When I pastored in Ohio, I was always looking for reasons to visit California, especially in the dead of winter. To be honest, if I was invited to preach in California during the months of December or January, I didn’t even pray about it, I just took it to be God’s will [not really but close!]. In thinking about California from Ohio I loved the thought of what would be there - sunny skies, warm temperatures, golden beaches, friends, family, Seaport Village in San Diego, Santa Monica Pier and the In & Out Burger by LAX. But I also loved the thought of what wouldn’t be in California - weather in the 10’s and 20’s, grey skies, long dark frigid nights, ice on windshields, and slush on the roads. I loved the prospect of California, not only for what would be present, but also for what would be absent.
I think you get the point, and I think it works the same way for Heaven. Heaven will be heaven partly because of what will be there, and partly because of what will not be there. Heaven will be heaven because of what will be added to our lives, but also because of what will be subtracted from our lives. As Adrian Rogers put it: “Heaven is the absence of all that is bad, and the presence of all that is good. It is all the loving heart of God can conceive, and all the omnipotent hand of God can provide.”
In the book of Revelation, we see this clearly outlined in a series of statements couched in the language of “no more.” According to John the Apostle, there will be no more sea, no more crying, no more death, no more pain, no more temple, no more sun and no more curse (Rev 21:1, 4, 22-23, and Rev 22:3, 5). Imagine life without the barrier of the “severing sea,” which means a world where there is no separation; imagine life without tears and broken hearts, minds and bodies; imagine life without expiration and the shadow of death; imagine life where you walk beneath the glow of God’s direct, manifest and glorious presence; imagine life where all the effects of Adam and Eve’s disobedience have been erased; imagine life where you have the presence of all that is good, and the absence of all that is bad.
Given that coming reality, we would do well to remind ourselves that the suffering of this present moment cannot be compared to the glory that is coming our way in the eternal kingdom (Rom. 8:18-25). Suffering will be followed by glory (1 Peter 4:12-13). Whatever problems we have, whatever tears we shed, whatever brokenness we experience, it all has an expiration date attached to it. It is all going to be erased. Someday sin, sorrow, and Satan will be behind us. Someday we will take our last insult, shed our last tear, attend our last funeral, offer our last sigh, and confess our last sin.
As children, and even as adults, we have often closed our eyes in a painful situation. We hope that when we open our eyes, the problem will have gone, or the circumstances changed. But every time we do that, we open our eyes in disappointment. Thank God, however, that there is coming a day when we will open our eyes to a world where all our protagonists, problems, and pains will be gone.
In our present circumstances, may we persevere in the hope that someday God will remove the bad and supersize the good.