I suppose nearly everyone holds out some kind of hope for some kind of heaven. The reality, though, is that few truly long for the heaven the Bible describes. Richard Sibbes considers this fact in an excerpt drawn from a new daily devotional collection titled Refreshment for the Soul, published recently by Banner of Truth. The devotional is based on 1 John 3:3: “And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”
It is impossible for a man, if he be not truly renewed, to desire heaven. He may wish for it under the notion of a kingdom, a pleasure, or the like. But as heaven containing a state of perfect holiness and freedom from sin, he cares not for it. A man that is out of relish with heavenly things, and can taste only his worldly sins, cannot relish heaven itself. His own heart tells him, I would rather have this world’s pleasure and honour than to have those of heaven. Swine love mud better than a garden. They are in their element in these things. Take a swinish, worldly person, he loves to wallow in this world. Tell him of heaven, he has no desire for it.
Yet, there are none of us, but we desire, at least we pretend that we desire, heaven; but most men conceive it only as a place free from trouble and annoyance. But except you have a holy, gracious heart, and desire heaven that you may be free from sin, and have communion with Christ and his saints, to have the image of God, the divine nature perfect in you; you are a hypocrite and you carry a presumptuous conception of these things. Your hope will delude you; it is a false hope. “Everyone that has this hope purifies himself” (I John 3:3). Everyone, he excludes none. Do you defile yourself, and live in a sinful way, and have you this hope? You have a hope, but it is not this hope; for everyone that has this hope purifies himself. Even the greatest man living, if he be a sinful man, is frightened by death, “the king of fears.” He thinks, “I may have some trouble in this world, but there is worse to come”; things that he is not able to conceive of.
Let us not therefore delude ourselves. There is nothing that will bring confidence but being a new creation in Christ. Then we may without presumption hope for the good things “that neither eye has seen, nor ear heard, neither has entered into the heart of man” (1 Cor. 2:9).