Heaven’s a hot topic of late, with the movie Heaven is for Real and the still bestselling book 90 Minutes in Heaven. I like that. I believe in heaven, and want to spend more than 90 minutes there! But I sometimes suspect that focusing too much on eternal life in heaven can distract us from the eternal life of knowing Jesus now, and better later.
Here’s the back story. Paul had a clear goal: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11). Listed last is heaven, preceded by suffering and death. Eww. But what came at the top of the list? Knowing Jesus.
You’d think he had this Jesus gig dialed in. Writing after 26 years of following, he’d been on three multi-year mission trips, and had already written six books of what would become the New Testament. Dialed in? Listen to Paul: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect” (verse 12).
An awesomely impossible goal: to know Jesus fully. Paul couldn’t do it. We can’t. But we can choose, and pursue, the direction most important to us: “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus” (verse 13b-14).
Why do we look to heaven? Because there, we can know Jesus fully. Perfectly. Heaven isn’t floating on clouds playing dueling harps. Rather, we bask in the presence of God. Fully. Forever. That’s worth straining forward, pressing on. Worth facing suffering and death.
Not all proclaimed followers of Jesus do that. Just a few verses later, Paul describes those who “live as enemies of the cross of Christ…Their mind is set on earthly things” (verses 18-19).
So, what to do? We look to heaven, not earth, because in heaven we satisfy the deepest desires of our hearts—intimacy with God. We strive to get closer with every fiber of our being. And when we fall, we fall toward him.
Kick Starting the Discussion
On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you strive to know God? How would your family and friends rank you? Why is it important to you to press on despite suffering? Is it? What helps you strive more? What hinders you?