We all want to see heaven, want a taste of home, get a glimpse of it before we get there, otherwise how will it be home?

Why does a person have to die before going to heaven? Some claim to have gone to heaven while dying or in a dramatic event, and are alive to talk about it. (They may be the lucky ones.) Their stories are inspiring, but not everyone can feel that.

Our desire to know heaven is like Moses’ desire to know the Promised Land. He didn’t want to simply see it, he wanted to go there, experience it for himself, but sadly was not able to. In the same way, we cannot experience heaven in this life, because our mortal, imperfect bodies are unable to, but what we can do in the meantime is well worth our time. We should focus our minds on the beauty of the church (God’s people), making it the focal point of heaven. By doing that, we will begin to see the New Jerusalem, which is a shadow of the good things to come, like Hebrews 10:1 says the Jewish law was for Christ: New Jerusalem is where Christ reigns, His kingdom.

New Jerusalem is described in Revelation 21-22. It is pictured as a place where, because Jesus is the eternal ruler, everyone is without pain, tears, and troubles, gates are made of precious jewels, and colors shine brightly from a pure light not parented by the sun: God and Jesus Christ are the light, there is complete fullness of life, and no one thirsts or hungers. Churches ought to be a reflection of that. If a member feels disconcerted at the thought of attending church, or the people sitting together in the church don’t like each other, that is not a place where Jesus rules, and that place is not New Jerusalem, and so the picture not accurate. However, if the church leaders obey Jesus as their ruler and God, and the members of the church strive to remove tears, feed the hungry, provide healing, and give their hearts to Jesus who can provide fullness of life, then a glimpse of heaven will be seen here on earth.

Even in the First Century it was a lot to ask for, to gain “perfect bride” status. In Revelation 2-4, letters were sent to the churches warning them not to sin and behave evilly. And even within the reading in Rev. 21, in verses 6-8, there are certain standards that must be kept, to receive the heritage of New Jerusalem:

And he {God} said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (ESV)

Despite how grim it sounds, what will happen to the ones who do evil, we should be hopeful and not let it deter our thoughts. My father said to me today regarding the subject of judgement, “Punishment is not bad, unless you are the one that is bad. Judgement is what is just and fair. God will judge everyone the way they should be judged, and he won’t get it wrong.” So the message is not hellfire and brimstone. The message is do good and gain the reward.

In this life, work to make heaven more beautiful. Work hard. Maybe we cannot see heaven right now, not only because God has not revealed it to us, but also because we are workers who must work day and night to build it. Heaven is not built yet.

We are the builders: heaven is the city we built together. We are the planters: heaven is the harvest we have sown. We are the vineyard servants: heaven is the vineyard, and it is beautiful because of how we cared for it. God is counting on us to make heaven our home, by helping our favorite people arrive there with us, and if we wonder about the location, the destination – where will heaven be? Will there be rain? Will there be waterfalls? Dogs? – that part of it we can leave to the Creator of the coral reefs and everything in it, the newborn babies, the Dalmatian puppies, the volcanoes, the nebulae, the giraffes, the wild and the wonderful.

 

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