As Christians, we have marvellous things to look forward to. Heaven is our destiny and that is incredible. But when we are thinking of what we have to look forward to, are we right to concentrate on our expectation of being in heaven? When looking at the Scriptures it appears that the great longing of the people of God was not to be in heaven, but rather to be with the One who is our LORD and Saviour; Jesus Christ. To put it another way we can truly delight in looking forward to being in heaven. However, heaven is no heaven if there is no Lord Jesus there. So desiring to have heaven, but not longing to be with Christ is to fail to grasp the fullness of what God has in store for us.
As Christians we are now possessors of eternal life. John says Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life (John 3:36a). Eternal life is, in a sense, not something we look forward to, but something we have now. The essence of this new life is summed up by our LORD, in words used as He spoke to His Father, as being that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent (John 17:3). Eternal life is about us knowing God and Jesus Christ in a living relationship. Now through the life of faith we can know Jesus more and more. This relationship develops and strengthens through prayer and study of the Word, Thereby we can grow stronger and stronger in the possession of eternal life.
But one day this life of faith will be transformed into a life of sight. One day we will be caught away to be with our Saviour. Life now is about growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18a); this is how we enjoy eternal life now. When we are taken to glory the experience changes, but the goal does not. Although, in glory we will see our Saviour the goal of growing to know Him still remains. The fact that Jesus Christ should be the focus of our lives now and will be then is seen as wholly appropriate given that Peter continues by saying that to him be glory both now and forever! Amen (2. Pet. 3:18b).
When we look at the worship scene in heaven in Revelation 5, we see there the confirmation that Jesus is the centre of attention. John says: I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the centre of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders (Rev 5:6a). And the massed ranks of redeemed sinners and glorified angels are all singing His praise (see Rev. 5:6-12).
Jesus Christ is described by Paul as being our hope (see 1 Tim. 1:1). Everything we have to look forward to is in Him and because of Him. He releases all the blessings of God into our lives. Accordingly, it makes sense that what we are looking forward to is not heaven itself, but rather being with Jesus Christ our LORD.
Consider then some of the things Paul says. He says I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far (Phil. 1:23b). He would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8b). He reminds the Thessalonians that the return of Jesus will mean we will be with the Lord forever (1 Thess. 4:17b). Further, in respect of the Thessalonians he records that they turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven (1 Thess. 1:9b-10a). John also concurs with Paul when he says; we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is (1 John 3:2b). These scriptures relentlessly drive us to focus on the glorious expectation of being with our LORD Jesus and not just in heaven.
This is a great corrective to all sorts of false notions that we can have about our future and heaven itself. When we start to think about our future we can too easily:
think about heaven as some kind of ultimate holiday location. If this is the case then we are thinking of heaven a wonderfully pleasant place to experience, but nothing beyond that.
think of heaven merely as a better option than going to hell. Truly we should flee from the wrath to come and that wrath is real. But if this is all we think about then heaven is merely a “phew” place. It is a place where we just think “Phew I am glad I’m here and not in hell!”
get involved in pondering upon who we will know in heaven. Will we recognise our relatives? What about recognising Paul or Spurgeon or Lloyd-Jones?
think about what we will be doing there. Will we have this job or that job? Scripture says his servants will serve him (Rev.22:3b). What a privilege! Do we need to know more than that?
We must emphasise that the Scriptures never dwell upon the four issues mentioned above. Rather, the focus in scripture is that we will be with our Saviour. We will be worshipping Him and glorifying His Name and that of our great Father God.
Given these things are we really helping a fellow believer, as they approach death, when we say “You will soon be in heaven and we will meet again there?” In saying this are we really encouraging them? Rather, what we should be focusing on is the great anticipation of being “with the LORD”. That is what the New Testament encourages us towards. Moreover, it is what our Saviour encouraged us to think upon. He said to his disciples “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you yhat I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am (John 14:1-3).
These words of our Savior not only comfort us as regards to being in His presence, but they delight us with strong hints that he wants us to be with Himself. Sometimes we can long to be with someone, but we are not sure that they want us to be with them! John 17:24 removes once and for all any doubt that He wants us to be with Himself. Here our Saviour says to His Father concerning us Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory. Being with the one we love and knowing He wants us there; now that is surely something to long for.
For the true believer it is our everything to be with Christ Jesus our LORD. Let us then seize our Saviour’s exhortation and resist being troubled. We are going to be with our great Saviour and to be with Him forever. And it does not get any better than that!!
Taken from Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of February 2012.