Heaven Is Not The Goal – Here’s Why

heavin is not the goal

I recently attended the last two days of the SSD Wide Sabbath School Congress 2024 at Mountain View College. It was an enlightening experience filled with deep discussions and spiritual insights. 

One afternoon, I was talking with two of my pastor friends about our spiritual goals when I made a statement that resonated deeply with one of them but puzzled the other. I said, “Heaven is not the goal—Jesus is.”

The Confused Young Pastor

This young Pastor was a good friend of mine. We both grew up in the same church during elementary school. This was also the first time we reconnected because I no longer lived in the same city.

Going back to the story.

The youngest Pastor, who had just started his ministry, was visibly confused. He asked, “What do you mean by that?” My friend, who shared my sentiments, decided to explain through his experiences.

A Story from Luzon – in response to the confused Pastor

Remember, I was speaking to two pastor friends. The older one is now a District Pastor but spent his early years in Luzon serving as a church pastor in local churches.

He was also an active choir member in college, which led us to get to know each other, and we have become friends since then.

My friend recounted serving in Luzon at the North Philippine Union Conference. 

He would have church members approach him enthusiastically and say, “Pastor, we want to be in heaven!” My friend replied, “Don’t aim for heaven.” The member, understandably puzzled, asked, “What do you mean, Pastor?” 

My friend responded, “Because Jesus is the goal.” The member then nodded and said, “Ah, yes!” However, my friend and I both wondered if the member truly understood the depth of this statement.

It’s also interesting to note that more than half of all adults (53%) believe that being generally good or doing enough good things can earn a place in heaven, according to Barna’s research.

Teaching Through Experience

I then shared my teaching experiences with my choir and orchestra members. As a businessman and their mentor, I often prepare them for competitions. I tell them, “Winning the competition is not the goal.” 

Initially, this statement always elicits confused looks. So, I explain further, “You don’t want to be goal-oriented; you want to be systems-oriented.”

Systems-Oriented vs. Goal-Oriented: Insights from “Atomic Habits”

Drawing from James Clear’s book “Atomic Habits,” I elaborated on the difference between being systems-oriented and goal-oriented. If your only aim is to win a competition, what happens once you’ve won? You’re left without direction, feeling empty. It’s the same if your goal is merely reaching a destination like heaven or a beach.

Once you get there, what’s next?

Instead of being goal-oriented, we need to focus on the systems we put in place. Being systems-oriented means concentrating on the process and committing to consistency. You should perfect your rehearsals and develop good habits to win a competition. This focus on the process increases your chances of winning.

James Clear explains that goals are about the results you want, while systems are about the processes that lead to those results. For instance, if you’re a writer, your goal might be to write a book. Your system is the writing schedule you follow each week. Goals can provide direction, but systems are what lead to progress.

Problems with Goals

  • Momentary Change: Achieving a goal often results in a temporary change. Once the goal is reached, the motivation can fade, leading to a potential relapse into old habits.
  • Happiness Restriction: Goals can restrict happiness by creating a binary state of success or failure. You’re happy when you achieve the goal but disappointed when you don’t.
  • Long-term Progress: Goals can conflict with long-term progress. They can create a “yo-yo” effect, where people work hard to achieve a goal and then lose motivation.

Benefits of Systems

  • Continuous Improvement: Systems focus on continuous improvement and improving every day. This approach leads to sustainable progress and long-term success.
  • Process-Oriented: Systems that focus on the process rather than the outcome help maintain motivation and consistency, which is crucial for building lasting habits.
  • Flexibility and Adaptability: Systems allow for flexibility and adaptability. They can be adjusted and refined over time to improve efficiency and effectiveness.

Identity-Based Habits

Clear emphasizes the importance of identity-based habits, which focus on becoming the person who can achieve the desired outcomes. This approach helps create lasting changes because it aligns with one’s self-image and beliefs. By adopting identity-based habits, you work towards your goals and become a person who naturally achieves those goals.

Applying the Concept to Spiritual Life

The same principle applies to reaching heaven. You need to perfect your system here on earth: praying, reading the Bible, practicing what you preach, learning the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). All these habits prepare you for heaven. 

Ultimately, you want to be like Jesus. If your system prepares you to be like Jesus, heaven isn’t just a destination. Heaven is wherever Jesus is. If you have Jesus in you, it can be a place on earth, even amid a storm.

Shifting the Focus

Of course, I’m not against the idea of getting to heaven. I want to be there, too. But that shouldn’t be our primary focus. Our eyes should be on Jesus, who dwells there.

Shifting our perspective from a destination to a relationship with Him can help us find true fulfillment and purpose.

When we think about heaven, we should ask ourselves a piercing question: “What will you do once you get there?” Are you a tourist who wants to explore the vastness of the universe? While it’s lovely to imagine the beauty and grandeur of heaven, I don’t think that’s why we should focus on it. 

Do you have a list of things you want to do in heaven? While it’s natural to be curious about what heaven holds, making a checklist of heavenly experiences should not be our ultimate goal.

Instead, we should focus on building a meaningful relationship with Jesus. Imagine reaching heaven without having cultivated that relationship. You might find yourself in a place of unimaginable beauty. 

Still, without the central connection to Jesus, it might feel hollow and incomplete. Heaven is more than just a destination; it’s a state of being with Jesus, wherever He is.

Our journey on earth should be about becoming more like Jesus every day. When we focus on Jesus, we start embodying His teachings and living in a way that prepares us for heaven. This transformation doesn’t happen overnight; it’s a continuous process of prayer, reading the Bible, practicing our faith, and living out the fruits of the Spirit.

In the end, it’s not about ticking off experiences on a heavenly bucket list or exploring every corner of the universe. It’sabout being in Jesus’s presence, growing in our relationship with Him, and embodying His love and teachings. 

By focusing on Jesus, we prepare ourselves not just for a destination but for an eternal relationship with our Savior. Heaven becomes a natural extension of our life in His presence, both here and beyond.

Biblical References to Support the Perspective

  1. Matthew 6:33 – “But seek first his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”This verse emphasizes the importance of seeking Jesus and His righteousness.
  2. John 15:4 – “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” This underscores the need for a continuous relationship with Jesus.
  3. Philippians 3:8 – “What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.” Paul speaks of the surpassing value of knowing Christ, far above any other achievement.
  4. Colossians 3:2 – “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” This verse calls us to focus on heavenly things, specifically our relationship with Jesus, rather than just the destination.


While it’s natural to desire heaven, our ultimate goal should be to live like Jesus. Heaven will follow naturally by focusing on building systems in our lives that draw us closer to Him every day. This shift in perspective from a destination to a continuous, living relationship with Jesus is where actual spiritual growth and fulfillment lie. So, let’s focus on the process, the daily habits, and the systems that bring us closer to Jesus, making every day a step toward heaven.

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