“You can’t take it with you!”–or can you?
That famous phrase takes for granted that this life is all there is. A one-shot deal. So, when you die, you leave everything behind. But from a Christian standpoint, to what extent is that true?
For one thing, we don’t know, on this side of the grave, how much continuity there is between this life and the afterlife. Will God carry over the best parts of this life, and this world, into the next world? Take whatever was best here-below and make it better in the hereafter? (In addition to whatever is distinctive to heaven itself.)
Beyond that, there are some things a Christian can take with him. If you have children who die in the faith, that’s something you can take with you–sooner or later.
Some answered prayers also have repercussions for the afterlife. Suppose you pray for a lost friend. If God answers your prayer and saves him (or her), then that’s something you can take with you.
In this respect, our prayer-life is a bridge between this life and the afterlife. Even more than just a bridge. For there’s a sense in which our prayer-life is transitional to the afterlife insofar as answered prayers play a creative role in what the afterlife will be like.
We don’t merely hope for heaven. Rather, there’s a sense in which prayer can actively shape the contours of the afterlife.
Of course, prayer has no autonomous power. God planned our prayers, and planned his answers.
Still, answered prayers are a factor, not only in history of our fallen world, but answered prayers in this life can also have eternal consequences, and thereby affect the world to come.
So, in some degree, heaven is what we pray for–within the will of God, if he answers our prayers. An investment in the future (as it were). Putting our treasure in heaven.