For those who believe in life after death, I would guess that they all expect to wind up in heaven someday. I doubt that anybody is looking forward to suffering for all eternity. The problem is that heaven will be so different from what many people are expecting. Actually, they wouldn’t be comfortable staying there.
This thought reminds me of an old Negro spiritual.
Everybody talkin’ ’bout heav’n that ain’t goin’ there
Oh my Lord
Well I read about the streets of gold
And I read about the throne
Not everybody callin’ “Lord, Lord”
Is gonna see that heavenly home
What do you imagine that heaven will be like? There are some people out there who would be so uncomfortable in heaven that it would be a kind of hell for them. Let’s look at what kind of people would feel that way.
Heaven would be a type of hell for those who don’t worship the Lord here on earth now.
Notice what is going on in heaven right now. We learn that there are some mystical creatures there that are constantly saying: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.” And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying, “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created” (Revelation 4:8–11).
I have met people who show little or no interest in worshiping God. Surprisingly, they expect to go to heaven where that happens all the time. If worship is boring to them now, it would be boring to them in heaven too. Heaven is not what they would really want.
Heaven would be a type of hell for those who don’t like spending time with Christians regularly.
When the Apostle John was given a glimpse of heaven he saw “… a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb’ ” (Revelation 7:9–10). In other words, God’s throne is surrounded by a large and diverse group of believers.
The problem is that some people who expect to go to heaven have little or no desire to be around other believers or people from different ethnic backgrounds. They are content to have a religion of their own making.
True followers of Jesus look for ways to “consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24–25).
Heaven would be very uncomfortable for these people. If they don’t like being around Christians here, what makes them think they would enjoy being around them in heaven?
Heaven would be a type of hell for those who don’t love being in God’s presence.
Psalm 105:3–4 Glory in His holy name; Let the heart of those who seek the Lord be glad. 4 Seek the Lord and His strength; Seek His face continually.
When the average person imagines who they will meet in heaven, they usually talk about seeing loved ones who have died, or famous people they would like to meet. Often, they don’t even mention seeing God. They would be content to be in a heaven that is devoid of God’s presence, but that is not what heaven is like.
Heaven would be a type of hell for those who don’t enjoy spending time in prayer.
Many people say that they pray, but they don’t seem to desire to pray with other believers. Remember that the Lord’s Prayer points to more than a single person praying because it begins with “Our Father.”
The Lord values the prayers of His followers so much that they bring Him great joy. Many who think they are going to heaven rarely (or never) meet with other believers to pray. Notice that at the end of the age when Jesus opens a special book containing God’s judgments, those in heaven “… fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” (Revelation 5:8).
Heaven would be a type of hell for those who aren’t longing to see Jesus return to earth.
The Apostle Paul knew that when he got to heaven he was going to receive “… the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8).
We must never forget that heaven is only for those who have been transformed by God’s grace. We need our basic nature changed. None of us entered this world loving what God loves. Unchanged, we would be miserable in heaven.
Until we surrender to the Lord, we are spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1,5). We must, as Jesus put it, be born again. That only happens when we admit that we are sinners by nature and humbly ask God to change us and make us new. Then, and only then, will we realize this truth: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Has God changed you so that you now love what He loves? God wants to transform your desires so that “though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8). Those are the people who will be in heaven, and those are the people who will enjoy it.