For years I lived with the belief that when I died I would go to Heaven, because I believed in God and I was a good-enough person. I wasn’t very excited about it, but it sure sounded better than the alternative of Hell. In Heaven I planned on seeing people who had died before me, and hoped to not have to deal with any troubles there. I remembered enough from church as a child to know that there wouldn’t be any tears in Heaven so that must be a nice place to be. But deep in my heart, I didn’t really want to go there. I wanted to stay here, with my family and my friends. I didn’t want to be in a perfect boring place for all of eternity. In reality, it wasn’t that I didn’t want Heaven; I didn’t want God.
Since coming to Christ two years ago and reading God’s word in the Bible, I have realized how very wrong my thinking was. The reformed baptist preacher Paul Washer said it best, “The question is not, “Do you want to go to Heaven.” The question is, “Do you want God?”.
The more I read the scriptures the more I saw the picture of Heaven as it truly is. The beauty of Heaven is not that it is a place empty of pain, but rather that it is a place that is full of God. The prophet Isaiah said in Isaiah 66:1, “Thus says the LORD: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest?” As humans we have the unique privilege of being made in the image of God, and our greatest happiness and flourishing can only be found in His presence.
The Apostle Paul constantly reminds us Christians where our hope should be found in his many letters to the early church:
“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” Philippians 1:21-23
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”- Colossians 3:1-2
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:4-7
The Apostle John reminds us as well of our great hope:
“They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.””- Revelation 7:16-17
““Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”- the words of Jesus in John 14:1-3
Do you see it? The only reason our hope is in Heaven, is because Jesus is there. He is the good Shepherd who leads his people to safety and rest. All of these best-seller experiences of people going to Heaven are missing a vital piece of the puzzle. They speak of seeing loved ones, of seeing beauty. They speak of seeing light. But they don’t speak of seeing THE light of the world, Jesus Christ himself, on his heavenly throne.
“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”- the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:12
There is no sin in wanting to see loved ones who have passed before you. There is no sin in wanting rest from this world of pain and sadness. But there is sin in wanting a Heaven that doesn’t have God. Without Him, there would be no Heaven. Heaven is God’s home, and we must know Him and be known by Him to be granted entrance.
Why do you think you will go there? Would you knock on a stranger’s door and demand to be let in? Are you like I was, trusting in your own righteousness and works? Believing what the culture says rather than the word of God? Trusting books about other’s so called experiences? The idea of Heaven is found in the Bible, so we must go there to find out about it.
In the Bible we learn that, “We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.”- (Isaiah 64:6 NLT) The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 3:23 “..for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…”
The desperate condition of mankind is that we are all sinners who desperately need a Savior. We can’t enter a holy God’s pure home covered in our sin. If you’ve even told one lie, blasphemed God one time, hated someone, looked at someone who was not your spouse with lust, coveted what someone else had, or done any number of other sins, you cannot enter Heaven. No amount of good deeds you could perform would ever make you right with Him. This is the plain teaching of the Bible. This is sobering, and terrifying.
But there is hope. God loves us, and in His love, He sent His Son, Jesus Christ. Because Jesus Christ was fully God and fully man, he was the only person who could ever live the sinless life God requires. Jesus obeyed the law of God perfectly. As God the Son died on the cross, God the Father poured out on him the full wrath that He would otherwise have to pour out on mankind.
“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”- 1 Peter 2:24
When we repent and believe in what Christ has done on our behalf, and stop trusting that we can ever be “good enough” to earn our way into Heaven, God does a miracle. We see Jesus Christ as our Lord, and we want to obey him. He changes our wicked, sinful hearts into hearts that love Him and want to serve Him in holiness. We then become a people who don’t want to go to Heaven for the perks, but because God Himself is there. We become a people who believe and hope in this truth,
“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”- Psalm 16:11
You could single-handedly solve world hunger. You could rescue a million orphans. You could drill five thousand wells for thirsty people. These are all wonderful, honorable things. But you could never live the sinless life God requires, and you would die in your sins. Who will you trust in; yourself, or Christ? The answer to that question will determine the destination of your eternal home, which I pray, will be wherever Christ is.