The promise that we will be with the Lord forever is the believer’s greatest comfort in this life. This promise is so important that we are commanded to comfort one another with it and to talk about it regularly (1 Thess. 4:18; 5:10-11). Rather than making one another anxious by sharing the latest snippet of horror from the city of man, we should think of heaven and of our life with Jesus Christ forever. The Lord commands us to talk about these things and to encourage one another by talking about them. We are going to have troubles in this life, and some anxiety is unavoidable. But we are too concerned about preserving our lives and way of life in this world, which is one reason we are more troubled than we would be if we truly set our affections upon heaven. Heavenly mindedness is the source of great peace in this life, and therefore of great boldness in confronting sin and sharing the gospel. Heavenly mindedness spots earthly lies very quickly, gives strength to endure hard times, and supports an invincible joy and resilience when enduring suffering. We know that this life and universe will come to a fiery end. No human kingdoms, philosophies, and wealth will survive the great renewal our Savior will bring. We should therefore set our affections elsewhere, warn our neighbors to flee from the wrath to come, and embrace the very first promise of the gospel – everlasting life (John 3:16). If we love our lives in this world, we shall lose them. If we set our lives upon Christ and the life to come, we shall gain him and everything else. We shall fulfill our purpose in this life – to serve and glorify the Lord. We shall die in peace and expectations of our meeting with him and life with him forever.
We Shall Live at the Source of Everlasting Life
“Living water” is a symbol of everlasting life, the new life we shall enjoy with God forever. When Zechariah spoke the new covenant and its blessings, he used “living waters” flowing out from Jerusalem to the whole earth (Zech. 14:8). Ezekiel saw God’s kingdom as a rising river that eventually rose to cover the whole earth and sweeten the dead waters (Ezek. 47:1-12). Our Lord spoke of all the gifts, graces, and personal influence of the Holy Spirit as “living waters,” which we receive when we believe upon his name (John 7:37-38). Here, John sees the source of these waters: the throne of God, and of the Lamb. Father and Son are closely connected, for it is the Father’s will that “all should honor the Son as they honor the Father.” Our enjoyment of “God” is not general but very specific – the God and Father who gave us his Son, the Father who draws near to us and redeems us by his Son. We do not know the Father unless we know the Son also. “Lamb” teaches us that the source of these waters and our drinking them are all of grace given to us in Jesus Christ. The river is pure – no sins, no stains. The best experiences of God’s grace we have in this life are muddy waters in comparison to the pure water we shall have. Then, we shall live at the source of life, with God himself. To be near a pure well of water or source of clean drinking water is one of our greatest needs. To be near God and to drink of him, with him, and his Son our Savior, is to have a firsthand taste and experience of his presence, his life, and the joy that is in him. Clear as crystal will be our enjoyment of him – no murkiness, uncertainty, doubts, anxiety – only sweet and refreshing fellowship with him forever.
We Shall Be Fully Healed
When we are in heaven, we shall be fully healed. God’s river will flow through the streets of the new Jerusalem, God’s holy city, us. Lining the street is the tree of life – singular, for the image goes back to the original tree of life in Genesis, but apparently multiple trees also. Everywhere, there will be life in abundance. The tree of life will bear fruit every month, all manner of fruit, and all the nations will be healed. Again, do not think that our nation or any nation is destined to have its flag waiving in heaven. Nation means “peoples.” All the peoples, from every tribe and tongue, will be there in heaven, enjoying the healing waters and grace of God. Healed from what? From our iniquity, the inner corruption from which springs all our actual transgressions, our fence-jumping over God’s commandments, our sins, our infractions against his law, his character, and his authority over us. All will be healed. We cannot conceive how sick we are. Our sins have poisoned us. We blame others. Our nation is plagued with Adam and Eve’s disease – hiding, running, blaming anyone and everyone, with labels and pills and therapies to make us feel better. We have the mad scientists telling us they will make us better, but as soon as one disease seems to be under control, another breaks out – or a dirty word or thought, or a bad attitude, arrogance, a complaining, bitter spirit. Only those who know how sick they are can appreciate that we shall be healed. The Son of God will heal us. The waters from our Father’s throne will heal us. We shall pick fruit from the tree of life and eat freely. We shall have everlasting, abundant, satisfying life.
We Shall Have No More Curse
And there will be no more curse! Our lives are completely weighed down with the Lord’s curse upon us for our sinfulness. It is deserved, and we cannot complain. Nature itself, your trees and grass, groan under the weight of our sinfulness (Rom. 8:22). When we are in heaven, there will not be a thought of sin, anything abominable or defiling. There will be no need to listen to the police radio of the city of man, chasing every ambulance, trying to decipher the latest intrigues of the Babel-builders. They will be in the lake of fire. We shall be purged from our sinful curiosities, our anxieties, from everything that defiles, frustrates, isolates, makes guilty, and separates us from the Lord. Upon the Lamb’s wife, sin will not lay a feather-weight of burden or grief. There will be full and perfect peace in righteousness – not the peace we find now in vacations, which is a form of escapism, but the peace of being in harmony with the Lord and his will, wherever we are and go, in the company of all the saints. None of us has any real idea of what it will be like when our bodies respond as they should without creaking and pain, when all our internal organs are in rhythm with holiness, when our thoughts and affections are whole, without any stain, unrest, or distraction by sin and silliness. Some have asked, “Won’t we get bored in heaven?” Only if one can ever be bored by glory, with holiness, fellowship with God, and complete release from sin. If the thought of this bores you, I implore you to come to Jesus Christ. It has been rightly said that those who have little taste for heavenly things on earth cannot expect to come to heaven. They would be miserable. Come to the Lord, and he will change your taste buds.
We Shall Serve God
And the joy we shall have in serving God – we cannot conceive of pleasure of serving him without sin, of realizing the purpose of our creation and very existence. Have you ever found a job harder because you did not understand the process or were using a tool incorrectly? Then, you read the instructions or someone showed you the right way, and there was much more progress and satisfaction in what you were doing. On a much higher plane, heaven will be like this. We shall then think how far beneath our dignity we lived on earth, stooping down with our burdens and laboring under the curse of our sins. Serving God now can be hard business and bring much trouble into our lives. Then, we shall serve him without any of the doubts of our hearts plaguing us and ridicule of the world tormenting us. We shall feel it the greatest privilege to serve him in any small way, and find our heart’s rest in serving our Maker, Redeemer, and Lord. Yes, our heart’s rest – in God, in doing his will, like our Savior did, but even his beauty we cannot truly see, for he lived under the weight of our sins. There will be no more weight of sin. Sin and death will be in hell. We shall serve God with pure consciences, unburdened hearts, clear minds, perfect and capable bodies, and pure wills.
We Shall See God’s Face, Be Like Him and Near Him
And we shall see his face. Moses begged for this – “Lord, show me your glory” (Ex. 33:18). It is the desire of every renewed heart to see God – not for crass reasons, or to bring him down from his exaltation to tame him or be more comfortable with him, or to form an image of him. The desire to see God is the desire of the creature to worship its Maker, to rest more fully in the supreme bliss of fellowship with him, and to praise him rightly. We want to see God, for he made us for himself, to be with him and near him. Our Lord included this very promise in his Beatitudes: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” We will see him. He does not have a body like man, so the sight will be different. We shall see the Lamb, the Son of God, in his exalted, incarnate glory. In heaven, we shall have what some have called the beatific vision – of God in his glory, not his essence, but God in a way that truly, deeply satisfies, exalts him, and fulfills us. Seeing him, we shall be near and like him, for his name will be on our foreheads – no more beasts and their marks, Babel-builders and their social credit scores and bureaucratic intrusions. We shall fully possess our God and Savior, and he will fully possess us. This is not a blurring of essences but a realization of the purpose he created us – to know and glorify him, to rest in him and delight in him, without pain and sorrow, tears or sin, death or fear.
We Shall Have God for Our Light
Again we are told there will be no need for external light in heaven – God will be light of the city. Light is a symbol for righteousness and purity. God dwells in “inapproachable light” (1 Tim. 6:16). Sin has completely excluded us from his fellowship and presence – except through the person and work of Jesus Christ. In Christ, we can “walk in the light as he is in the light” (1 John 1:7). Our best experience of light-walking now is comparative darkness to heaven’s brightness. There will be no darkness of sin and its evil fruits of separation from the Lord. His light will fill us with reverence, but not terror, wonder, but not the desire to run away and hide. Isaiah saw God’s light in a vision, and he bemoaned his impurity. When we see God’s light face to face, we shall worship, and we shall be secure in the light of his holiness. Being admitted there will not fill us with pride but with praise. There will no more confusion in our lives, doubts in our heads, and division in our wills. We shall be at peace with holiness, and therefore at peace with God, with ourselves, and with one another. All cloudless glory will be ours when we are in heaven.
We Shall Reign Forever
The last joy of heaven mentioned in these lines is the everlasting reign of the saints. On earth, God usually chooses the lowly and despised in the eyes of the world to be the heirs of his kingdom (1 Cor. 1:28-32; James 2:5). Because our home is not here, neither are our allies. Our kingdom is elsewhere, so the kingdoms of this world trample God’s true kings and queens under foot. Thus, any realized kingdom on the earth for God’s saints and church is out of the question. But there is another challenge we face here. Our hearts are divided and still tormented by fleshly thoughts (Gal. 5:18). When we hear of reigning, our thoughts tend toward earthly glory and pomp, wealth and ease. This is not what it means to reign forever with our Lord in heaven. It means that we shall take our place as children and friends of the living God, first ruling over ourselves for his glory. Our true glory will be seen then, when our bodies are raised from the dust, full abilities to spiritual bodies possessed and enjoyed, and our minds and affections completely delivered from all sin. We shall serve God, but we shall serve him as kings and queens, ruling over the angels, living and working and taking heavenly dominion in the new heaven and earth. We shall reign with one another without jealousy or other ambition than to glorify and enjoy God forever. The longer we are in heaven, the fuller our joy will be, the more fervent our praise, and the more purposeful our lives. We shall never grow weary of praising and serving the Lord, for his glory will open to us vistas of expanding praise and love.
When We All Get to Heaven
Too many believers seek their heaven on earth, but our low and earthly aims are far beneath the glory and satisfaction that our Father offers to us in his heavenly kingdom. One reason we are perhaps slow to pursue heavenly mindedness is the fear that it will make us irrelevant or indifferent to earthly affairs. It will not. Those who have made the greatest lasting impact on earth have been the most constant in pointing us to heaven and warning us against earthly kingdoms. Another reason we are so chained to this life is our lack of faith in what our Father has promised to us. The thorny soil in the Parable of the Sower reminds us that the “cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke out the word, so that it becomes unfruitful.” This is what happens when we love our lives in this world too much – God’s eternal word and kingdom lose their hold upon our affections. The glory of eternal life drowns in the hopes, possessions, and cares of earthly life. Heaven seems distant, but what ungodly men are doing to run and ruin our lives is very imminent. It is much easier to hate the wicked than to love heaven, to be mad at those who are making our lives on earth difficult than to seek patiently for eternity and glory. And in a deserved twist of providence, the world-immersed church becomes unable to make much impact upon the world. Only heaven invading earth, grace confronting sin, heaven exposing the folly of earth is able to turn men’s hearts and affections toward God and everlasting life.
So that the promise of heaven grips us as it should, so that we talk about heaven and its glories more, and comfort one another with the joys of heaven, first, we must be firmly persuaded that our full joy lies there, not here. “Where your treasure is, there will your heart also be.” We will follow our loves. Second, give some time each day to serious thought about your true home, about heaven where Jesus Christ is and reigns (Col. 3:1-3). However long you live on earth, it will be but a few seconds of your immortal existence. Our earthly lives will transformed as our thoughts are transfixed by the glories of heaven. If all we think about is life on earth, its pleasures and problems, little wonder that heaven and our eternal glory have such little impact upon our attitudes, expectations, and patience with problems on earth. Third, be sure you are laying up treasures in heaven (Matt. 5:19-20), rather than upon earth. You must be rich toward God in faith and love to come to his kingdom. Nothing you possess here or do not possess qualifies you for an inheritance there, except for faith toward God and love for Jesus Christ. To be rich toward God means that you do all with him in mind, his pleasure and his honor, so that you do not live for yourself but for him. Finally, let every hardship here make you hungry for heaven. Let every obstacle and disease and persecution teach you to seek God’s heavenly kingdom. Every time you are confronted by the curse, whether in wars or by smashing your finger with a hammer, remind yourself that heaven is coming. You will see God’s face. Then, you will not be bitter but hopeful, not angry but joyful, not morose and hardened by life’s troubles but softened by the hope of soon being in heaven, with our Lord, to live and reign with him forever.
The Lord shows us the glories of heaven to encourage us to seek his eternal kingdom. We are looking for God’s “city that has foundations.” It is not on earth. It never will be. When we hear of man’s “building God’s kingdom now” schemes, we must not be deceived. We certainly seek God’s kingdom and righteousness on earth by faithfulness to him, worshipping him, raising our families to know and love him, and doing our work for him. But we are under no delusions. This life at its best does not equal heaven at its worst. The curse will never be eradicated on earth. The wheat and tares will grow together until the end when our Lord Jesus Christ returns. We must get ready for his return and our standing before him. The earthly life of a Christian is preparation for the heavenly life. Be sure you know the Savior, Jesus Christ, and have come to him for forgiveness of your sins and to be clothed with the only clothes that will get you into heaven – his obedience imputed to you by faith. Be sure you are looking to Jesus Christ as the only Mediator who will bring you before God in peace and mercy. Whatever talents and opportunities he has given you, improve them for him – remember what happened to the man who buried his talents in the ground – he was cast out of the kingdom into utter darkness, not because he did not do enough works but because he did not love the Savior. If you are not walking toward heaven, if you have no delight in holy truths and no trust in God’s gospel, heaven will not be your home, but the lake of fire that burns forever. So that you do not come there, believe on the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only Redeemer. Know him, seek him, and hold fast to him. He will bring you to heaven’s glories.