June 29, 2021
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not in a hurry to die to be with God in heaven, but there are just moments in my life when I think about my longing for perfection. Life is a gift, and its enjoyment comes from God.
There’s nothing wrong about having a desire to enjoy life and to live it to the full because even before we desired it, God, in His grace through Jesus, gave it to those who believe in Him. The problem is when we forget that ultimately, God is our joy. His existence is not an idea that we subscribe to so that we can have a better outlook in life—He is a person, and in Him, there is life.
If we feel good about this life, how much more if we meet its author face-to-face?
I don’t intend to prove the existence of God or to prove that heaven is real in this article. This is a reflection of my exposure to the struggles of others as well as of my own. I have not lived long enough to experience or witness all kinds of pain and suffering in the world (and I don’t plan to), but I have experienced and witnessed enough to make me desire God and heaven.
Hatred of sin is one of the many wonderful works of God in us. He changes sinners into saints. He does not only change the “food” we eat, He also changes our appetite so that sin no longer “tastes good.”
The desire to experience the absence of sin is impossible apart from the grace of God. A person who truly believes in God will later on realize that though God has given us salvation by grace through faith, our existence in this world makes us vulnerable to sin. And a person who truly believes in God will desire to live in a place where there is no sin or any kind of pain and suffering.
I have seen how sin destroys lives, homes, and families. I am a witness of my own sinfulness. My eyes were opened and my heart was made fully aware when I committed sin. It is not the “bad feeling” that sin produced that broke my heart; it’s the certainty that I have dishonored the holy God by sinning. These thoughts made me long for a place where there are no opportunities to sin; a place where there are no traces of sin; a place where even the desire to sin is not possible. Clearly it is not in this life.
Sin has also caused pain and suffering of all kinds to all people. Whenever I think about pain and suffering, I can only think of the poor, the oppressed, and the physically disabled. If we are sensitive enough, we’ll realize that no one is spared from pain and suffering. We all experience different kinds of pain and suffering because we live in a fallen world. We know that though a person is rich with material things, he can experience pain and suffering equivalent to that of the poor. We know that an oppressor is also haunted by his own oppressions. Sometimes, no matter how healthy we are physically, we are dying inside.
In heaven, there are no more of these. No more poor people begging for alms. No more people oppressed by anything or anyone. No more people who cannot see the beauty of creation; who cannot walk or run; who can’t speak for themselves. This is not because they are not welcome in heaven, but because pain and suffering are not welcome in heaven. It is the home of the believers who were in pain and were changed into perfection.
When believers die, they leave their pain and suffering here. Pain and suffering have a role here on earth in the lives of the saints, but their role stays here. God cannot love people without perfecting them—without perfecting us.
I guess it is important to note that among all kinds of human relationships, Paul chose marriage to compare the relationship of Jesus with the Church—us, His people. The groom desires to spend every single moment with his bride for the rest of his life. It was God who desired us first before we desired Him. Our desire to be with Him forever is a response to His desire for us to be with Him forever. (I hope I didn’t confuse you!)
This does not mean that God’s presence cannot be felt in this lifetime. However, we cannot deny the fact that there are days when we are more aware of the present needs and demands of this life than the presence of God in our lives. In heaven, there’s only one Person who will captivate our attention for eternity: God. It is impossible not to get caught up with the fullness of His presence in heaven. After all, heaven is not heaven without God.
I find it difficult to describe the fullness of God’s presence. Honestly, my mind can’t even comprehend and I cannot seem to find the words to describe it. If ever I’d get to experience the fullness of God’s presence in heaven, I don’t think I’d want to go back on earth to write about it. It’s like the feeling of seeing beautiful scenery—you’re so captivated by its beauty, you wouldn’t want to go anywhere. You’d just want to stay there forever.
What do we experience in the fullness of God’s presence?
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
We’ll experience joy—fullness of joy in fact, not the kind of joy the world offers. No, not even close. The Bible says that when we get to heaven and see it with our own eyes, we will experience joy—joy that cannot be taken away; joy that won’t go away; profound, soul-satisfying, everlasting joy. When we get to heaven, we won’t be disappointed or frustrated. We’d be overwhelmed with great joy!
Is that all of it?
No. Heaven is too complex for my mind to understand, but it is also simple enough for me to hope for. Who wouldn’t want to experience deep joy? The truth is sadness, grief, despair, pain, suffering, and all other ugly things are not part of God’s perfect design. His original design for us is to experience joy in Him. Our desire to find ultimate joy in the things of this world is just a reflection of our own imperfection.
Heaven is not a man-made idea to escape from the reality of this world. It is a real place where there is absence of sin and fullness of God’s presence. It is a place prepared by God for those who found their joy in Him and only in Him.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”