Christians have a defiant hope. Amidst all the difficulties and sufferings of life, we believe that death will not be the final word on us. Christian hope tells us that the grave may be our destination, but it is not our destiny. There is a risen life to come because Jesus has died for our sins and risen to conquer death. Whatever ends our earthly journey, each of us can say, “I shall rise again”.
This is a good time for us to think about heaven. Advent is the season to remember the first coming of Jesus and to look forward to his second coming. In this Sunday’s sermon, we’re talking about our future bodies. So, let me ask you a question: what do you look forward to most about heaven?
Perhaps you’re looking forward to a new and perfected body. The New Testament tells us that our resurrected bodies will be physical bodies. You may be someone who experiences chronic pain. A friend of mine has near constant severe migraines. Many of us experience long term illnesses with little prospect of complete recovery. Our resurrected bodies will be pain-free bodies. Doctors, nurses, and therapists won’t be needed in heaven.
Perhaps you’re looking forward to being reunited with a loved one. Someone that you love dearly has died and there’s now a big hole in your life, a constant grief. You can’t think of anything better than being with that person again.
Perhaps you’re looking forward to being done with sin. Think of an existence without relational breakdowns, selfishness, exploitation, conflict, violence, and war. If you’ve ever felt frustration at your besetting sins and your slowness to grow in godly character, think of what it will be like to not have that struggle anymore. You can worship God perfectly.
Amidst all these good reasons to look forward to heaven, let me tell you the best reason. You will be with Jesus. Is that something that you anticipate with joy? For many people, if they’re honest, seeing Jesus in heaven is optional. It’s nice, but not something they’re particularly excited about. Maybe that’s because they don’t really know him, and they haven’t come to value him and love him. They have no particular longing to be with him for eternity.
It’s like someone offers you the use of their holiday home, but then tells you the owner will be there too. Your response to the second part of that news tells you whether you have a genuine affection for the owner, or just what the owner can give you.
On the night before Jesus died, he prayed, “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world” (John 17:24). Jesus wants us to experience what we were created for: to dwell with him, to see him and know him as he really is. There’s lots to look forward to about heaven. But heaven without Jesus just wouldn’t be heaven.