Heaven Can WaitHowever glorious heaven may be, all too many Christians don't give it much thought. Philip Yancey wrote, "A strange fact about modern American life: although 71 percent of us believe in an afterlife (says George Gallup), no one much talks about it. Christians believe that we will spend eternity in a splendid place called heaven ... Isn't it a little bizarre that we simply ignore heaven, acting as if it doesn't matter?"
We are seeing more and more articles on old age, death, AIDS, right to die, and out-of-body experiences. But rarely if ever do we read anything about heaven in the magazines or find books on the subject. When we go through a gallery of pre-twentieth century art or look at dusty anthologies of poetry and prose, we discover that heaven was a topic of greater interest in the past. What has happened to us today? Why the general lack of attention to heaven in modern thought and preaching?
If we begin to think of reasons for disinterest in heaven, here are a few conclusions. First of all, in America and most of the Western nations, we live in an affluent society. Most of us have pain relievers to rely upon, enough food, and beautiful surroundings. The biblical promises of those advantages seem to have been dulled for us. We are so caught with the affairs of this life we give little attention to eternity.
There is another psychological problem. We see people acting fully alive on television who have been dead for years. Well-known personalities like Gary Cooper, Marilyn Monroe, John F. Kennedy, or Martin Luther King appear giving speeches or acting in films as though they were yet alive. People have an idea they are still alive. It makes a vast difference in the thinking of young people about death. It may be one of the reasons why the suicide rate among young people has been increasing at an alarming rate.
Throughout our culture we have been led to the idea that we accept death as the end of life on earth. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, with her five stages of death, had indicated that, the "acceptance" stage is the most healthful. The hope of heaven rarely enters into a therapy session. Philip Yancey said, "I have watched in hospital groups as dying patients worked desperately toward a calm stage of acceptance. Strangely, no one ever talked about heaven in those groups; it seemed embarrassing, somehow cowardly. What convulsion of values can have us holding up the prospect of annihilation as brave and that of blissful eternity as cowardly?"
Heaven may seem vague to some of us because our experience is earthbound. How can we conceive of infinity? To imagine an existence which never ends is mind-boggling. Education and the media hinder man from believing anything that cannot be proved in a test tube. At a time when knowledge of the universe is increasing at great speed through the exploration of outer space, the notion of eternity for finite creatures is an absolute mystery. And it will always be a great mystery. Even the Apostle Paul did not plumb the depths of it or describe the prospect. He said, "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" (I Corinthians 2:9).
Time bound as we are and goal oriented to achievements in our lifetime, we find it strange to anticipate heaven. What do we do throughout eternity? A person who has worked hard all his life may look forward to retirement, but sometimes relief from responsibility and challenge leads to restlessness. We live in an age when activity is equated with value and usefulness. "How are you?" "Busy, busy, busy!" When the merry-go-round slows down, will the music of life fade away? Every day of our lives we are just a breath away from eternity. The believer in Jesus Christ has the promises of heaven. If we believe them, the anticipation of heaven will never be boring. It will be more thrilling than any of the pleasures earth can offer.
Our Patient Merciful God
The Bible and the Gospel speak of God's great mercy for us ...
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“Enter his gates with
thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him
and praise his name.