What will heaven be like? This article is about our enjoyment of God, our heavenly reward, our victory, and the glory of God in all people. 

Source: The Banner of Truth, 1988. 3 pages.

The Happiness of Heaven

There is a sense in which the happiness of heaven is beyond our present knowledge.

Paul says, 'Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him'.1 Corinthians 2:9

This, however, cannot mean that the happiness of heaven is now in every way incomprehensible to us. On the contrary, Paul goes on to say at once: 'God hath revealed them to us by his Spirit' (v. 10). In any case, it is a fact that mankind in all ages has had some idea of heaven and some inkling of its nature as a place of bliss. What Paul draws attention to is that the happiness of heaven beggars all our present powers of thought or expression. The joys of heaven will be vastly greater than anything we have experienced here on earth. Whatever of ecstasy or delight we may have known in this life will be immeasurably surpassed by those of heaven.

The Enjoyment of God🔗

All happiness is the enjoyment of God in one way or another. Of course, people are not aware of this. They usually look no further than the momentary sense of pleasure which they feel. But the Christian knows that 'every good gift' is from God (James 1:17) and that therefore we should thank God for everything. Those who do not thank God for their pleasures will one day eternally lose them. Moreover we have no right to enjoy anything which God forbids in his Word. To do so is to set out on the path which leads, not to happiness, but to disaster. Hell is that place where all pleasure is gone forever because men are there banished from God's 'presence' (2 Thessalonians 1:9). And where God is not enjoyed, either directly or indirectly, nothing is enjoyed. Without God there is nothing to enjoy. The supreme excellence of the Christian's happiness in heaven will be that there at last he will enjoy God fully. On earth we at best only enjoy God in part and indirectly. We enjoy him in the 'means of grace', that is, in the Bible, sacraments and prayer, in the fellowship of his people and through books, sermons or meditation. Paul no doubt alludes to this indirectness in our present enjoyment of God by his repeated use of the term 'mirror' (2 Corinthians 3:18; 1 Corinthians 13:12). The word in the Authorised Version translated 'glass' means 'mirror'. By contrast we shall enjoy God in glory 'face to face' (1 Corinthians 13:12). There we shall need 'no temple' (Revelation 21:22) and no created light of any sort (Revelation 21:23; 22:5). We cannot now imagine what this immediate enjoyment of God will mean. It is to us a mystery. But it will constitute the essence of our happiness there.

Unlimited Joys🔗

The happiness of heaven will exceed that of earth also in that it will not fade. All our joys here are limited and fading but there they will be endless. This will be so from the altered nature of our state in glory. There will be no limit to our joy because God and Christ, who are the chief objects of delight, are persons of inexhaustible perfection and glory. To gaze upon their divine persons for a thousand ages will not exhaust our pleasure. There will be as much, and more, still to see and to ravish our hearts in God after a thousand ages as there was to start with. Here our pleasures fade as we ourselves age and decay. But where death does not exist, pleasure must go on uninterruptedly. Not only so, but our pleasures will ever widen and increase. Heaven is not a static state. What is perfect may still develop and grow. Adam, had he not fallen, would have developed to higher levels of perfection. Jesus' human nature was perfect yet he grew and developed (Luke 2:52). The angels are perfect yet they are growing in the enjoyment of God as the eternal purpose unfolds before them (Ephesians 3:10; 1 Peter 1:12).

The more the saints in heaven know of God, the more they will desire to know. Enlargement in their enjoyment of God will be matched by an enlargement in their capacity to know him. The pleasures of heaven are ever fresh. All the time the Christian is on earth God takes steps to limit his happiness and to put a brake on his pleasures. This is because we are now in a state of preparation and progressive sanctification. If we had too much pleasure here we should be content with our present lot. We should 'reign as kings' (1 Corinthians 4:8) without God and should make an idol of this life. Hence he wisely and kindly puts a thorn in the nest and a crook in the lot. He skillfully breaks our foolish schemes over and over again until we learn at last to seek our true happiness only and always in him. Here on earth, God empties us out from vessel to vessel.

Compensation and Rewards🔗

No aspect of a believer's happiness in glory will be left out. He must be both rewarded and compensated by Christ. Compensation will made to them for their earthly losses and crosses resulting from their faithfulness to God. The Lord Jesus Christ will not forget their sacrifices made here below. He will give to them a credit for every evil they suffered for his sake. 'Whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord' (Ephesians 6:8). We see this principle in operation in the case of Lazarus the beggar. 'Lazarus received evil things: but now he is comforted' (Luke 16:251. When Christ finally wipes all tears from off our faces he will give a full compensation to every one who suffered as a result of faithfulness to his Name. He will at that time have a full regard to every particular suffering which they underwent on earth out of the love they bore to him. There must therefore be a compensation made to each true child of the faith and it will be fittingly proportionate to their losses on earth.

In the same way there will be an exact amount of pain and torment measured out in the after-life to those who have lived for themselves. 'How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her' (Revelation 18:7). The wine of Christ's wrath will be mixed with just so much torment and punishment as each one of Christ's enemies in particular deserves. And so will the compensation of the saints also be. There will be a reward made to each saint for loving and faithful service to Christ while on earth. The Lord will repay every one 'according as his work shall be' (Revelation 22:12). This is a powerful motive why the believer should redeem the time, deny himself and labour zealously now for Christ. It is one incentive which has always spurred on the elect to work, preach, suffer and 'die daily'. This is not to say that the Christian has no other motive than the hope of reward and compensation. Love to the person of Christ himself is the highest of all motives. There are many good things done on earth by the Lord's people which they were ignorant of during their lifetime. This is most clearly taught in the passage found in Matthew 25:31-46. However, it is not wrong for a person to serve Christ in the hope of reward. On the contrary, he himself says, 'Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven' (Matthew 6:20).

Triumph and Victory🔗

The happiness which the Lord's people are to enter at last is one in which every element of joy will be present. No small aspect of it will be their sense of triumph. They will 'overcome by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony' (Revelation 12:11). They will be 'more than conquerors through him that loved' them (Romans 8:37). The end of the world will come as a turning of the tables on the powers of darkness. The values which have generally prevailed all through this world's history will be dramatically reversed in a moment of time at Christ's second coming.

Until that hour the general sentiment of mankind will have been: 'Up with pleasure; down with faith! Up with the world: down with God! Up with the scoffer: down with the preacher! Up with the flesh: down with the Spirit!' If men do not always put their thoughts into words so explicitly as this, it is not because these are not their true thoughts. Men have always loved 'darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil' (John 3:19). The patience and the faith of God's saints has in all ages been sorely exercised. They know God to be pure, holy and just; and yet they see him bafflingly silent in evil times. Scarcely one of the Lord's people has ever lived who did not marvel at the prosperity of the wicked. It is an enigma.

That is not the worst of it. The righteous are often reckoned by this world as the 'offscouring' of society. They are mocked, ignored, shunned, caricatured, bated and hated. In many ages they are physically persecuted. In all ages more or less, they are 'counted as sheep for the slaughter' (Psalm 44:22; Romans 8:36). That is a fact of history and experience. All this is to change when Christ returns. The values which Christless men now hold dear are to collapse at a stroke. This present world with its emporium of vice and its huge network of secularism will be made desolate 'in one hour' (Revelation 18:19). The unhappy devotees of this life's pleasures will then 'cast dust on their heads' with 'weeping and wailing'. The axle of the earth will come suddenly to a halt and the hinges of our universe will stiffen into rigidness at Christ's appearing. God will remember all earth's iniquities in that hour and the world's plagues will come upon her 'in one day' (Revelation 18:8). That is the moment ordained by God for the final triumph of good over evil. Till that day his patience and forbearance will often look to men like ignorance and indifference on his part. But the believer knows that 'the Lord is not slack concerning his promise' (2 Peter 3:9).

It is impossible to express what alteration of feeling and opinion there will be in that great day. Too late the world will by one means or another attempt to remedy their desperate situation. Some will seek refuge under the mountains (Revelation 6:16). Others will attempt to brazen it out with Christ by a pretence of love, saying, 'Lord, Lord' (Matthew 7:22). But every refuge will fail them. Christian will then rejoice (Revelation 18:20). The age-long sufferings of the Church of Christ will be vindicated now at last. Triumph and conquest are theirs. All their enemies will see their victory. Aware now that they have lived for a lie and striven only for the wind, Christless men and women will watch in horror as glory, honour and immortality are conferred on the Church.

In one glad hour the Church militant will become the Church triumphant. Faith is to be publicly vindicated. Till then believers must 'give place to wrath' (Romans 12:19).

God Glorified in all His People🔗

The pinnacle of our happiness in heaven will be that it is fully consistent with the glory of God. God will be glorified fully and perfectly in the eternal state. That is what he intended above all other aims when he created the world at first. All three persons of the Holy Trinity will be fully glorified. All the attributes of God will be glorified fully. All God's secret purposes for the temporal history of this created world will then be exhausted, the prophecies of Scripture will be fulfilled and all promises by God will be made good. The history of the world is like some grand symphony where themes are suspended and clashing discords are heard for a while. But the Day of Judgment will bring in the last mighty chord in which all clashing conflict is forever resolved and every disharmony is laid to rest.

So the eternal state of heaven for the Lord's people will be a state of peace, harmony and quietness after their earthly strife and suffering. In this God will be glorified and they will enter into the happiness associated with that glory. They will 'enter into the joy of their Lord' (Matthew 25:21). It is mutual joy for Christ and his people. They are glorified in him and He in them. The saints will want no joy but what is to the Lord's glory. This is what constitutes the quintessence of their happiness. It will be a happiness which exalts and magnifies God in every way. Hence God will then be 'all in all' (1 Corinthians 15:28).

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