The Christian’s Hope for Eternity (2)
November 28, 2018
In the last article we looked at the resurrection of our bodies, which is one aspect of the Christian’s hope for eternity. When Jesus returns, he will raise our bodies from the dust and transform them to be like his glorious body (Phil. 3:21). We will live forever with an immortal, incorruptible, glorious and beautiful body. But what will life in eternity be like? What kind of life do we have to look forward to after Jesus raises us from the dead? That is what we want to consider in this article.
We cannot give a detailed explanation of what our life will be like in the future because Scripture doesn’t. Hence, we will only fully understand it once we get there. Thomas Manton rightly said, “What [our] blessedness shall be then, we cannot now know to the full. We shall understand it best when the great voice calls us to come up and see.” Nevertheless, God has revealed to us some things about our future life to encourage us and to feed our hope. So then, what can we say about our future life?
Well, for starters, we can stay that our life be full of joy, peace and happiness. Manton said that we will be “completely blest at the resurrection.” Jesus said that he came so that we might have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10). He came so that we might have his peace and that his joy may be in us and that our joy may be full (John 14:27; 15:11).
According to Scripture, life is more than mere existence, peace more than the absence of conflict, and joy more than a feeling. Life, peace, and joy are akin to salvation in its broadest and fullest sense. In eternity, we will have complete or perfect life, joy and peace, in part because we will have them forever. Thomas Brooks cited Gregory of Nazianzen who said that “there is nothing excellent that is not perpetual,” and the philosophers who said that a man is never happy that might afterwards become miserable. Brooks could have also cited the Rabbis who taught that you can’t have perfect joy in this life because it is riddled with worries and ends in death. All three citations capture an important truth. Perfect joy or peace or life must not only be misery free and contain the good, it must also be eternal. And that is the hope we have in Christ. Manton wrote: “Our blessedness is full for parts, full for the degrees and manner of enjoyment; and all this continues for ever, without fear of losing it. Our crown of glory is a garland that will never wither; it is an eternal state of actual delights; we are blessed in our bodies, blessed in our souls, blessed in our company.”
Practically speaking, this means that we will never again have any physical problems, or mental problems, or spiritual problems, or relationship problems, or political problems, or indeed any other kind of problem. Eternal life involves the removal of all evil for God will wipe away every tear and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore (Rev. 21:4).
This also means that we will perfectly love God with all of our heart. We will never again sin against our God. We will walk with him and experience his favor and blessing. True life is to know God and in God’s presence there is fullness of joy, and at his right hand are pleasures forevermore (Ps. 16).
Still further, this means that we will perfectly love our neighbor as Jesus has loved us. We will never again hurt another person, and we will always be good to everyone. And everyone else will do the same. This too is an important part of the hope we have for eternity. As Manton noted, we are social creatures and therefore complete happiness requires that we be blessed not only in our persons but also in our “company and relations.” Thomas Case described our communion with the saints thus:
“Oh what will their communion and fellowship…be…when they shall be totally divested of all their sinful corruptions and natural infirmities; when there shall be such a perfect harmony amongst the saints, as if there were but one soul to act that whole assembly of the first born? When there will be nothing in them to converse with but pure grace; grace without mixture, grace and nothing else but grace? Yea, not pure grace only, but perfect grace; when every grace shall be in its perfect state, and have its perfect works. Now the saints are like an instrument out of tune, jarring and disharmonious; when one is alive, the other is dead; when this is hot, the other is cold; when one is ready to give, the other is not fit to receive the communications of grace. But oh, when all the instruments of glory are alike strung, and equally tuned, what sweet rapturous harmony, what heavenly music will they make.”
At this point, we might wonder if our joy in heaven will be spoiled in part by the fact that some of our friends and family members are not there with us. Case argued that it won’t for two reasons. First, all imperfect or defective affections will be “totally abolished” for they are “inconsistent with the glorified estate.” Second, our will in glory will be perfectly aligned with God’s will so that we will be pleased with whatever God does or has done. Case wrote: “The saints in glory would have nothing otherwise than God would have it; so that now, to the full and perpetual silencing of this objection, I answer, that the glory of God shall so perfectly swallow up all private personal considerations, that, I am confident, it is no breach of charity to say, that the believing husband shall fully admit the justice of the damnation of the unbelieving wife, the holy parent in the damnation of the stubborn and ungodly child, &c. God’s will is the law, and his glory the triumph, of the heavenly inhabitants.”
Another thing that we can say about our life in eternity is that it will be on the renewed earth. Jesus said that we will inherit the earth (Matt. 5:5). And Paul said that God promised Abraham and his offspring (which includes us who believe) that they would be heirs of the world (Rom. 4:13). Paul also said in Romans 8 that the creation itself is waiting to be redeemed from bondage to corruption. This suggests substantial continuity between this age and the age to come. We won’t be sitting around doing nothing, or floating on a cloud plucking a harp, or even sitting in a pew for one endless worship service. We will enjoy God and his creation that he has renewed for us to enjoy. We will engage in all sorts of human activities and industry. As J.I. Packer has said, we will “worship, work, think, and communicate, enjoying activity, beauty, people, and God. First and foremost, however, we shall see and love Jesus, our Savior, Master, and Friend.”
Finally, we can also say about our hope for eternity is that it will be beyond our wildest dreams. Paul declared, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison (2 Cor. 4:17; see also Rom. 8:18).”
We have now come to the end of our series on the Christian’s hope in the midst of death. We have looked at the hope we have at death, after death and for all eternity. The substance of these articles is nicely summarized in the Westminster Standards. I will conclude with quotations of the relevant passages:
WLC 86:“The communion in glory with Christ, which the members of the invisible church enjoy immediately after death, is, in that their souls are then made perfect in holiness, and received into the highest heavens, where they behold the face of God in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies, which even in death continue united to Christ, and rest in their graves as in their beds, till at the last day they be again united to their souls.”WLC 87:“The bodies of the just, by the Spirit of Christ, and by virtue of his resurrection as their head, shall be raised in power, spiritual, incorruptible, and made like to his glorious body.”WLC 90:“At the day of judgment, the righteous…shall be received into heaven, where they shall be fully and forever freed from all sin and misery; filled with inconceivable joys, made perfectly holy and happy both in body and soul, in the company of innumerable saints and holy angels, but especially in the immediate vision and fruition of God the Father, of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, to all eternity.”