People sometimes talk about living the ultimate life right now. This belief—that we can somehow make the best life possible for ourselves here on earth—has become popular, even among Christians.
But this is only possible if we’re going to hell.
If hell is your future, your best life is now. But if headed for heaven, your best life is still to come. If you’re outside of Christ, in other words, this life is as good as it gets. But if you’re in Christ, your pain in this world is the only pain you’ll ever experience, and your struggles now are the only ones you’ll ever endure.
As Scott Sauls puts it, “If your hope is anchored in Jesus, the worst-case future scenario for you is resurrection and everlasting life.”
Why Preach Heaven?
As pastors, we are responsible to remind our people that the best is yet to be. When the burdens of life weigh them down, we can declare with confidence that it’s better to suffer any illness or sorrow in Christ than to enjoy any comfort or pleasure without him.
When we counsel believers who feel disoriented, displaced, and disconnected, or when we come alongside people who don’t feel at home in their own bodies, we can tell them that they’ll be more at home in heaven than they’ve ever been in this life. God, who sits on the throne, will spread his tent over his people (Rev. 7:15). Picture the Almighty shaking out a vast canvas that settles over his people so that all of them are inside. “You’ll be at home here,” God is saying. “Nobody will be outside.”
Here are three truths from Revelation 7 that can guide our preaching about heaven:
1. In heaven, you will serve God as you always wished.
The saints we minister to are often weary and jaded. The demands of serving the Lord, added to the responsibilities of work and family, can easily bring fatigue. We love the Lord and long to please him, but sometimes even our best efforts are sluggish.
The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. We grow tired. We become discouraged. We get bogged down in unsolved problems and unanswered questions.
But it won’t always be so. In heaven, all weariness will be gone. We’ll have vibrancy and energy in serving our King “day and night” (Rev. 7:15). So encourage your people that one day they’ll live and serve as they always wished they could.
2. In heaven, Jesus will lead you into ever-increasing joy.
Heaven is more than a place where we’ll discover marvelous things. The apostle John saw that the great joy of heaven is Christ himself, who will lead us into ever-increasing delight. The Lamb will be our Shepherd, feeding and refreshing us forever (Rev. 7:16).
The Puritan Thomas Boston (1676–1732) said it well:
The divine perfections will be an unbounded field in which the glorified shall walk eternally, seeing more and more of God, since they can never come to the end of the infinite. They may bring their vessels to this ocean every moment, and fill them with new waters.
Moreover, as Donald Macleod points out, life for the redeemed will be even better than it was for the innocent in Eden. He points out that life in the Garden offered scope for art, science, and technology, as well as theology. Then he says:
The same will doubtless be true of the world to come. Not only the Creator but the creation too will be an object of wonder to the redeemed. It will challenge their intellects, fire their imaginations, and stimulate their industry. The scenario is a thrilling one: brilliant minds in powerful bodies in a transformed universe.
The joys we experience in heaven won’t be static. As Jonathan Edwards argues, they will accumulate as one joy is added to another and the pleasure of all remain. Just imagine what this will be like for God’s people when we’ve been with him for ten thousand ages:
Their knowledge will increase to eternity, and if their knowledge, their holiness. For as they increase in the knowledge of God, they will see more of his excellency, and the more they see of his excellency, the more they will love him. And the more they love God, the more delight and happiness they will have in him.
Edwards is describing exponentially increasing joy—your future if you are in Christ.
3. In heaven, all your wounds will be healed.
“God will wipe away every tear from our eyes” (Rev. 7:17). Literally, he will wipe these tears “out of” our eyes, as if he were removing not only the tears but also their source.
The burdens our people have carried will no longer crush them. The temptations they’ve battled will no longer beset them. The pain they’ve endured will no longer hurt them.
Imagine it: no more sins to confess or temptations to overcome; no more sickness to suffer or pain to endure; no more fears to face or crosses to carry. Your questions answered, your doubts resolved, your tears removed by the gentle finger of God.
Your Best Life Then
A Christian’s greatest life is in heaven; it cannot possibly be now. And knowing our future joy is crucial to finding the strength we need to face life now.
God summons us to set our minds on things above, not on earthly things (Phil. 3:19–21; Col. 3:2). So pastors, preach heaven to your people, for Christ’s eternal glory and their endless joy.
Editors’ note: A version of this article appeared at LifeWay.