By Colin Smith
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 are going to hell.
If hell is a person’s future, their greatest life is now. But if you are going to heaven, your greatest life is to still to come. For a person outside of Christ, this life is as good as it gets. But if you are in Christ, your pain in this world is the only pain you will ever experience, and your struggles in this world are the only struggles you will ever endure.
For the person without Christ, the joys of life in this world will be the nearest they get to heaven. The ungodly are living their best life now, because their future is in hell. But for the Christian, life in this world is as tough as it gets. The troubles we face here are the nearest we will ever get to hell, because our future is in heaven and it is better than any of us can imagine.
Why Preach Heaven?
As pastors, we have a responsibility to speak into the culture by reminding our people that the best is yet to be. We have the opportunity to preach heaven faithfully from the Word of God. When our people are weighed down with the burdens of life, we can tell them with confidence that it is better to suffer any illness, endure any sorrow, carry any burden, and be in Christ than it would be to enjoy any comfort, pleasure or luxury without Him.
When we counsel believers who feel disoriented, displaced and disconnected, or when we come alongside people who do not feel at home in their own bodies, we can tell them that they will be more at home in heaven than they have ever been in this life. God, who sits on the throne will spread His tent over His people (Revelation 7:15 NIV). Picture the Almighty shaking out a vast canvas that settles over His people so that all of them are inside. God is saying to His people, “You will be at home here. Nobody will be outside.” It is a beautiful picture of inclusion.
Sometimes Christian people don’t feel at home on earth, even among other believers. So our preaching must remind them that all of God’s people will be completely at home in heaven.
How to Preach Heaven
Three truths taken from Revelation 7 can guide our preaching about heaven.
1. In heaven we will serve God as we always wished we could
God’s people are before His throne and they “serve Him day and night” in His temple (Revelation 7:15).
We minister to people who are often tired and jaded. The demands of serving the Lord, added to the responsibilities of work and family (which we share in common with unbelievers), sometimes bring fatigue. We love the Lord and we want to please Him, but sometimes our best efforts are sluggish.
Every Christian wants to serve Christ well, but we often find ourselves in conflict. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. We get tired. We become discouraged. We get bogged down in our unsolved problems and our unanswered questions.
But it will not always be so. In heaven, all weariness will be gone. We will have vibrancy and energy in serving Christ “day and night.” So tell your people that in heaven, they will serve God as they always wished they could.
2. In heaven, Christ will lead us into ever increasing joy
John tells us that Christ, the Lamb of God, will be our Shepherd and that He will guide His people to springs of living water (Revelation 7:16).
Heaven is more than a wonderful place where we will discover marvelous things. John saw that the great joy of heaven is that Christ Himself will lead His people into ever increasing delight. Christ is the great Shepherd of His people. He feeds them, and that is why they are never hungry (v16). He leads them, and that is why for all eternity, they go on discovering fresh delights.
Thomas Boston 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.
As Donald Macleod points out, life for the redeemed will be even better than it was for the innocent in the Garden of Eden. He points out that life in the Garden offered scope for art, science and technology as well as theology, and then 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 will not be static. They will go on increasing. Jonathan Edwards argues that the joys of heaven will accumulate as one joy is added to another and the pleasure of all remain. So think, he suggests, what this will be like for God’s people when we have been in heaven for a million, million 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!
3. In heaven, all our wounds will finally be healed
God will wipe away every tear from our eyes (Revelation 7:17). Every tear!
Literally, God 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 be on their shoulders. The temptations our people have battled will no longer be a struggle. The pain they have endured will have passed away.
Try to imagine the joy of life in which there are 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. All of your questions answered, all of your doubts resolved, every tear wiped out from your eyes.
Preaching “Our Greatest Life in Heaven”
The greatest life of a believer is the life of heaven. It cannot possibly be now.
Knowing our future joy is crucial to finding the strength we need to face life as we experience it now. God calls us to set our minds on things above. Your preaching on heaven from the Word of God will help your people to do that, and the result will be renewed energy to live for Christ now.
People who know that serving Christ will be their great delight in heaven will be challenged to find joy by serving Him now. People who know that following Christ will lead them to springs of living water in heaven will be encouraged to find life by following Him now. And people who know that Christ will wipe every tear from their eyes in heaven will be helped to find comfort by drawing near to Him now.
Our greatest life is still to come. So preach heaven to your people, for Christ’s glory and for their joy.
Colin Smith is Senior Pastor of The Orchard Evangelical Free Church in Arlington Heights, Illinois, President of Unlocking the Bible, and author of Heaven How I Got Here: The Story of the Thief on the Cross.
 Human Nature In Its Fourfold State, pg. 302.
 Monthly record of the Free Church of Scotland 1990 p. 125
 Edwards, Works Vol. 2 p.618