“It has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself.” (1 John 3:2-3, NKJV)
What was the best day you ever had? When did you feel most alive? Most loved? Most aware of your purpose? Most grateful for the breath in your lungs? How you answer these questions will tell you an awful lot about what Heaven is actually like. If Ecclesiastes is right, that eternity is set in the hearts of men, then the times in life that have touched the deepest places in us reflect, if only in shadow, what our eternal destiny will be like.
Here are some things that did NOT make it into my answer to any of these questions: listening to a sermon, preaching a sermon, writing devotional material, singing worship songs with loads of people or organizing small groups. All my answers had to do with spending time with people I love and that I know love me. The best times in life—the times of greatest fulfillment—all hang on relationships, therefore we can assume that Heaven is also first and foremost about relationship.
Now, John writes of that glorious day in his first epistle. “It has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself.” Consider this in the context of relationship. Our great hope is becoming like Jesus, but what aspect of that should most stir us? In the past I have often thought about the immortality piece or the absence of sorrow and sickness or the fact that I won’t have the frustration of continually stumbling in sin in some fashion. But what if my great hope is finally being able to truly love like Jesus loves? What if the hope that purifies me is the hope that my eternal destiny is being able to live in the freedom and joy of total selflessness forever with like-minded people?
I have too often been guilty of thinking of my eternal destiny as if it were an almost nirvana-like eternal personal communion with my Creator. That cheapens what Jesus purchased for us at Calvary; He reconciled us not just to the Father, but to each other. There is no eternal communion with Jesus without eternal communion with the whole family of God, which opens up another facet of just how good Heaven is.
Instead of considering the best times in life, consider now the deepest wounds, the greatest pain. It’s not sickness or poverty or physical trauma or crummy jobs or the aftermath of bad chili; it’s broken relationships, abuse and betrayal—especially, for all of us, from others in the Body of Christ. All of that gets reversed when Jesus ushers in eternity. The ego that has gotten in the way of our relationships with others in God’s family will finally be put to rest. The ministry of reconciliation will be complete. Love will have finished its work of totally covering a multitude of sins. This is a great hope indeed. The hope of Heaven doesn’t just sweep the hurt under a carpet and pretend like it never happened, but rather resolves and redeems it, turning every scar into a glorious beauty mark, the flip side of the tangled and gnarly back of the tapestry of this life.
So hang on to that hope and let it purify you. Fix your eyes on Jesus and run the race with great endurance, and when the time is right we will tuck in together at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. See you then, and at a few Annual Conferences between.
Warmly in Christ, Fred Swartz
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts.” (Ecclesiastes 3:10, NKJV)
What hurt do you most look forward to being made beautiful in its time?
What about becoming like Jesus most excites you?