“For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? Buf if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience,” Romans 8:24-25
Christians should take time to think about heaven every day. I’m not talking about a passing thought, but rather taking time to really dwell on it. Saints should look up verses in the Bible that talk about what it will be like and really think about what those verses are saying while trying to picture them in their mind. Doing so will result in anticipation, which in turn motivates followers of Christ to live the kind of lives that God would have them live.
Ezra in the Old Testament undoubtedly anticipated heaven. This man “set his heart” to do three things: study God’s law, obey it and teach others about it (Ezra 7:10). The only reason he would do this is because he knew he was a stranger and exile on the earth who was seeking a better country, a heavenly country (Hebrews 11:13-16). He knew this world was not it, that there was something far better waiting in eternity and he wanted to get there. So he made learning God’s Word, obeying it, and talking to others about it a priority. Can you and I say the same?
Peter wrote that Christians must purify their souls by obeying the truth (1 Peter 1:22). God’s Word is truth (John 17:17), so the only way disciples of Christ can be pure is by obeying Scripture. Before becoming a Christian, all of us are dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1-3), without hope and without God (v. 12). Yet every Christian is now pure because they obeyed the truth. They believed in Jesus (John 3:16). They read the biblical command to repent of their sins and wash their sins away in baptism (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16), and they obeyed. Jesus became their “source of eternal salvation” because they obeyed Him (Hebrews 5:9). Their obedience did not cause them to earn salvation; rather their obedience is how they receive God’s grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). They abide in Christ’s Word and are thereby truly His disciples, set free by the truth they now know (John 8:31-32). They are now heaven-bound, having full access to the tree of life and the city of New Jerusalem (Revelation 22:14).
I so look forward to heaven! The Bible describes it as a place of rest, an eternal parallel to the seventh day of Sabbath rest enjoyed by Old Testament Israel (Hebrew 4:1, 9-10). On the day of Judgment when Christ is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, rest will be granted to all of His faithful, afflicted followers (2 Thessalonians 1:7). They will go to heaven and “rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them” (Revelation 14:13).
Heaven is also described as a prepared place. Jesus said He was going to prepare a place for us before He comes again to take us to Himself (John 14:1-3). How wonderful it is to know that by simply being penitently, faithfully obedient and loyal to Jesus, I will one day rise up in the air to meet Him in the sky and hear Him say to me, “Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 25:34-46). Right now He is preparing our place of eternal rest for us. Are we preparing to go there?
As this year ends and a new one begins, I challenge you to be like Ezra and set your heart to learn more about God’s Word, obey it, and teach it to others. Set your mind on the things above rather than focus solely on the temporal, worldly matters of this life (Colossians 3:1-2). Purify yourself by obeying the truth of the gospel. If you believe in Jesus, prove your faith to be alive rather than dead (James 2:14-26). Repent of your sins and be baptized into Christ (Acts 2:38; Galatians 3:26-27). Let God write your name in heaven’s registry.
If you would like to study the Bible and learn more, contact me at 706-629-8459. I’d love to hear from you.
Jon Mitchell is the pastor of the Calhoun Church of Christ.