Growing up, my mom’s parents, Oma and Opa Enns lived in Altona a 50-minute drive from our family farm. We didn’t get to see them as often as Grandma and Grandpa Dick and so it was special when we did go visit. I distinctly remember Oma and Opa waving goodbye from their front porch and feeling a lump in my throat wondering if they would die before I was able to see them again.
Eternity was scary to me.
Then there was Grandma Dick. She was occasionally a mixed bag of looking forward to heaven and worrying about being bored. I didn’t like it when she talked about being OK with dying. I asked my Grandpa Dick once before he passed away what it was like to know that he may soon die. He simply replied, “Death is just the last enemy, Thom. That’s all.”
I have had great examples of those who have lived and died well and I no longer fear eternity. In fact, I can honestly say I am anticipating it, but I’m sure my kids don’t like it when I say that!
Eternity is one of those conversations where parents do their best and then leave the rest to up to God. One of the reasons that it is so hard to talk to our kids about heaven is that we don’t understand it well ourselves. Not to mention that the thought of heaven is somewhat of an abstract concept and abstract thinking takes time to develop in kids. However, the topic of eternity is critical to have with your kids for at least two reasons. First, they may be thinking about it and not asking you. Second, we want them to anticipate eternity with King Jesus!
Here are some things I think are important as we prepare our kids for the inevitable last breath of Earth’s air.
One: Speak with confidence and joy
One thing I know is that if we are nervous or scared about something, our kids will be as well. If the idea of eternity makes you nervous, spend time with Jesus studying what the Bible says about our time after death. Ask Him to minister to your fear; I believe He will.
If you can become familiar with promises in scripture that God has for His children, then you will be in a good position to teach your kids about heaven. You don’t have to hide your feelings of course, but we need to find a way to express our doubts and fears in a healthy way.
Two: Encourage them to go to Jesus
Depending on the age of your kids, you can send them to Jesus themselves. This is obviously very powerful. It would be great for them to find answers about heaven, but the truth is, if they learn to have an authentic relationship with Christ, the thought of spending eternity with Him will become more attractive all the time.
Three: Make heaven real
What I mean here is that I think that one of the reasons humans fear heaven so much is that it is so very different from our current, material and natural existence. What is unknown is scary! But just as important as belaying fears is the fact that there is a lot of fluffy silly beliefs out there about heaven.
Then the Bible talks about heaven, it doesn’t talk about a strange ethereal world where we float around as ghosts. Nor does it suggest that we become angels. Nor does it say that heaven is a cloud-world. In fact, according to the Bible, heaven – as in “the world up there” – isn’t the final destination. The final destination is earth! It’s a new earth where heaven and earth intersect again, as they did in Eden.
The new earth is going to be real. That is, the new earth is going to be a physical place. We are going to walk on real dirt and grass. We will have animals to play with and exciting work to do. We will probably still have computers and even cell phones. It will be a place where time passes, where we sleep and eat, and play!
Incidentally, I kind of think that if we hit our heads with a hammer on the new earth, it will hurt. I think we’ll have healing available, but I think hammers will still be hard and our nerves still functional.
In any case, if you can find things to laugh about like that, I think you’ll find that heaven loses some of its fearfulness.
Four: Don’t worry too much about poor theology
As much as we want kids to have an accurate idea of heaven and the new earth, don’t worry too much if they believe some weird things as well. For example, will their pet be in heaven? My response is usually, if your pet was important then God will make sure he is there. What harm does that belief do? None.
When my son was about seven his small-group leader came to me and told me that he had gotten into a discussion with a friend that ended in tears. They had been discussing what heaven would be like and my boy told his friend that we would work all day and be naked, no less. His friend was brokenhearted because he had been anticipating go-carting with Jesus.
What is the harm in believing we’ll go go-caring with Jesus, or, for that matter, that we will have chores to do… naked?
I hope you’ll spend some time talking to your kids about Heaven in the next few weeks. Ask your kids what they believe. If they are way off, take them to the Bible and show them what it says instead of declaring their ideas silly or wrong. With a gentle, prayerful approach I believe our children will grow to anticipate their future life with our King. If you need somewhere to start, I’ve included a list of Scriptures that talk about heaven below. Enjoy!
- Isaiah 25:8-12
- Matthew 5:17-20
- Matthew 19:17-19
- Luke 13:29-33
- John 14:2-4
- Colossians 3:1-7
- Revelation 7:13-17
- Revelation 21:4-8
- Revelation 22:3-7
- Revelation 22:5-9
- Ezekiel 28:24-26
- Matthew 22:29-33
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