For the follower of Jesus Christ, death is “moving from one place to another” – like moving from the frozen tundra of the arctic circle to the sun-kissed beaches of Hawaii. Paul described a Christian’s change of location at death: being “absent from the body” means being “at home with the Lord” (2 Cor 5:8).
If heaven is our future forever home, why wouldn’t we want to know all we could about it? Imagine your employer tells you that you are going to be permanently transferred to a city you have never visited before: San Diego, California. You’ve seen a few pictures of San Diego and remember you had a cousin who used to live there, but for the most part you know nothing about the city. Don’t you imagine you would try to discover the options for housing, the best schools for your children, something about the cost of living, the climate, and a hundred other things about your new location? Only a fool would say, “I’m too busy with work and family responsibilities now to invest any effort in finding out about my future home.” Theologian J. C. Ryle wrote that every Christian will one day experience a similar – but eternal – “transfer”:
You are leaving the land of your nativity, you are going to spend the rest of your life in a new hemisphere. It would be strange indeed if you did not desire information about your new abode. Now surely, if we hope to dwell forever in that “better country, even a heavenly one,” we ought to seek all the knowledge we can get about it. Before we go to our eternal home we should try to become acquainted with it.
However, as we begin to search the Scriptures for information about this “place called heaven,” we soon discover that the Bible doesn’t tell us everything we want to know about our future home. What the Bible reveals is true but it’s not exhaustive. Instead, God has given us a pencil sketch or line drawing of our future home.
For example, the apostle Paul received a personal tour of heaven when he was “caught up to the third heaven…into Paradise” (2 Cor 12:2, 4). Yet, this man who wrote most of the New Testament never jotted down a pen stroke of what he heard or saw in heaven! Why? Because what he heard were “inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak” (v.4).
And though the apostle John was given the most extensive vision of the future any Christian has ever received – recorded in the Book of Revelation – there were some aspects that John was commanded to “seal up…and do not write them down” (Rev. 10:4). So why doesn’t God tell us everything there is to know about heaven?
First, God knows that our minds are incapable of fully comprehending the complete magnificence of heaven. For example, how could you ever adequately describe the beauty of a sunset to a blind person who has never seen anything? What words would you sign to a deaf person to capture the all-encompassing majesty of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony? Our minds are designed to comprehend the experiences of this world but are incapable of processing the realities of the next world.
Additionally, if we knew everything about heaven we would never be able to concentrate on our God-given responsibilities here on earth. I realize this sounds like a contradiction to my claim that being more heavenly minded makes us more earthly good, but it’s not. Let me explain.
Suppose a child sits down at the dinner table and his mother places in front of him a plate of lima beans, which he normally wouldn’t mind eating. But then his mother places a bowl of vanilla ice cream smothered in chocolate syrup and whipped cream on the table. What do you think the child will want to eat? The same thing you’d want to eat – the sundae! However, if the boy sits there with his plate of lima beans and his mother promises him an ice cream sundae after he eats his vegetables, then he’ll dive into his lima beans with gusto, knowing something better is yet to come!
If God told us everything about heaven, we’d find it difficult to focus on the very important assignments God has charged us with during our brief stay here on earth. That is why God has given us just enough information about heaven to whet our appetite for the “sundae” that is yet to come.
Hear Dr. Jeffress talk more about heaven this week on LIFE TODAY. This is an excerpt from A Place Called Heaven by Dr. Robert Jeffress. Copyright ©2017 by Robert Jeffress. Published by Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Used by permission.