Do you long for heaven? Curiously, what makes me most frequently long for heaven is waking up in the morning to get ready for work. Not because my work is particularly bad or, really, for any other reason than that I am still tired and already look forward to rest again. Eventually I wake up all the way, go through my morning routine, and start work, my mind now engaged otherwise and no longer lamenting my weariness. Other situations make me wish for Jesus' prompt return. A tragedy caused by natural disaster, some wicked crime reported in the news, or maybe the bliss of knowing God in a brief moment of extraordinary spiritual clarity.
In each case, my longing is a result of either personal or external circumstances, and may be related to something positive, like a vivid experience of God’s holiness, or negative, like particularly severe suffering. My response to personal suffering will be different from my response to someone else’s spiritual blessing, but each can fuel my desire to be closer to God. However, when I examine myself, I find that I most long for heaven in negative circumstances. Maybe you can relate. Being uncomfortable (a euphemism for some forms of suffering, to be sure) and feeling our own inability to change things for the better make us draw closer to God, because we realize that only he can do so. Indeed, he has promised to do just that, and more! That is the very hope of the Christian.
My thoughts are also more occupied with death than Jesus' return. That is, when I think about heaven and ponder how I may get there, I think first of my death, not the second coming of Christ. The same is true when I think about my non-Christian family or friends: the “too late after this” event in my mind is their death, not Jesus' imminent return. Maybe that shines a light on my preparedness, or lack thereof. Am I truly prepared for Christ’s glorious second coming if his return is mostly an afterthought for me?
The return of our savior is also one of the major themes in Paul’s letters to the church at Thessalonica (the first of which happens to be the topic of our current sermon series at Desert Springs Church). On this topic, Paul explains that the church at Thessalonica ought to be ready for Christ’s return despite not knowing the exact time. He also encourages them (and commands them to encourage each other!) with the truth that applies to every Christian, then and now: You are children of the light! Do not sleep! For we are not destined for wrath, but for salvation, so that we may live with him! (1 Thess 5:5-10) Notice that he says “whether we are awake or asleep”. That means we may live with Jesus now as much as when he returns! Now as much as when we die and go to him!
How can we apply this? First, I can rest in my standing with God. I am a child
of the light because of what Jesus has done, so while I ought to strife to be
more prepared for his return, none of my shortcomings can separate me from him!
Here is peace.
Second, when I ponder heaven and all the reasons I’d rather be there than here, I also think about close friends and family for whom The Day of the Lord would be the most terrifying of days. I can be thankful for the time left and, perhaps with more urgency, use it to pray, to plead, and to persuade. For now, let our longing for heaven flow into an active love for others, for their good, our joy, and God’s glory.