Picking up from where we stopped in Part 1, let’s consider the second fundamental reason why Christians don’t occupy their minds with the hope of heaven now: our view of heaven has been wrongly informed. This has to do with feeding our minds with the wrong things, so that the picture of heaven we have is distorted and wrong. This happens in several ways.
Firstly, many people have fallen for the cartoon depiction of heaven – fat saints and angels seated on clouds playing harps. Having a wrong picture of heaven that falls far short of the real one means we cannot quite occupy our minds with heaven now, for it will not be heaven, as God has revealed it, neither will it work to bear any fruit in us! The heaven described by unbelievers – the pie in the sky, has no appeal and dissuades believers from occupying their minds now with heaven. Painting a picture of something undesirable and boring makes heaven look so ridiculous that there’s no point longing for it. In fact, although heaven as a destination would be preferred to its opposite, hell, the thing that is most to be desired, according to this narrative, is the ‘good’ life now! But does the journey make sense if we know not, nor delight in our desired destination? Doesn’t that always result in choosing a route that seems the most fun to us but that gets us to a different destination altogether?
Secondly, our hopes remain this world centered and not on God and His promise. The world is loud with its talk of “Your best life now”, that Christians have started believing it. This is the devil’s tactic to make us short-sighted. We are distracted by the loud false advertising of the enemy on how great life in this world is. We are tempted to ignore the still, small voice of God’s Spirit-breathed words that tells us of the true and sure promises God has fulfilled and will fulfill; great things that nothing in this world can compare to. We soon fall for the temporary, momentary pleasures instead of waiting for the better, eternal pleasures Yahweh has promised!
The third way the believer’s eyes are kept from the hope of heaven now is through the prosperity gospel . This, it has done in 2 ways. Firstly, it has pointed to this world as the chief place we should wait for and expect the fulfillment of Yahweh’s promises. The prosperity gospel has taken promises Yahweh has made and rather than see that their ultimate fulfillment is in heaven, the world to come, has made it a ‘get-it-now’ thing. The proponents of this false gospel therefore join in the devil’s bandwagon of fixing the believers’ eyes squarely on this world and not on heaven. If I am living for my “Best life now”, why would I occupy my mind with a city to come?
The second way the prosperity gospel diverts the believer’s attention from heaven is by painting a weak picture of heaven. Whereas some are out to make heaven seem boring, the prosperity gospeller is out to make heaven all about ‘me’. Rather than heaven being the place Yahweh has made for His own glory and worship, it becomes the place for the ‘believer’ to get all that they want and have always desired. The focus of heaven becomes about having the biggest house, driving the grandest car and living the lavish life. Heaven is simply the fulfillment of all my selfish fleshly desires! It is not about the worship of God, the wonder of intimate relationship with Him (God dwelling with man), the joy of beholding the Lamb who was slain for us or the perfection of a world where perfect righteousness reigns. My preoccupation then becomes looking at what I deem the best things in this life so that I can want them for ‘heaven’. The focus now is therefore growing my envy and covetousness, not my faith or love or hunger for all that is God’s.
Fourthly, I think we have a big view of man and this creation and a small view of Yahweh. This is the result of some of what we have already discussed earlier: a poor knowledge of God’s Word, the blinding work of the devil and from hearing false gospels. But this is also an effect of sin. Right from Genesis 3, the great characteristic of sin is that we want to be God. We want to take His place of authority and rule and do not consider how foolish this endeavor is. Just as with the kings of the nations in Psalm 2 – God only laughs at our vain efforts! We still deceive ourselves of our grandeur and deny God His (what He deserves from us not what He has in Himself). This means we are preoccupied with building things for ourselves, failing to realize that these things will not in fact last to eternity. What we need instead is to despair of our own effort and look to the great God who promises to build us a righteous dwelling with Himself that lasts forever. We can be sure of it because Jesus died and rose again from the dead, the seal of the assurance of heaven!
Having a wrong picture of heaven means we know not the goodness, bigness, awesomeness and glory of heaven.
Having a wrong picture of heaven means we know not the goodness, bigness, awesomeness and glory of heaven. We know not the promise of its joys, the shine of its glory nor the beauty and safety of its walls. This means that we cannot then desire and long for it. Life now becomes a shadow of what it could be because we will focus on our selfish desires and not realize that it is those things that we prioritize now that will disqualify us for life in the real heaven of God – the kingdom centered in the Father and the Son! Consider the following verses from Revelation:
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (21:1-5)
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” (22:1-5)
Aren’t these just amazing pictures of that which awaits those who hope in Jesus Christ? Is there anything boring about these pictures? Heaven, as described in these verses, is something I long for. It represents the removal and annihilation of all that I hate on this earth – sin, suffering, darkness, death. But more than that it represents the place where I will finally be able to worship God as He deserves to be worshipped. It is the place of perfect relationship with God, where I will finally be able to remain faithful as He is faithful. It will be the place of perfect, everlasting enjoyment! There will be nothing there to take away our joy and delight! I’m getting excited just thinking about it!
These things do sound out-of-this-world, no wonder it’s so hard to occupy our minds with them now. Yet, we would do well to think through what is keeping us from thinking of them now and seek the remedy. Let’s open our Bibles and ask God to help us hear Him speak clearly about what He is done, what He is doing and what He will do. Let us keep our eyes focused on what God is saying, discarding the lies that the devil will throw our way or the lures of the world and the lusts of our flesh. Let us learn to spend time filling our minds with the truth of what God has promised so that we might bear fruit in keeping with the hope we have – faith in Jesus Christ and a love for the saints!