Heaven: C.S. Lewis said, “Heaven is the remote music that we were born remembering.” Ecclesiastes says, “For God has set eternity on the hearts of men.”  Is it dangerous, however, to believe in it? Does it make us bad citizens of earth? John Lennon certainly thought so: “Imagine there’s no heaven … Imagine all the people living for today.” In other words, he sang, until we realize that this is our only reality, we will not work to make it better.
Exile: Ezekiel was exiled to Babylon in 597 BC. Speaking to both exiles and those who remained in Judah, he predicted judgment and the fall of Jerusalem. After the city fell in 586BC, however, he prophesied hope and restoration. The last words of his prophecy end with a picture of heaven and hope: “The name of the city from that time on shall be, THE LORD IS THERE.” 
Staying: Believing in heaven makes us better citizens of earth. In the years after the resurrection of Jesus, the gospel spread precisely because his followed believed in heaven. Two plagues swept through the Roman Empire. In the course of about a hundred years, about 25-35% of its population was wiped out. Although no one knew how to stop these plagues, everyone knew that they spread by contact. As a result, people left the cities in droves. Even family members abandoned sick relatives. But the Christians stayed. They cared for their own and others. Many of them died. Why did they stay? Because they believed in heaven. Contrasting the flight of the famous physician Galen, historian Ronald Stark writes, “Galen lacked belief in life beyond death. The Christians were certain that this life was but a prelude. For Galen to have remained in Rome to treat the afflicted would have required bravery far beyond that needed by Christians to do likewise.”  To flee was the pagans’ rational response; to stay was the Christians’.
Prayer: Lord, We confess that we often keep away from people with bed bugs—much less the plague! Forgive us and lift our eyes to see the empty cross and the glorified Christ, who is the first fruits of our resurrection. Remind us that this life is a prelude so that we joyfully risk our lives for the sake of glorifying your name and loving others. Amen.
We invite you to join us and the Women’s Bible Society to a Lenten Bible Listening Event on Thursday morning, April 10th.
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 Ecclesiastes 3:11 |  Ezekiel 48:35 |  Rodney Stark. Epidemics, Networks and the Rise of Christianity. January 2011.