“Everybody wants to go to heaven,” the old saying goes, “but nobody wants to die.”
If you were to judge heaven based on cultural statements or assumptions, heaven is a glorious personal playground in the sky – the culmination of our individualistic wants and desires all fulfilled into perpetuity.
- I can golf all I want!
- Money? Ha! I can simply think stuff into being!
- I can fly!
- No more politics!
- No more calories!
- No more rainy days (unless you’re into that kind of thing…introverts).
Heaven will be our own personal paradise.
There are just a few problems with the aforementioned statements. While each of these ideas is grounded in the sure and steady foundation of cultural assumption, there is one small hurdle to overcome…
None of these statements are validated by the Bible.
The Bible paints a beautiful, almost unimaginable, portrait of heaven, but it admittedly does so with broad strokes. There is a lot we do not know about heaven, but there is a lot we do know.
One thing we know about heaven is that it is not an individualistic utopia. In fact, by the Bible’s description of heaven, there are many people who would likely hate it.
How do you know if you would hate heaven?
If you love being the center of your own world and desires, you are going to hate heaven.
Heaven is where God is and where He brings His church to dwell for eternity. Ultimately, if we truly love God, we will love heaven. But one diagnostic we can use to discern whether or not we will love heaven is to ask ourselves how we feel about God’s church in the here and now.
If you don’t love the church, you are going to hate heaven.
Why? Because the church will be there…all of it. And when you get tired of the people there, your kids aren’t entertained, or you just cannot sing one more chorus of ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’ (Rev. 4:8), there is nowhere else to go. There is no Second Church of Heaven.
Someone once said the church would be great if it wasn’t for the people. Everyone knows the church is full of hypocrites and they are all going to be there in heaven. Repentant? Yes. Forgiven? Yes. But really? Them?
The church is about Jesus. The community, the accountability, the structure, the authority, the forgiveness, the family – it is all from Jesus, by Jesus and for Jesus.
No one has been hurt by the church more than Jesus; yet He died for her.
He died for her that He would be glorified in welcoming her to an eternal dwelling. If you do not love the church or you do not love Jesus, you will not want to be in heaven.
Individualistic self-glory will not be a priority in heaven. It turns out the old saying holds more truth than it realizes. Following Christ requires death to self – now and in eternity. Our appetites, authority, autonomy, our will, all bowed down to the sovereignty of Christ. Sometimes this also means our preferences, social barriers, even the walls we build up so no one else can see into our hearts.
Everybody wants to go to heaven some day, but God has given us the opportunity to experience some of heaven on earth before we die. However, in true Jesus fashion, it is not the easy route, and it is not what you would expect.
Do you want to prepare for heaven? Start now by praying with other believers. Meet with other believers. Praise Jesus with other believers. Be identified with and accountable to a local church of believers.
Ultimately, we love the church because we love Jesus. Heaven is about Jesus. But in few ways are we more like Jesus than when we sacrificially love the church – now and in eternity.
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Col. 3:12-16).