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This past Sunday I was scheduled to preach on “What will heaven be like?” As I began preparing for this study. I wanted to focus on some texts besides Revelation 21-22. Revelation 21-22 are a highly symbolic description of heaven, that should not be stretched beyond the context of Revelation. As I began to study passages, especially John 14:1-7, it hit me. Heaven is not about the WHAT, but the WHO!
People today get all consumed with trying to figure out what heaven will be like. Best selling books have made millions claiming after-death experiences or heavenly visions. Whether it is a neuro-surgeon or a little boy, people have been hungry to find out about heaven. When people discuss heaven it is often in earthly terms. The golfer dreams of going to heaven to play courses greater than Augusta National ever could be. The hunter believes he will kill the buck of his dreams. The tired and wearied dream of a relaxing eternity on the beach reading books. Yet, to many the Christian view of heaven is down-right boring. Like a church service that never ends with endless singing and preaching. For the preacher who tries to explain heaven, even those sermons that give characteristics and details of the place from Revelation 21-22, there is still something missing. Heaven is a spiritual place, and we often try to use physical terms to describe it.
So, as I looked back on the Scriptures in the New Testament that discuss heaven and motivate Christians to want to go there, I discovered they do not focus on the “what,” but the “who.” When Jesus’ apostles were concerned about his departure, Jesus comforts them by pointing to heaven. He doesn’t focus on the “WHAT,” but rather on himself! He promises to “come again” and take us to himself, that “where I am you may be also” (John 14:3). When Thomas doesn’t know how to get to this prepared place, Jesus says that He is the “way, the truth, and the life.” Jesus focuses on himself!
Paul had a desire to depart and be with Christ.¹ He believed that being away from the body was to be at home with the Lord.² John wrote that we would be like him.³ Even in the description of the heavenly city in Revelation the main emphasis is the intimate fellowship and union with God and Christ.¹¹
Yet where is our emphasis today? Examine our songs we sing in church about heaven. We sing about the “what,” not about the “who.” Yet, Jesus and his Apostles didn’t emphasis the “what,” oh yes, heaven will certainly be beautiful and a great reward, but the motivation for our going was God! We should want to go to the “Father’s House.” We should desire to be with Jesus.
Yet, the “who” of heaven isn’t only God, but also extends to all the redeemed. Want it be fascinating to be with the righteous we have read about in the Old and New Testaments? Want it be wonderful to be with our beloved brethren and family members who have died in the Lord? Heaven isn’t about having everything we ever wanted, but being with the ones we have longed to be with! Heaven is not about stuff, but about relationships.
Francis Chan in his book Crazy Love quotes John Piper asking this question, “Would you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ was not there?”
Heaven is not about the WHAT, it is about the WHO!
This means we should focus on loving God today, and not be distracted with speculation and selfishness related to the WHAT of heaven.
You can listen to the sermon here.
¹ – Phil. 1:20-23
² – 2 Cor. 5:1-9
³ – 1 John 3:1-3
¹¹ – Rev. 21-22