What does a vacation look like for you? Isn’t it remarkable that so many of us can have an ideal concept of a vacation and no two are the same. For example, I have some family whose ideal vacation involves being firmly planted on the beach. I, on the other hand, would much prefer a cabin deep in the mountains so that I might look out across the countryside and marvel at God’s power. Whether it’s bliss on the coast, or up on the mountain, all of us have some ideal concept of a getaway.
What is it about these vacations that makes them so attractive? These sorts of outings are rarely cheap. People must shell out great quantities of money, sacrifice time, put forth a tremendous quantity of effort, and for what purpose? We want to escape. We want to experience something we’ve never experienced before. We want some break for our ordinary and mundane. In sum, we want to feel alive. In many ways, it’s a longing for heaven.
Heaven is not a uniquely Christian concept, which is hardly surprising since our hearts have been made for eternity whether or not we know anything about the Gospel. We are all created in the image of God, and part of that includes that longing for a far off country that can’t be found by ordinary means.
King Solomon once wrote, “[God] has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart…” (Ecclesiastes 3:11 ESV) The Reformation Heritage Study Bible provides this helpful comment on the Preacher’s words: “Although every man is mortal under the sun, he will live someplace forever. The only source of satisfaction for the eternity within us is the eternal God.”
To put it bluntly, you have been made for heaven. Remember that at the dawn of creation, when Adam and Eve were still in the Garden of Eden, it was this unbridled fellowship with God that brought heaven to earth. How do we know that? No amount of fruit or greenery could make paradise sweet once God’s judgment came. Again, what was the symbol of paradise lost? It was the destruction of the intimate relationship mankind had with God and ejection from this place of perfect bliss.
Heaven, then, is a return to this fellowship. Heaven so often is depicted as a generic clouded region surrounded by chubby babies with wings. This however fails to grasp the substance and beauty that awaits all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Heaven is not clouds. Heaven is just not a set of gates. Heaven is not an endless garden. Nor is it a futuristic city made of gold. Heaven is only heaven by virtue of God’s very presence as friend.
We all know what it is like to feel out of place. To not belong. To be in a crowded space and feel utterly alone. Heaven is the complete antithesis of that. In many ways, we might understand it as the most perfect expression of belonging, because it is a place that meets and exceeds every expectation we could ever have.
Heaven for many is cheapened and diminished by our warped hearts. Don’t believe me? If your version of paradise does not have Christ at its center, you are settling for less than best. This blessed hope of seeing Christ lies at the heart of the Christian’s great hope for heaven. Heaven isn’t about endless walks on the beach, or being fit, or staying young forever. All those things without Christ are empty, and reflect hearts more satisfied with the gift that the Giver.
Heaven will include many glorious and beautiful things. We will enter a world we’ve never encountered. A world without pain or betrayal. A world without sickness and death. A world without abuse or abandonment. A world without despair or emotional awkwardness. A world where everything is as it ought to be. But the sum of all these glories is found, not in these secondary, though amazing, elements. The crown figure of glory is Christ and seeing Him face to face as a bride sees her groom on her wedding day.
There is a real sense where our words will always be lacking on this concept, namely because we have nothing like it. But heaven will be greater than every cheap and perverse alternative our world can offer because its experience will not tarnish your soul, but make it more beautiful.
On the night in which the Lord Jesus was betrayed, He knew His Apostles would need encouragement and so He delivered these words initially to them but by extension they come to us as His disciples. Our Lord said, “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.” (John 14:2-3 ESV). May your understanding of heaven be challenged to be more than you’ve ever conceived and may Christ become more precious to you than life itself.