The title of this piece comes from a question that has been rolling around in my mind for quite some time. The initial response from anyone and everyone is 'yes', 'sure', "who in their right mind wouldn't want to go there?"
To seriously ask someone that question (at least someone in the south), is to receive a response that goes something like this, "Seriously? Give me a break, who wouldn't want to go there, after all, it's the "sweet by and by" with gates of pearl, streets of gold, walls of jasper, and you get a mansion! It's a place you'll never grow old, there's no sickness, sorrow, or pain, and the greatest thing of all is that we get to see our family and friends who have gone on before us and it will be great." Sound familiar? All of us, at one time or another, have pondered these thoughts.
With these thoughts as a backdrop, consider this question, "Have you ever gone somewhere 'thinking' it to be one thing and you walked away disappointed because it was something entirely different?" Perhaps you rented a beach house or a mountain cottage or have gone to some town or attraction, a concert, and when you got there, it was simply not what you thought it was. Depending on how disappointed you were, you might regret going there.
For many, being called "Christian" is simply about missing hell and making heaven. That is their deal, they just want to go to heaven when they die, but don't want to get too bothered about it while on earth. They don't want to be bothered with things like life-change, following Jesus, sacrifice, service, and the like, just give me the benefit without the cost. While we say, "Salvation is free", never forget what your life cost our Lord. He gives love, grace, forgiveness, hope, abundant life on earth, the presence of the Holy Spirit, and in return He requires our hearts, that is, our all. By the way, heaven is only a by-product or the outcome and a life given to Him.
But all of this has caused me to wonder, "What if heaven is not like you think it is or what you think it is? After all, you don't get a voice in what it is. So do you still really want to go there?" There are some who will think this type of question is, almost sacrilege or at best, a dumb question, but in almost 70 years of life, my observation is that, while people say they want to go to heaven when they die, they don't really seem to have a Biblical concept of what God's heaven really is. Additionally, they don't fully embrace down here on earth, the things of heaven.
So that evokes questions in my limited mind. My questions are these:
- If I or we don't enjoy on earth the things which will be central in heaven, why would go there?
- If the things I value and give my life and time to on earth are not going to be in heaven, why do I think I'd be happy there?
- If I don't enjoy being together with God's people on earth, what will change in me to make me enjoy having to be with God's people all the time in heaven?
How about one more question? Have you ever thought about what is NOT going to be in heaven? (don't be shocked)
There won't be any money in heaven. Think about that. You won't have money to spend because you won't need money to spend. You won't have to buy a house to live in and you won't have a title to the house you do live in. Furthermore, you don't get to design your house. You don't get to buy a car. The list is endless.
But let's make this a little more painful
From my study and prayer, I don't believe there will be any ballfields in heaven, no college or professional sports, no soccer fields, no basketball courts, & no golf courses, WOW! This is a startling revelation for some people. So 'are you sure this is a place you really want to go?"
Additionally, think about those who have gone on before us, specifically our families and loved ones. While we will know them, to think that they are mom, dad, aunts, uncles, children, and the like will not be what we think it will be, rather, they will be our brothers and sisters in the Lord. They will be there because of their personal decision to follow Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Some will ask, "What's your point?" My point is simply that the centerpiece of heaven is Jesus. For the Christ-follower, the first face you will likely see is Jesus. The activities in heaven will be the WORSHIP (that means bowing down) and PRAISE (this means giving Him the glory due His name), and celebrating the presence of the Lord for all eternity!
Think about it. Do you still want to go? This is a serious question. If I/we/you have to be coerced to attend worship regularly with the brothers and sisters or attend Bible Study or if attending church services is more about 'where I park', 'where I sit', 'what music I sing', 'what someone wears', or even 'who do I get to see' rather than about the Worship of the Lord God (which is what heaven is all about), why would I want to go?
This question haunts me as a pastor, and the haunting is not about 'me'. My desire to go to heaven is based on one truth, Jesus is there. He is the one who has never thrown me under the bus. He is the one who found me as a sorry sinner and saved me by changing me. Yes, I know that family and friends will be there and we will enjoy the true fellowship in heaven forever. Yes, I know there will be a family reunion there, but I also deeply believe it will not be the reunion found in the 'earthly family with earthly connections.' Rather, it will be a reunion of the blood-bought family that has been redeemed by the innocent, precious blood of Jesus who died so that I could know the Father, have my sin forgiven, enjoy abundant life on earth, and (oh by the way) the reward is to get to go to heaven where all the saints dwell.
The personal confusion I have is this, why would someone want to go to that place that doesn't really love Jesus or the family of God? Why would someone want to go to heaven who doesn't want to be a part of the family of God known as the church? Why would someone want to go there who finds greater joy in the temporal things of the earth than the eternal things of God?
I love golf, but I don't think they'll be golf in heaven (anyone who has ever 3-putted believes that also). And I'm good with that. Actually, life will probably be better without it.
But I don't believe there will be any of the 'stuff' there, that we give 4, 5, or 6 nights each week to, things which we think we can't live without. I don't believe that anything we have made into a god down here that replaced Him in our lives, will be allowed into His heaven. Why do I say that there are things we made into gods? Here's why.
When the pandemic hit, the moans and groans which were heard were about what? Oh yeah, there were a few who bemoaned the fact of church services being scuttled, but the national outcry was to restore the 'god of our day' quickly. There is little need for me to identify this god, because we know it, bow down to it, & thought we couldn't live without it.
Heaven is a place where the gods of this earthly life will have passed away in favor of Jehovah God, where Jesus is recognized as the 2nd Person in the trinity-the lamb slain-the lion of Judah-the victorious one, and where the Holy Spirit of God engenders an atmosphere that is highly spiritual, joyful, worshipful, and fulfilling; and it's for eternity.
If this vision of heaven doesn't appeal to you, THEN I APPEAL TO YOU to apply 2 Corinthians 13:5 and 'Test yourselves, to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?" Only those who pass this test get to heaven. Jesus said, "I am THE way" and there is no other.
Earth is but Bootcamp for heaven. And like the armed services, only those who successfully complete Bootcamp, get a station in the service. To successfully complete life on earth means a personal relationship with Christ through repentance, confession, believing, surrendering to, and following Jesus.
So, knowing all of this about Heaven,
"DO you REALLY AND TRULY want to go?"