When I was younger and was really excited about something, say a vacation we were about to take, I would inevitably walk into Sunday School or a church service and hear, “Jesus is coming back someday!” I would then get all worried that Jesus would come back before the vacation had even started, and once or twice I think I may have even prayed to ask Him to wait a little while. Silly little me, right?
That wasn’t how Paul thought. While writing a letter to the church in Philippi, Paul stopped and thought for a moment about whether he would prefer to be on Earth, helping people, or to be in Heaven with the Lord. He wrote, “I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.” His duty was to stay here, but his heart, his desire, was absolutely for Heaven.
As I’ve gotten older, I have come to understand a little better the excitement that comes with Jesus’s return. After all, He will fix this world that has so badly fallen apart. What isn’t there to look forward to about that? Yet when I compare my heart to Paul’s heart, I see that I still put a few caveats on my excitement. I want Jesus to come soon, but I want to get married first. I want Him to come soon, but I want to have kids first. I want Him to come soon, but I really want to do some great things with my career first. I want Him to come soon, but I want to clean up my life a bit before I meet Him face to face.
Look at just a few of the things we are asking to have put on hold when we have that attitude:
- “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” -Revelation 21:4
- “And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, transparent as glass. And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there.” – Revelation 21:21-25
And there are so many more verses about the beauty, peace, and joy of Heaven. Even better than any of that, in Heaven we will be in the very presence of the God who loves and cherishes us. We will have the opportunity to see His glory and to worship in front of His throne. Nothing we could ever do here on Earth could ever compare to the sheer joy and unmitigated beauty of Heaven.
The highest of those joys will be standing in the presence of God. Think about what it says about your relationship with Him when you desire anything else more than that. Essentially, you are putting a job, a spouse, a baby, or a trip first and foremost in your affections. When you love someone, you desire earnestly to see and be with them. It’s as simple as that.
That isn’t to say that we aren’t supposed to enjoy this life or be excited about things that happen here; they’re gifts from God, as James 1:17 says, but we should always strive for a Heaven-based outlook.
Well, firstly because of the reasons I listed earlier. Your desire shows where your affections are, and a desire for Heaven shows that you have a deeper affection for God than for anything else.
Secondly, looking forward to Heaven will change your perspective of Earth. If we are constantly thinking about how “on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak,” (Matthew 12:36) we will watch our tongue. If we are thinking about how “if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life,” he will be “thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15), we will be witnessing to everyone we meet. If we are thinking about how Jesus said, “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,” (John 14:3), we will worry less about what happens to us here on Earth. Remembering Heaven produces a life that is focused on eternity, instead of on the temporary, ultimately unimportant things that surround us here.
“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Colossians 3:2 says. Sometimes that’s hard, sometimes it even seems backwards, but remember, being with the Lord is “far better” than anything here on Earth. Are you ready?