophy of the counter-culture of that day. He wrote, “Imagine there’s no heaven. It’s easy if you try. No hell below us; above us only sky. Imagine all the people living for today Imagine there’s no countries It isn’t hard to do Nothing to kill or die for And no religion too Imagine all the people living life in peace. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.” Years later, Rolling Stone magazine would describe the song as Lennon’s “greatest musical gift to the world.” Despite Lennon’s death in 1980, the song has continued to be seen as a world anthem promoting hope and unity.
Yet this cherished song has a very disturbing message. According to Lennon’s lyrics, the world would be better off without heaven, hell, and religion. He first imagines no heaven or hell. In his perfect utopia, there would be no heaven to convert people, and no hell to condemn people. He then imagines a world without religion. To Lennon, religion has only brought divisiveness. It has acted like a cancer, wreaking havoc on the world’s population. This negative attitude towards religion has infiltrated our current political climate. For instance, those in support of social liberal causes such as gay marriage and the pro-choice agenda see religion as a barrier to what they consider to be “basic human rights.” From their vantage point, since religions (like Christianity) hold to a standard of moral absolutes and a standard of right and wrong, it infringes on people’s rights to live life any way they wish. So they come to the conclusion that religion must be the problem. And, from their vantage point, if there was no religion, then the efforts to promote “human rights” would flourish without any hindrances. But this is a perfect example of Satan’s deceptive tactics; for though the term “human rights” sounds positive, it actually is rooted in evil because of its rejection of moral absolutes. And so the John Lennon crowd would love to be free from religion and have a society unshackled from the chains of morality. Religion has also been seen as the root cause of war and terrorism. I have read postings on social media where people suggest that religion is the primary cause of war, and that if there were no religions, the majority of the violence around the globe would cease. To be sure, many wars have been fought in the name of religion throughout the centuries. That cannot be denied. But the root cause of war has been the sins of the human heart; sins such as pride, revenge, greed, and lust for power.
We must remember that heaven, hell, and religion have never been the root of the world’s problems. The problem with our world is sin, and has always been sin. Ever since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, people have been perpetually stained with sin. What our world needs is Jesus Christ who offers salvation and deliverance from sin. He is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), and only He can provide the personal peace people seek after.
I will be honest with you; I actually find the musical arrangement of “Imagine” enjoyable. The instrumentation is very beautiful. However, the lyrics ruin the song for me. So what I like to “imagine” is the scene in heaven as the children of God are collectively gathered around the throne of God, as every tongue, tribe and nation, harmoniously worship Him in a spirit of unity (Revelation 7:9). Imagine all the people!
– Pastor Eric