“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.’”
(Revelation 21:3-4 ESV)
Life in a sin-broken world is hard enough.
We don’t need to make it any harder. Yet that’s exactly what we do whenever we allow God’s exciting words of promise to lie dormant and inactive in our hearts. When, for example, was the last time you spent any time contemplating the reality of heaven—not just in a general way, but really allowing yourself to think about, to get excited about, what your existence will be like in heaven? By God’s divine promise, heaven is your eternal future through faith in Jesus Christ. Put that promise to work. As Christians, we obviously believe that heaven is real, and that one day we will exist there, but we routinely rob ourselves of the everyday blessing of that reality.
Why would we ever neglect such a precious gift? For some it is the apparent absurdity of the thing. How could a sinner like me end up in a place like that? The answer, of course, is that Jesus made it so. He washed me, sanctified me. He earned the robe of righteousness with which I am covered.
For others the problem is that we have grown so accustomed to the way things are that we cannot grasp any other existence. I once visited a man in a hospital who was recovering from a rather serious surgery. He was obviously in pain, and I noticed that not only was his morphine bag full, he never once touched his PCA (self-medication) button. I asked him about it, and his reply was simply, “It scared me.” He went on to explain that he had tried it once, and that it not only relieved the pain from his surgery, it relieved a world of physical and emotional discomfort that he suddenly realized he was experiencing on a daily basis.
“I never realized how much pain I had until it was gone.” How difficult for us, who now know sin, failure, sorrow, frustration, fatigue, and dread, to imagine an existence without those daily burdens. But that’s what heaven will be like.
For others the problem is a misconception of heaven. They are caught up in earthly images of pearly gates, streets of gold, and winged angels strumming harps. God gave us some of these impressions, but only as a simplified preview of what we are now incapable of grasping. How, for example, would you describe color to a man born blind, or a symphony to one who has never heard sound? It’s impossible without a point of reference, which they lack. So too, when our eyes finally see and our ears finally hear, the reality of that existence will far exceed anything that we could now imagine.
All of this is ours. It is waiting for us. Jesus did that for us. That’s the place He left to enter our world, an existence made foul and oppressive by our sin. By His perfect life, offered as the sinless sacrifice on the cross of Calvary, Jesus removed the only barrier that could prevent us from joining Him in His heaven. He removed that barrier by paying the debt for mankind’s sin. Heaven is now our inheritance, by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Stop robbing yourself of the joy and excitement of what will be!
Michael Roehl is pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Bismarck, North Dakota.