I’ve been spending some time in Colossians chapter one. After his introduction, Paul says something interesting about the Colossians, “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel,” (Col. 1:3-5, ESV). Paul in these verses, introduces us to a kind of equation we might not be familiar with. The gospel (the word of truth), tells us of a hope laid up in heaven for those who believe in Jesus Christ, and knowing this hope produces in Christians, faith in Jesus and love for all the saints.
But is that how it works for you? I’m not sure I always work through this process or think that the hope laid up for me in heaven is so important that it produces in me faith in Jesus and a love for fellow saints. When I talk to other Christians about what they think about heaven now, for many, it is a future reality that they do not think they need to occupy their minds with now. Yet heaven is a present reality, giving us a certain future hope that has a present manifestation as Colossians 1:3-5 makes clear: hope that bears fruit in faith in Jesus and a love for the saints. So, why don’t we Christians occupy our minds with heaven now?
I think that fundamentally there are 2 main reasons why we don’t occupy our minds with the hope of heaven now. One, is that our view of heaven has been wrongly informed. The second, that we have not rightly informed our view of heaven. Although these 2 reasons sound very similar they in fact point to different causes. It’s like saying that a person is unhealthy because he eats bad food but also because he does not eat good food. Both are similar but very different and valid reasons for the person’s unhealthiness. This is also true for the reason we have an unhealthy view of heaven. I will seek to elaborate on these 2 points in turn starting with the latter in this post and then the former in the next post.
For the rest of this post, I will elaborate on the second point: we have not rightly informed our view of heaven. This has to do with our knowledge of the Bible and what it says. Firstly, we do not know what our Bibles say. Despite living in one of the most enviable times in history, when owning a Bible for ourselves is possible and not costly, we also live in one of the worst times in history for people to know exactly what their Bibles say. What a contradiction of terms! At a time when Bibles are being handed out left, right and center, there are fewer and fewer people who are actually opening them to read for themselves what God is saying. Unfortunately, we live in a time where laziness prevails among Christians in pursuing knowledge of the word of truth.
This then affects how people know the gospel of God and what He has done through His Son Jesus Christ. The grace of God in redeeming rebels and more to that, qualifying them for an inheritance in His perfect kingdom are truths shallowly understood and almost fully ignored. This poor understanding, bordering on complete ignorance means that the hope of heaven is not known, desired or longed for! How then can something unknown occupy our minds now, let alone begin to bear fruit?
“The good food we fail to feed ourselves with. .”
Secondly, I think we have not valued what God has revealed about His priorities. This is a step up from the last point but with the angle that those who are reading God’s Word are not reading it well. Instead of hearing what God, who is speaking, is saying about Himself (the main character in His book), we make is about ourselves. We have not believed God or learnt to love Him and His great plan. This means that our theology isn’t centered on Yahweh, His Work and His plan. What this then means is that heaven, the end that God is working towards, the very reason Jesus came into the created world to secure, is almost completely missed. You have to wonder at people claiming to know and love God when they have little or no idea what He says he’s all about and what He is working towards. This therefore means heaven is not given the attention it deserves in our minds and hearts and that means we cannot occupy our minds with it now.
These 2 points are the good food we fail to feed ourselves with when we consider building up our view of heaven. We should not only be opening our Bibles and reading them, but we should read them diligently to see what God is saying especially about the hope laid up for us in heaven. A taster of what the Bible has to say of what is laid up for us in heaven:
“On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
And he will swallow up on this mountain
the covering that is cast over all peoples,
the veil that is spread over all nations.
He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 25:6-9)
“For behold, I create new heavens
and a new earth,
and the former things shall not be remembered
or come into mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever
in that which I create;
for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy,
and her people to be a gladness.
I will rejoice in Jerusalem
and be glad in my people;
no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping
and the cry of distress.” (Isaiah 65:17-19)
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,” (1 Peter 1:3-4)
Doesn’t reading these verses make you long for heaven? It is only as we read these truths and meditate on them that we can begin to occupy our minds with heaven now and for it to begin to produce in us greater faith in Jesus Christ (who has secured all of it for us) and a love for others (with whom we will want to share heaven with).