Do you ever think about the subject? Heaven, that is. I’m not just talking about the times when we wind up sitting in solemnity at the funeral of a loved one. If this whole God thing is true, then I wonder if the high hope of Heaven is something to be paid attention to a bit more. There are divine moments when Heaven comes to mind, such as when I’m reading C. S. Lewis or J. R. R. Tolkien or watching one of their great masterpieces on film. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and The Lord of the Rings totally set the stage for another realm beyond what we can touch today.
Heaven comes to mind when I’m scanning the dial on a road trip, and something like U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name” comes on. I’m again reminded that I’m part of something so much bigger than the here and now. Sometimes, Heaven comes out of my plea for God to make things right. I see the evil and rebellion in the world, and my heart cries out for justice. Then, I know that justice will come someday.
Sometimes, it comes as a calm and positive reminder of what lies in store for me beyond the clouds. I’ve often joked that my mansion in Heaven will have four huge windows on the four exterior walls. One will face a new Lake Tahoe (like that would need any improvement) and the Sierra Mountains in the background, followed by the much higher Rocky Mountains with their peaks crowned with snow only when I wanted it that way. The second window will reveal what I remember from my time in Australia: a landscape with all the foliage, birds, and animal life. The third will open over the Pacific Coast, but the water will be as warm as the Gulf of Mexico. And the fourth will look out to an ever-expanding rolling prairie, as I remember growing up in the Texas Panhandle.
Imagine long ago when the buffalo roamed the Plains from Texas to Canada. I’ve not actually seen it, but I can almost feel the ground shaking as massive herds of these massive creatures cross the grasslands. Something about those vast tracks of open land seems to whisper, “I’m big, dangerous, and beyond your control, so don’t even try to mess with me.” It’s kind of like looking up into the cosmos, which is really easy in the Plains, and seeing that there is no end to space. It’s almost haunting with its never-ending expanse. I joke about my home in Heaven, but there is some truth to that. I could live in a house like that in Heaven and experience the power and beauty of God’s creation every day.
Heaven is anything but boring. The old idea of sitting around singing is a far cry from heavenly reality. Whatever the specifics are of this heaven Jesus spoke of and the mansion he’s preparing, they will be quite the adventure of never-ending horizons.
Our ultimate goal is not here. The final score is not settled in this life. Because of that, we can readjust our thinking to a much bigger picture. The apostle Paul encouraged the first Christians to “set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
When I officiate at funerals, the joyous times come when we’re celebrating the life of a saint who has walked with the Lord for many years. With family members at the funeral home or the graveside, I often read one of my favorite passages on this subject—Revelation 21:1–4. The context is a revelation given to the apostle John in the final days of his earthly life. John was in exile on the island of Patmos, which may have been a Roman penal colony. He had been physically persecuted and was now separated from his friends and family by the sea. He was utterly alone. But then, the glorified Christ visited him and gave him a vision of things to come.
I’m not a significant scholar or mighty theologian on the book of Revelation. There are many things I still don’t get in this profoundly deep book. But I do know that one of the central themes is coming home. At the end of it all, we get to go home. That is what John experienced, and I’ll just let him speak for himself:
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first Heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of Heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Did you catch that last phrase? “For the old order of things has passed away.”
The beautiful reality here is in the assurance. Jesus spoke of leaving, preparing a place, and returning for his children so we would be with him. The apostle John clarifies that when we put our hope in Christ and Christ alone, we can know for certain that we have eternal life. Thus, this reality changes everything. From our daily interactions and priorities on this side of eternity to the moment we step through the veil to the other side, yes, Heaven changes everything.
I can almost hear and see it when I take the time to be still and listen. And then, almost like an echo, I can hear the words of Jesus: “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”
Do you have this assurance because of Jesus Christ?
How will this assurance change how you view eternity and life today?