by Lasserre Bradley, Jr.
How often do you think about heaven? We sing about heaven, we hear preaching about heaven, but how often do we really contemplate what it will mean to be there.
We should, indeed, be keenly interested in heaven. We pray to our Father in heaven. Jesus, our Savior, intercedes for us in heaven. Our inheritance is in heaven, and we expect some day to live in heaven.
We have all heard it said, “some people are so heavenly-minded that they are of little earthly use,” but the right mindset about heaven is part of what makes us useful on earth. We are admonished to “seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1). And after confessing that all the details of heaven are not now known, John tells us that we shall be like Christ, and that “and every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (1 John 3:2).
We are constantly reminded that whatever we may possess here is subject to change and decay. Moth and rust corrupt and thieves steal. Jobs are lost, savings are depleted and that long-awaited inheritance proves to be worthless.
Years ago I knew of a man who was considered to be very wealthy. He wore the finest of clothes and he possessed an air of dignity that seemed to give credence to the assumption that he was rich. In his latter years he had only one relative, a niece who catered to his every need. He was a rather overbearing man and many wondered how this niece could be so patient and work so hard to please him. But she confided in a friend that she knew she was in his will and would receive her inheritance when he died. He lived to a ripe old age, but after his death she was devastated to learn that although she was his sole heir, the inheritance was dissipated and there was barely enough money to bury him.
But what a joy to have a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ “to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4)!
All of your earthly possessions may be swept away by flood, tornadoes, or hurricanes; but your inheritance in heaven is secure.
It cannot be depleted, it cannot be defiled, it is absolutely perfect, and it will be intact when you arrive there. There will be no disappointments in heaven.
Peter informs us that we have the inheritance not because of our worth or merit but according to God’s abundant mercy. Paul also declares this in very unmistakable terms, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5). Think of it. We who were lawbreakers, we who were his enemies have now had mercy bestowed on us through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and are not only pardoned but given an inheritance in heaven.
He emphasizes that we have been redeemed not with silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without sport or blemish (1 Peter 1:19). Now we are “heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ.” Bankrupt sinners by nature, nothing to pay, lost and without hope, then rescued by divine mercy and made rich in Christ. No wonder the songs of heaven will perpetually proclaim, “Thou art worthy…for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God” (Revelation 5:9).
Peter then informs us that, not only is the inheritance reserved for us, but we are kept for it by the power of God through faith. How else could we expect to arrive there and enjoy the inheritance? Though God has called us by His grace we still have conflicts within, temptations to face and doubts to overcome. Between the weakness of the flesh and the enemies that must be encountered we understand that it can only be because of God’s keeping power that we will arrive on schedule to claim the inheritance that is reserved.
And it is through faith He is keeping us.
Often our faith seems weak and we are close to giving up, but this faith — which is given to us by God — is a living faith.
Though the path is dark and the attacks of our great adversary are vicious, God keeps us “through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1:5).
And then we see a real paradox in the Christian’s experience. The Apostle speaks of rejoicing greatly while in heaviness through manifold temptations. In fact he says we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. How can this be? The word heaviness refers to “grief or pain.” The word manifold means “variegated, many-colored.”
So there are many shades of troubles, all kinds of trials to face. They are difficult, they are heavy, they weight us down. Then how can we rejoice? Because we know God is in control of our trials. The expression “if need be” indicates that there are times when it is necessary for our heavenly Father to lead us through trials. The psalmist said “it is good for me that I have been afflicted” (Psalm 119:71).
Some trials are for correction (Hebrews 12:6-11), some are designed to humble us and make us aware of our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:7-10), some are given to prepare us to help others (2 Corinthians 1:3-7), and Peter further makes the point that sufferings are used to bring us to a place of spiritual maturity. “But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you” (1 Peter 5:10).
And so we can rejoice now in our sufferings knowing that the trial of our faith, “being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1:7). There can be no question but that trials and sufferings here cause us to think more about our heavenly home. In the midst of Job’s great sufferings he said, “I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:24-25).
When the disciples were grieving after Jesus told them he was going away, he comforted them with the truth about their home above. “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come gain, and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-3).
In a time a prosperity it is easy to become so comfortable with our circumstances that little thought is given to heaven; but when there are losses and heartaches, sickness and death, we are reminded that we are but strangers and pilgrims here and with Abraham “desire a better country, that is, an heavenly.”
Our interest in heaven provides comfort in our trials and keeps us looking forward in bright expectation of that which is to come.
Peter speaks of that salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Redemption was accomplished at the cross; divine calling brings you into a vital experience of salvation; at the present you are being sanctified or delivered from the power of sin; but the day is yet to come when you are glorified — completely conformed to the image of Jesus Christ and delivered forever from the very presence of sin. Paul expressed confidence in that which to come when he said “the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (2 Timothy 4:18).
So what will it be like to live in that heavenly home?
First of all, Jesus told his disciples that where I am there you will be.
That is the ultimate joy of heaven. Think of it — living forever with Jesus Christ.
We may have been hearing His gospel all our life; we have been singing songs about Him and praying prayers through Him, but now we see through a glass darkly. Then we shall see Him face to face. Then we will be able to behold His gory because we will have our resurrected, glorified body. No words can describe the joy and bliss of this experience, but to embrace the truth of it by faith brings us “joy unspeakable and full of glory.”
Second, it is a place where much of what we have endured here will be reversed. We have had pain here but will have none there. We have tears here but they shall all be wiped away there. We have darkness and night here but Jesus Christ is the eternal light of that city and there is no night there. We struggle against evil here but there will be nothing that defiles over there. Here there is death, but in heaven no dying, no separations, but life forever more.
Furthermore, heaven is a place of rest. Our travels will be over, our burdens will be laid down, the last battle will have been fought. No more conflicts, no more misunderstandings, no more struggles, no more enemies. No more discouragement, no more weariness — rest, peaceful rest. And while rest will be delightfully enjoyed, there will be activity. There will be the singing of triumphant hymns to the Lamb that was slain. The saints will perfectly worship their perfect Savior in a perfect place, and they will serve him in his temple day and night (Revelation 7:15).
A question which is often asked is, “Will we know each other in heaven?” Certainly the focus of heaven is Jesus Christ, but it is comforting to see that the scriptures teach there will be recognition. What consolation would it be to anticipate the resurrection but with the thought that you would not know who you are?
The body is sown a natural body and raised a spiritual body, but it will still be you (1 Corinthians 15:44). It is not going to be some new mystical person who comes out of the grave; it will still be you. When Abraham died it was said that he was “gathered to his people.” When David’s son died he acknowledged he could not bring him back, but that he could go to him. Obviously he was expecting to know his son in the heavenly home. When Jesus was on the Mount of Transfiguration with Peter, James and John, Moses and Elijah put in an appearance and introductions were not necessary. The Apostles recognized these men who had gone to be with the Lord many years before.
Paul writes of being caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and tells us these words are specifically designed to give us comfort (1 Thessalonians 4:17-18). Jesus revealed that there will not be marriage in heaven but the inhabitants of that city will be one great family bound together in perfect love. There will be joyous and perfect companionship without an end.
You may be suffering today, but one day the sufferings will end, and as painful as they are, they are light in comparison to the glory that is to come.
You may be grieving today, but though “weeping may endure for a night, joy cometh in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). The uncertainties of the future may cause you concern, but remember by the grace of God you have an in heritance which is reserved for you in heaven. You may be discouraged today, but victory is just ahead. Through Jesus Christ you will be victorious over sin, over Satan and over death. “Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).
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