Heaven: Perhaps it is inevitable to believe in heaven. C.S. Lewis said, “Heaven is the remote music that we were born remembering” . Yet is it dangerous to believe in heaven? Does it make us bad citizens of earth? John Lennon thought so: “Imagine there’s no heaven … Imagine all the people living for today” . In other words, he argued, until we realize that this is our only reality, we will not work to make it better.
City: Ezekiel was exiled to Babylon in 597 BC. Speaking to both exiles and those who stayed in Judah, he predicted judgment and the fall of Jerusalem. After Jerusalem fell in 586 BC, 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” .
Response: Believing in heaven makes us better citizens of earth. In the years after the resurrection of Jesus, the gospel spread precisely because his followers believed in heaven. Two plagues swept through the Roman Empire – the Antonine Plague (165-180 AD) and the Plague of Cyprian (251-270 AD). 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 rational response of the pagans. To stay was the rational response of the Christians.
Prayer: Lord, We confess we often keep people with bed bugs – much less the plague! – at a distance. 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. 
 C.S. Lewis. See also Ecclesiastes 3:11 (“[The Lord] has set eternity in the hearts of men.” NIV1984). |  John Lennon. Imagine. |  Ezekiel 48:35 ESV |  (If you enjoy history, I highly recommend this short article.) Rodney Stark. Epidemics, Networks and the Rise of Christianity. January 2011. In this article, Stark quotes Cyprian’s beautiful statement: “… the just are dying with the unjust … Although this mortality has contributed nothing else, it has especially accomplished this for Christians and servants of God, that we have begun gladly to seek martyrdom while we are learning not to fear death. These are trying exercises for us, not deaths; they give to the mind the glory of fortitude; by contempt of death they prepare for the crown … our brethren who have been freed from the world by the summons of the Lord should not be mourned, since we know that they are not lost but sent before; that in departing they lead the way; that as travellers, as voyagers are wont to be, they should be longed for, not lamented … and that no occasion should be given to pagans to censure us deservedly and justly, on the ground that we grieve for those who we say are living with God.” |  See 1 Corinthians 15:23. |  For additional reflection on heaven and how belief in heaven makes us better citizens of earth, see Tim Keller. “Heaven.” 8 June 1997. Sermon on Revelation 21:21-22:5.