Heaven is real, and it will be spectacular!
If you are a Christian you may read that and say “nuh duh”, thanks for the update. The Bible speaks openly and clearly about the coming of our King and the glory He is bringing with Him to all those who turn to Him in belief. There may not be certain details that we desire to know now, but God has painted a beautiful and sufficient picture of our coming hope, so much so that our joy in the Lord should not waver as much as it does in this life.
We don’t have to look very far into each others lives to challenge our theology of heaven at the practical street level, where the rubber meets the road. Do we really believe that there is an eternity of joy waiting for us beyond the grave? Or maybe the problem lies in the substrata to that question. Do I believe that I have been totally and utterly forgiven of ALL my God-belittling; thoughts, motives, and actions by the blood of Jesus Christ once and for all, and so have been reconciled with my Creator?
Assuming, for the Christian, that God has created life in you through His effectual and unfettered electoral call, and you have responded to that call by turning to Him in faith to receive Jesus Christ as your Lord, Savior, and greatest Treasure, accomplishing the impossible, namely the reconciliation of a guilty sinner with a Holy GOD, all while maintaining perfect justice and righteousness so that the Justifier may remain just, and His [GOD’s] glory remains un-compromised and full of unending worth.
Why then, do we as Christians, cling so much to the temporal, with risk-free lives, as if heaven is not real? If I have a death grip on a dixie cup of water when GOD has promised and given me the ocean to enjoy, do I really believe that there is an ocean and that it is mine to enjoy? I am not pointing fingers, I see this sin in my life rampantly at times, but I also see it in so many that I love, that I had to puts my thoughts in writing, in the hope and prayer that God will take this meager effort and multiply it by His Spirit to fan into flame a greater desire to live as if heaven is real.
Maybe the answer to the question why, is that we lose sight of the true realities, namely the realities of the Unseen [GOD]. In this world that has been subjected to futility, the world of “seen” with all its brokenness and corruption, can distract or distort the only true reality, which is God and His creation to display His glory. The world of politics, sports, movies, social media, health and so on, draws us and then drowns us in a “reality” that is centered on man.
This “reality” painted by the world, is the same “reality” painted by a house of mirrors at a carnival. At times you may see your self as fat, short, skinny, tall, or with a giant head on a small body. Much like in this world, at times we see our self as healthy, sick, poor, rich, safe or in danger. But the truth is, it is all self-oriented and thus leads us to fearful and joyless living, as if this life is all that we have.
When you loose sight of the GOD-centered reality [truth], everything is distorted, and His promises become out of focus because we have placed more value in the seen and created, than the Unseen and Uncreated. They are gifts and pointers, and the means to direct the gaze of our hearts to the Lord, when seen and handled with a GOD-centered mind.
The effects may be slow and insidious at first, but when a tumultuous trial is prescribed by our Great Physician, the condition of our hearts are quickly revealed and diagnosed. I suppose that is one gracious reason that God has promised and granted suffering in this life [1 Thess 3:3, Philippians 1:29, 1 Peter 1:6-7, 1 Peter 4:12-13 ], to test our hearts.
“The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tests hearts.” -Pro 17:3
Often the crucible of suffering will reveal our hearts deepest desires and the secret saviors that we tend to look to for relief when the heat is turned up. What are you clinging to with a death grip, that you don’t want taken away? Your comforts, computer, car, condo? Or the next level up, your job, spouse, or your family. Or is it your life?
We know from Scripture that everything I listed Jesus has told us to renounce, and not only renounce but to do so joyfully and willfully when given the opportunity [Luke 9:58, 14:26, 17:33, 18:22, Matt 13:44-45]. This is so crucial because this gets to the heart of the Gospel. In this sense, are we really sacrificing if we are letting go of things that corrode and die, to gain what is eternal? Do we view reconciliation with our Creator as a treasure that upon finding it we bury it in a field and sell all we have JOYFULLY to buy that field, and attain something of infinite worth?
Please test this, but the essence of heaven is not a place it is a Person. John Piper challenged my heart in a sermon several years ago with the question “Would you still want to go to heaven, a place of eternal bliss and joy, if GOD were not there?”. Don’t answer out loud, just bring it to the Lord in humble confession, if the answer is not a resounding and neighbor-waking NO.
Psalm 16 says …”in your presence there is fullness of joy, at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Colossians 3 tells us what, or rather Who is at God’s right hand, which is where our eternal pleasure is, and consequently instructs us to seek and to set our mind on Him [Jesus], while living on earth.
GOD is the gospel, the good news does not end with justification, forgivenesses of sin, or the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, these are means to a greater end. GOD is that end [1 Peter 3:18]. He is what we were created for to enjoy for eternity, heaven is an environment in which we enjoy the fullness of Him completely safe from His consuming Holiness with unhindered worship away from the presence of sin, and all the associated weakness and distortions of this world and our bodies.
I pray that God uses the story of Florence Chadwick to arouse in you with greater intensity the importance of firmly fixing your mind on greater realities than the things that are seen. Heaven is real, and it will be spectacular for those that endure to the end. For this very reason, to endure, the inspired Apostle Paul did not cease praying for the Ephesians, that God would grant wisdom and revelation to see with the eyes of the heart the true and rich realties of GOD, namely the hope we have of the coming inheritance in Jesus, and the power of GOD to sustain and preserve us till the coming of that age [Eph 1:18].
“In 1952, Florence Chadwick attempted to swim the 26 miles between Catalina Island and the California coastline. As she began, she was flanked by small boats that watched for sharks and were prepared to help her if she got hurt or grew tired. After about 15 hours a thick fog set in. Florence began to doubt her ability, and she told her mother, who was in one of the boats, that she did not think she could make it. She swam for another hour before asking to be pulled out, unable to see the coastline due to the fog. As she sat in the boat, she found out she had stopped swimming just one mile away from her destination. Two months later, she tried again. The same thick fog set in, but she succeeded in reaching Catalina. She said that she kept a mental image of the shoreline in her mind while she swam. She later swam the Catalina channel on two additional occasions.” (*cited from Wikipedia)
Father I pray that you lift the clouds that the weakness of my flesh naturally sees, and by Your Spirit reveal Your awesome magnificence through the renewing of our minds in the knowledge of You, to the hope to which we have been called, though now for the moment may appear out of sight. I pray that God-glorying, Christ-exalting, radically loving decisions can be made with the reality of heaven germinating in our hearts and souls to the degree that we willingly and joyfully surrender our possessions, families, and even our lives, so that we may attain that which is of infinite beauty, worth, and existence, namely You Lord, and that our hearts may sing in accord with the liberating stanza of Martin Luther’s hymn…Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever. -AMEN