A Better Country
“But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country” (Hebrews 11:16)
One of the issues which has dominated British politics over recent years is immigration, both legal and illegal. In terms of legal immigration, critics of Brexit sought to portray leave voters as xenophobes who wanted to raise the drawbridge to those who desired to enter our country. In reality, most supporters of Brexit simply wanted the freedom to implement immigration policies suitable for our own country. The EU ideal of the free movement of people no longer found sufficient support. A new system was preferred – a points based system – which swapped low skilled EU migrants for high skilled migrants drawn from throughout the world. As expected, movement from the EU has since fallen and migration from elsewhere in the world has significantly increased.
The issue of illegal immigration was brought to the fore two years ago when a prominent politician recorded boatloads of migrants crossing the English Channel illegally in the hope of claiming asylum. Most of them appear to be undocumented young men. It came to light that many of the boats were escorted by the French into British waters, and, in turn, the British government were failing to implement our own border controls. This has left Britain wide open to illegal immigration and has encouraged many to attempt the perilous journey across the Channel. These journeys are generally facilitated by criminal gangs in overcrowded dinghies which are highly unsuitable for the voyage. Sadly, many lives have been lost in attempting to make this treacherous crossing. This issue, which was initially ignored by the mainstream media, has now become a very visible problem. This has been particularly highlighted by the British government’s proposal to deter crossings by sending illegal migrants to Rwanda for processing.
It is strange that there are many living in Britain today who seek to decry everything about British culture and heritage, whilst on the other hand many throughout the rest of the world see things quite differently. Many are willing to risk their lives to reach our shores, considering Britain, in their estimation, a better country.
Better Than This World
For the Christian, we ought also to desire a better country, one that is not merely restricted to the here and now. In Hebrews 11 we read of the faith of, amongst others, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. These were all exceedingly rich men for God had blessed them abundantly. Nevertheless, their desire wasn’t fixated upon their earthly riches. They confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims here on the earth (Hebrews 11:13) and their desire was for their inheritance, a heavenly country (Hebrews 11:16).
Whilst we cannot answer many of our questions about heaven, we can say with certainty from what the Scriptures have revealed to us that it will be far better than any life to be lived on earth. Why is heaven better than this world? The best that the world has to offer is fleeting, be that wealth, fame, esteem or any of the passing pleasures of sin (Hebrews 11:25). In fact, even our time here on earth is fleeting, as the Scriptures tell us that “we spend our years as a tale that is told” (Psalm 90:9).
It has been noted that there is not one reference in the whole of the Bible to believers going ‘to heaven’, when they die. Rather they go to be ‘with Christ.’ For instance, Jesus said to the thief on the cross, “assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). Likewise, the Apostle Paul’s desire was, “to depart and be with Christ” (Philippians 1:23). Therefore to be in heaven is to be with Christ. Christ is the focal point of heaven, as we read of “the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne” (Revelation 7:17)
There will be no sin in heaven for “there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles” (Revelation 21:27). Therefore, there will be no anger, hatred, greed, hypocrisy, violence, lying, lust, drunkenness or sin of any sort. What a thought it is – so difficult for us to comprehend – still in the body of this death – that we will have no desire whatsoever to sin. Furthermore, there will be no more cause for suffering at all for “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
Therefore, heaven will be a place of indescribable joy as Jonathan Edwards, the 18th century preacher, proclaimed: “what joy will there be, springing up in the hearts of the saints, after they have passed through their wearisome pilgrimage, to be brought to such a paradise as this! Here is joy unspeakable indeed, and full of glory.”
That is why we ought to sing with the Psalmist, “one thing I of the Lord desired, and will seek to obtain, that all days of my life I may within God’s house remain (Psalm 27:4).
Better In This World
If heaven is our inheritance, it ought to affect how we live our lives and to give our lives purpose. If we know the way to heaven and we are journeying towards that better country, knowing that one day we will reach our destination, what joy we ought to have in this life, knowing that a better country awaits. All the trials and tribulations in this life, however grievous they may be, are nothing in comparison as we live our lives in the light of eternity.
If we find ourselves on a long arduous journey and we see our destination on the horizon does it not quicken our steps and boost our spirits? Likewise, meditation on the glories of heaven provides vistas of that awaiting and better country. Yet we are often guilty of neglecting to think upon heaven as we ought, preoccupied as we are with this world. Richard Baxter, in his book the Saints Everlasting Rest states that our eternal rest in the better country ought to be the subject of our conversation, especially with those who can speak from their hearts about it: “It is a pity that Christians should ever meet together without some talk of their meeting in heaven, or of the way to it, before they part.”
We know the expression that there are those who are too heavenly minded to be of any earthly use. In reality, the only way we can truly be of any earthly good is to be heavenly minded as we set our minds “on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2). To be heavenly minded is to love God’s Word: “O how love I thy law! it is my study all the day” (Psalm 19:97). To be heavenly minded serves to defend ourselves against temptation and to say with Joseph: “how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God” (Genesis 39:9). To be heavenly minded is to be a lively Christian, better equipped for evangelism and more useful to others: to “gladly spend and be spent” (2 Corinthians 12:15). To be heavenly minded is to seek out those who are on the same journey as us, so again we can sing with the Psalmist: “I am companion to all those who fear, and thee obey” (Psalm 119:63). To be heavenly minded is to recognise that we are strangers and pilgrims (Hebrews 11:13), realising that we are strangers to the world, but not to the Lord. CH Spurgeon noted that David’s words in Psalm 39:12 were, “a very singular expression, a stranger with Thee. Blessed be God, not a stranger to thee, but a stranger with thee.”
Sadly, some of those who sought to cross the English Channel in such unsuitable vessels met their demise. In this life we will reach a haven or make shipwreck of our lives. We must realise that, without Christ, we will meet our eternal demise, with no hope of us ever reaching this better country. The roadmap to heaven is before us, as Christ said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
There are vast numbers today who live their lives without Christ and have no intention whatsoever of planning for the eternity that awaits. What are your plans for next week? What are your plans for next year? Many would be able to readily answer these questions. Have you made your plans for eternity? How few are ready for eternity.
Consider the Parable of the Rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16. The rich man had all that the world had to offer, whilst Lazarus, the beggar, had nothing. Yet, when they died, where did they find themselves eternally? There was a great gulf fixed between Lazarus in heaven and the rich man in hell. They were past the point of no return. Don’t take it for granted that you are on the road to heaven if there is no evidence in your life that you are united to Christ. Without Christ, there is no hope of heaven, so we must come to Him now, for time and eternity. He is the Captain of salvation and there is much room yet in the ship of Redemption.
Jonathan Edwards, Charity and Its Fruits, P.352
Richard Baxter, The Saints Everlasting Rest, P.327