We have taken up the question of Hell already, and in some respects, the discussion of that subject may have settled some of the questions pertaining to Heaven, if we assume that Heaven is all that Hell is not. In other words, Heaven is the opposite of Hell. In other respects, it may have raised questions that have not yet been settled.
A great change has passed over the minds of people in the last generation in their conception of Heaven and Hell. Formerly, preachers said that Heaven and Hell were fixed places. When a man died, it was said, that a man passed at once to his reward or punishment, and his state was fixed forever. Today, that concept has been challenged largely be to the ever increasing concept of God’s Fatherhood, a loving fatherhood, which has inspired the doctrine of the Universalists we mentioned before. This change in the minds of men regarding Heaven and Hell has caused many to hold in suspense their opinion with regard to the hereafter, and this withholding has had three results. One, has been the revolt on the part of many against the old concept of Heaven and Hell. On the part of many more, there is a growing indifference, since they feel that they cannot know what it is like, and so they say, “Let us eat and be merry, for tomorrow we may die, and if we have been mistaken, we will apologize.” But on the part of many more, there is a serious attempt to organize their thoughts about the Hereafter.
At least, then, we can fall into the third group and attempt to not only organize our thoughts about the Hereafter, but also to try to find out what the Scriptures say about it. Let us point out that everywhere in the New Testament, Heaven is treated as a practical point of view. It is presented to us as a thought which provides a moral force for our practical life on earth. The attitude of Jesus toward Heaven makes this clear, for His teachings relate heaven to mortal life in three ways. First, the thought of heaven becomes an element in the formation of character. “Do not lay up for yourself treasure upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, but lay up treasures in heaven.” There is nothing material in the life beyond. We cannot send our gold on before, nor even carry it with us. The only thing we can take with us is our character, ourselves. Therefore, the thought of heaven should help to form our character in this world by showing us what the real values are.
The second practical result of Jesus’s teaching about Heaven is that it raises our estimate of the value of our fellow men. Jesus said, “But who so shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” Jesus shows that the value of a fellow Christian is inestimable. We are to treat people better here because of their value in the world beyond.
Thirdly, Jesus relates heaven to earth with the idea of a perfect social order. Jesus said, “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven.” Heaven has the perfect social order where everyone lives in perfect accordance with God’s will, and Jesus prays for that order to find its way to earth. Our goal is always to lift our lives up to a higher level, because with Jesus, the idea of heaven was not merely poetical, but was one of practical living.