1 John 3:1-3
November 7, 2021 anno Domini
What is heaven like? You could speculate on that question for the rest of the day, but then you’d miss the Viking’s losing. There are as many different ideas about heaven as there are people. That’s why the heavenly tourism books are so popular – you know the one where the person dies and then sees some grand vision and comes back to life to write a book people are more eager to read than the Bible. In the Bible, no one ever died and came back to tell about it. A few people were raised from the dead by Jesus, but they said nothing about what they saw. It’s as if all God’s wants us to know is that resurrection depends on Jesus.
The Observance of All Saints Day is a wonderful opportunity to contemplate the joys of heaven, but the joys of heaven are not what you think they are or what you want them to be. Heaven isn’t an eternal deer hunting season or Pleasure Island for all of us Pinocchios. The joy of heaven isn’t what you get to do for all eternity. The joy of heaven is Who is there. The joy (with a capital J) of heaven is Jesus. The joy with a small j is you being there with Him, without sin, without death, and forever free of the Devil.
Here’s the Biblical rub about heaven – you’re already there, sort of, by faith. This is what Saint John says to you, “We are God’s children now.”
The gifts of heaven are not some future event. They are your present reality. God will not love only in the resurrection. He loves you now. This is how Saint John begins the text, (Read vs. 1).
The word for “what kind of” love is an interesting word. It literally means “from what country.” In Minnesota we might say, “You’re not from around here are you?” This love, which the Father has shown to us is not from this country? It’s not American love. It’s not worldly love. It is heavenly love. It is love that loves the ugly. His love is the love that makes us lovely by loving us. Scripture says there is no good in us at all. Not one cell of goodness. Not one ounce of righteousness. Not one spark of holiness. You and I love things that give us something in return. I love hunting because I get to be all alone in the woods where my cell phone doesn’t work. I love my children because they are giving me grand children. I love my garage because I enjoy building things, fixing things, actually producing something. But God loves me when there is nothing lovely about me. God’s love is shown in this – while you were yet a sinner Christ died for you. If we loved like God loved, we would be willing to trade our good children for juvenile delinquents, addicted to drugs, who run away, fight, steal, and end up felons by their 18th birthday. This is how God loved you. He loved you with His Son. He loved you in Jesus. He loved you with Christ and Him crucified.
This love ain’t from around here and it’s also not a once upon a time love. The Father has given us this love and this gift still remains. He gave us this love and He gives us this love and we have this love. He has called us in Christ to be His children and so we ARE. Right now, by faith, you have heaven. You have heaven when Jesus descends to be with you bodily in His supper. You have heaven when your prayers ascend to God your Father.
You are His child, not by nature, but by His love. You’re in heaven, not by sight, but by faith. On this All Saints Day, you can rightly confess “I am a Saint, not by nature, but by God’s gift of His Son. I’m forgiven. I’m holy. I’m without sin because God has loved me in Jesus.”
On the last day you will see what you now believe. (Read vs. 2b). Here is how God’s Word describes heaven, “we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is.” In heaven you will be like Jesus. That doesn’t sound nearly as fun as eternal deer hunting or pleasure island, but heaven is not about your fun. It is about the goodness of God and God created humans good, very good. If you want to know what a real man, a good man looks like – look at Jesus. Look at Him loving people who hated Him. Look at Him loving sinners and eating with them. Look at Him loving people who didn’t love themselves. Look at Him loving you, when you know the truth about you. You’re going to be like Him in heaven. You will love your neighbor as yourself. You will love your neighbor without thought of yourself.
Saint John tells us we can’t imagine what heaven will be like (and we shouldn’t speculate), because what we will be has not yet appeared. You and I have no idea what it will be like to not be sinful, to not parse our words in our favor, to not have our interests in mind, to not love only when we get something in return.
Scripture says that from the moment of conversion, from the moment the Holy Spirit has brought us to faith, we are being transformed into the image of God once again. We are growing back into what God created in Adam and Eve – the image of God. In heaven we will not only be with Christ, but we will be like Jesus.
So if you want to get ready for heaven, practice being the saint you are. This is what Saint John says in the last verse of the text, (read vs. 3). To be a Christian is to no longer live for yourself, but to let Christ live in you. Jesus Christ will appear. You will see Him and you will become like Him. You don’t want to be ashamed in His presence so start practicing righteousness. To use Saint John ‘s words, Jesus is pure, by faith He has made you pure, so start purifying yourself.
You might call heaven “never, never” land. There will never be sin, never be sadness, never be tears, never be death, never be selfishness.” You can’t imagine it, but you can start preparing for it. Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church. Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. Fathers, teach your children the faith and love their mom as you love yourself. Children, honor your father and mother. Love your neighbor, even the cranky one. Forgive those who sin against you. Confess the truth even when it costs you. Jesus is pure. You’re going to be like Him. Do you want to get ready for heaven? Start practicing. In the name of Jesus. Amen.