The Ever-Growing Reality of Heaven
When I was a youngster, heaven seemed like a strange place that a much older person went to when they died. It was a lot like going to live in a foreign land. It was a place you wanted to visit but weren't sure you desired to stay there full time. At least not until you have done all you can in your present residence. I was not anxious to get there because there was so much that I wanted to do on this earth. And all that I knew and loved was here. There were my friends, my family, hobbies, and girls that I wanted to date. Not to mention the possibility of finding that one person that I wanted to settle down with for a lifetime and raise a family together.
Don't get me wrong, I appreciated heaven and the fact that one day I would get there in the distant future because of what Christ did for me in dying for my sins. But it seemed like a long time away.
I. Age Changes Perspective
Funny how things change with age. This world is becoming more of the foreign land that I'm passing through to get to my real home. The things that used to thrill me on this earth don't have the same magic they once did. And more and more of the friends and family that I have cherished over my years on this planet are no longer here. They have passed on from this land of the dying into the true land of the living, leaving an empty hole that was once filled with their presence. And it is a hole that can only be filled by reuniting with them in eternity.
It was C.S. Lewis who said: "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world." I am increasingly understanding the truth of that statement with each passing year.
Let me clarify that I have no death wish because I believe that God isn't finished with me yet. I think that my life's work is yet to be fulfilled. But heaven is more real, warm and inviting to me than it was when in my youth. And I believe that this is as it should be for the Christian who is anticipating inhabiting the place that the Lord is preparing for those who love Him (John 14:1-3).
The Apostle Paul experienced this when writing to the Corinthians. He states:
So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. (II Corinthians 5:6-8).
He also tells the Philippians:
For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. (Philippians 1:21-24).
The great Apostle to the Gentiles knew of the glories awaiting him when he reached heaven. He was somewhat weary of the trials and tribulations here on this earth. However, he knew that the Lord wanted still to use him and that the Philippians continued to need his guidance. It was for these reasons that he desired to remain upon the earth. But beyond this present existence, he knew that heaven was his ultimate destination. It has the joys and rewards that could never be found on this earth. And it has in it the Lord he loved and served.
Today, the Apostle Paul knows, in a greater measure, the joys that were awaiting him. He has basked in Sunlight of the presence of the Lord for more than 2000 years now. But even he does not know the magnificence that awaits all the saints in the New Heaven and the New Earth. That is yet to come.
II. No Eye Has Seen
When thinking about Heaven, contemplate your best day here on earth. Maybe it was the day you first saw your spouse or the day you got married. Perhaps it was that time you first held your son or daughter in your arms. Or it could be the time when you accomplished a lifetime dream that was earned by blood, sweat, and tears. No matter what you can think of, one minute in Heaven will be a million times better.
Paul tells us:
But as it is written, Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him (I Corinthians 2:9).
The more we understand and believe these words, the greater will be our desire for Heaven. We are living in a wonderfully magnificent universe at the moment. Though it is marred by sin, its splendor and beauty still shine through. Scripture tells us that: "The heavens declare the glory of God. The skies proclaim the work of His hands" (Psalm 19:1). And if that is true now, think of what it will be like when there is no more sin. We will see everything as it was originally intended to be.
All of us who are Christians have yet to really know life as it can and should be. Randy Alcorn has said: "The day I die will be the best day I have ever lived." And we have eternity to enjoy it. Some see death like it is the end of a wonderful party, and that they will miss out on the fun that others are having. The truth is that the celebration isn't here. The celebration is beyond the grave where Christ has gone to prepare a place for us (John 14:1-3). And all who accept Christ through faith have been invited to it.
III. The New Heaven and New Earth
Imagine the world without cancer, or sickness, or death. Dream of a place with no need for hospitals or Intensive Care Units. And long for a world of peace and safety where the word "war" is never uttered. And don't forget to imagine the world with no starving children, rape victims, or injustice of any kind. That and more is what we have to look forward to in the New Heaven and the New Earth. And the reality will be much greater than our wildest dreams and imaginings.
I love the words of the Apostle John in the book of Revelation which describes what is ahead for the believer. He gives us a magnificent picture when he writes:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
We indeed have a bright future ahead!!
Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people. Jesus is preparing it for us. And we become prepared for it by accepting the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ as payment for our sins. If you have never taken Jesus as your Savior, I urge you to do that right away. Once you do you start to become a little more homesick with each passing year. This world and all its pleasures will not completely satisfy. But one day it will be worth it all when we see our Lord Jesus face to face and the glorious home he has made especially for us. Our restless hearts will be restless no more. They will be full of the presence of the Lord. And, perhaps for the first time in our existence, we will feel totally complete.