“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).
We live in a world where an increasing number of people do not believe in an eternal hell, a place of everlasting punishment. A frequently asked question is “How could a loving God allow anyone to go to hell?” My problem has always been just the opposite. By that I mean, I have no problem believing in hell. But how could there be such a wonderful place like heaven? How could the love and grace of God be so awesome as to make it possible for a sinner like me to spend eternity in such a place?
John saw “a door standing open in heave” (Revelation 4:1) from his lonely rock island of exile called Patmos. God has left us a few open doors in Scripture through which we can catch a glimpse of what awaits us there. Let’s take a look into what lies ahead for those who trust in Him.
Heaven is a place of reality
Heaven is real. Throughout time God has implanted within the soul of man a longing for such a place. All primitive people believed in an afterlife. In ages gone by, the ancient cave dwellers depicted such in paintings on the walls of their caves. More than three thousand years ago the Egyptians buried their pharaohs with supplies, eating utensils, weapons and even servants in their quest for a life that is beyond this one. The American Indians had their “happy hunting grounds” where they believed the departed lived again. God has implanted and instilled within the very being of man a desire for more from life than what we have on earth.
This longing continues today. Every time a scientist enters the laboratory with a strong motivation driving them to find a cure for cancer or AIDS, it is an expression of a subconscious hunger for a world that is free of pain and diseases. Heaven is such a place. Every social worker sincerely motivated to abolish rancid living conditions has s subconscious longing for a world without poverty and homelessness. Every environmentalist moved to clean and purify the environment is on a quest for a world that is pure and beautiful. Statesmen who sit around peace tables in the hot spots of our world are simply in search of a world without war and conflict.
The human soul needs heaven, and it alone can finish what we leave unfinished here. Heaven is real. It is a place. Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2). It is a real, tangible place.
Heaven is a place of radiance
Heaven is not simply a place. It is a prepared place (John 14:2), and it is beautiful. God loves beauty or He would never have made things on this sin-cursed earth so beautiful. John got a glimpse of heaven’s beauty one day and wrote down a few simple symbols that our poor finite minds could understand: “Its wall was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass” (Revelation 21:18). It is no wonder that earlier the apostle Paul had said, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). Could it be that heaven is “like clear glass” because there will be nothing to hide there?
Heaven is a place of unparalleled beauty and radiance. The book of Revelation is filled with description after description of its glory. Time nor space nor human vocabulary permits us to attempt an explanation of its radiance.
Heaven is a place of rest
So much of life on this planet is filled with exhaustion, mourning, struggles and pressures of all kinds. But when we walk down heaven’s golden streets, we will never see a hospital. There will be no more sickness. We will never see a counseling center. There will be no more depression or mental illness. We will never see a funeral home. There will be no more death there. We will never see a policeman in uniform or a police station. There is no crime there. There will be no courthouses on the square. There will be no lawsuits and no one seeking to cheat anyone else out of something that is rightly theirs. We will never hear the shrill sound of an ambulance siren. There will be no more emergencies. We will never have to lock our homes or look behind us to see who is following us as we walk along. There will be no more fear. We will never see a handicap parking place or a ramp for a wheelchair. There will be no nursing homes there for we will never grow old. Heaven is a place of rest.
There are several “no mores” in heaven. No more death. No more tears. No more mourning. No one is crying. No more pain. No more farewells. No more separation. No more sorrow. No more sin. Whatever it is that may rob the joy out of life in this world will be gone — and gone forever. Heaven is a place of rest.
Heaven is a place of recognition
We will know one another in heaven. In fact, the Bible says we will be known as we are known. When Peter, James, and John stood with Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah appeared before them in their glorified bodies and were readily recognized (Matthew 17). No one will have to introduce me to Paul or Peter or anyone else — and those heroes of the faith will know you and me. It is one thing for us to know the president of the United States, but it is quite something different for him to know us, to call us by name. In heaven we will know and be known.
Heaven is a place of reward
The Bible speaks repeatedly of certain crowns that will be given to believers as rewards in heaven. There is the crown of righteousness given to those who live godly lives and “all who have loved His appearing (2 Timothy 4:8). There is also the incorruptible crown that will be presented to those who run the good race and finish strongly in the Christian faith (1 Corinthians (9:24–27). Next there is the crown of life (Revelation 2:10). This crown is also referred to as the martyr’s crown and is given to those who undergo severe trials and even death on Christ’s behalf and in His service. There is also the crown of rejoicing, known as the soul winner’s crown (1 Thessalonians 2:19–20). This reward is given to those men and women who are instrumental in leading other people to faith in Christ. Finally, there is the crown of glory given to faithful pastors and teachers who teach God’s Word to others in truth and faithfulness (1 Peter 5:4).
These crowns are not to be worn by us as we strut up and down the streets of heaven. In one of the most humbling and beautiful scenes yet to unfold, we will take our crowns and cast them at Christ’s feet. He alone is worthy to receive “power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:12).
Many seem to have the idea that heaven is a long way off. Not really. It is only one heartbeat away. James asked, “What is your life?” Then he answered his own question by indicating that life is really just a vapor. It appears for a little while and then vanishes away (James 4:14). For each of us, one of these days that old heart is going to stop. Then, in the wink of an eye, we will begin eternity… somewhere. Ten thousand years from today you will be alive… somewhere. Heaven awaits all who have come to God by faith alone in Christ. Jesus is the way, the only way, to the Father’s house.
Meditate on this verse and the fact that your citizenship is in heaven. As the old spiritual attests, “This world is not my home, I’m just passing through.” Who wouldn’t want to live in place like heaven… forever?
Taken from The Joshua Code by O.S. Hawkins. Copyright © 2012 by Dr. O.S. Hawkins. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson.
- S. Hawkins has served pastorates, including the First Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, for more than 25 years. A native of Fort Worth, Texas, he has a BBA from Texas Christian University and his MDiv and Ph.D. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. For almost a quarter of a century, he served as president of GuideStone Financial Resources, with assets under management of $20 billion, serving 250,000 pastors, church staff members, missionaries, doctors, university professors, and other workers in various Christian organizations with their investment, retirement and benefit service needs. He is the author of more than 50 books, and regularly speaks to business groups and churches all across the nation. All of the author’s royalties and proceeds from the entire Code series go to support Mission:Dignity. You can learn more about Mission:Dignity by visiting MissionDignity.org.
Read more articles by Dr. O.S. Hawkins at: https://www.goodnewsfl.org/author/o-s-hawkins/