Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “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. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
Revelation 21:1-8 ESV
Is it weird that Revelation is one of my favorite books of the Bible? Most people are scared of it because of the things it talks about, the vague imagery, and lakes of fire. But I love how it fixes our eyes on the greatness of God and give us a mental image of our real home. It gives us hope.
However, I must say first off that it is exclusive. Jesus said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Paul later said, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). So I don’t want to deceive anyone by saying that Heaven is a place that all people go to when they die, because it is not. To the contrary, it says “wide is the gate and the way is easy that leads to destruction” (Matthew 7:13). Many people refuse to believe in Jesus as the Lord of their life, and just as many say they believe in Him when they really don’t. Still His invitation is extended to you for you to know Him personally and there is nothing you must do to earn it, but simply say “yes” to Him. A changed life will be evidence of the decision being real.
That being said, for those of us that have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, there is nothing to fear. Nothing. We are assured of our salvation as Paul wrote:
“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Do not doubt your salvation. Do not doubt the place that you are going when you die.
Last week I also blogged about Heaven, inspired by a trip to Disneyland, and I feel compelled to continue discussing it. The next thing I want us to consider is why we should set our minds on Heaven. When I talk about how much I love to think about Heaven, many people say things like I just try to focus on the here and now. I’ll just see it when I see it. There’s no way we can know really what it will be like except God will be there. But it’s important to think about what it will really be like, because we want to be excited about it. Later on I’ll discuss truths about the nature of Heaven, but first we must know why we should even care.
The first reason to set our minds on Heaven is that it is our true home and knowing that fact will help us live rightly here. Paul explained how he was an ambassador for Christ. What is an ambassador? It is a person from a foreign land acting on the behalf of his homeland. Ladies and gentlemen, we are ambassadors for Christ. This is not our home and knowing we will one day return should make us live differently. When you go on a trip, do you bring a moving truck? Do you pack your TV or your couch? No, you focus on seeing sights and soaking in experiences. You leave the comforts of home behind because you are on a mission to live your life.
So as we live here, we’re not called to be comfortable but to be missional. It helps knowing that these frail lives we live pass in an instant in comparison with eternity. If being saved were simply about being saved and going to Heaven, God would take us up right as we pray the prayer. “Jesus, I believe! Now beam me up Scotty!” But we know that’s ridiculous. We’re ambassadors. God leaves us here to spread His love and message of redemption through a hurting and broken world. We’re going to Heaven, but are we living here to bring along as many friends as possible? The hope and excitement of knowing we’re going home soon encourages us to live our lives with zeal and purpose now.
Another reason to keep Heaven in the back of our minds is knowing the reward that waits for us there. First and foremost this reward is being able to see God face to face, as it says above in Revelation 21, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.” Knowing we will one day see this God face to face, who we labor so hard for here, will help us press through. Paul wrote, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23-24). How badly do we want Him to tell us “Well done good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23) when we go home to see Him?
Finally, living with Heaven in the back of our minds keeps pain in perspective. Life is hard here, is it not? I keep meeting person after person with difficult medical issues, and young people at that. I have a hard time digesting many foods myself. The curse that we were left with as men was toilsome work that didn’t satisfy (Genesis 3:17-19). Women got painful childbearing and the need to control men (Genesis 3:16), making relationships difficult. Not any better. Here on this earth we have to bury our loved ones. We watch families torn apart. We see people killing other people because of lust for money and power, or because of the color of their skin. We get headaches, backaches and stomachaches. Life is hard.
But there is hope for us, right? Knowing this is temporary should give us perseverance to push through the pain, knowing we are going home where there will be no more pain, God wiping every tear from our eyes (see above Rev. 21). And there have been many people that have gone before us, living this life right knowing they would soon be with God: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1b-2). Jesus endured the cross for the joy that was set before him, and that joy was being back with His Father at home in Heaven, along with knowing He just opened the door for many adopted siblings to come as well!
Men and women, thinking about Heaven is good and important. Did you know that the word “heaven” appears in the Bible over 600 times?! I’m going to keep writing about this for a few more weeks so that we can more and more vividly paint this picture of our home in our minds. Having a clear vision of our home makes us yearn for it more. For now crack open a Bible. It has more to say about it than you think.
For further study on Heaven, read “Heaven” by Randy Alcorn. Along with the Bible, that book was my chief inspiration for this blog post, and has probably impacted my life more than any other book.
Author: Jeff Oleson