It is easy for Christians to lose focus in our present, politically charged atmosphere. This series, first published in September 2016, is a timely reminder of where our passions and longings should be ultimately directed. –ed.
It may sound paradoxical to say this, but heaven should be at the center of the Christian worldview. The term worldview is a name for the moral, philosophical, and spiritual framework through which we interpret the world and everything around us. Everyone has a worldview, whether consciously or not.
A proper Christian worldview is uniquely focused heavenward. Though some would deride this as “escapism,” it is, after all, the very thing Scripture commands: “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2). The King James Version perfectly captures the sense of the command: “Set your affection on things above.” The apostle Paul penned that verse, by the way, and his approach to life was anything but escapist.
In fact, Paul is a wonderful example of the proper biblical perspective between heaven and earth. He faced overwhelming persecution on earth and never lost sight of heaven. In 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 he says,
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.
Then in verses 16-18 he adds,
We do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 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.
Elsewhere he told the church at Rome, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).
Paul was saying exactly what Peter told the scattered and persecuted believers he wrote to: We endure the sufferings of this world for the sake of heaven’s glory (1 Peter 1:3-7). Whatever we suffer in this life cannot be compared with the glory of the life to come.
In other words, we don’t seek to escape this life by dreaming of heaven. But we do find we can endure this life because of the certainty of heaven. Heaven is eternal. Earth is temporal. Those who fix all their affections on the ephemeral realities of this passing world are the real escapists, because they are vainly attempting to avoid facing eternity—by hiding in the fleeting shadows of things that are only transient.
The irony is that all the things we can see and touch in this world are less substantive and less permanent than the eternal things of heaven, which things we can grasp only by faith. The apostle Paul wrote,
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. For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. (2 Corinthians 4:18-5:1)
It always amazes me when I encounter someone living as if this life is an unending reality. Nothing is more obvious than the transitory nature of human life. The fact that this earthly tabernacle—the human body—is dissolving becomes obvious at an all-too-early age. This tent is being torn down. “In this house we groan” (2 Corinthians 5:2). Moreover, “the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now” (Romans 8:22). Nothing in this world is permanent. That should be obvious to anyone who contemplates the nature of things, even on the most superficial level.
There are many who mistakenly conclude that the brevity of life is a good justification for unbridled self-indulgence. After all, if there’s nothing to life but what we can see and experience in the here and now, why not make the most of personal pleasure? A famous brewery used to advertise its beer by emphasizing the brevity of life: “You only go around once in life, so grab for all the gusto you can.” In a similar vein a popular shoe company advertised, “Life is short. Play hard.” How different that is from Jesus’ advice to use this earthly life as an opportunity to lay up treasure in heaven!
But if this earthly life were the sum total of human existence, then our existence would be a tragic affair indeed. Nihilism would indeed be the only philosophy that would ultimately make sense: Nothing would truly matter, so we might just as well try to gain all the pleasure and self-gratification we can from life before we die and return to nothingness.
As Christians, we naturally deplore that kind of hedonism and lament the despair it breeds. But let’s acknowledge that a nihilistic worldview is the most clear and logical alternative to Christianity. If our existence is the product of nothing and will lead to nothing, then life itself is really nothing. Or, as one skeptic expressed it, we are just protoplasm waiting to become manure. If that is the case, then there’s really no good reason we should not simply eat, drink, and be merry while we wait to die.
But Scripture tells us that is the worldview of a fool (Luke 12:19-20). How much better to have the eternal perspective!
(Adapted from The Glory of Heaven.)