Not Happy in Heaven!
Francis Bourdillon, 1873
Not happy in Heaven? You are surprised at reading these words. Not happy in Heaven? Why, is not Heaven a place in which all who get there will be happy? Yes, but there are thousands and thousands who never will get there. They are not in the way to Heaven; and, unless they become quite changed, they will never get to it. And further—even if they did, if they could, they would not be happy there.
Still you are surprised. You have never perhaps thought much about Heaven—what sort of a place it is and what people do there and what makes it happy. But you have never had any doubt that it is happy. You have always heard it talked of as the happy place; you have heard people of all sorts say that they wished to go there when they died, and hoped they would go there. So of course you have always thought it must be a happy place.
If I asked you where you hoped to go when you died, you would answer, "To Heaven."
But are you sure that you would be happy there? Are you certain that it would be a happy place to you? Let us look into this matter more closely.
There is no sin in Heaven.
Do you love sin? Is there some one sin to which you are more given than to others, one which you will not leave off—a "bosom sin"? Have you such a sin? You could not keep that sin in Heaven. You must give it up there, for there is no such thing as sin in Heaven. But you love it. Nothing can make you part from it here on earth. Then how could you be happy without it there in Heaven?
Grant for a moment that you could get to Heaven just as you are: unchanged, unconverted, with all your love for sin still in your heart—how could you be happy there without your sins? You would not be fit for such a place. You would not enjoy it. All your tastes and pleasures would be different from those of Heaven. Heaven would be no Heaven to you!
But what do people do in Heaven? Read here: "Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple" (Revelation 7:15). Would that make you happy? Judge by what makes you happy now. Do you love the house of God? Are you glad when the Lord's Day comes, and you can go there again? Do you take delight in drawing near to the throne of grace? Do worship and prayer give you comfort and make you happy? Prayer of all kinds—public prayer, family prayer, private prayer? If not, you would not be happy in Heaven.
What! You who neglect prayer in your family, and seldom bend the knee in private, and think it a burden to go to one service on Sunday, and perhaps do not even as much as that—can you suppose that you would be happy in Heaven, where they "serve Him day and night in His temple?"
Why would you love it there, any more than you do here? Why would not the worship of God in Heaven be as great a weariness to you as His worship on earth is? And then consider—here it comes only now and then; there it will be every day, day and night, always, forever. Would you be happy there?
And who live in Heaven? Not as on earth, people of all sorts, good and bad, serious and careless, holy and unholy—but only the holy. There will be none but holy people there. Do you love such people now? Are you glad to meet them? Do you take pleasure in their company and conversation? Perhaps not. Perhaps you rather dislike them, than otherwise. It may be that you sneer at them; and that (though you have no reason whatever to doubt their sincerity) you are in the habit of calling them hypocrites, saints, and so forth.
If so, how could Heaven be a happy place for you? Heaven is the home of such people—their city, their country, the place to which they are going, and for which they are longing, the place where they will be forever—they, and none but they. If you do not love them now—would you love them then? If you do not like their company below—would you like it any better above? Only consider, you who mock them and jeer at them now—how would you feel toward them then, and how would you like to find yourself alone with them forever, with none of your favorite companions near, none near you but those very people whom you have disliked all your life long? Would you be happy with them?
But now comes a yet more solemn question. Who reigns in Heaven? God. The chief happiness of Heaven will be to be with God, to see Him face to face, to be always in His presence, and to be always doing His will. When the Lord Jesus wished to comfort His disciples, He said, "I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also" (John 14:2-3). It was the best comfort they could have—to know that they would see Him again and be with Him forever, because they loved Him.
Do you love Him? If not, you would not be happy in Heaven. For, even here below, to be always with a person whom we do not love—to live with him, to see him all day and every day, to be constantly under his eye and subject to his power—this would be anything but happiness!
How then could you be happy in Heaven, if you do not love God? You would not be happy there—you could not be. The very thing that would fill every other soul with unspeakable joy, would make you miserable. The presence of God that would give them such gladness as they never knew on earth—would only make you tremble. The eye which they would love to have resting on them—would fill you with fear. Like the guilty pair in the garden, you would wish to hide yourself from the presence of the Lord God (Genesis 3:8). Oh, reader, if you have no love to God on earth—then you would have none in Heaven; and then Heaven would be no place of happiness to you.
You cannot deny this. And yet you have a kind of feeling that, somehow or other, death and the resurrection will make such a change in you that you would then be happy in Heaven—though you could not be happy there as you now are. Have you not some feeling of this sort?
No doubt, death and the resurrection will make a change—but not such a change as you suppose. They who now love God—will love Him better then. They who hate sin now—will then be set free from it; never will it vex or grieve them again. Those who now wish and strive to serve God, will serve Him perfectly in Heaven. And those who delight in public worship and in private prayer and yet are often troubled with wandering thoughts and cold hearts, will have no such troubles in the worship of Heaven. They will be so changed that they will be able to "serve Him day and night in His temple" without weariness! They will desire no rest and no relief. They could not serve Him so now.
There will be a change therefore. But what sort of a change? Only a change from a little—to a great deal of the same thing; from wishing—to being able; from striving—to doing. The person in Heaven will be of the same mind as he was upon earth; he will care for the same things and take pleasure in the same employments. Only he will be perfect there, and all that he will do and say and think will be good, whereas now he only wishes and strives that it may be so.
But death will not make such a change as to turn people from unholy, into holy people; from people who never cared for God at all, into people who love Him perfectly; from people who loved sin and scoffed at the good and seldom or never prayed, into people who delight in being with God and saints and angels forever. Death will make no such change as this! Our Lord said, "Where your treasure is—there will your heart be also" (Matthew 6:21). So if a man's treasure is in Heaven—then his heart will be in Heaven already. If Heaven be the home to which he is going and for which he is longing—then there will be much that is heavenly in his heart and life even now.
No! Do not deceive yourself with any such thought! Death will make a great change—but it will make no such change as you imagine. If Heaven would not be a happy place to you, supposing you to be taken there now, in a moment, just as you are—then you would not be happy there, if at any time you were to die in your present state and find yourself there. No impenitent sinner, no unconverted person—would be happy in Heaven.
You must seek a change now, a thorough change, a new heart. Think no more of being changed somehow at death or after death, so as to be made fit for Heaven—but ask God to change you now. Surely you must see that you need a great change. The very fact that Heaven itself would be no place of happiness to you as you are—must show you how greatly you need to be changed. If you were to be save by Christ and your sins should be forgiven, and you should learn to hate sin and to love God and to delight in prayer and praise—then you would begin to be happy even here; and then you would feel and know that Heaven would be a happy place to you indeed.
Oh, be persuaded to seek salvation at once. What you need above all things, is the work of the Spirit in your heart to turn you, change you, convert you, sanctify you. Man cannot do this work; it is the work of God alone. Kneel down without delay and ask God to change your heart. You cannot be in the way to Heaven—if you would not be happy there. Settle that well in your mind. And if not in the way to Heaven—then what way are you in? There are only two ways, and two ends. And each way leads to its own end. Oh that you may be led to see these things, as you will see them some day, and that a day not far off!
One word more: Jesus said, "I go to prepare a place for you … that where I am, there you may be also" (John 14:2-3). You do not really love that place now, though you say you hope to go there. But if you did but love Jesus—then you would love the place where He is, and long to be with Him there.
Jesus came and died on the cross for sinners! Will you not listen to Him? Will you not come to Him? He alone can make you happy, here or hereafter. If you go on refusing His offers, you cannot be saved; you will walk on still in the wrong way, and you will reach at last the miserable end. But if you listen to His voice, come to Him, and seek Him as your Savior—then He will be indeed a Savior to you! He will bless you all your life long with the blessings of His grace. He will give you even here, a peace and happiness which the world could never give—and He will take you at last to that place which He has gone before to prepare—a place which you will find happy indeed—happy beyond what eye has seen, or ear heard, or heart conceived!