There are many things about heaven we look forward to, like meeting up with friends and family, the glorious surroundings, seeing the Lord face-to-face, being eternally happy, no more tears and so on. What I’m looking forward to especially is the absolute, unending, unequivocal righteousness that will permeate the new heaven and earth, or put another way, the eternal absence and impossibility of sin.
One intriguing reference about this comes from Peter when he says righteousness is ‘at home’ in heaven (1 Peter 3:14). When I think of something ‘being at home’ it belongs there, it is expected to be there, it is welcomed and it takes up residence there. This is certainly not the case for righteousness during this present age of kosmos where it is at the very least treated as a dangerous anomaly to ‘normal’ sinful living.
The context of this verse shows Peter’s concern that his readers not be intimidated nor be dejected by the ridicule coming from “scoffers” who see the gospel, the return of the Lord, and righteous living as foolish.
But, it was more than just ridicule that effected these believers; they also suffered because of their faith and witness (see 1Peter 1) while, at the same time, besieged by false teachers who had “forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness…” (2 Peter 2:15 italics mine)
Peter turns their attention away from the ungodliness and suffering surrounding them to the heavenly reality that is coming wherein righteousness is the norm, the only norm. They are to “look forward”, not around, to that future where their “home” really is. It is important to note, however, that this only works by first fully embracing God’s promise that finds expression first in Isaiah 65:17 and 66:22 and finally in Rev. 21:1.
This appeal to God’s promise (vv 9,13) is important because it is the guaranty for the yet-to-come reality of the new heavens and earth in which righteousness finds its home. They are therefore encouraged, even compelled, to live “in holy conduct and holiness” (2 Peter 3:11). In fact, other passages in the New Testament declare we are citizens of heaven now and just passing through this present age, a pilgrimage so to speak. We are not to stop the journey and make this world our home, but continue on until we arrive where we permanently belong.
On this point, it seems to me that the avid pursuit of righteous living (or holy, if you prefer) is treated more as an option in many congregations when it should be treated as necessary. Consequently, there is an ungodly Christian hybrid that names of the Name of Jesus but whose life is indistinguishable from those living in the world. This has always been a problem in the church since the very beginning; false teachers lurk in the shadows seeking to dissuade believers from taking up their crosses and truly following the Lord. In fact, if we are not increasingly feeling at home with righteousness now in the middle of nearly unrestrained evil, it probably means we are entangled with the world way more than we might admit.
The point here is that this present life and the pursuit of righteousness is preparation for that day when all is made ‘new’ and righteousness is forever “at home”. Jesus tell us “blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” and the Psalmist helps us understand more of what this blessing means when he writes:
Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.
4 Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
6 For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.
© W.G. Ryzek 2013