“Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” 1 Thessalonians 4:17-18.
Always. That is a very long time. It never ends. Sometimes I have sat and thought, and tried to grasp the concept of eternity, but have had to stop, because it can’t be comprehended with a mind that only understands time, measured in minutes and seconds. But even with our simple minds, it is not difficult to understand that a lifetime, even for one who lives to over 100 years, cannot be compared to eternity. Nevertheless, we can say that our life here on earth is a journey towards the actual place where we will spend our eternity.
But what is heaven and why do I want to make sure my eternity is there?
A place where God’s nature rules
I remember as a child, my parents would ask me what I would like to do in heaven. My imagination was limitless when I thought of all that I would be able to see and experience there. In heaven, all my childhood dreams could become real. Among many other things, I would be able to fly, ride dolphins and never need to sleep!
Now, as an adult, eternity is something much more than that. It will be a place where there are no good byes or separation from those we love. A place where we will be reunited with faithful friends who have passed away. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) No pain or sickness will be found – neither physical nor psychological. All children will be treated well – with enough to eat and encompassed by love. It will be a place where there is unity – where no one lives for themselves or their own interest but for the best of others. A place with no cold words, revenge, bitterness but warmth and love down to the tiniest details and towards every single person. (Isaiah 65:17-25; Revelation 21:4)
God Himself will rule in eternity and all things will happen in His Spirit. Heaven will be filled with His characteristics, which are exactly the opposite of the tendencies of human nature. He cannot be tempted by evil – He cannot be anxious, envious and stingy. (James 1:13) He cannot hold a grudge or get offended. He lets His sun shine on the just and unjust. (Matthew 5:45) He is willing to forgive the most terrible sinners and to throw all memory of it into the sea of forgetfulness. (Micah 7:19) He cannot become annoyed or irritated. God is love (1 John 4:8,16), which means He is the very essence of all the criteria described in 1 Corinthians 13. Incredibly, those who dwell in heaven with Him are granted to be partakers of this same divine nature! (2 Peter 1:2-4) And that is a promise – not only for some distant future, but one which takes place already in this life on earth!
Making sure I fit into heaven
Everyone understands that planning to emigrate to another country involves a lot of preparation. Learning the culture, studying the language, making sure one’s passport and visa are in place, to name a few things. Think how much more important it is to prepare for eternity! To go from the starting point – egotistical, anxious, bound by people and what they think, easily annoyed and offended, stubborn, quick to speak, quick to judge, to become one who is a partaker of divine nature – one who can be in constant rest, free from people, quick to listen, able to return the coldest treatment with absolute goodness – requires intensive training. Our daily preparation here makes this nature become more and more ours while we are here on earth. The characteristics of heaven are to gradually grow in us through this training so that we fit into heaven and into the spirit that rules in heaven.
Why there is no sorrow in eternity
“If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.” 1 Corinthians 15:19.
Here Paul makes it clear that what we have to look forward to in eternity is so great that all the hopes and dreams we can have on earth cannot begin to be compared with it.
Opening a newspaper makes it clear that the world is full of despair. Children and women who are abused and live in constant fear, innocent civilians like any one of us that are murdered or torn apart from their family, people knowing unimaginable poverty and bottomless sorrow, war-stricken countries with unending tragedy. For centuries, world leaders have tried to solve these problems, but only more war and violence have ensued. This doesn’t even start to include the millions of situations that are happening daily, that are never written about in any newspaper or website.
Quarrelling in marriage, anger towards children, jealousy and envy when others have more or get honored, suspicious thoughts, impatience, worry, demands on others, complaining, discouragement, laziness, anger, becoming offended, backbiting, hurtful remarks, hard words, revenge, envy, impurity both in thoughts and deed, are a part of almost everyone’s daily life and bring discord, sorrow and pain wherever they are present. (Romans 8:19-22) But in eternity, peace, genuine love and unity will rule, not only between countries but between every single person, because those who share that eternity have learnt the wisdom of creating peace by giving up their strong wills and opinions to do God’s will.
Why I can rejoice in my trials
“This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast …” Hebrews 6:19.
This hope that we have to see Jesus face to face, to be raptured when He returns and to spend an eternity in heaven becomes our anchor. It makes us unshakeable, and we don’t capsize when life brings its trials. In fact, James exhorts us to “count it all joy” when we enter our trials. (James 1:2-3) How is that possible? It is because we know that this is the preparation we need to be able to enter an eternity in heaven which is our goal. This is where we can flee the corruption in the world that comes through our own lusts, and learn to react in a way that is well-pleasing to God. This is an opportunity to become a partaker of even more divine nature, the nature that belongs to eternity in heaven! Then there is no fear of death, because we have been preparing our whole life for what comes after. Not only that, but by being faithful, these qualities of eternity become more and more ours while here on earth! What a bright future to look forward to!
To spend eternity in any other place than heaven is not an option for me. This is the one goal I want to keep in front of me in every decision and every situation life should bring my way, big or small. Then I will be prepared for heaven and fit in there just perfectly.