I guess I should be honest as to why. I’m preaching a series on the subject at our church. I’ve read more books, asked more questions and done more thinking about Heaven in one month than I have in my entire life – which is not actually saying much, I’m ashamed to admit. This subject has not really been on my radar. Oh sure, I’ve made some passing remark about it now and then (like “looking forward to no doctor bills in heaven”), but it hasn’t been at the forefront of my mind. This appears to be the case for most Christians. It wasn’t the case however for the early Christians. They knew they were Heaven-bound and lived like it.
So what does it mean to live like you’re Heaven bound? Well you start viewing all of life through different eyes.
You see, like many Christians I viewed Heaven as this beautiful place where we stand and gaze on God’s glory, singing and praising him for all eternity. Well that’s great if you love long worship sessions. But try selling that to someone who’s not a Christian. It won’t sound all that appealing. And if we’re really honest with ourselves, it doesn’t sound all that appealing to us either. I’m trying not to be blasphemous here. Personally, I love and enjoy glorifying God in corporate praise. My point is it is not realistic to imagine doing that without a break, for all eternity.
The Bible gives us another picture. It’s called the New Heavens and the New Earth. Heaven will be new because it will be changed from what it is now (Heaven, remember is a place created by God and is not unchanging and immortal like God). The earth will be new because God is going to redeem and restore it. It will be transformed. When you became a Christian you became a new creature in Christ. You didn’t go through a personality change (though some people my have wondered!). You simply became a better “you.” So it will be with the new earth. It will be like it is now, but much better. It will no longer suffer the effects of the curse. There will be trees and flowers, mountains and valleys, forests and lakes made perfect. There will be differences. But there will also be continuity.
So let me give a different view of Heaven:
- Walking and talking with Jesus through a beautiful leaf-covered forest
- Sitting by a lakeside, enjoying a picnic with friends and acquainting yourself with people who lived hundreds of years before you were ever born
- Music-lovers playing heavenly music never yet composed or heard
- Book-lovers devouring material never before printed or written
- Food and cuisine-lovers creating heavenly dishes never before tasted or eaten
- Architects discussing plans for buildings never before seen or lived in
- Gardeners and landscapers creating parks and reserves never before seen or walked through
So what do you think? Doesn’t that sound inviting! Now let your imagination run wild.
Our problem is often where we put the emphasis. When it comes to the subject of heaven our emphasis is often the absence of earth’s negatives (no more suffering, death and sin). That would certainly be the case with the present or intermediate heaven, where believers go now when they die. The emphasis with the future heaven however, is the presence of earth’s positives. Steve Lawson writes,
Whatever sin has touched and polluted, God will redeem and cleanse. If redemption does not go as far as the curse of sin, then God has failed. Whatever the extent of the consequences of sin, so must the extent of redemption be.
Theologian A.A. Hodge puts it this way:
Heaven, as the eternal home of the divine Man and of all the redeemed members of the human race, must necessarily be thoroughly human in its structure, conditions, and activities. Its joy and activities must all be rational, moral, emotional, voluntary and active. There must be the exercise of all the faculties, the gratification of all tastes, the development of all talent capacities, the realization of all ideals.
God isn’t going to abandon his creation. He’s going to restore it. He won’t surrender any territory to the enemy. Satan will not have his way. God will take back what is rightfully his. His plan is to “bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ” (Ephesians 1:10). A time is coming when man will once again here the sound of the Lord walking in the garden.
And the best part of it is, I’m going to be there.
Note: You can listen to the first part of the series at our church’s website here. I’ll be unpacking more of the above content in the weeks to follow.