Christopher Love (1618-1651): The Glories of Heaven
December 22, 2016
In this second post (see #1 here) on the heavenly man, I want to open up Christopher Love’s meditations on heaven from Heaven’s Glory, Hell’s Terror (1653). The Puritans focused much on the glories of heaven, and that in a Christ-centered manner, which encouraged them greatly during the challenges they faced during much of the seventeenth century. With hearts raised up to heaven, they possessed a firm hope of experiencing full communion with the Lord.
Heaven’s Glory, Hell’s Terror contained 10 sermons by Love on heaven glory with Colossians 3:4 as the key text: “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.” Love challenges Christians to seek the “things above” in heaven, as those dead to the world. The crucified and risen Savior alone is the author of such a life, one we must pursue as we leave behind the trivial pursuits of this life. Christ is not just the author but also the finisher of it. His appearance in glory at the Second Coming will be glorious like “the sparkling of a diamond before the Sun.” Indeed, he will come with authority, majesty, and equity surpassing “all the glory of the world” and bringing salvation and judgment in their fullness. At that time, Christ will fully glorify his resurrected (bodies united to souls forever) saints granting to them the “most blessed, and unchangeable estate which God of his free grace through Jesus Christ, hath provided for his elect in heaven.” In such a state, saints will experience the total perfection of all graces and total freedom from sin.
Love tells us that heaven, the place where believers experience this glory, is a kingdom of God beyond any in this world. This paradise becomes an eternal and glorious habitation and a place of joy. We learn that Love does not accept the idea of a new heavens and new earth, but instead argues for a three-tiered heaven (a standard Puritan position and, in Love, likely influenced by Robert Bolton) with saints and angels occupying the third and highest level with Christ. While we may disagree with Love’s position, we do well to hear his challenge that the glory of heaven demands leaving off: “looking after your pompous and glorious houses, that shall one day not have one stone left upon another, and that shall one day be laid level upon the ground; do not for your earthly houses here, lose that eternal house which lasts forever in the Heavens.”
Love also considers what happens to the souls of believers when they die before they experience the resurrection of their bodies at the Second Coming. Rejecting the idea of a mortal (capable of dying) soul and purgatory, Love maintains that the soul at death continues to live and goes directly to the Lord in heaven. Meanwhile, our bodies stay in the grave until the day of resurrection.
Love then discusses the final state of our dead bodies, which will arise and be glorified. He refutes those who deny a bodily resurrection by calling attention not only to standard texts affirming such but also to the capabilities of an omnipotent and triune God. For him, the argument for such bodily resurrection may be “above reason,” but it is definitely not “against” it.
Love argues that those attaining this eternal glory will show the following marks. These saints will: (1) be new creations in a state of grace, (2) be made like Christ in holiness, (3) seek to glorify Christ in this life with a view to eternal glory and worship, (4) have consciences powerfully convicted and enlivened by the ministry of the Word, (5) will long for Christ’s coming in glory, (6) experience a burning love for Christ now in this world, (7) manifest the power to put sin to death, (8) do well in spite of the sufferings endured in this world, (9) experience a progressing sanctification, and (10) seek to live blamelessly on the way to glory. May the Lord wonderfully and graciously work these in us!
Love encourages us to consider that such a hope of glory comforts those who suffer in this world. Furthermore, some saints live in “a mean and obscure condition” and suffer greatly for Jesus Christ now in this life. For those who know the fellowship of Christ’s suffering, they will indeed experience the power of his resurrection. This gives courage and hope in a world with constant troubles physically, financially, emotionally, relationally and spiritually. Let us then meditate upon, long for, and journey towards the matchless glories of heaven in Christ.