In a previous article, we explored the Bible’s description of heaven. In the piece, we examined the splendor of heaven and the absence of sin, suffering, and death.
For some, the cost of following Jesus seems too steep if the reward is just eternity in a big, shiny city. If you’re inclined to dismiss the reality of hell (we contend that you shouldn’t), you might wonder if heaven is worth it. Why not pursue pleasure in this life, instead?
Heaven is worth the cost of following Jesus. Heaven’s rewards and joys are beyond our comprehension. Only in heaven will we experience the fullness of life that Jesus promises to those who believe in him.
A Lesson from Literature
In his novel The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis explores the same question that we are examining today.
The narrator and several other residents of his dreary, grey, quarrelsome town board a bus and take a trip to the foothills of heaven.
When they reach their destination, they find that they have trouble relating to the vibrant colors and lights. The people themselves become so ghostlike that even the grass seems solid and rigid, while water passes through them.
One by one, the narrator describes how they assess the experience and wonder themselves if heaven is worth it. Then, one by one, motivated by their passions, their pessimism, or their incomprehension, they board the bus and demand to return to their dreary, grey, miserable homes.
Our Faulty Perspective
As Lewis masterfully illustrates, when we view heaven through an earthly lens, we struggle to comprehend its full worth. This is because our earthly view is corrupted by sin, which in turn corrupts our sense of pleasure and joy. It is our reluctance to give up the earthly pleasures (in their corrupted forms) that causes us to miss the greater joy that God has prepared for us.
This problem is as old as sin itself:
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”Genesis 3:1-5
Adam and Eve were created in perfection. But the serpent deceived them by convincing them that perfection wasn’t good enough and that they were missing out.
So they gave in and chose a temporal pleasure (the forbidden fruit) over the lasting joy of perfection. Our world has embraced this notion that sin is somehow more desirable than righteousness. We describe rich desserts as “decadent,” or “sinfully delicious.” One ice cream manufacturer even markets a flavor called “Forbidden Chocolate.”
As Christians, we must be careful not to embrace this thinking. But how do we overcome such an ingrained notion?
Changing Our Perspective
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.John 10:10
Jesus doesn’t just promise that we will have eternal life. He promises that we experience life to the full in him. Or as some translations say, he offers us abundant life. Jesus promises that the quality of life that we find in him surpasses the quality of life that the world offers.
In other words, Jesus promises that the “righteous chocolate” is superior to the “forbidden chocolate.”
But this doesn’t mean—as some falsely claim—that Jesus promises health, wealth, and material success. It means that he promises peace that passes understanding, joy in the midst of suffering, and all-sufficient grace.
But as long as we view heaven through the lens of earthly pleasures, we will struggle to grasp the fullness of life in Jesus—and the value of heaven.
Instead, we must turn our lens around and view the pleasures of life from heaven’s perspective. When we do this, we discover that much of what we enjoy in this life provides a foretaste of even greater things to come.
Heaven and Wealth
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.Matthew 6:19-21
Money, by itself, is fairly uninteresting. Money is nothing more than specially designed papers in our pockets or numbers on a balance sheet.
But we love money because we can do just about anything we want as long as we have enough of it. Whatever toys, vacations, entertainment, meals, or other pleasures we desire can all be bought for a price. More money means more options.
The near-limitless utility of money illustrates just how much joy is awaiting us in heaven. In heaven, our treasures (our means) never run out and are never destroyed. In heaven, we have an eternity of joy and happiness to look forward to, because in Jesus we have unlimited means to experience all joy.
Heaven and Food
People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.Luke 13:29
Jesus taught more about the kingdom of God than about any other topic. This is just one of several places where he described his people coming to a feast in heaven. In a more direct statement, he promised his disciples that they “may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom…” (Luke 22:30).
We have all had meals that we’ve greatly enjoyed. We have favorite foods and favorite restaurants. And we enjoy sharing our tables with our loved ones. Eating is one of the most universally recognized joys of this life.
But even the best earthly food is only a preview of the feast to come in eternity, where we can expect a limitless supply of “righteous chocolate.”
Heaven and Intimacy
Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.Revelation 19:7
All good pleasures have been corrupted by sin. None more so than sexual intimacy. God intentionally designed sex to be enjoyable and rewarding. He also instituted marriage as the special covenant relationship where we could enjoy sexual intimacy the way that God intended.
There is no greater expression of mutually reciprocal joy-giving than sexual intimacy in marriage. And God uses the intimacy of the marriage relationship to describe how the church—the bride of Christ—enjoys a unique and joy-filled closeness with our Savior.
Will there be sex in heaven, as we know it in this life? Probably not. But we will have an indescribably fulfilling closeness with God as we dwell in His presence, and with other believers as we share in the mutual joy of worshiping and serving our God forever.
The Last Bus Stop
So is heaven worth it? Is it worth setting aside our pride and our selfish ambitions in this life to experience the joys of heaven in eternity?
Like the visitor from Grey Town, we might find heaven confusing and incomprehensible in this life. But when we trust Jesus and ask him to set our sights on eternity, we gain a new perspective and see the value of heaven in a whole new way.