What advice would you give to people who are suffering and ask why they should desire Heaven when they feel they’re going through hell right now?
I would say to remember that this world is the closest thing to Heaven unbelievers will ever experience, and the closest thing to hell believers will ever know. The promise of Heaven, where there will be no more pain and sorrow and God will wipe away the tears from every eye (Revelation 21:4), should be a great encouragement to all Christians.
Your life may seem like hell right now, but it isn’t. Hell never ends, whereas our present suffering will end, decisively, once and for all. We have foretastes of Heaven in this world, but once the true Heaven comes, at the end of this life, it will last forever. Our hope as Christians is to view the present in light of the future, which is why we’re told “we are looking forward to a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13).
God promises final relief from suffering for all who will accept His suffering on the cross on their behalf. The promise of an eternity without suffering brings a whole new dimension to suffering. Jesus said, “Blessed [happy] are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).
This is the perspective of Paul in Romans 8:18: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
Suffering is many things, but in the end it is God’s invitation to us to trust Him, and to look forward to a place where all suffering will forever be replaced by Joy—Heaven. In light of that, we need to understand exactly how we can get to Heaven.
If you’re a Christian suffering great pains and losses, Jesus says, “Be of good cheer” (John 16:33, NKJV). The new house is nearly ready for you. Moving day is coming. The dark winter is about to be magically transformed into spring. One day soon you will be home—for the first time. Until then, I encourage you to meditate on the Bible’s truths about Heaven. May your imagination soar and your heart rejoice.
Our ancestors came from Eden. We are headed toward a New Earth. Meanwhile, we live out our lives on a sin-corrupted Earth, between Eden and the New Earth, but we must never forget that this is not our natural state. Sin and death and suffering and war and poverty are not natural—they are the devastating results of our rebellion against God.
We long for a return to Paradise—a perfect world, without the corruption of sin, where God walks with us and talks with us in the cool of the day. Because we’re human beings, we desire something tangible and physical, something that will not fade away. And that is exactly what God promises us—a home that will not be destroyed, a kingdom that will not fade, a city with unshakable foundations, an incorruptible inheritance.
While we face our daily challenges, the knowledge that a New Earth is coming should reassure us and give us perspective. It means there’s not only hope but purpose in our suffering. It means that though injustice is widespread, it will not last. God will make all things right, rewarding His people for trusting Him. He will turn this upside-down world right side up, placing it in the care of His beloved children.
This is the gospel’s Good News: in the end, life conquers death, joy triumphs over suffering. Happiness, not sorrow, has the last word—and it will have the last word forever.
See also Randy Alcorn’s books Heaven and If God Is Good.
Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries.