By Tim Harlow
Do you want to go to Heaven?
How about today?
Hugh Poland tells about the time his 5-year-old daughter Kayse was anticipating her first day of kindergarten. Her 3-year-old sister Jayme was catching the excitement as the great day approached. But on the day before kindergarten was to start, Kayse fell and skinned her knee.
Tears began to flow and Jayme, seeing the blood on her big sister’s knee, tried to comfort her by saying, “Don’t worry Kayse, if you die you’ll go to Heaven.”
But Kayse wailed even more. “I don’t want to go to Heaven. I want to go to kindergarten!”
That’s honest, isn’t it? Heaven sounds great—someday.
But I have so much I want to do here. I want to see my daughters’ weddings (and approve of the punks that think they are good enough!). I want to bounce my grandkids on my knee. I want to celebrate 50 years with my wife. I want to see what God does through this church I’ve been serving all these years.
Someday, I want to see Heaven, but not today.
Well for one thing, I’m too stupid to realize how much better it’s going to be. Paul Butler taught me in Bible college that trying to teach Heaven to humans is like trying to explain physical intimacy to a 5-year-old. To a 5-year-old, the best thing is Transformers, or Dora, or playing baseball with friends. They can’t understand grown-up stuff. Do you remember the first time someone explained physical intimacy to you? Unfortunately it probably wasn’t your parents; it was some nasty kid in school. And you said, “What? They do what? Are you kidding me! There is no way I’m doing that!”
And then one day you grew up and had a completely different perspective.
Someday we are going to get to Heaven and realize how small all this is compared with the majesty of living in perfection with our Father. The apostle Paul put it best in 1 Corinthians 13.
When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child does. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly as in a poor mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God knows me now (1 Corinthians 13:11, 12 New Living Translation).
It’s OK to enjoy it here. Jesus’ abundant life does not start in Heaven; it starts here. We pray for the kingdom to come “on earth as it is in Heaven.” God wants us to enjoy what he’s given us.
But there is so much more waiting for us—we should be more excited about it.
Absolutely everything we enjoy here will be better in Heaven. It will be all this, minus sin. Relationships will be different, but better. Worship will be better, joy will be better, fun will be better, and life will be better and much, much longer.
We will look back on this as if it were playing with kindergarten toys.
The other reason I’m not thinking enough about Heaven these days is that my life is going pretty well. My wife and I are healthy, our kids are doing very well, the church is good, and the Bears went to the Super Bowl (for a few minutes).
However, I’m already starting to see life a little differently, as things start to get creaky. The apostle Paul evidently felt that way a bit when he wrote, “Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked” (2 Corinthians 5:2, 3).
We long to be clothed with our perfect clothes and perfect body.
Our pastoral care minister, Lonnie Caha, has been confined to a wheelchair for almost 30 years—since an accident as a teenager. He’s a guy who totally understands Heaven on earth. He is completely accepting of the will of God and has allowed his disability to minister to thousands of people. But every once in a while, I can see the groan . . . the burden. I can’t wait to be in Heaven and see him dancing (badly, knowing Lonnie!).
I guess I’m thinking it really is a shame we don’t focus on the hope of Heaven more. Think about it—what are you looking forward to? A vacation? Retirement? A special celebration? A new job? Jesus said he has gone to prepare a place for us. The Bible tells us that no eye has seen—it’s going to be so incredible.
I know people who are “so heavenly minded they are of no earthly good.” And that is bad. But I think it’s just as bad to be so earthly minded that we have no heavenly vision.
I received a note from my father-in-law, Don Vernon, in response to my blog (www.timharlow.com). My wife’s mom, Carol, has Parkinson’s.
Don wrote me and said:
This has been a hectic week so I just now have gotten around to reading your weekend letter on Heaven. It was very touching and real and I want to thank you for being real. Carol went to the Parkinson doctor this week and I think was somewhat discouraged because he said she would keep getting worse, so he upped one of her prescriptions. She has started having hallucinations in her sleep and it is so real. She thought she was getting radio signals on the wiring in her head. She said it sounded like the preacher Charles Stanley from Atlanta. (You know—I would think her hallucinations of preaching would be her favorite son-in-law—but nooo . . . ) The doctor told her that the hallucinations were normal and will probably get worse.
Don added, “I guess Heaven gets more real to those of us getting a lot closer. Carol and I used to sing ‘The Longer I Serve Him the Sweeter He Grows.’ We are getting there fast.”
Well, Don, we all are.
I love the way Tom Holladay puts it.
We watch a bunch of middle-aged men, smelly from fishing, sitting around a campfire on a commercial on TV clicking their beer glasses together saying, “It doesn’t get any better than this.” I hope it does! I hope it get better than that! It does! It does get better than this.
The eternity we anticipate is way better than that! Better, in fact, than the best day we can imagine here on earth. Think about a day “when everything in your schedule goes perfectly and you got done more than you ever thought you’d get done,” says Holladay. “Your relationships are just exactly like you’d want them to be. That day, you also remember. ‘IT DOES GET BETTER THAN THIS.’”
Maybe that should be your screensaver!
Tim Harlow is senior pastor with Parkview Christian Church, Orland Park, Illinois.