Recently, I had a conversation with one of my nephews in which we were discussing what we would take from our houses if they were to suddenly erupt into flames. We concocted a scenario in which you could only take one thing and all people and animals had safely escaped from the fire. It’s interesting what you can learn from such discussions. You began to understand not only what people value, but how they go about assigning value. You learn what’s important.
Unfortunately, many Christians think of Heaven simply as God’s compensation for escaping the flames. From this perspective, Heaven is simply the alternative to Hell. It’s a good alternative to be sure, but this viewpoint doesn’t consider the intrinsic value of Heaven. Imagine for a moment that through Christ’s death and resurrection He saved us from Hell, yet instead of preparing a place for us in the place where He dwells, our eternal home was a type of neutral spot where we were safe from the fires of condemnation, but where we were also removed from the majesty of His glory. This is what Heaven is often relegated to in our minds – a place that is simply better than the alternative.
Yet, viewing Heaven in this way is not only inaccurate but dangerous. When this is our perspective of Heaven, it is not a place that we long to be. We are prone to make this Earth our home, thinking that somehow the gifts that we enjoy here – our spouses, our children, our friendships – are better than what Heaven affords. We forget that the goodness of this Earth is just a poor reflection of what Heaven will contain. We hold the treasures of this Earth close and long to remain here, because we fail to recognize that Heaven is far better.
This isn’t to say that we should rush our entrance into Heaven. God, in is infinite wisdom will call us Home in His due time. However, we should be able to echo Paul that “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” In our minds, Heaven can’t just be the best option for eternity; it must be the best option, period. The things that we are “missing out on” if God calls us Home are far surpassed by the glories and riches of our eternal destination.
C.S. Lewis famously stated:
If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.
Let’s not relegate Heaven to the sidelines as the best alternative among our eternal options. Instead, let us hold Heaven close, recognizing that as we do so, we will live more Christ-like in this life, and gain far more in the next.
How does your perspective change when you hold Heaven close?