“When Is the Last Time You Thought Seriously About Heaven?”
Written by Pastor Jim Law
In preparation for a recent study on heaven, I Googled the word and discovered the first five pages of the 142,000,000 references on the Worldwide Web took me on an incredibly confusing journey.
From this search, I learned from a YouTube clip that Bryan Adams’ song “Heaven” claims that heaven is having your girlfriend in your arms.
When I clicked on Wikipedia for some help, I read for 45 minutes a conflicting survey of heaven among world religions. From there I consulted the link with ABC News, and Barbara Walters’ attempt to answer questions like, “Where is heaven?” and “How do you get there?” Trust me on this one, if you want clarity, don’t bother going there.
I also discovered how heaven has been trivialized. There was a nightclub in Seattle called “Heaven”, and there was a restaurant named “Burger Heaven.” And of course, Disney has an animated film assuring you that all dogs go to heaven. The trivialization of heaven has brought a manifest scorn regarding the future hope and home of the believer in Jesus Christ. Mark Twain speaks for many when he quipped sarcastically, “You take heaven; I’d rather go to Bermuda.”
We live in a culture that in many respects has been inoculated with a Jesus message that falls short of the radical call of Christ to deny all, die to self and follow Him in complete obedience. It ignores the command of Christ who said, “Enter by the narrow gate….for the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it.” (Matthew 7:13,14). In such a climate, heaven is an entitlement. Heaven is for everyone and where everyone goes, except the really bad people of the world.
I understand how the world would misunderstand the hope of heaven, but what about God’s people? What about those who follow the One who said, “In my Father’s house are many dwelling places;….I go to prepare a place for you…..that where I am, there you may be also.”? (John 14:2,3)
Why do we as Christians talk so little about heaven when everything precious to the believer is there? A survey of the New Testament reveals that for the believer in Jesus Christ: our Father, our Savior, our inheritance, our treasure, our loved ones in Christ, our citizenship and our names are all in heaven. With such a future and a hope, we must cultivate biblically informed, meaningful conversations about heaven.
However, when the subject of heaven does come up, often the conversation tends to be brief, bland and uninviting. Like an air conditioner out of Freon in the summer heat, it’s just not refreshing.
How different is the picture in the text of Scripture. The Apostle John’s inspired words seem to ransack human language in giving us a picture of the New Heaven and the New Earth. (Revelation 21,22)
As we meditate on these texts, questions come. In some instances sanctified imagination is employed to fill in the biblical picture. When is the last time you thought about questions like these:
*What will it mean to see God?
*What will we do in heaven?
*What will our resurrection body be like?
*How can so many be with Jesus and receive personal attention?
*What will we know and learn?
*If loved ones are in hell, won’t that ruin the joy of heaven?
*What will our relationships be like?
*Whom will we meet and how will we experience life together?
I believe there are solid biblical answers and inferences for questions like these. Such thinking is critical for believers to live with heaven in view and to ponder questions that stoke our longings to be with our God, in the place He has made for us, enjoying all things the way they were meant to be.
With such a mindset it brings to the forefront of our lives the Great Commission and our calling to make Christ known. If He is the entrance requirement to heaven, Gospel conversations take on new significance.
Jonathan Edwards made great contributions with his thoughts on eternity. He wrote over 250 years ago, “It will take an eternity to have enough time for the human soul to probe the heights and depths and lengths and breadths of the glories of God.” He continued by describing God as an exhaustless fountain in which even after “the pleasure of beholding the face of God millions of ages it will not grow a dull story.”
Such thoughts are not escapism. On the contrary, this is robust hope anchored in the promises of God. And as we think seriously about eternity, the things of this world will grow strangely dim, for in His presence is fullness of joy and at His right hand are pleasures forevermore.