Summary: The Christian not motivated by the heavenly hope will soon be a worldly Christian, for he will not be able to pull away from the value system of the world, since he has no higher value system that makes it look shabby in comparison.
In the 15th chapter of Gibbon's Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire, he says that the promise
of heavenly bliss was one of the five major causes for the growth of Christianity in the Roman
Empire. The leaders of Rome mocked the idea of immortality, and they did not live this life with
any hope of a future state. This loss of hope for the future can only lead to decline in the present.
Schwistzer said, "It was as the religion of immortality that Christianity was consecrated to take
the place of the slowly dying civilization of the ancient world." History makes it clear that man's
hope is the key to life's meaning. If there are no goals and no possibilities out there in the future, it
robs life of meaning. Life without hope is like fishing in a vast ocean in which you know there are
no fish. It is only the assurance that there are fish that makes fishing meaningful. It is only the
assurance of future reward that makes the present life meaningful.
Hope, said Kierkegaard is, "Passion for the possible." Paul says we are actually saved by hope,
and this is quite obvious, for without hope there is no salvation. Jesus knew the power of hope, and
that is why we see Him using it as the primary motivation for living the Christian life.
In the seven letters to the churches he gives seven promises, and at least five of the seven are
promises of reward in the eternal kingdom, and the other two probably do as well. This means the
Lord of heaven used the realities of what He has gone to prepare for His bride as the key motivating
factor in His guidance of the church. This means Jesus is clearly sold on the hope of reward as a
vital aspect of Christian theology. This means that the study of heaven is not just an idle pastime to
satisfy curiosity. It is, in fact, an act of obedience to our Lord. Not to study heaven and all it offers
is to reject the heart of our Lord's Christian education system for the church. The hope of heaven is
E.M. Bounds, famous for his book on prayer, says this about heaven: "Heaven nourishes all the
principles of a deep, conscious piety. The Christian never works so well, never suffers so well, never
grows so well, as when heaven is in full view of his eyes. It is that which gives to hope its ripeness,
richness and power. Only the saint who is after heaven with all the ardor and brightness of hope is
truly saved. Doubt and fear flee away from such a salvation." By being truly saved I am sure he
means these are the Christians who feel the full impact of the joy of salvation.
Dr. Ross H. Stover, a pastor in Philadelphia, who for many years led the largest midweek service
in the U. S., wrote in his book, What Do We Know About Life After Death, "It would certainly
seem natural that we should be searching the Word of God for every thought expressed on the
subject. If builders were erecting a home for me in California, I would look for a letter every day,
desiring to know just how the building was proceeding. If a temporal home should cause me
delightful mediation, how much more my eternal home. Friends do we not sin against God and
ourselves by passing over this subject so lightly?"
The deeper our commitment to follow Christ, the deeper will be our curiosity about the rewards
for doing so. Some feel it is not right to focus on rewards. We should serve Christ now, and take
one world at a time. This sounds noble, but the fact is, it is our hope that gives us motivation in
time. The world to come has a powerful effect on the world at hand. The New Testament reveals
that Jesus clearly encouraged His followers to focus on reward. Peter once came to Jesus and said,
"Lo, we have left everything and followed you." Jesus did not scold him but said, "Truly, I say to
you, there is no one who has left house or brother or sister or mother or father or children or lands,
for my sake and for the Gospel who will not receive a hundred fold now and in this time...and in the
age to come eternal life."
If you think it is wrong to be concerned about rewards, then you rebuke your Lord, for He
responded to that concern frequently, and very positively. It is not wrong to be curious about
heaven, it is wrong not to be curious. Many Christians have been deceived by the Subtle One into
thinking there is something selfish about a probing into heaven and its rewards. They feel it is too