It is common to hear folks saying they long for heaven. Certain catch-phrases and verses (many times out of context) make it onto coffee mugs and bumper stickers.
“My citizenship is in Heaven”
“This (earth) is not my home”
“In case of rapture, this car will be unmanned”
While I value a desire for heaven, we must be wary what exactly we are longing for.
For some, our longing is simply to live in a place (eternally) where the ills of a fallen world like corruption, cancer and country music have ceased. Our heart aches for the day when we can finally live in peace and comfort like some sort of cosmic retirement in a heavenly, royal residence.
While these benefits of heaven are good, they should not be the focus of our longings. In fact, when biblical authors speak of longing for heaven, it appears to ultimately be tied to a longing for Jesus.
In Philippians 3:20, Paul is encouraging his readers about their future. He pens the infamous coffee mug statement “our citizenship is in heaven”. But he doesn’t stop there (though many of us do). The rest of the verse reads “ and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ”.
Paul is right, for those that follow Jesus, our citizenship is in heaven. That heaven is our home. However, our longing for heaven is not primarily because of all the “comforts” of heaven, but because of the ever deepening relationship with Jesus.
When I travel for school or business, I often leave my family behind. After a day or so, my heart begins to long for home. Some diagnose this as “homesickness“ (which sounds like the opposite of what it i). But I am not ultimately longing for my home, I’m longing for what is in my home, namely my family. I am not longing for the 2x4s, drywall and stucco combine to make up the facility that I receive my mail at. Of course, I do sometimes miss the comforts of home, but my heart is ultimately longing to reconnect with the deep relationships I have with my wife and kids, to see them face to face.
Earlier in his letter to the Philippians, Paul compares all of his accomplishments and status to the weight of knowing Jesus. He says in 3:8 “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” For Paul, a longing for heaven was ultimately a longing for Jesus.
Do we long for heaven because it’s a great place to be, or because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus?
Do we long to be in the royal residence more than we long to be with the royal resident?