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“For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling” (2 Corinthians 5:1,2).

HEAVEN IS A TOPIC THE CHRISTIAN FINDS IT IMPOSSIBLE TO BE INDIFFERENT ABOUT. If he accepts the account of the gospel given in the New Testament, it is a subject he is intensely interested in, because he realizes that eternity with God is what the gospel is primarily about. It’s the reason he became a Christian in the first place, and without that hope, the gospel is a cruel fraud.

Paul spoke of our physical bodies as a “tent” or “tabernacle,” which is a temporary dwelling. And knowing (as we all do in our more honest moments) that this life is hard and heartbreaking, he said, “In this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling.” He looked forward to eternity with a longing that he described as “groaning.” Paul had more than a mild interest in heaven.

Just a few verses later, he said that “while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord” (v.6). While Paul was obviously willing to stay in this world and work as an evangelist as long as the Lord wanted him to, he did not hesitate to say what his preference was: “Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (v.8). As he put it in his letter to the Philippians, “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Philippians 1:23).

For one thing, our lives in this world wear us out. We grow weary. If we’re as busy as we ought to be, we become “exhausted” in the sense of being “drained” or “depleted.” So one reason the Christian looks forward to heaven so longingly is that it is the rest God has prepared for His people. In the visions which John recorded in Revelation, he said, “And I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Blessed indeed,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!’” (Revelation 14:13).

Until we “put on our heavenly dwelling,” however, we press toward the goal (Philippians 3:14). God helped Israel through the wilderness, and He will help us also. If the journey is hard, that will just make our home all the sweeter when we get there.

“The Promised Land always lies on the other side of a wilderness” (Havelock Ellis).

Gary Henry — +

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