Can Focusing on Heaven Become an Idol?

If our perspective shifts from Christ, we can idolize anything—including our own incorrect views of Heaven. Some people today write about angels and Heaven, but they completely leave out God (or paint a false picture of Him). I think a perfect example is Mitch Albom’s book The Five People We Meet in Heaven. I read that book and thought, there’s nothing about God! Heaven is the dwelling place of God, and Mitch Albom doesn’t even mention Him. How tragic—only talking about ourselves is a dead-end street.

Heaven is not going to be about us. It’s first and foremost about God. And everything else we say and think about Heaven should be seen in relationship to Jesus Christ, who every created thing will exalt for all eternity.

We’ve been made for a Person, and we’ve been made for a place: Jesus is the Person; Heaven is the place. But the place is always secondary to the Person. Heaven’s appeal should rest solely on its status as God’s dwelling place. The place has its glory and wonder and appeal, but only because it reflects God’s glory and wonder and appeal.

We see in Scripture that God and Heaven—the Person and the place—are so closely connected that they’re sometimes referred to interchangeably. The Prodigal Son confessed, “I have sinned against heaven” (Luke 15:18, 21). John the Baptist said, “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven” (John 3:27). Why didn’t he say God instead of Heaven? Because God identifies Himself that intimately with Heaven. It’s His space. And that’s God’s idea, not ours. He could have offered us His person without His place. But He didn’t.

Biblically grounded thoughts about Heaven shouldn’t be seen as an obstacle to knowing God but as a means of knowing Him. The infinite God reveals Himself to us in tangible, finite expressions. Next to the incarnate Christ, Heaven will tell us more about God than anything else.

Some people have told me, “I just want to be with Jesus—I don’t care if Heaven’s a shack.” Well, Jesus cares. He wants us to anticipate Heaven and enjoy the magnificence of it, not to say, “I don’t care about it” or “I’d be just as happy in a shack.” When you go to visit your parents in the house you grew up in, it’s no insult to tell them, “I love this place”; it’s a compliment. They’ll delight in it, not resent it.

Likewise, there’s no dichotomy between anticipating the joys of Heaven and finding our joy in Christ. It’s all part of the same package. The wonders of the new heavens and New Earth will be a primary means by which God reveals Himself and His love to us.

If we think unworthy thoughts of Heaven, we think unworthy thoughts of God. Conventional caricatures of Heaven—as endless tedium, strumming harps and wishing we’d brought a magazine—do a terrible disservice to God and adversely affect our relationship with Him. If we come to love Heaven more—the Heaven God portrays in Scripture—we will inevitably love God more. If Heaven fills our hearts and minds, God will fill our hearts and minds.

Every thought of Heaven should move our hearts toward God, just as every thought of God will move our hearts toward Heaven. That’s why Paul could tell us to set our hearts on Heaven (Colossians 3:1), not just “set your hearts on God.” To do one is to do the other. Heaven will not be an idol that competes with God but a lens by which we see God.

Those who love God should think more often of Heaven, not less.

See also my articles Heavenly Minded and of Earthly Good and God’s Presence Is the Essence of Heaven.

For more on the New Earth, see Randy’s books Heaven and The Promise of the New Earth. You can also browse our resources on Heaven and additional books.

Photo by Paul Volkmer on Unsplash

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries