You hear all kinds of things these days about heaven. One poor soul, thoroughly tired of the pandemic and related issues, exclaimed to no one in particular, “Heaven would be going back to the way things were before all of this started!”
Perhaps, you have had similar thoughts and feelings. But whether you have or not, what do you say when somebody asks you, “What do you believe about heaven?”
Few of us think of heaven as a place in the sky. Many believe that heaven is being in the presence and care of the love of God, family, and friends forever. Even more do not know what to say; but they figure that if there is a heaven, that’s where they want to wind up.
The Christian claim is that we are forever held in the arms of God. This is true before we are born, throughout this lifetime, and after we have died. God knew us and kept us before we were born, so the same will be true beyond this life. The image that is most helpful to me and may be comforting to you is the picture of Hebrews 12: “Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses…” These are the witnesses of which we sing in the powerful hymn, “The Church’s One Foundation:” “Yet she on earth hath union with God the three in one; and mystic sweet communion with those whose rest is won.”
Heaven means that the future itself is held secure, which is why Christian hope is conviction not wishful thinking. I do not believe that we are misled by the gospel and the church’s experience. Christian hope is not desperate. It is both trusting and reliable. It is also real and means we can take what comes in the world – including pandemics – knowing that the God who is with us now will keep us forever and make our lives full.
Grace and peace,
Dr. Gary S. Eller
Gethsemane Presbyterian Church
Council Bluffs, Iowa