You are a born again believer. You have placed your faith in Christ and know your eternity is secure. You enjoy this life, but inside, like most believers, you yearn for that moment when your soul will take flight for that heavenly shore. Most of us do not want our earthly life to hurry by, yet our souls thirst for the time when we shall bid the cares of this woeful world and our toils goodbye.
You have heard so much about heaven from preachers and your Sunday School Teacher. It is a grand place where all the cares and problems of this life are left far behind, where your dreams and hopes are fulfilled. Many promises are made in scripture concerning this wonderful place and every one of them is positive and uplifting.
But what if heaven isn’t what you expected? What if when you get there, you find that everything you imagined is not so? The truth is, most Christians are in for a very big surprise, perhaps even a shock. Heaven will not be at all what they expected.
If you ask the average person what heaven is like, invariably they will respond with “it is a place of happiness”, or words to that effect. Then, if queried further, they will elaborate on what they think it will take to make heaven a happy place for them. One will imagine that they will be playing marathon golf, sporting an unearthly handicap. Another envisions endless championship fishing tournaments with them as the star. Still others imagine unlimited charge accounts at enormous malls that never run out of stock and never close.
It is human nature to create our own personal utopia in our minds. It is how we visualize and categorize our hopes. But human nature is exactly that part of us that God does not want in his heaven. Human nature is in contrast with God. It is referred to in scripture by many other names and all are seated in negative context. It is referred to as self, the flesh, the old man, and the old nature just to name a few.
Our old nature is our sinful part, the selfish, self-centered and self-serving part. It is shown as the cause of our sin and problems. The sum of it is told to us in Romans where it is called “enmity (or hatred) against God”. In other words, the only thing our flesh is capable of is hatred toward God.
It is this human or earthly nature that imagines a customized heaven. It is our self-centeredness that dictates what it would take for heaven to be our personal utopia. Herein then is the surprise for many believers; that heaven will not be at all what they are expecting, but will be rather what God wants it to be.
So then, what is heaven like? What does God have planned? The short and simple answer is “I don’t know”. We are not given much detail on God’s plans for eternity, except that we will spend much time around his throne fellowshipping with him. Indeed, if we could quantify the heavenly experience in terms of time, most of our time will be spent worshipping and praising the Lord.
Now, at the risk of shocking you further, let me say that I find the prospect of constant worship quite boring. I do not mean to be irreverent to the Lord, for certainly he is deserving of my eternal praise, but somehow golf and fishing seem to resonate with my excitement sensor more than a perpetual church service. If worshipping 24/7 was something that thrilled me, why do I have so much trouble being faithful to church on Sundays when I get the sniffles?
But that is just “me” talking, or my old nature. The best my old man can imagine for heaven is to concede to God cursory time of praise and worship. The rest of the time, my old nature wants for myself. In my present condition, though regenerated and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, my old flesh still has a modicum of control and influence in my thinking. Consequently, I often think in terms of what “I” want and what will make “me” happy.
Fortunately, that is not how I will enter heaven. In I Corinthians 15:53 we are told “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (kjv). Right now, I am corruptible, because of my flesh. But when this mortal shall put on immortality, I will also put on incorruption. In reality, incorruption is not so much put on as corruption is put off. Either way, I will be without my old nature.
When we accept the Lord, essentially our salvation comes in three phases. First, immediately upon confessing Christ, we are saved from the penalty of sin. Our sins are forgiven forever. There is no longer a penalty. The wages of sin were paid by the Lord Jesus and our account is paid in full.
Then, as we live our Christian experience on earth, we are saved from the power of sin. We are told that sin no longer has dominion (or control) over us. This is a quantitative term that means influence still is present, but not control. We have the Holy Spirit within us teaching, convicting and growing his fruit or attributes within us.
Finally, when we pass or when the rapture occurs, we are saved from the presence of sin. This is huge. Sin is no longer a part of us. The old man, the flesh, the old nature is supernaturally extracted by God and put off. No longer is self important. No longer do we think in terms of “me” and “I”.
In this new state where self is no longer the center of our world, where sin has no presence, then our new man will soar and excel. Then worshipping God and praising his mighty works will be thrilling and exciting. We will hardly be able to contain the praise that pours from our lips as we fellowship with the one with whom we have to do. Golf and fishing will not even register on our “to do” list as all we will want to do is sit in the presence of our Lord, overwhelmed with his majesty and wonder.
Yes, heaven will be a surprise for many, but it will be a pleasant surprise when we arrive there without our old nature. It will be a time unparalleled in our previous existence, where we no longer are influenced by the selfish flesh that housed our soul for so long.