This is our final post in the series Previews and Promises. For the rest of the series, click these links.
A good movie preview will be so impressive that it will almost distract you from enjoying the movie that brought you to the theater in the first place. The preview will be tattooed in your mind and the daily countdown to the release date will pass ever so slowly. A good movie preview will always leave us wanting more.
The life of a disciple of Jesus Christ is a process of daily transformation. We often do not see ourselves progress, but, at various moments in our walk, we realize that something in us is changing or has already changed. There comes a point where reading the Sermon on the Mount no longer feels like a list of impossible demands placed upon our limited human hearts, but rather realistic expectations of a renewed heart. The more one becomes recreated in Christ through his sacrifice and grace the more one begins to reflect his nature.
The more we let Jesus into our lives, the more he is revealed in and through us. We are born again in him, and therefore we find unity in our character with his. At this point we no longer view certain things in the same light as we used to. To begin with, troubles no longer seem like the end of the world. Our jobs cease to define us. Our relationships cease to guide us. Our money ceases to control us. The more we become privy to the foretastes of heaven the more we realize that all earthly things do pass away but the joys of heaven are ongoing, without end. As we walk deeper into this new life and existence in the spirit, there emerges a push and pull on the heart of two very different worlds. While we value the time and opportunities God has prepared for us in this world, we anxiously anticipate finally seeing and being with the Lord. Paul puts it perfectly in his letter to the Philippians:
22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me. (Philippians 1:22-26)
The words “death” and “the end” loom over our lives, applying pressure in one direction or another. We know how fragile this life is, and how with each passing day we inch closer to the end and further from the beginning. Many people are scared of death. This fear is completely understandable. For most of us, life is enjoyable, but perhaps more than that, it is known. Death is an end we know nothing about. We never like to see the end of something familiar and good and death signals such an end. With the knowledge of death constantly looming overhead, we feel pressure to achieve or become something in the time we have left. It is the resurrection of Jesus Christ that breaks that chain.
Jesus proclaims that to believe in him is to have life, not death. And in his words we come to the understanding that this life is simply a preview for something else, something wonderful and confidently promised and assured. Whenever Jesus speaks about heaven in the Gospels, he always says that it is “like” something. The reason he teaches about heaven in this way is because to describe heaven accurately to a human mind is to be describing something completely unimaginable, incomprehensible and impossible for a human mind to fully understand. He uses the word “like” is because it is “like” nothing else we totally know of yet. Therefore, there exists no true comparison for us to appropriately use.
In his brief, powerful dialogue with the thief hanging next to him on the Cross, Jesus clearly believed in the place he so confidently promised to lead the man after their suffering was to end. Jesus described it as “paradise,” and so we must believe it to be, a place of life in Jesus that does not come to an end. Forever enjoying the presence of the Savior. For the Christian, this desire for Heaven isn’t about what we will get or see or do there, but about knowing Jesus completely. This process begins here in this life, but not until Heaven will all the work of God in us be made complete.