Recently, I had the privilege of attending a large youth conference with family. At the onset of the first service, I knew this conference was going to be something special. An almost tangible feeling of God’s presence permeated the atmosphere from the first song to the altar call at the end of the last service. The people were eager to worship, and as my eyes swept the breadth of the mezzanine, I saw many participators and few spectators.
Going home, I tried to explain the conference to my husband over the phone. Words like powerful, amazing, and supercharged came to mind. Finally I said, “It was like it was as close to Heaven on earth as you can get.”
Since the conference, I’ve mentally revisited the powerful atmosphere of worship there many times. More than ever, it’s made me think about Heaven. A few years back, I heard a youth pastor trying to explain Heaven to his youth group. “We’ll praise God forever and ever,” he said. “It’ll be like a never-ending church service.”
At that, one of the boys made a face.
Later, when I thought of the boy’s transparency, I had to smile. I love worshiping God; I love it when I can feel His presence so strong I think my heart will break. But I could see the teen’s side, too. As much as we may love to worship, few of us would truly enjoy a never-ending church service. We live in fleshly bodies: a church service may be amazing, but after a while, our stomachs start growling. Our bodies grow weary; our energy wanes. We start thinking — and stressing — about tomorrow’s to-do list.
Confined to earthly bodies, I think we rarely grasp how amazing Heaven will be. We forget that earthly ideas and concepts cannot adequately capture the wonder of Heaven.
Over the years, I’ve heard individuals make statements — sometimes tongue-in-cheek and sometimes in complete seriousness – about how they cannot imagine Heaven without football, or coffee, or their beloved pet, or a myriad of other earthly treasures. I’ve read books where authors talked about visions of Heaven or relayed near-death experiences. Many describe gorgeous, grassy meadows, encounters with loved ones who have passed away, and feelings of euphoria.
I can relate to the appeal of these experiences, but I have to wonder: What about Jesus? Where is He in all the talk of Heaven? How can one experience Heaven without experiencing Him? How can one revel in the beauty and glory and joy of Heaven without recognizing that Jesus, our Savior, is the source and meaning behind it all?
You’ve probably heard the lament that many of us, especially in the American culture, are so concerned with planning nice vacations, building great résumés, and buying the latest technological gadgets, that we can’t really get excited about Heaven. We have so much (and want so much more) here on earth, that it’s hard for us to honestly say we’re ready to trade it in for something better.
I believe Jesus addressed this mentality when He said, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 16:25). John reminded us, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (I John 2:15).
It’s not hard to see that our world is careening into complete chaos. Thankfully, we don’t have to worry and fret about that. God’s Word warns us that this must happen; His Word reminds us that this world is not our home; we should not get comfortable here. The same Spirit that resurrected Jesus from the dead will soon resurrect us to live in a glorious, permanent, eternal home where sin, death, and pain cannot exist (Romans 8:11). Best of all, we will see Jesus face to face! We will know the God who intensely loves us in a deeper, more intimate way than we’ve ever thought possible.
So to those who worry about whether or not Heaven will have sports or lattes or celebrity-style mansions, I say, embrace the words of Paul:
“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2). The best is yet to come!