Scripture tells us that we have an inheritance awaiting us in heaven, one that is worth far more than anything we could possibly receive in this world. This inheritance is “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading,” and it is being “kept in heaven” for us (1 Peter 1:4). That means that your name is written in God’s “will and testament.” And under your name are the various riches that await you: freedom from every sin and ounce of shame, a “place” in heaven prepared for you by Jesus himself (John 14:2), the full dignity of a son or daughter of God, and, best of all, the ability to see Jesus face-to-face and worship him.
How can you be sure that God wants to give you such a wonderful inheritance? Because he has already given you some of it! St. Paul says that the gift of the Holy Spirit is like “the first installment of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s possession” (Ephesians 1:14). Imagine: whatever love and peace and blessing you have already experienced from God is just a foretaste of all that awaits you.
St. Catherine of Siena once wrote, “All the way to heaven is heaven, because Jesus said, ‘I am the way.’” So as we journey toward our heavenly home, we are also experiencing it right now.
In this article, we want to look at some ways we can take hold of as much of our inheritance as possible right now. We want to see how we can begin to live as citizens of heaven even as we go about our everyday lives on earth.
“I Believe.” “I believe in God the Father.” We say these words every Sunday at Mass when we proclaim the Creed, and by and large, we mean what we say. But there are times when we can feel like the man who cries out to Jesus, “I do believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).
This can be especially true when it comes to our belief in the promise of heaven. The demands of day-to-day life can keep us so focused on our earthly home that we lose sight of our heavenly home. Or worse, the challenges and trials of life can weigh us down and make us think that perhaps God doesn’t have a good, perfect, and eternal plan for us. They make us think that we are just too weak or sinful to ever be worthy of heaven.
This is why it’s important for us to proclaim our faith every day: “I believe that Jesus’ death and resurrection have opened heaven to me. I trust that Jesus has fulfilled all of God’s promises—even his promise to take me to his side. I have confidence that if I try to stay close to Jesus, I will one day be united with him and all my loved ones in heaven.”
At the Last Supper, Jesus told his disciples that he was going to heaven “to prepare a place” for them and that he would “come back again” and gather them up, “so that where I am you also may be” (John 14:2, 3). This is a promise we can count on, no matter how we are feeling on any given day. So believe that Jesus is preparing a place for you right now. Trust that he wants to give you the gift of eternal life—even more than you want to receive it!
If you can hold on to your faith in heaven today, you will find it easier to live in peace on this earth. You’ll find more joy and hope and fulfillment as you live the life God has given you here. You’ll find more strength to overcome temptation and more patience with yourself—and with the people around you. You’ll be living a heavenly life here on earth!
Keep on Fighting! Knowing that we have an eternal inheritance can also motivate us to live in a way that pleases our heavenly Father today. Knowing that heaven is our true home can help us in our desire to “put to death” the parts of us that keep us bound to this world only: “immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5).
This fight against sin is a worthy battle because with every victory we win, we draw that much closer to heaven. Remember the story of Jesus’ forty days of temptation in the wilderness? St. Luke tells us that Jesus returned from that time of trial “in the power of the Spirit” (4:14). The same thing happens with us every time we stand firm against temptation. We receive more of the Holy Spirit. He fills us with his grace, and he strengthens us for the battles yet to come.
Isn’t it encouraging to know that you are not alone in this battle? Even the desire not to sin is a sign that the Holy Spirit is producing in you a longing for heaven, for that place where there will finally be no sin or shame.
And if you do fall into sin, you can still take comfort in knowing that God hasn’t revoked your inheritance. You may have clouded your experience of it, but you haven’t changed God’s mind about how much he loves you and how deeply he wants you to be with him. He is always ready to forgive, even seventy times seven, whenever you turn back to him. He is always ready to heal you when you come to him with your hurts. He is always ready to embrace you when you take just that first step back.
So don’t get discouraged; rather, be honest with the Lord and face your sins. Every evening, ask the Holy Spirit to help you see how you may have fallen short that day. Where could you have been more loving in your thoughts and in your words, in what you have done and what you have failed to do? Bring your sins to the Lord and ask him for forgiveness. Remember, God will never withhold his mercy from you.
Make it a point also to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation on a regular basis. Let the grace of this sacrament wash you clean. Let Jesus himself, in the person of the priest, assure you that he forgives you completely of all of your sins. This too is part of your heavenly inheritance—a clean conscience and freedom from every obstacle that separates you from God.
Don’t Give In to Fear. Throughout his missionary travels, St. Paul had “numerous brushes with death” (2 Corinthians 11:23). Here’s how he once described his adventures:
Five times at the hands of the Jews I received forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I passed a night and a day on the deep; on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my own race, dangers from Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea, dangers among false brothers. (11:24-26)
But even though Paul lived under the shadow of death, it didn’t scare him. Rather, he told the church in Philippi, “For to me life is Christ, and death is gain. . . . I long to depart this life and be with Christ, for that is far better. Yet that I remain in the flesh is more necessary for your benefit” (1:21, 23-24).
Paul could say this because he believed deeply in what Jesus had accomplished on the cross. He trusted in God’s promises, and that trust filled him with courage and joy.
God has promised you the same blessings. You are a citizen of heaven. That means you don’t have to fear death! Of course, everyone faces some uncertainty and anxiety about the end of their lives; it’s a natural human response. But when fear takes hold, you can turn to the Lord and pray, “Jesus, I long to be with you. I know that heaven is far better than this world. Still, I will remain right where I am for as long as you want. I will continue to love the people you have given me, pray for those who are struggling, and reach out to anyone I can help.”
A Vision of Heaven. Right now, close your eyes, and try to imagine what it will be like when you enter the kingdom of heaven. Imagine going from a world in which you have suffered and are loved imperfectly into a kingdom in which you are loved perfectly and where all pain has been banished. Imagine seeing God face-to-face and being filled with a joy that you have only tasted on earth. Finally, you are home!
Brothers and sisters, this is the inheritance that awaits you in heaven. This is also your inheritance right here and right now. God’s dwelling is here already, in the Church, in the beauty of creation, in your loved ones, and in your heart. Never forget who you are: you are a citizen of heaven. Never forget what Jesus has done for you: he has conquered death and opened the gates of heaven. And never forget that God longs to say these words to you even more than you long to hear them: “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43)!