By Kile Baker, Crosswalk.com
Last Christmas, I watched for the very first time a classic that most of you have already seen. My family and I, probably like you, watched a bunch of movies at home due to movie theater closures or delayed releases. And when Christmas time came around, I mentioned that I had never seen “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and my wife Rachel gaped in horror as she wondered how we even got married in the first place. So we watched. I loved it, it really is a wonderful movie.
Surprisingly this movie was mostly ignored at first, and only later did it reach widespread acclaim. There have been arguments over whether you should watch it in color (which I did) or its original black and white - but what’s not argued over is the message in the movie of what makes life meaningful in the first place.
One quote, in particular, stood out to me as the main character George lays his whole life out in front of him:
“I know what I’m gonna do tomorrow, and the next day, and the next year, and the year after that...I’m gonna see the world...then I’m gonna build things… airfields… skyscrapers a hundred stories high, I’m gonna build bridges a mile long…” - George Bailey, It’s a Wonderful Life.
We all do some form of this as kids, and maybe on into our adolescent and adult years. We dream of what we can accomplish, who we can become, how we’ll leave our mark on the world, and we do want to leave a mark. You probably asked yourself, imagined, or thought of your life going forward with this question:
How Can I Make the Most of My Life?
With the time, the resources you have, where you were born, your family dynamics, maybe your genetics, your environment, and your hopes and dreams, you want to do the best you can with the life you have.
We’re encouraged to dream, set goals, and make an impact in the world. And some of us do that. Some of us have done that. Many of us have yet to do that, though, and there is this sense of restlessness, maybe even of dread, as we wonder, will we ever get to it? Most of us spend our lives figuring out, dreaming, or with intention, planning out our lives like George Bailey. But almost no one asks this question:
How Can I Make the Most of My Afterlife?
Why? Why don’t we ask this question? Probably because it’s hard to desire what you can’t describe. My guess is, if you believe in Heaven or some sort of afterlife, you want it to be amazing and better than your current life. You and I imagine that Heaven is better than here, but we haven’t thought about planning our afterlife. It almost seems odd, doesn’t it? How do you plan out something you’re not living in yet? Most people I talk to about Heaven, if they’ve given it more than a few minutes of thought, ask some version of this question if they get to go to Heaven:
“What will I be doing?”
Behind this question is one I get all the time: “Will I be bored?” It’s a fair enough question. For some people, they think that Heaven is just a big worship service 24/7, or they’ll get to do their favorite hobby for all of eternity, or they’re going to hang around with cute babies playing harps on clouds, looking down at humanity. These aren’t Biblical images of what Heaven is like, and they’re not very compelling.
It’s important to note here that we don’t exactly know what we’ll be doing in Heaven, but scripture gives us a remarkable amount of information that we can make some very plausible and hopeful assumptions. Below I want to point out four things we know we’ll be doing and then give three big reasons why Heaven will be more incredible than we can imagine.
4 Things We Know We Will Do in Heaven
Before the fall of humanity, Adam and Eve had meaningful work. They oversaw God’s creation, cared for one another, and even were asked to express their creativity by naming the animals. Their work wasn’t toilsome, overly difficult, stressful, demeaning or something did begrudgingly. Everything at this point was good, including their work. But when sin and death entered the world, their lives, and their work became a shadow of what it once was. But someday, we will once again have meaningful community where we have jobs, build houses, and work inside God’s kingdom to the glory of Him. We’ll once again look forward to our work, and every aspect of it will give us personal meaning, be beneficial to others, and glorify God. We’ll live to serve Him, and be glad to.
Photo Credit: Pexels/Wolfgang
Jesus carried on a tradition that began in the Old Testament by attributing life with God as abundance, especially when it came to parties. Eating and drinking was a proper way to think about time spent with God in Heaven. Reclining at the table with those whom God invited, being merry, eating great food, and having a good drink. Who could throw a better party than God? No one! But these won’t be the parties that some of us tell embarrassing stories about from our college days, or our wild years. These will be dedicated to celebrating God, to enjoying His abundant grace, peace, and goodness, and there will be no sinful actions before or afterward. We’ll have the greatest, God-honoring parties anyone has ever seen.
3. We’ll worship (Revelation 7:9, 19:5-7)
Many of us love worship music right now. It connects us to God, helps reinforce or build good theology (if the music is theologically accurate!), and does something to connect to God that seemingly nothing else can. Think about it, we won’t just get to sing about God, we’ll be singing and worshipping Him in His presence! We’ll get to see God face to face. Imagine looking into Jesus’ eyes, and, like Thomas, who was invited to inspect Jesus’ wounds - we too see the price that was paid for us.
How could we do anything but worship?
How could we meet the king and not bow? Not kneel? How can we not worship with everything we’ve got?
Lastly, we’ll acknowledge the King, His authority and power, His ways, and His Kingdom. And He will acknowledge us as well. From the beginning of creation, God asked us to reign and rule with Him and under Him. We do not rule alongside Him, for there is no one who can equal God or would want to. We’ll be glad to be under His reign. But God always intended to give us dominion over parts of His creation. From Genesis on, God has asked us to rule what He has created by seeking Him. This includes the animals, the land, and one another. When we are in Heaven, we’ll finally be able to rule over creation justly, rightly, and perfectly because we’ll be sinless and have God to lead us.
3 Big Reasons Heaven Will Be Better Than We Think
Beyond the four things mentioned above, there are huge realizations that should give us not only hope but incredible joy as we look forward to what we will (and can) do in Heaven. Below are three big ones.
1. Life Continued
I live in Northern Nevada. Part of the uniqueness of this area is Lake Tahoe up in the mountains. Half of the lake is in California, half is in Nevada, which means that you cross the state lines as you drive around the lake. As you go from one state to the next, the buildings change, the signs change, one side has casinos, and the other doesn’t. There’s clearly a separation and also clearly a continuation. You can still drive your car, you can still walk, you can still go to the lake, and a myriad of other things, but each state still functions and looks different.
Our life in Heaven will be kind of like this. In Heaven, like on Earth, will be land, mountains, oceans, animals, people, society, food, and a myriad of other things we’ll recognize. Here’s the point:
If life in Heaven were completely unrecognizable from our life on Earth, then we wouldn’t have much to look forward to. In Heaven, the best parts will be improved, the worst parts removed.
2. Perfected Creation
We like creation now, and it’s flawed. Imagine what it will be like when it’s perfect!
We like seeing the mountains, going in the ocean, appreciating the sunset, or watching wildlife. But parts of our creation also don’t work right. There are disasters, erosion, tragedies that happen due to nature, and the extinction of species. And even for us, we don’t quite work how we should. Right now, we and every animal on the planet can get sick, injured, or die. In Heaven, we are promised that there will be no more sickness, death, sorrow, and remorse. We’ll be in a perfected creation with our perfect creator.
3. Infinite Time
This last one may be the hardest for our minds to wrap around. We are time-bound beings that are used to limited time, which is why fully understanding a timeless God is impossible. Someday you and I won’t be timeless (meaning we have no beginning and end), but we will have eternal life going forward.
Think about it this way: What could you accomplish with unlimited time?
There are projects you can’t get to, books that go unwritten, unrealized passions, and trips you’ll probably never get to take. There is lost time with loved ones and friends you can never get back, words said too late, and millions of opportunities and pivotal moments missed. But that won’t be the case someday. Someday, there will just be endless days. We’ll have all the time in the world, or should we say, all the time in Heaven.
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/hsiangwent
Kile Baker is a former Atheist who didn’t plan on becoming a Christian, let alone a Pastor, who now writes to try and make Christianity simple. Kile recently wrote a study guide to help people “look forward to and long for Heaven.” You can get one on Amazon here. He also writes at www.paperbacktheologian.com. Kile is the grateful husband to the incredibly talented Rachel, Dad to the energetic London and feisty Emma and Co-Lead Pastor at LifePoint Church in Northern Nevada. He single handedly keeps local coffee shops in business.