When was the last time you thought about heaven?
If you’ve taught the Bible a few times, you’ve experienced one of these moments. The construction of a biblical statement just doesn’t look right. More frequently than not, you realize that your anxiety was unjustified or could be explained. One of these times, nevertheless, turned out to be the turning point for me.
Since we learned of your trust in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, we have never stopped giving thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, in our prayers for you. As stated in (Colossians 1:3-5)
There’s no way this translation is correct,” I told myself. Paul wouldn’t base his thankfulness on the hope put up for the church in heaven, would he? Surely he means, “He thanks God for their affection for all the saints and their hope in heaven because of their faith in Christ Jesus.” But no. It was written by Paul just as he and the Holy Spirit had envisioned it. For the better, it seems. As Paul expressed his gratitude to the Colossian Christians, he anchored his words in their faith in God. This is how essential Heaven was (and still is). This significant.
Later that day, I talked to a young college student and asked him if he had had genuine hope in God. A few days after that, I asked other pastors I was meeting with and a few more guys I was discipling. Over the course of the next four days, I polled more than a dozen Christians about their beliefs regarding eternal life. One of them claimed that he did hope in heaven from time to time; the rest said they hardly ever thought about it. They saw the issue without my pointing it out to them.
A huge blind spot in my teaching, mentoring, evangelizing, counseling, and praying became apparent to me. It’s taken some practice, but I’ve learned not to miss it.
Aspirations Shared by All of Us
Here we are, four years later, and my church has been so kind as to grant my family and I a sabbatical. For those thirty days, I immersed myself in readings and contemplations on our heavenly destination. Not the afterlife in heaven itself, but the biblical concept of it.
From nine in the morning until noon, Monday through Friday, I would pray and study. Probably the most useful thing I did was read a few chapters of the New Testament on a daily basis. Every time I found words of encouragement about eternal life, I would highlight them. My method consisted of circling the relevant verse and then copying it by hand into a journal without drawing any conclusions.
When I was done, I discovered 387 passages that echo Paul’s use of eschatological anticipation in Colossians. Nearly 500 passages in the New Testament (out of a total of 7,957) encourage believers to keep the faith. Consider that whereas the Bible devotes roughly 30–40 verses to marriage, it devotes 150–160 passages to hell. Even if I’m only partially correct, then the belief in a hereafter is more widespread than we might have thought.
Heaven for All of Life
Bear in mind the Beatitudes. The vast majority of these encourage present conduct in anticipation of a payoff in the future. As the saying goes, “Blessed are the humble, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).
Consider Paul’s final words to the Corinthians, as well. Finally, after all of his preaching, teaching, and rebuking, he touches down on the final resurrection and says, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steady, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58). The promise of a glorious resurrection gave them hope for the future.
We can learn from the examples of trust presented in Hebrews 11 because these people “looked to the prize” (Hebrews 11:26). Peter tells Christians to be joyful in their trials because God is protecting their eternal reward (1 Peter 1:4–5). James urged his readers to be patient without complaining because the return of their Lord was near (James 5:7–9). The final book of the Bible is Revelation, which concludes the Bible with the hauntingly beautiful lines, “‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Jesus, please return. ” (Revelation 22:20).
Delivered by this Faith
None of these illustrations, however, was as striking as Romans 8. In the middle of February, I was soaking in the rays in sunny Naples, Florida. The temperature was in the high 70s, and I planned to spend the afternoon at the beach. When I read, “Heaven seems to be breaking in,” it was as if the clouds had already
Until now, we are all aware that the entire universe has been groaning in unison as though giving birth. The whole of creation groans, and so do we who have the Spirit’s first fruits, since we’re longing to be adopted as sons and have our bodies redeemed. This faith is what ultimately rescued us. According to the Scriptures (Romans 8:22-24)
It reminded me of a scene from Colossians 1. I marked the verses with a highlighter, but I couldn’t resist dwelling on what those verses meant. Even though I had read that text many times before, it was only now that I realized the crucifixion is only part of the story of our salvation; we will worship a resurrected Savior in resurrected bodies on a resurrected planet.
“The cross is both the anchor and the fulcrum of our salvation’s future.”
Evangelism, according to these passages, consists of drawing attention to the cross and the eventual restoration of all things. Still, few of us frequently evangelize, sing about, or preach paradise.
The Disappearance of Polaris
Randy Alcorn’s book Heaven cites research showing that even in their most influential works, theologians like John Calvin, Reinhold Niebuhr, William Shedd, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and Louis Berkhof seldom touched on the topic of heaven (8).
Alcorn cites an AJ Muste saying. To this day, I still can’t get past Conyers.
Even if you don’t believe in God or have any strong religious convictions, the idea that humanity is trying to navigate through some of the most turbulent times in history while ignoring what has been its North Star for nearly two thousand years should give you pause. The fear of hell and the hope of eternal life. (9)
Hopefully, the Lord will have compassion. If you have any lingering doubts, you should ask other Christians about how much the promise of heaven affects their daily life.
Matthew Westerholm compared church music in the United States from 1737 to 1960 with music used between 2000 and 2015. So what does he think? The topic of heaven, which was formerly regularly and richly sang about, has now all but disappeared, despite the fact that there are numerous similarities between the two.
This is our home now, and we’ve worked so hard to get it just right. We are visitors here, after all.
Many Christians have a glimmering awareness of something vital to the New Testament’s advice and the revived imagination. One possible explanation for people’s worries is that something that should have been at the center of attention has been pushed to the side. We’ve put in a lot of time and effort to make our planet seem like home. Of course, we’re just passing through here. At least not in its current form, this is not my home. Unfortunately, not just yet.
You Can Expect Us at Home
Remember the tremendous wealth of heaven while you wait for your rightful home, dear one. Jesus promises that those who are honest in heart will be able to see God (Matthew 5:8). John promises that we will see God “as he is” (1 John 3:2), not as he formerly was. It will be the same Jesus who was crucified and bled to death, but he will be radiant with splendour beyond our comprehension.
The blindness that made him go hungry, thirsty, suffering, and moaning while being shunned by humanity will lift. Jesus, who overcame death and took on a new body overflowing with regal majesty, beauty, and love, will be there. That glorious Jesus and his kingdom are what we’re looking forward to. And so, with the ancient saints, we cry out, “Come, Lord Jesus!” in the name of this very Jesus. ” (Revelation 22:21). Heaven on Earth is what we might expect to experience in His presence.
Draw your attention to this heavenly realm on a daily basis, brothers and sisters. Worship the sky. Heaven-sent words. Make a joyful noise before the Lord. Provide guidance from on high. Set the hope of heaven such an integral part of your church’s culture that you may confidently proclaim it day or night: “Jesus is coming, and he will make things right. Take a deep breath: His arrival is as certain as the sky you’re seeing at right now. When he arrives, justice and unending joy will follow.
I invite you to join me in refocusing our lives and missions on that great North Star through prayer. Soon enough, we’ll be back in familiar territory. My heart, the happiness.