109. Heaven

             In his book on heaven, author Randy Alcorn, reveals a surprising truth – not every believer is all that excited about going to Heaven. Maybe you’re one of them.  You know that you should be excited, but find it hard to get too worked up about it. Let me acknowledge that this discussion was inspired by reading Randy’s book years ago, and loosely borrows from it

Why do believers sometimes feel a bit underwhelmed about Heaven?

1.    They’re underwhelmed because the route to Heaven doesn’t appeal to them

Unless Jesus returns first, there’s only one highway to heaven. The sign on the street pole next to it says “DEATH”.  Personally, I’m not afraid of death, but maybe that will change when I’m faced with the actual moment. Death can be a scary prospect.  It’s an unknown.  Will it be painful? Frightening? What will it be like leaving those we love? What will we see on the other side? This leads to the next point.

2.    They’re underwhelmed because they’re insecure about their destination

Let’s be frank. Jesus says some things in the gospels that give us pause. In Matthew 7:21, He notes that “not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.” Even to some who have done to impressive things like prophesying, casting out demons, and performing many miracles, Jesus will say “I never knew you, away from me, you evildoers.’ (Matt. 7:22,23). In other places, He says “. . . he who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matt. 10:22b). We all know we’re not perfect in our faith and some wonder if they’ve passed the cutoff line or if they “really meant it” when they prayed to receive Christ.

3.    They’re underwhelmed because they feel like they haven’t been the best Christians

The Bible makes it clear that not Christians enter Heaven on an equal footing. Paul says, in 1 Corinthians 3:13b-15, about the judging of our earthly performance: “It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.” Heaven, however it is entered, will be great, but who wants to enter “as one escaping through the flames”? If we’ve lived all-out for the Lord, we’ll be more excited about heaven than if we’ve put in a mediocre effort.

4.    They’re underwhelmed because this world has gotten too deep a grip on their hearts

I want to state this one carefully. It’s good to live in the moment; to get the most out of this current life, to do our best, to be valuable members of our society.  The problem comes when we absorb the wrong worldly values and perspectives. This world is not our final home and many of its values are not God’s values. Peter calls us “aliens and strangers in the world” (1 Peter 2:11). He may give us earthly success as a tool to use for His glory, but He also may not. What He wants is our heart. The more this world’s ungodly values have gotten a grip on our heart, the less excited we’ll be about heaven.

5.    They’re underwhelmed because heaven sounds boring

The Bible gives us only a small glimpse of what will go on in heaven. We see worship scenes around the throne, judgment day, and angels running errands, but not much else. Is heaven going to be a series of billion-year worship services? Worship is great, but we humans have a much wider range of skills and interests. Will we interact with one another? Will there be knowledge to gain? Jobs to do? Time to explore the galaxies? Volleyball? Chocolate? The details in Scripture are skimpy. It’s not much of a travel brochure. So to some, heaven sounds like a holy yawn. 

6.    They’re underwhelmed because of who will be missing in heaven

This is deep theological water, one requiring much more than a paragraph.  How can I enjoy Heaven if grandpa won’t be there? Or my best friend? And how can I savor Heaven knowing that while I drink in its beauty, the majority of people are elsewhere – suffering deeply in a place that’s the opposite of everything good? This is tough question with no easy answers.

7.    They’re underwhelmed because heaven feels like an imaginary fantasy

 Heaven’s just an abstract idea, for the most part, though we may get a fleeting sense of it at times.  The world around us, though, is tangible.  We can touch it, see it, and interact with it. It seems more real than Heaven, which sometimes feels more like a storybook fantasy.

How can we become more excited about heaven?

1.    We become more excited about heaven as we draw closer to God

What makes heaven, heavenly is not primarily streets of gold, a restored earth, or even old friends.  These are great, but the essence of heaven is God. Seeing Him in all His beauty, and interacting with Him is a way of touching the Essence of all that is Good and True. God is the main attraction of Heaven. Heaven could be a shack, and if we lived in it with God, it would still be spectacular. So the closer we draw to God here, the more being with Him excites us.

2.    We become more excited about heaven when we remember who designed it

Jesus said that He went to prepare a place for us (John 14:2). Take one look at our earth and this gorgeous universe, not to mention the complex genius of human beings and we know that, whatever heaven’s going to be like, it will be unbelievably wonderful. The pleasures of this earth, especially in its fallen state, will seem pale and insipid the moment we glimpse heaven.

3.    We become more excited about heaven when we remember the spiritual freedom and power we’ll experience

Surely, at times, you sense that there’s so much more to you than you’re seeing. You and I now experience a shadow of what we were created to be. Sin and its effects mar our lives, even though we still experience blessing. But one day, you’ll be at total peace, filled with continual joy, loving and being loved like you never imagined possible. You’ll be truly beautiful without defect. You’ll shine with God’s presence.

4.    We become more excited about heaven when we see it as a progressive adventure, not a static experience

 I can’t prove this, but I suspect that we won’t spend eternity just sitting around.  We’ll still be human, with all that implies.  We’ll want to create, to learn, to grow, to explore, to serve.  I don’t think we’ll spend all our time in the throne room.  The angels don’t. I hope to explore the universe, for one thing – to go where no one has gone before. Maybe, maybe not, on that one, but we were made to be busy, responsible and I’ll bet that life here on the new earth will, in some ways be much like it is now, only without the pain.

      So don’t downplay heaven. Heaven isn’t yet, but it’s what frames our today and fills it with hope.