“Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. Even so, amen” (Revelation 1:7).
I’m going to go out on a limb here and make a few predictions about Heaven.
As with every religious charlatan who ever came down the pike, there’s no way to prove me wrong for the time being. But unlike the con men, I’m just thinking out loud here. After all, who among us does not like thinking about Heaven, our abode forever and forever?
The first surprise, I have no doubt, will be to find yourself awake. “Wow,” you think. “I died. I really did. I remember everyone gathering around the hospital bed and them all crying. And I recall that last surge of pain and then everything went black. And lo and behold, I wake up. How wonderful is that?”
“As for me, I shall behold Thy face in righteousness. I will be satisfied with Thy likeness when I awaken.” (Psalm 17:15)
When I awaken. A given fact. It’s going to happen. But as much as we say we believe that, I’m confident the first sensation we will have on the other side of that curtain is to find our eyes open and the new realities of our situation setting in.
The second surprise will be to see how real everything is. How bright and clear are the colors, how total your hearing, how alive you feel.
All this time, when you thought of Heaven, it was in the sense of it being ethereal, somewhat foggy, as though this earthly life is real and the celestial is something not quite as solid. Imagine your surprise when you find it to be quite the opposite.
“…an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison,” is how 2 Corinthians 4:17 puts it. “For the things which are seen (i.e., the earthly) are temporal, but the things which are not seen (heavenly) are eternal.”
The third surprise? I don’t have a clue. It could be so many things….
–The Lord is there. You fall to your knees. You wonder if your heart will burst. You are amazed you can take this overpowering sensation without your heart failing you. And then you remember: you have a new body, one not subject to the old limitations and infirmities.
–How wonderful and glorious He is. You never imagined! Your eyes cannot take this in. It’s far too much. It will require a long time for you to absorb all the sights you are seeing. Fortunately, you have a long time. (I Corinthians 2:9)
–At who is there. You are stunned to see people in all manner of dress, all colors and shades of racial identity, from “every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues” (Revelation 7:9). Wow. They too are members of His family.
–How true His promises are. You knew it by faith before, but now “mine eye seeth Thee” (Job 42:5).
–You will wish you could go back and do it over, and get it right this time. Now, you have been there and you know. You know that your prayers made a great difference, that your offerings were multiplied to the ends of the earth and ending up blessing the Father in Heaven. You know that your witness was used by the Holy Spirit to change the destinies of so many. You know the lessons you taught, the sermons you preached, the encouragement you gave, were each jewels for the Savior.
–And you will wish you could go back and do it better.
But you can’t. One time through. (Hebrews 9:27).
You see, here is the thing. When we say we’d like to go to Heaven and see how real it is, and then come back and do it better, what we are actually saying is: I don’t want to do this by faith, but by sight. Faith is hard. Faith means not having all the evidence we would like, missing parts of the puzzle, trusting God in spite of our fears and negatives.
Who wouldn’t prefer to walk by sight instead of by faith?
Not going to happen, friend.
Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). We walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).
We will do it the first time through and do it by faith, or we will not do it at all. Faith is the only way.
And so, in the meantime, let us be faithful…
“Keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1).
“This momentary light affliction is working for us an exceeding weight of glory far beyond all comparison….” (2 Corinthians 4:17).
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (I Corinthians 15:58).
“When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8).
One thing I keep wondering about Heaven…
Will we fit there? So many people say they want to go to Heaven and even announce they are going, but they would be miserable there. They like nothing about it–not the Lord, not the people of God, not praising Him or serving Him or talking with Him. They don’t read His Word and do not give to His work. They do none of the things Jesus said qualifies as worshiping Him, such as helping the poorest and neediest, giving to the “least of these my brethren.”
Such people would be so out of place in Heaven.
So–good news–God is not going to make them go.
(C. S. Lewis wrote a wonderful book “The Great Divorce” on this very idea, how some would be so out of place in Heaven, it would be hell to them.)
At the funeral of one of our elderly saints, standing at the graveside, I told the mourning family that “Your loved one Sybil will be so right at home in Heaven. She loved everything about it–the Lord, the people of God, serving Him, worshiping and praising Him, giving to Him and to His people, and all the other things.”
Afterwards, her son came up and said, “You left out one, preacher. Mom loved to eat. And there’s going to be lots of eating in Heaven!”
We laughed. He was right of course. (Scripture refers to this in several places, from Matthew 8:11 to Revelation 19:6-9.)
Music and singing, eating and rejoicing. Serving and learning and growing and…what else? I don’t know, but I cannot wait to find out.
“Even so, come Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).