Among all the truths in Christianity few evoke more embarrassment for Christians before the world, as that of heaven. Sure, we may like to secretly think of heaven, but when skeptics press us we may be shy: “So you really believe that you will float around on the clouds with angels and harps?”
Scripture tells us that the world will always be skeptical of heaven. “Scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” (2 Pet. 3:3-4). However, the Bible is clear that the skepticism of the world should not suppress our longing for heaven. “Seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Col. 3:1-2)
Made for heaven by our heavenly Father, redeemed for heaven by the work of the Son, sealed for heaven by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Christian rightly longs for, and looks forward to, the joys of heaven.
John Calvin insisted, in fact, that the normal Christian life should include the daily practice of meditating about our future life in heaven.
For since God knows best how much we are inclined by nature to a brutish love of this world, he uses the fittest means [suffering in this life] to draw us back and to shake off our sluggishness. Lest we cleave too tenaciously to that love…. But if God has to instruct us [by suffering in this life], it is our duty… to listen to him calling us, shaking us out of our sluggishness, that, holding the world in contempt, we may strive will all our hearts to meditate upon the life to come.
We are right to look forward to heaven because as we do, rather than ruining us for life in this world, it more fully equips us to live here better. When we look forward to heaven we can endure trials here with real hope, knowing they will end and that joy begins which will never end.
When we look forward to heaven, we can experience successes and joys here without falling into temptation. For knowing that joys here are meant to be only a foretaste of deeper, more satisfying joys to come, we do not overly crave them, nor demand from them more joy than they can offer. We may rightly hold on to the joys of this world, but hold them loosely as we always seek the things that are above.
Most of all, meditation on the future life in heaven keeps our hearts settled on the true treasure of heaven: the Lord himself. There God promises us the deepest most satisfying joy all: full relationship with him, unfettered by any sin. “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” (Rev. 21:3)
Humanity has always looked to the heavens, the stars, the underworld, the spirit world, another dimension and time, as the dwelling places of God. Wherever he was, he was not with us. Even in the time of the Old Testament, God’s presence was protected from his people, shrouded in the tabernacle from view, protected on Mount Sinai by clouds and fire, appearing only as a shadow to Moses.
But God dwelling with us is news worth shouting about, celebrating and meditating upon. When God dwells with us fully there is a rift, a change in the cosmos, a new dispensation unlike any other we have known since the fall of humanity. God will no longer be in anyway aloof or distant. His dwelling place would not be in heaven, or curtained in the tabernacle, or even dimly understood in the face of his Son, no the dwelling place of God then, “is with man.” This heaven we rightly long for, and look forward to, with great anticipation.
Author: Rev. Dr. Tom Hawkes
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