During the 2 hour 20/20 special on heaven, hosted by Barbara Walters a few weeks ago, the question regarding the nature of heaven played a significant role. Richard Gere was interviewed (what qualified him as an expert on heaven, I’ll never know!). He suggested that heaven and hell were both here and now and were pretty much a “state of mind.” Many liberal theologians agree with Richard Gere. It’s not a place, but just a state of mind. It can be experienced now. If you are in the heavenly state of mind you are at peace with all, content, joy filled, and at perfect rest with the world. Many Eastern religions recommend chanting as the means by which one might enter into the heavenly state of mind. It’s to escape from the hellish state of mind of confusion, regret, dismay and anguish. These religions exhort us to escape the realities of our lives here and now while focusing all our energies on personal peace and happiness.

Christianity, on the other hand teaches us to use our daily lives to deliver others from their sufferings and hardships in this life. It is true that heaven might be described as a state of mind. It’s the state of mind and heart that believes in God and His Son Jesus Christ. According to the Bible unless one enters into the state of mind of faith one will not see heaven in the world to come. For those of faith the knowledge of heaven in the next life motivates us to live active lives of service to others in this world. We are not to focus on achieving heavenly peace in this world for our own pleasure and edification, but to focus on the needs of others around us by which we are investing in the heavenly world to come. Jesus said that he did not come to be served “but to serve” and to give His life for us all. His ultimate joy now is the result of His sacrificial life on earth. Paul explains in his letter to the Philippians. He writes in Chapter 2, verses 7-9, that Jesus “…emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. …and he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name…” The writer of the book of Hebrews confirms this truth when he writes, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (See Hebrews 12:2).

Heaven is not a state of mind. It is a real place. Jesus said “I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:2-3). It is the place where all our service in the lives of others on earth will be rewarded in a real and everlasting way. It won’t be something we make up in our heads or contrive to create through meditation. It will be real and it will be glorious. Max Lucado explained it this way, “For all we don’t know about the next life, this much is certain. The day Christ comes will be a day of reward. Those who went unknown on earth will be known in heaven. Those who never heard the cheers of men will hear the cheers of angels. Those who missed the blessing of a father will hear the blessing of their heavenly Father. The small will be great. The forgotten will be remembered. The unnoticed will be crowned and the faithful will be honored.”