Two years ago my family and I rented a vacation home in the Muskokas. We spent a week living the high life in a beautiful home on the shores of Oxtounge Lake, surrounded by the closest members of our extended family in a picturesque setting. Partway through the week it occurred to me that what I was experiencing was a small preview to the glory of what heaven is going to be like.
Unfortunately, that week came and went and soon I was immersed back into the reality of life. The fancy rental vehicle was traded in for our ’88 Plymouth Voyager, the spaciously treed lot of land was exchanged for our small yard, the lake front view was replaced by a view of the drug house down the street, and the peace and tranquility transformed into the busyness of life. Yes, I woke up to reality rather quickly upon my return home and it did disappoint me.
Let’s face it: If given a choice, wouldn’t we all rather stay in our little piece of heaven on earth? Personally, I would have loved it if time were to stand still and that one week in the Muskokas turned into a lifetime of great memories. For you, maybe it was a hiking trip or a vacation overseas or a concert or a special time spent with friends. I think we’ve all had moments where the thought has crossed our minds that this experience here and now must be something like heaven. And if you’re anything like me, you may have been a bit resentful when that moment passed and you were put back into the everyday existence.
In reality, I know that try as hard as I may, I will never again relive that trip to its full extent, which brings me to a realization—that maybe instead of keeping my eyes fixed on that moment in my past, I should start looking forward to something much better in the future. Because in truth, as great as that week of vacation was, it doesn’t even come close to comparing with what I’m going to experience in eternity.
The apostle Paul captured this thought in his letter to the Church in Rome when he stated: “All creation anticipates the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.” On this earth what we experience is always short of something due to sin’s decaying effect, but in heaven we live life to its absolute fullest—for all of eternity. As Frederick Buechner once said: “We think of Eternal Life, if we think of it at all, as what happens when life ends. We would do better to think of it as what happens when life begins.”
If you’re anything like myself, you’ve probably heard that said many times in many different ways, but it doesn’t seem to penetrate. One moment we’re caught up in the excitement of heaven, then the next we’re back where we were before. Why is it that the excitement for eternity never seems to stick?
I have come to believe that it’s for two primary reasons. First of all, while many of us know in our minds that heaven exists and that it is going to be wonderful, we don’t let that belief travel down to our hearts where our emotions can capture it. In order to view life intellectually many of us have eliminated the emotional excitement that can coincide with it. In doing that, we have removed any permanent sense of anticipation for the glory of eternity.
Another reason why the excitement escapes us is because we are so easily satisfied with earthly things. I am not saying that we shouldn’t enjoy life, but we must not forget that while we’re still here there is lots of Kingdom work that needs to be done. As Hebrews 4:10 points out: “For all who enter into God’s rest will find rest from their labors, just as God rested after creating the world.” This verse of scripture indicates a “work now, rest later” policy when it comes to the Kingdom, which should both excite and motivate us. Today we work hard, but we can look forward to an eternity free from hardships and full of enjoyment.
Yes, heaven is going to be wonderful and it is worth looking forward to. After all, isn’t looking forward to something one of the most enjoyable parts of the actual event? So let’s do ourselves a favor and instead of dreaming about our future spouses or dream homes or the things we are going to do during our retirement, let’s allow ourselves to dream of heaven. Then we should let those thoughts fill our minds because no matter what we can imagine, heaven will surpass every expectation. As 1 Corinthians 2:9 says, “That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” I’m getting excited—are you?[Kristen McNulty is a 21-year-old university student who lives in Timmins, Ontario, Canada. In her free time she hosts and produces the syndicated Making A Difference (MAD) Christian Radio Show (.madradioshow.net).]