(excerpt from “Heaven” by Randy Alcorn)
ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO HEAVEN?
The man who is about to sail for Australia or New Zealand as a settler, is naturally anxious to know something about his future home, its climate, its employments, its inhabitants, its ways, its customs. All these are subjects of deep interest to him. You are leaving the land of your nativity, you are going to spend the rest of your life in a new hemisphere. It would be strange indeed if you did not desire information about your new abode. Now surely, if we hope to dwell for ever in that “better country, even a heavenly one,” we ought to seek all the knowledge we can get about it. Before we go to our eternal home we should try to become acquainted with it.
—J. C. Ryle
“Jonathan Edwards, the great Puritan preacher, often spoke of Heaven. He said, “It becomes us to spend this life only as a journey toward heaven . . . to which we should subordinate all other concerns of life. Why should we labor for or set our hearts on anything else, but that which is our proper end and true happiness?”
In his early twenties, Edwards composed a set of life resolutions. One read, “Resolved, to endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness, in the other world, as I possibly can.”
Some may think it odd and inappropriate that Edwards was so committed to pursuing happiness for himself in Heaven. But Pascal was right when he said, “All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end.” And if we all seek happiness, why not do as Edwards did and seek it where it can actually be found—in the person of Jesus and the place called Heaven?
Tragically, however, most people do not find their joy in Christ and Heaven. In fact, many people find no joy at all when they think about Heaven.
A pastor once confessed to me, “Whenever I think about Heaven, it makes me depressed. I’d rather just cease to exist when I die.” “Why?” I asked. “I can’t stand the thought of that endless tedium. To float around in the clouds with nothing to do but strum a harp . . . it’s all so terribly boring. Heaven doesn’t sound much better than Hell. I’d rather be annihilated than spend eternity in a place like that.”
Where did this Bible-believing, seminary-educated pastor get such a view of Heaven? Certainly not from Scripture, where Paul said to depart and be with Christ was far better than staying on a sin-cursed Earth (Philippians 1:23). My friend was more honest about it than most, yet I’ve found that many Christians share the same misconception about Heaven.
After reading my novel Deadline , which portrays Heaven as a real and exciting place, a woman wrote me, “I’ve been a Christian since I was five. I’m married to a youth pastor. When I was seven, a teacher at my Christian school told me that when I got to Heaven, I wouldn’t know anyone or anything from earth. I was terrified of dying. I was never told any different by anyone . . . It’s been really hard for me to advance in my Christian walk because of this fear of heaven and eternal life.”
Let those words sink in: “This fear of heaven and eternal life.” Referring to her recently transformed perspective, she said, “You don’t know the weight that’s been lifted off of me . . . Now I can’t wait to get to Heaven.”