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The Best Is Yet To Be

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into…an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you. I Peter 1:3-4

The Best Is Yet To Be

Robert Browning’s  words, “The best is yet to be” did not refer to heaven.  And that hardly seems to be the attitude of many Christians when thinking about heaven.  More typical I suspect is that expressed by 9 yr. old Ellen in a letter to her pastor:

Dear Pastor,
I hope to go to  heaven someday but later than sooner.

Love,
Ellen

Heaven is a place we want to go only when we are forced to, when we have no choice–when   the more desirable “life” is no longer an option, when death comes.  Heaven is, of course, better than hell but our expectancy for it is a little like that expressed by Charlie Brown:

Linus-“What would you say you want most of life Charlie Brown…To Be Happy?”
Charlie Brown-“Oh, no…
I     don’t expect that…I really don’t
I     just don’t want  to be unhappy!

We don’t expect so much to be happy in heaven, just not unhappy like hell.  It is sort of the lesser of two undesirable options.

It is not surprising then, that for 20th cent. Christians, heaven has, at best, been relegated to funeral sermons, the periphery of life.  Salvation has primarily come to mean “self improvement”, “success”, or the way to a “more efficient and psychologically sound,” “good life.”

But that is not   the NT.  Heaven is the glorious and ultimate goal of our faith.     It is the culmination of our salvation, the end of our journey.  It is the linch-pen of the Good News.  Take it out and it all falls apart.  Don Hunt is right: “…nothing is more important in shaping how life on earth is lived…than a person’s attitude toward the life to come.”

The importance of heaven is not just to provide comfort about death but to make a difference in how we live–our goals, methods, priorities, ministries, all our life.

Heaven has, perhaps, its greatest impact on our values. The only ones which really matter are those which retain their appeal in the face of death. There is the story about two men walking through a cemetery who happen upon a funeral. A gold-plated Rolls Royce with all the toys—stereo, TV, built in bar, etc. is being lowered into a grave.

One asks, “What’s happening?” and is told, “They’re burying J.B., the multibillionaire.”
He stops to watch in amazement and then exclaims, “Man, that’s what I call really living!”

Without heaven our values can get just as mixed up.

God’s people have always seen this. In Saint Augustine’s classic, City of God, he says human-kind has become so earthly minded, the heavenly vision has been lost. The Apostle Paul saw it clearly when he wrote that the sufferings of the present do not compare to the glory to be revealed. We are told Moses chose to suffer in order to receive his reward. C.S. Lewis wrote that something so absolutely beyond all we have is necessary to the Christian spirit—and happiness. It is heaven which fills that need and gives us perspective.

For the Christian, heaven is our true home. The Bible says we are strangers and aliens here—our citizenship is in heaven.  It is important we remember this is a temporary residence.

Charles Dutton spent years in prison for manslaughter.  Hardly preparation for becoming a star in the “Piano Lesson” on Broadway.  He was once asked how he overcame such obstacles. He said, “Unlike the other prisoners, I never decorated my cell.”  He refused to think of his cell as home.

C.S. Lewis reminded us, “I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country…I must make it the main object of my life to press on to that other country and to help others to do the same.”

Contrary to popular notion such people don’t become so heavenly minded they are of no earthly good.  They, in fact, accomplish much more on earth.

Finally, the outcome of Heaven is indescribable joy. The Bible gives us a hint this way: “things beyond our seeing, beyond our hearing, beyond our imagining.”   It is something so wonderful that even the Biblical writers can only point to it.  We may be inclined to let our minds wander over “gold streets,” no pain, no sorrow or death.

But as important as all that is, one thing is clear.  The greatest joy of
heaven is to be in the “unhindered” presence of Jesus.  The old song writer had it right—“Where Jesus is ‘tis heaven there.”

“When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be.”  All the greatest of the good and more has been prepared for those who love God.
The Best really is yet to be!

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