“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2Cor 4:17-18).
What good is it to know we’ll go to heaven “some day”? It gives us an eternal perspective which can and should transform the way we live.
Hope for hard times
Embracing the knowledge that to die is to be with Jesus and that we will once again live and walk upon the Earth can give us comfort and strength during trials. What is in store for us is far, far better than what we have now, so we can endure “light and momentary” trials. (It might be edifying to remind ourselves what Paul considers “light and momentary troubles” in 2Cor 11:23-27.) For centuries, and even today, Christians have faced suffering and even death boldly because they know “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil 1:21). In the end, anything the world can inflict on us is just one more thing the Father will use to make us more like Jesus (Rom 8:28-30). And the “worst” it can do is send us to live with him forever.
Encouragement in the everyday
Sometimes life is hard; a lot of the time life is just boring. Our lives are filled with sweat and drudgery. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward” (Col 3:23). The truth that we will have physical bodies on a literal earth restores some of the lost dignity of this world. Physical things matter. And honoring God in the small things matters because he sees all. “God wants you to remember that while you are ironing clothes and scrubbing floors; Jesus Christ is coming back someday to take you to be with Him forever.”1
Encouragement to work for the Lord
Life is hard. Living for Jesus is harder. Working for Jesus can be harder still. But it’s worth it. There’s an old saying: “Come work for the Lord. The pay is low, the work is hard, and the hours are long, but the retirement benefits are out of this world.” And that’s what Paul teaches in 1Cor 15. After reminding them of the evidence that Christ rose from the dead, he tells them that Christ’s victory will not be complete until he conquers death by raising us all from the dead. Then death will be swallowed up in victory. “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1Cor 15:58). God will have ample time to reward us for our labor on Earth 2.0, so we should work faithfully.
Clarity on priorities
We all have the same 24 hours every day. The Lord may give us 80 years of those days, and he may not. Let the knowledge that what happens here will not be the end of it spur us on to good works. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t rest and relax. God has commanded that we do! But this should help us focus our efforts and how we use our time. As the saying goes, “You can’t take it with you, but you can send it on ahead.”
Randy Alcorn tells us, “Heaven should affect our activities and ambitions, our recreation and friendships, and the way we spend our money and time. ... Even if I keep my eyes off of impurities, how much time will I want to invest in what doesn’t matter? What will last forever? God’s Word. People. Spending time in God’s Word and investing in people will pay off in eternity and bring me joy and perspective now.”2 So store up treasures in Heaven (Matt 6:20). “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Col 3:1-2).
Encouragement to holiness
Finally, and most importantly, the sure hope that we have in Christ Jesus should cause us to strive to be holy. The New Testament emphasizes this over and over. “All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure” (1John 3:3). Knowing that this Earth and the things of this life will pass away, “what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. ... So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him” (2Pet 3:11-12, 14).
“If my wedding date is on the calendar, and I’m thinking of the person I’m going to marry, I shouldn’t be an easy target for seduction. Likewise, when I’ve meditated on Heaven, sin is terribly unappealing. It’s when my mind drifts from Heaven that sin seems attractive. Thinking of Heaven leads inevitably to pursuing holiness. Our high tolerance for sin testifies of our failure to prepare for Heaven.”2
Some people fear too much thinking about Heaven will make us no earthly good. I don’t think that’s a realistic danger. The people who do the most for the Lord seem to be those who are most entranced by him and the hope we have in him. This is not a call to spend all day thinking only about Heaven. It’s encouragement to develop a realistic perspective about the things of this world and what really matters in life and let that shape the way we live. Because of “the joy set before him,” Christ endured the cross (Heb 12:2). In Christ, because of the joy set before us, we can endure as well.
1 Tony Evans, Theology You Can Count On
2 Randy Alcorn, Heaven
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Part of Christianity 101