If you’ve ever traveled overseas, you know there are some important things you should do before boarding the plane: stop your mail, exchange some currency, and make sure your cell phone can make international calls. But most importantly, you need to make sure you have a passport. Without one, you won’t be allowed into the country.
One day, every one of us is going to make an eternal trip to a distant land. For Christians—and Christians alone—that destination is heaven. I wonder, are you ready to make that trip? Here are four ways to help you prepare for the inevitable journey to heaven.
1. Thinking About Heaven Reminds Us of the Brevity of Life
Both my parents died relatively young. Their early departures remind me how brief our time on earth is.
In 1 Peter 1:24, the apostle said, “All flesh is like grass, and all its glory is like the flowers of grass. The grass withers, and the flowers fall off.”
In Psalm 39:4, King David said, “Lord, make me to know my end, and what is the extent of my days; let me know how transient I am.”
Like David, we need to remember how short life is so we make the best use of the time we have on earth.
2. Thinking About Heaven Prepares Us for Certain Judgment
Jesus commanded us in Matthew 7:13–14, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” I see three truths about judgment from this passage:
One Path Leads to Eternal Death. Isaiah 53:6 says, “All of us like sheep have gone astray. Each of us has turned to his own way.” How can you make certain to go to hell when you die? Do nothing. We all begin life on the road leading away from God toward hell.
One Path Leads to Eternal Life. To exit the road leading to death you must make a spiritual U-turn onto the narrow road. We call this U-turn “repentance.” Repentance is a change of mind that leads to a change of direction. You must change your mind about who Jesus is and you must place your trust in Him alone for salvation.
Each Path Ends at a Different Gate. The two gates represent two different judgments. Non-Christians will be judged at the “great white throne,” described in Revelation 20:11–15. God will judge unbelievers based on their works because they refused God’s forgiveness and grace. And no one is good enough by their own works to deserve heaven.
But Christians face an entirely different judgment. The apostle Paul wrote to believers about this in 2 Corinthians 5:10: “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” Salvation is a gift. But our deeds done after salvation determine our heavenly rewards.
3. Thinking About Heaven Motivates Us to Purity
Not long ago, I traveled to Houston to preach at a Bible conference. Late that afternoon I also had to tape an interview.
All day, I focused on keeping my suit clean until the shoot. I knew the studio lights would reveal any dirt or stain to millions of viewers.
One day, our lives (which the Bible compares to clothes) will come under the harsh glare of God’s judgment. He, and everybody else, will see our actions for what they truly are.
In 1 Corinthians 3:13, Paul said, “Each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it.” In biblical times, people wore two types of clothing—an inner tunic and an outer tunic.
An inner tunic was basically an undergarment; nobody would see it. But over this undergarment people wore an outer tunic that was visible for everybody to see. In the same way, we Christians wear two tunics. The inner tunic represents our right standing before God—our judicial righteousness.
We receive our inner tunic the moment we realize that we cannot save ourselves and we place our trust in Jesus for salvation. God then forever clothes us in Christ’s righteousness. But nobody wants to run around heaven in his underwear. We want proper clothing.
The outer tunic represents our right acting before God—our ethical righteousness. Revelation 19:7–8 tells us that when Christ returns, we are going to join Him for the marriage supper of the Lamb: “His bride [the church—you and me] has made herself ready. It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.”
Just as a bride wants to look radiant, so we too want to clothe ourselves with the best: that obedient life befitting a Christian. And once dressed, we want to avoid staining our good deeds with short-sighted immorality.
4. Thinking About Heaven Puts Suffering in Perspective
In 2 Corinthians 4:17–18, Paul (who certainly had his share of suffering) wrote, “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
Paul described his own suffering as “momentary” and “light.” Paul had suffered for decades. But his suffering was momentary compared to the eternal blessing God had for him. And his pain was light compared to the weight of his glorious future. The same is true for us.