How often do you think about heaven? I mean, REALLY think about it? I’m talking about sitting down with an open Bible and a prayerful heart and dwelling on the subject of heaven in your mind, going out of your way to study biblical passages that talk about what it will be like over there. When was the last time you did that?
If you’re not in the habit of thinking about heaven, I suggest that you start because I know from personal experience that thinking about heaven and the reward that waits for us there on a regular basis brings anticipation…and anticipation is a great motivation for Christians to live the kind of lives that God would have them to live. That’s how Abraham was (Heb. 11:8-16). He “was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” He “desired a better country, that is, a heavenly one” because he had faith, which is why he obeyed God. As a result, “God was not ashamed to be called (his) God…”
What does it mean to anticipate heaven? For one thing, it means that we have to prepare ourselves for heaven. That’s what Abraham did. Ezra did so as well. He “had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel” (Ez. 7:10). Do you have similar goals? Have you prepared yourself to study the Bible every single day, and then to obey it, and then to teach it to others? Ezra, Abraham, all of the great examples of faith in the Old Testament did so…because they were looking for that homeland, that better, heavenly country (Heb. 11:13-16). Are we doing the same? Or is it just a foregone assumption in our minds that we will go to heaven…even if we don’t prepare for it? We might be surprised…
Peter talked of those who purified their souls after obeying the truth (1 Pet. 1:22). That’s something else people who anticipate heaven do. All of us have sinned and were dead in our trespasses and without hope (Rom. 3:23; Eph. 2:1-3, 12-13)…and that would never change unless we obtained a living faith (James 2:14-26) from hearing God’s Word (Rom. 10:17) and acting on that faith by confessing it (Rom. 10:9-10), repenting of our sins (2 Cor. 7:9-10), and being immersed in water for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38; John 3:3-5). Only then do we become pure in heart, and thus will see God (Matt. 5:8). Have you purified yourself in order to be ready for heaven?
The one who anticipates heaven will do these things because God has commanded them. God saves only those who obey him (Heb. 5:9). On the day of judgment there will be many religious people who will not be saved in spite of their allegiance to Christ and their good works…because they did not completely obey God (Matt. 7:21-27). That’s why Jesus said to people who had already believed in him that they must abide in his Word in order to be true disciples who know the truth that sets them free (John 8:31-32). The one who obeys God’s commandments has the right to the tree of life and enters that city (Rev. 22:14). Are you obeying God’s Word?
Heaven will be a place of rest (Heb. 4:9-10; Rev. 14:13), but we must make sure that we don’t miss it (Heb. 4:1). Those who are ready for it will be granted that rest when Jesus comes again (2 Thess. 1:7). Heaven will also be a better place than where we currently are (Heb. 11:16), a place as beautiful as a bride looking her best on her wedding day (Rev. 21:2), a place where there will be no more sorrow, death, pain, or crying (Rev. 21:4) because there will be no sin there (Rev. 21:27). Heaven is a prepared place, a place that Jesus is preparing for us now (John 14:1-3), a place that has been prepared for us since before the world began (Matt. 25:34).
Are we prepared for heaven? Are we looking for that city that Abraham was looking for?