Theology of Heaven
By God’s grace, I homeschooled my six kids, K-12, successfully by almost any meaningful measure. I’ve served in the church, in my home, in my community, and in the homeschooling movement for over 32 years. I’ve grown in my faith, and I’ve been seriously challenged in my faith only to see God make it stronger and deeper. I’ve been privileged to attend strong, gospel-centered churches for my whole Christian walk. But, somehow, I have never developed a theology of Heaven. I didn’t even know what I was missing, or that I could have one! Now, as I am about to “come up to speed” (meaning, I’ll turn 55 and become a “speeder” in 2013) I have discovered how much a vibrant theology of Heaven can impact me daily. I am amazed.
As many know, I’ve long battled phobic fears, most of which centered around “sudden disaster.” This has been the Achilles’ Heel of my Christian walk; that football that the Devil pulls out right as I swing my foot to kick it again. The Bible tells me that “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18), and I have found this to be true for me experientially. During those times in my life when I’ve had the strongest sense of God’s love, I’ve also had the least fear, as well as the most ability to do as He commands: to love Him and His people.
For me, the Christian walk can be summed up in this passage: 1 John 4:15-21 (ESV)
15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
Loving God, loving others, abiding in God, and seeking to have Him abide in us… it’s all familiar territory to me. But look right there in verse 17: the day of judgment is mentioned, along with confidence. Huh. I’ve never focused on that part…
Recently, I was confessing to God and to my husband, Scott, that I was once again discouraged and worn down by the constant battle with fears and phobias. I knew that it was this dynamic of not loving God enough–or, more accurately, not knowing how much God loved me. As I was crying out to God in prayer, I realized afresh that fear’s hold on me is related to my self focus. I mean, who fears sudden disaster when they are seeking only God’s will and kingdom, and are securely abiding in His love? No one. I realized: it’s because I’m loving myself that I can’t shake these fears. I realized how far I was from the heart of Jesus in the Garden, when He prayed,“My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). God brought to my mind the prayer that Jesus taught us disciples to pray: “Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven” (Matthew 6:9-10).
Aloud I said to Scott, “I think I’m going to do a study on Heaven. I need to want to go there. I need to agree with Paul that to be out of my body and with the Lord is far better (2 Corinthians 5:6-8 and Philippians 1:23). I need to renew my vision so that I best love what God loves, and lose myself in loving what He loves.” My husband thought that sounded like a good idea.
Scott reads aloud to me daily, and it so happened (don’t you love divine coincidences?) that we’d just finished our current book the day before and we were going on a 10-hour drive that day. For my sake, Scott grabbed our copy of Randy Alcorn’s Deadline, a novel that does a great job of presenting exciting, enticing, and faith-building (though imaginative) scenarios from Heaven that are biblically based, off our bookshelves as we went out the door for our drive. (We’d both read it years ago, but neither of us remembered how the plot went.) Over the course of that drive, and through the week to come, we eagerly read this novel aloud together, and I felt my inner self being significantly strengthened.
Knowing from years past of Randy Alcorn’s Eternal Perspectives Ministry, I next sought his website. Deadline had awakened me to the fact that my theology of Heaven was woefully inadequate. I realized that, over the years, I had gained no strengthening power from a desire to go and live with Jesus after this life is ended, yet God has provided so much encouragement for believers in the Bible in His revelations of Heaven! At Alcorn’s website, sure enough, I found that he has written an entire Bible-based systematic theology of Heaven! (It’s called Heaven and you can buy it from this link.) I began reading this book in my quiet times, and I have found through this study a new love for God, a renewed sense of His amazing and overwhelming love for me, a sense of the power and purposes of Jesus, a renewed desire to fulfill eternity-oriented good works that He prepared for me to walk in, and strong assurance that He powerfully holds a good destiny for me and mine on which I can rely. All of these taken together form a strong tower to which I can run when tormented by my fears.
As I was sharing this new step in my Christian walk with my son, Mike, now age 29 and the father of three of my grandchildren, I asked, “Have you read Heaven?”
“Oh, yes!” he replied, “Loved it! As a matter of fact, it really helped me when I was a teen because, you know, our church didn’t really present a theology of Heaven, and I was sorta not looking forward much to going there. I couldn’t see the attraction. I’m glad that our family and church presented such a winsome model of the Christian life here, ’cause I was much more drawn to that than to Heaven.”
“So….” I answered, “Are you going to teach your kids about Heaven young?”
Silence. Then, “Yes! I guess I really need to do that!”
As it happens, Alcorn has books for children about Heaven as well. It’s the Christmas season as I write this post, and I’ve purchased three copies of one of his children’s books for each of the three of my children’s households where my current grandchildren live, as well as a copy for our household, for visiting children. I now firmly believe that a theology of Heaven is something that none of our children should enter adult life without, and (by way of righting an earlier omission) having done a survey among my ten adult children (counting marrieds) I’ve now purchased a half-dozen copies of Heaven to give as birthday and Christmas gifts over the next month.
My purpose for sharing this part of my journey with you today is this: I want to ask you to consider how fully developed your theology of Heaven is.
- Does it impact you daily?
- Are you eager to see all that God has prepared for you?
- Do you make choices about how you act, how you use your God-given allotment of time on Earth, and where you spend your money–all in light of the eternal realities that we will all experience in a very brief amount of time?
I didn’t until recently. But, I’ve caught a glimpse of the future, and my life is (I pray) forever changed!
How about you? Would you like to leave a comment on how your view of Heaven has shaped your life? I’d love to read it!