One of the questions I've been asked most frequently about my new book, A Place Called Heaven, is why we should even be thinking about Heaven with all of the current events unfolding before our eyes. As this world is increasingly engulfed in political chaos and international conflict, we increasingly long for a better place.
But beyond offering encouragement, thinking about Heaven actually makes us more effective here on Earth. You have probably heard the trite adage about people who are "so heavenly minded they are of no earthly good." Frankly, I've never met a Christian who thinks too much about Heaven.
Our problem is, we think too little about Heaven. As C.S. Lewis observed, "If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next."
There are four reasons why we should think about and learn about that "place called Heaven."
Focusing on Heaven reminds us of the brevity of life.
While most people live as if they're never going to die, it is still true, as George Bernard Shaw famously quipped, "The statistics on death are impressive. One out of every one dies." And after this comes eternity — somewhere. The decisions we make in life set our eternal destinies. Like the psalmist in 'The Prayer of Moses', we must ask God to "teach us to number our days" (Psalm 90:12). This knowledge creates a heart of wisdom which will spur us to action on earth.
Focusing on Heaven prepares us for the certainty of judgement.
The Bible says that non-Christians will certainly face eternal separation from God. But even Christians will face a judgment – or evaluation – by God. In preparation, the Apostle Paul exhorts the Corinthian church to walk by faith and not sight, "for [all] appear before the judgment seat of Christ [to be] rewarded for what [they have] done" (2 Cor. 5:10). We ought to live every day of our lives in anticipation of that judgment.
Focusing on Heaven motivates us to live pure lives.
One of the best detergents for keeping our lives spotless is keeping our eyes focused on the promise of heaven. The writer to the Hebrews said that Moses, the son of royal privilege who was surrounded by the luxuries of Egypt, willingly endured "ill-treatment with the people of God" rather than enjoying "the passing pleasures of sin," because "he was looking to the reward" he would receive in heaven (Heb. 11:25–27).
Focusing on Heaven places suffering in perspective.
One of the questions I'm asked most frequently as a pastor is "Why did God allow (some horrific experience in their life) to happen?" God never completely answers the "why" question when it comes to suffering. However, He has given us the promise of heaven to put suffering in perspective. The Apostle Paul — who was well acquainted with suffering — wrote confidently:
For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Cor. 4:17–18)
Somebody has observed, "From the perspective of Heaven we will see our worse suffering on Earth as no more than a one night's stay in an inconvenient hotel."
How we wait for this "place called heaven" — whether with anticipation or anxiety, whether with focused or unfocused living — matters both now and in the future. For what we do on earth today reverberates in the halls of heaven forever.