Many people do not spend a lot of time thinking about heaven, and perhaps you haven’t either. That’s understandable. The responsibilities and worries of this world eclipse much thought about living in the next world. Most of us go through our days viewing death as a distant possibility. And heaven? Well, that’s a subject for another time—or so we think.
But then something happens that brings the brevity of life into perspective: perhaps advanced age or a medical diagnosis—or the news of a heartbreaking tragedy such as the horrific massacre in Las Vegas. Although it in no way eliminates the pain of those who have lost loved ones and the anguish our nation is experiencing, the hope of heaven helps put our suffering in perspective. The pain we feel right now is very real, but the Bible assures us that it is also temporary.
For believers, death is not the end of life; death is a transition to eternal life. We can look forward to heaven because it is in heaven where real life is found. The reality of heaven not only provides us hope for the future, but it also gives us strength and perspective for today.
When we live each day with heaven in mind, we never have to experience a moment of hopelessness on earth. Disturbing news headlines, acts of violence, social unrest, natural disasters, and threats of war cannot steal our peace when our future heavenly home is sure.
The hope of heaven reminds us that there is something greater than all the things that consume our attention here. Heaven keeps us settled on the hope that God is directing the events of this world even when they are turning wildly and in unpredictable directions. Heaven grants us the peace of knowing that loved ones who have gone before us are in a better place, where they await a reunion with us.
The realization that we are headed to heaven is also great motivation to spend our limited time on earth productively. No need to be concerned about piling up money—we’ll leave it all behind when we depart. No reason to focus on what other people do to us or think about us—our new home is assured. The reality of heaven frees us to spend our remaining time on earth as wisely as possible.
A faith rooted in the life to come also helps us endure hardships and difficulties in this life. One of the questions I am asked most frequently as a pastor is, “Why did God allow this to happen?” God never completely answers the “why” question when it comes to suffering. However, He has given us the promise of heaven to give us an eternal perspective. The Apostle Paul—who was well acquainted with suffering—wrote: “What we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory [God] will reveal to us later” (Romans 8:18). When we struggle under the weight of suffering, pain, and loss in this world, we can fix our eyes on heaven and find the comfort and strength to press on.
Because we have a secure home in heaven, believers do “not grieve like people who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Heaven is no fairy tale. It is not a state of mind. Heaven is a real place, where believers will enjoy for eternity the presence of God and perfect relationships with other believers—including our friends, family, and loved ones.
We can joyfully trust God’s promise of our home in heaven, even when conflict rages in our culture and pain rises up in our lives. Uncertainty, hardships, and suffering may threaten to overshadow the future, but they cannot change the future—for our eternity is in the good hands of a loving God.
We have hope here because we have hope there. The hope of heaven is God’s greatest gift to believers on earth.