This sermon is number 7 in a series of 8
Glimpses Of Glory - Part 7
"What Will We Do In Heaven? - Part 2"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2007 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
Let us turn in our Bibles to a passage that we're not going to read initially, but we'll be looking at as one of our first verses - that's Revelation 22. We're looking tonight at 'What Will We Do in Heaven?', of course part two, our second study. As we're sort of systematically studying this subject, we're not taking a Bible passage and doing an exposition of it, but we're looking at various Scriptures - and I hope you understand why that has to be the case when we take a subject like heaven that spans the whole of the scriptures.
I couldn't help thinking today, when I was in the study contemplating what to say tonight, how we started this series way back in January, and how now - just before, probably one week from concluding it, near the end of March - some of our dearest friends have entered heaven, and have experienced the joy that we are combing the scriptures to foresee. They are there now experiencing it all, and faith has given way to sight - isn't that a wonderful thought? Yet personally, for me anyway, more lovely is the thought that for all of us, even where we are tonight, heaven is only a sigh away. Now maybe that doesn't comfort you at all, but if your faith is rooted and grounded in Christ, and you do have an eternal perspective, and you do see heaven the way it is, the way you ought to see it, that should be the case for any of us here. Of course those of us who are saved, and those of us who have come by repentant faith to God through Christ in the gospel, that ought to be our present possession.
Now we've covered a lot of ground over these weeks, and I just want to spend a few moments - because it's been so long since we've been in this study - just reminding ourselves, and recapping over what we have learned. In our first week, which was really an introduction, we learnt why it is important to study heaven. Now I hope that over these weeks that has really come to bear upon you: the vital nature of a knowledge of what we are going to experience not only when we die as Christians, but when we enter into the eternal state of the new heaven and the new earth at some point in the future after our Lord comes. But we really narrowed it down as to why it is so important to study heaven to this one point overarching all, and that is that we need through the medium of the scriptures to imagine what heaven is like. Many of us have been impoverished concerning the anticipation of heaven because we have not learned to imagine, through the various types, descriptions, metaphors and literal descriptions that the Bible gives us, what heaven is like. We haven't pictured it, and so our anticipation has been low - and I hope that I've convinced you how important it is to glean the scriptures and to look very delicately at what the Scripture says regarding heaven, and that will engender within you an ability to imagine, an illumination in your mind and heart of what heaven might be like, and therefore you will be given an anticipation in your heart - and a desire, I hope, to seek after heaven, and eventually to be in heaven.
This is echoed in the writings of Richard Baxter. Richard Baxter was an English puritan, and he wrote what many regard to be the greatest treatise on heaven, entitled 'The Saints Everlasting Rest', which was published in 1649. When he wrote this book - or not really wrote it, but when he had the thoughts that are contained within it - he was in a very frail condition, indeed at 35 years of age he suffered a total collapse in his physical health. Many feared, including himself, that he was going to die. So, in wanting to prepare himself for death, for leaving this world and passing to the next, he began to meditate on heaven and its joys. He wrote all the little thoughts down on bits of paper for his own benefit, and after he recovered, unexpectedly, from his illness, he put them all together and it comprised this massive tome which I would encourage you, perhaps, to get - and it will take you a couple of years to read it if you read it properly! He suggests to his readers in that book that they follow his own example - what was that? Of meditating half an hour every day on heaven - now I know that's probably unrealistic for most of us here this evening, but he did say these words which are very instructive to us in thinking of this practice of his, he says: 'For want of this recourse', half an hour thinking of heaven, 'to heaven, thy soul is as a lamp not lighted'. In other words, not to think of our eternal destiny, not to have a heavenly perspective in our minds and hearts is to be like a lamp or a candle that is not lighted. There is something missing when we do not value the importance of thinking and anticipating heaven - that is why it is so important to study the subject.
Regarding information that God gives us in the Bible, which we spent much time looking at, Baxter says these words: 'It has pleased our Father to open His council, and to let us know the very intent of His heart, and to acquaint us with the eternal extent of His love; and all this is that our joy may be full, and that we might live as heirs of such a kingdom. Shall we now overlook all, as if He had revealed no such matter? Shall we live in earthly cares and sorrows, as if we knew of no such thing, and rejoice no more in these discoveries than if our Lord had never written it? O, that our hearts were as high as our hopes, and our hopes as high as these infallible promises'. I want to re-echo that to you tonight: Oh, that our hearts were as high as our hopes, and our hopes as high as these infallible promises! Oh, that as we put these words of God into our minds, that they would filter down into our hearts and lift us, as it were, into the heavenlies with such an ecstasy of our anticipation. That's what should happen, that is why it is important to study heaven.
Then we saw in the following week that heaven is a physical place. Speaking not specifically of where we go when we die in Christ now, but of this eternal state later on after the second coming of the Lord: the new heaven and the new earth - we saw that the Bible tells us that this is an actual location, it is found in time and space, and indeed we are given a key to understanding a little bit about it by the gift of creation that God has given us all around us in nature. Many of the figures and descriptions of that place are similar to what this world is like, of course in an un-fallen state.
Then thirdly we saw also from God's word, I believe, where the dead are at this very moment. Not thinking of the future eternal state of a new heaven and a new earth, but thinking of what theologians have called an 'intermediate heaven', what Paul called the 'third heaven', or 'paradise'. We saw that though some have questions regarding where the soul goes now when the believer dies, Scripture is clear in many regards concerning the consistency and the existence of the soul now in heaven. Paul said it is to be with Christ, Philippians 1:23; 2 Corinthians 5:8, it is to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. I think that answers any questions that one could have.
Then we looked after that at the fact that the dead, how are they now? What is their state of existence? We saw in that particular study that the dead are conscious. Being conscious, they remember the earth, and they know what is happening on the earth to a certain extent - not completely, but to a certain extent. We even looked at the issue of the fact that they may well have the semblance of form. We couldn't go as far as to say that they have a physical, literal body; but certainly those who have died in grace and gone to that place have appeared since in a physical manifestation that others could recognize. Then we concluded that particular night again with Paul's words in Philippians 1:23 - whatever we don't know about how the dead are now, we know this much: that to be with Christ, Paul says, is better by far! That should always be our full stop at the end of any questions we have concerning the subject.
Then in our fifth week we answered a very important question that many of you have asked at some time in your life, and many of you are asking poignantly this very evening: will we know one another, and will we relate to one another in heaven? We saw from the scriptures that it indicates that we will. It is God's intention with the human family that we should know reunion, and we know that we will be caught up together to be with the Lord in the air - that is one of many verses that indicate that we are made as relating creatures to one another, we are made as those who need each other - even the first man on the first day of creation in the perfect idyllic paradise, he was not complete without a helper fit for him. So reunion is in God's plan, and we see that recognition is necessary for reunion. We need to recognize one another in heaven, there are many verses to prove that fact - and I encourage you to get these recordings and scan them again. Also we saw that there will be not only recognition, but there will be relation, and though the marriage institution will cease to exist, the relationship that we have had, the relationship of love and intimacy will continue - and many family relationships and filial relationships will go on into eternity we believe.
Then we looked in our last study at what we will do in heaven. You'll remember - this was my own quote, and I don't know how accurate it is, but you've heard the saying 'Variety is the spice of life', we concluded that 'Variety is also the spice of eternal life'. We will not get bored in heaven, you will not get bored in heaven! We saw in our last study, negatively, what we will not do in heaven. There will be no sin, there will be no sorrow, and we spent a bit of time on that, and that's immensely encouraging. Some people think that all we can know about what we're going to be doing in heaven, and what heaven will be like, is what we're not going to do, and what will not be there - that's far from the truth. We saw last time that the first thing, at least as we had it on our list, was that we will serve the Lord. Revelation 22 that you have turned to just now, verse 3: 'His servants shall serve Him'. We will have plenty of work to do in heaven, and that work will comprise of priestly service, and the wonder of it all is: as we serve the Lord, as we bring our lives in worship to Him, living sacrifices, though they be eternal life, there will be no failure, there will be no sense of inadequacy or weariness as we serve the Lord for ever. We will be able to stand back and, without an ounce of pride, know that we have offered to God a job well done - something that you or I have never been able to do. I'm looking forward to that day, are you not?
We will serve, and then we saw that we will be served. In Luke 12 we looked at that parable where the Lord Jesus Himself in that figure and story was teaching the disciples that He would serve them. When the Lord comes back He is describing how He will take us to heaven, and it will be His delight in that place called heaven to serve His people, and He will be to us a Servant forever. Now that is amazing! We think of His service as something that is involved only in His humiliation and His condescension, but that is far from the case. Though He was humiliated and took the place of a Servant that He now does not have, we praise God that He is ever serving us as our Great High Priest at the right hand of God, for if He were not we would not be able to come into the presence of God. But it doesn't stop there: it goes on until the day that He takes us to be with Him in the air, and then brings us to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, and then eventually we enter into the eternal state forever. It will be His constant, everlasting delight to serve us as His people. It's amazing to me! It tells us a lot of things, it certainly tells me that there is no shame in service; and, as the Lord Jesus taught us, the greatest among you is the one who serves.
Then not only will we serve and be served, but we will worship. We saw that this is the 'where' of heaven - not looking at a geographical location, but the atmosphere in which we will exist will be one of worship. Wonder of wonders to us in this sphere and era, it will be perfect worship, unhindered worship, worship that knows no distraction of a sinful thought, or a temptation of the flesh or of the mind, or of the will or heart. It will be pure worship, in pure motives, from pure hearts! Of course, that worship, as we saw, will be expressed in singing and music, and in various other ways.
Then we concluded in our last evening's study on the fact that that worship of the Lord, as we fall prostrate before His throne in His presence, will come to climax and crescendo in a moment when we will see God. Revelation 22 verse 4: 'And they shall see His face, and His name shall be in their foreheads'. Of course, we saw that God is Spirit, He is invisible, and we believe that what this is speaking of is that though we may see some manifestations of God Father in His Shekinah glory, we believe that the Lord Jesus, as the Word pre-incarnate, as the Son of course also; but as the One who was made flesh and dwelt among us, as the One who testifies of God, the express image of His person, He will go on forever in eternity manifesting God to His people. We will see the glory of God shining in the face of Jesus Christ our Lord. We reminded ourselves, and we need to do it again tonight as we look at this subject once more, that in all of our studies in heaven, we must make sure that our greatest and most joyous anticipation is seeing Jesus Christ, seeing God in the face of Jesus Christ, dwelling in His presence, lavishing in the light of His countenance! Our longing for heaven, no matter how great it is, must always be our longing for Him.
'The bride eyes not her garment,
But her dear Bridegroom's face;
I will not gaze at glory
But on my King of grace.
Not at the crown He giveth
But on His pierced hand;
The Lamb is all the glory
Of Emmanuel's land'.
Now we're going to look at another four occupations tonight. The first three really are occupations, the fourth is not in one sense, because it is rest. The first we will look at tonight is 'reign', we will reign in heaven. Secondly we will learn in heaven. The third: we will fellowship in heaven. And then, as I said, the fourth: we will rest in heaven.
Now let's look at Revelation 22 again as we first of all consider how the Bible teaches that we will reign in heaven. Verse 5: 'And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever'. Not only do we have the record of John here in Revelation 22:5 that we, as the saints of God, shall reign with Christ forever and ever, but the Lord Jesus Himself in some of His parables that He told when He was on the earth speaks of how He will assign certain authority and responsibility to His servants at His return. For instance, two that you would like to look at in your own leisure may be Luke 19 and Matthew 25. We will look at both of those a little bit later, but the Lord's teaching in John's Revelation and various other passages of Scripture gives us the impression that God will operate His eternal kingdom in a similar way that He operates His kingdom now in all of our hearts. Now what I mean by that is: when we go to Paul's epistles we see clearly that God, by His Spirit, has gifted the church. There are certain individuals who have particular gifts. All of us are gifted in some way, but not all can lead the church as elders, not all can serve the church as deacons, not all can preach, prophesy and so on - we have different spiritual gifts, the Spirit is the Lord who gifts the church for the purpose of administrating the kingdom of God in our hearts now through the church.
Now, as that is such, we believe that God in the eternal state, as well as the millennial reign of Christ, will delegate its operation to His own people in a similar sense. In other words, forever there will be a sphere of responsibility and authority in God's kingdom. Now, right away that shows how foolish any idea of anti-authoritarianism may be. Authoritarianism is in ill repute today, and people balk at any authority, we see that authority is not something that's going to be abolished, or roles, or delegated responsibility - that's not going to disappear in eternity. This is something that God ordained before the fall, and something that will move on into forever. Now the difference between the responsibility and levels of authority that are gifted to men and indeed women in the church of Jesus Christ where His kingdom is expressed now, the difference between them now and then is simply that we will never fail in the delegated responsibilities that God gives to us.
Now I know we have struck this note before, but I can't help striking it: as someone who is continually, rightly and at times wrongly, whipping himself because of the sense of inadequacy, failure, lack of pure and dedicated service to the Lord - isn't it wonderful to think that there is a day coming when we will feel no more guilt, no more shame at falling short of the responsibilities that God has given to us!
There is not only a difference between the 'now' and the 'then' regarding reigning, but there is also a relevance to the 'now' when we contemplate the 'then'. What am I talking about? Well, we see clearly from the New Testament that authority and faithfulness, authority and faithfulness are inextricably and indeed eternally linked. The authority that God gives any of us is relevant to our faithfulness in His service, and that will be the case in heaven. Our reigning is relative to our faithfulness now.
Just to emphasise this to you, I want you to turn to the first parable I quoted from in Matthew 25 just for a moment. Matthew 25 verse 14, now I know there will be reward in the millennial kingdom, and I know there will be a certain reigning in that, but this carries on further right into the eternal state. Verse 14 of Matthew 25, the Lord Jesus says: 'For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money. After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things', underline that, 'I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord'.
Now, the unprofitable servant that just buried his talents, and didn't make any money out of it, we see what happened him, and we see that this is how we conclude that this has more of a significance than simply just the millennial reign. Verse 29: 'For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth' - that is hell! But what the Lord is teaching us, and what is relevant to us tonight, is: our authority in the eternal state, as well as in the millennial kingdom, is relative to our faithfulness in the responsibilities that God has given us here on earth and in the body, which is the church. That is very sobering, is it not? It's also relative to the suffering service that we are engaged in. Paul said in 2 Timothy 2:12: 'If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us'. So the more responsible we are, the more faithful we are even in the face of adamant persecution down here on earth, the more responsible in authority we will be in glory.
Again, look with me at Luke chapter 19 for another similar parable, Luke 19 verse 12: 'He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come. But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us. And it came to pass, that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, then he commanded these servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading. Then came the first, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds. And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities. And the second came, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds. And he said likewise to him, Be thou also over five cities. And another came, saying, Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin: For I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that thou layedst not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow. And he saith unto him, Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knewest that I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow', and we'll finish the reading there. Again the principle is the same: our responsibility that we are given here, and faithfulness in it, is related directly to how we will reign with Christ.
I wonder do we ever think, I believe erroneously, on these terms: 'I wonder what responsibility I will have in heaven?'. Do you ever think like that? 'I wonder what I will be doing, where I will be reigning, what authority I will have?'. In one sense you don't need to wonder about it, you don't need to surmise or even wait, because theoretically what we are doing now, or what we are not doing now, will determine what we will do then! Think of it: our life, the life that you live today and in your history of existence is putting into Christ's mouth word-by-word what He will say to you on the day He judges you.
That's one reason we need to meditate and anticipate heaven: because this world system is robbing us of our heavenly reward, because the world that we love and all its materialism and affluence, sensuality - yes, as believers! - our love affair with this age and system is robbing us of what we could know in heaven one day if the earth down here wasn't so big and so bright. We need to get a perspective like Paul, when he said at the end of his life in 2 Timothy 4:7: 'I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing'. I know he was an apostle, but did he have a red telephone line to heaven to know that he was going to get this crown and this reward? Of course he didn't! He knew it because of the life that he sowed in spiritual death, that he would reap the reward - that's how he knew! You can know, and I can know, if we live for eternity. Whitefield, the great evangelist, said: 'O could I always live for eternity, preach for eternity, pray for eternity and speak for eternity. I want to see God only!' - that was his desire! If we do that, Jesus will say to us as He said in Luke 12 and verse 43: 'Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath'. Isn't that amazing?
How will we reign? Well, I don't really know that. Some people think we will explore an unknown corner of the universe. C. S. Lewis suggests we will govern a distant star - I don't know about that, but I'm pretty sure from the word of God that we will reign by serving others, and serving the Servant King, the Servant forever.
We've got to move on: we are going to learn in heaven. I don't know if we'll get through all this tonight, but 1 Corinthians 13 and verse 12 says: 'For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known'. Now I haven't got time to go into this, but that's got nothing with the canon of Scripture. Though we will be in heaven perfectly moral, there is no suggestion whatsoever in the whole of the book of God that we're going to know everything. I think that's a common misconception that people have. In fact, if you remember, when we looked in Revelation 6 and verse 10 the souls of the martyrs under the altar were crying unto God for vengeance, and saying in verse 10: 'How long?' - they didn't know how long it was going to be until they were avenged of the righteous blood. We've got to realise that not knowing everything is not a flaw - did you hear that? Not knowing everything is not a flaw, that is what it is to be human and not be God. So it is very foolish for us to think that in heaven we're going to know everything, because if we knew everything that would make us God.
Omniscience, to be all-knowing, is a divine attribute. 'He alone is the high and lofty one', Isaiah says, 'who inhabits eternity. He alone is the one who has known the mind of the Lord'. 'His Spirit alone has been His counsellor', Romans 11:34. So in heaven there is an awful lot of learning that we're going to have to do. I believe the Lord Jesus, as He trained His disciples down here on earth, He will be our great instructor in heaven. He will teach us, He will lead us into further light and truth. You might say: 'Well, what will He teach us?'. Well, He'll teach us many things, probably regarding the new heaven and the new earth, but I believe the primary lesson that He will teach us is, as the redeemed people of God, to love the Lord our God as we have never loved Him before! I believe He's going to teach us more about God, and more about His inexhaustible grace! Chapter and verse? Well, turn with me to Ephesians chapter 2 and verse 6, Paul says: 'God hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus'. Now that word 'shew' there is literally 'reveal', and it speaks that there's going to be an eternal revelation of God's grace toward us, and Christ and the Spirit are going to continually unravel for us the wonder of eternal salvation, and all eternity will not be enough time to show us it! Is that amazing?
You're going to learn all right, even Ephesians 3 verse 18, it tells us that Paul's desire in prayer is - and this will be fully consummated and realised only in heaven - that we 'May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God'. You see, we're going to find out and learn that in God is hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, that God is even greater than eternity, and learning of Him will exhaust all the time and the energies that we will have. As Jonathan Edwards put it: 'There will never be a time when there is no more glory for the redeemed to discover and enjoy. We will never stop learning about God, and never stop learning about the wonder of God's grace'.
Now maybe you're doubting this? If it's new to you, you should be questioning it. 'Learning' - maybe you don't like that idea, you didn't like school, and you couldn't wait to get out and all the rest - well, we often think that the devil invented learning. God invented learning, just like He did working and thinking. Intellectual curiosity is not part of the curse that came upon us through the fall of mankind. You look at the wonder of a little child who is learning. Our son at the minute, Noah, everything he sees he's going 'Ohhhh', like this - it's wonderful to see. Now that doesn't come from the devil, does it? God has put this inquisitiveness in our hearts, and it even says of Jesus, the Christ of God, that He learned and He grew in knowledge. There is a pleasure in learning, a God-intended pleasure that He is going to permit us to partake in for all eternity.
Martin Luther understood this, because he said: 'If God had all the answers in His right-hand, and the struggle to reach them in His left hand, I would choose His left hand'. Now why did he say that? Did he want to know all the answers? He said it because he understood the pleasure in learning, the pleasure in discovering, the pleasure in finding things out, coming to the knowledge of the truth, being led by God. Now here is my challenge to you: I think it is very clear that we will learn in heaven, but why not start down here? Learning about God, learning about eternity, learning about heaven as your home; and the implication of this, therefore, is that we will carry into eternity whatever we have learned here in time! Banish the idea: 'Och, it doesn't matter what I do here now, everything will be alright in the end' - isn't that the way we think about heaven? Well, that's correct in one sense, but that's merely a conception in the mind that down here doesn't matter, and we find out that what we are being taught as we contemplate heaven in the New Testament is the exact opposite: that down here matters immensely to what up there will be like for us! That's the common thread throughout all of this truth on heaven: in every way 'now' relates to 'then'.
We will reign, we will learn, seventhly - you didn't think I'd done seven tonight! No, it's adding the two together - fellowship. Hebrews 12:22-23 tells us that we: 'come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things that that of Abel'. Whatever way you interpret those verses, there is a lot of people going to be in heaven, and a lot of creatures there. There is going to be great fellowship - no wonder heaven will be a place of never-ending learning, just getting to know everyone will seem to take all eternity! The redeemed, these great angelic creatures.
Now there are many passages in the New Testament which speak of the final fellowship that all believers will have in heaven. All of them point towards this truth: that we will forever interact with, as Revelation 7 says, a great multitude which no man could number out of all nations, kindreds, people and tongues. Again it's worth mentioning that it would be ridiculous if you were having fellowship with all these people, and couldn't know them or recognize them. There will be fellowship there.
Now here's another challenge, this is so practical - remember the 'then' relates to the 'now', and the 'now' to the 'then' - how are you fellowshipping with your brothers and sisters in Christ down here? How goes it with you? Why don't we practise some of this heavenly unity of fellowship on the earth? Before you say it, yes, it's unity in truth, I know all that, and that's where the ecumenists get it wrong. It's unity in God's truth, but here's a question I want to ask you, and I want you to think about this - and don't be putting it in the question box now! - what truths do we unite on? What truths do we unite on? Fundamental truth, of course, what about secondary truth? Of course, every individual church - don't misunderstand me - has to have agreement on secondary issues in order to operate effectively and efficiently; but I believe, in the light of heaven and in the light of many scriptures in the New Testament on the unity of the body, that it is a travesty, a travesty how we have allowed relatively unimportant issues to divide us. I have never found anyone who I agree with completely, or anybody who agrees with me completely - sometimes I can't find anybody who agrees with me half the time. That's why it is so difficult when we mount up all these little criterion for fellowship.
Jesus prayed in John 17 and verse 11 that 'they would be one, as the Father and the Son were one', that is the church, that is His people. Now I have heard all the explanations: 'Oh, that's the global unity of the mystic body of the church'. I know we are all united in Christ, even those in heaven and on earth who are in Christ are united together - but we are the ones who are very quick to say in spiritual things: 'Ah, but there's got to be a practical outworking', aren't we? 'Oh, there has to be the practice, doctrine and practice. Justification is not enough, sanctification has to come; and it's only when the sanctification comes that it proves that the justification was valid, and you will achieve the glorification in heaven' - we say that, don't we? Faith without works is dead, that's what that is - so you're not allowed to say 'Oh, this is only a spiritual unity, but we can fight the bit out with one another down here on earth!', no, it doesn't work like that! No. We've got to grapple with this.
It's an interesting question - I'll maybe put this one in the question box and see if I can answer it! - will we all agree on absolutely everything in heaven? That's a good one, isn't it? Don't say it's a stupid question, it's not. Will we agree on absolutely everything in heaven? If deliberation, and debate, and reasoning - is that not part of the process of learning? Is it not? You have to think about a thing. We're not talking about moral right or wrong here, we're talking about all sorts of issues that will be in eternity. Or will we be like little robotic know-it-alls, we'll know right and wrong all the time, we'll not even need to think about it - now, I know some of you have your reward already, that's maybe the way you operate down here! But our problem is: we've made the mistake of believing that unity equals uniformity, that's where we fall down. There is going to be diversity in heaven: out of every tongue, tribe, people and nation - that's the strength of both the church militant on the earth and, I believe, the church triumphant in heaven. You think about that one. Will we not have to think and even discuss as we learn about the wonder of the universe in heaven as God reveals certain things to us?
I have to move on before I get into even more trouble! The last point is this: we will rest in heaven. Praise God, we will rest! Revelation 14 is the first I want you to turn to, Revelation 14 and verse 13: 'And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them'. Now, when we go to the very beginning of the Bible we find that the rest principle is enshrined in the Sabbath principle. Incidentally, that was a principle that was enshrined before the fall - God rested, and we are to rest. After the fall that same rest principle is found in the law of Moses, and in the practices of the nation of Israel. The Bible says in Hebrews that there is a rest now appointed unto the children of God in the church, and Revelation now tells us that there will be a rest in heaven.
Now, we know from what we have learned already that the rest that we will experience in heaven clearly is not due to the absence of work, for we will work, we will serve and do all sorts of things in heaven, we will learn. But it's a rest like that which was in Eden - there was plenty to do in Eden, there was responsibility and authority given to Adam and Eve, but they had to also rest. We have seen in recent studies that the work that we will do in heaven will not exhaust our energies - now don't ask me to explain it all, but I feel personally that when we serve the Lord and labour in our energies, our energies will continually and perennially be replenished. In other words, we will never grow tired or weary. So we join these two things together: we will be busier than we have ever been in heaven, and yet we will be more rested than we have ever been. Is that not perfect? We'll not be lounging around all day, we'll be working and resting, working and resting.
You might say: 'Well, why do you need to rest if you don't grow tired?'. Well, look at verse 11 of chapter 14 of Revelation to contrast those who are in hell, it says about them: 'the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name'. That tells us something of the type of rest that this is, it is the opposite to the unrest that is in hell. Jesus, in Matthew 11, said: 'Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light: and ye shall find rest unto your souls'. Do you know what this rest is? It is the absolute contrast to all the unrest that we find in this life! We have entered a rest by faith, Hebrews says there is a rest appointed unto the people of God - and though we can experience this by faith now in our hearts, one day we're going to realise it in heaven with all our faculties.
'Our pain will all be over,
We'll sin and sigh no more;
Behind us all of sorrow,
Naught but joy before'.
What causes you toil? What causes you pain? What causes you unrest, turmoil of mind and heart? Is it disease, illness, weakness of mind, of emotion? Is it separation, is it bereavement? Praise God, we can enter, by faith, a spiritual reality of this rest and peace now - but even when we do that and are most triumphant in our Christian faith, not all the remnants of the fall can be erased here and now, but they will be then in that perfect rest. Needless to say, that's why endless litanies, and going through laborious rites to attempt to achieve rest for the dead - it's all pointless. Praying for the dead, baptising for the dead, even saying: 'May he rest in peace' - if a man or a woman rest in Christ, they couldn't rest in any more peace!
A little girl was taking an evening walk with her father, wondering as she looked up to the stars, she exclaimed: 'Oh Daddy, if the wrong side of heaven is so beautiful, what must the right side be like?'. I know you like a good rest down here - I do anyway - but what will that rest be like up there?
Richard Baxter, who I quoted at the beginning, in his book - and I finish with this - 'The Saints Everlasting Rest', puts it better than I ever could, and I'm just going to quote him. It's quite lengthy, but listen and let it thrill your heart tonight: 'Rest, how sweet a word is this to mine ears. Me thinks the sound doth turn to substance and having entered at the ear doth possess my brain and thence decendeth down to my very heart. Me thinks I feel it stir and work and that through all my parts and powers but with a various work on my various parts. To my wearied senses and languid spirits, it seems a quieting powerful opiate. To my dulled powers it is spirit and life. To my dark eyes it is both eye salve and a prospective. To my taste it is sweetness. To mine ears it is melody. To my hands and feet it is strength and nimbleness. Me thinks I feel it digest as it proceeds and increase my native heat and moisture and lying as a reviving cordial at my heart from thence doth send forth lively spirits which beat through all the pulses of my soul.
'Rest, not as the stone that rests on the earth, nor as these clods of flesh shall rest in the grave so our beasts must rest as well as we. Nor is it the satisfying of our fleshly lusts, nor such rest as the carnal world desireth. No, no, we have another kind of rest than these, rest we shall from all our labors which were but the way and means to rest, but yet that is the smallest part. O blessed rest, where we shall never rest day or night crying holy, holy, holy Lord God of sabbaths, when we shall rest from sin but not from worship, from suffering and sorrow but not from solace. O blessed day when I shall rest with God, when I shall rest in knowing, loving, rejoicing and praising, when my perfect soul and body together shall in these perfect things perfectly enjoy the most perfect God when God also who is love itself shall perfectly love me, and yea, and rest in His love to me as I shall rest in my love to Him and rejoice over me with joy and singing as I shall rejoice in Him'.
Do you think he got a glimpse of glory? I hope, over these weeks, I have at least started you to think about heaven, in the very least caused you to imagine heaven, so that your imagination might give way to anticipation, and the joy of the Lord might spread abroad in your heart.
O Emmanuel, we long for Your land, we long for that life that springs eternal, we long to be in Your presence. Yet there is so much for us to do down here, but Lord, let us do it in the light of that great eternity. Let us not miss heaven for the sight of earth. Lord, thank You for this wonderful truth that You have revealed to us, and to our children's children, may we cherish it, and may it make a lasting difference to our lives now and our lives to come. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the seventh recording in his 'Glimpses Of Glory' series, entitled "What Will We Do In Heaven? - Part 2" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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