Heaven (Part Five)

For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes’” (Revelation 7:17).

In our previous article, we examined two truths about heaven as a world of love. First, the great cause and source of love in heaven is God himself. Second, we saw three characteristics of the people who will know God’s love for all eternity. Now, let’s continue with three more truths about heaven and love.

The exchange of love in heaven will be threefold.

  • The Triune God will share his infinite love among the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as they have from before the creation of the universe. And out of their Triune love will be love for all they have chosen to be the objects and beneficiaries of their love.
  • The holy angels and the redeemed will respond to God’s love with perfect love. In this we will experience the fulfillment of the First Great Command, as a spontaneous, delightful desire. We will love God as Father, Redeemer, Spouse, and Friend.
  • The holy angels and the people of God will love each other perfectly. We will be sincerely united in love. There will be no loners or outcasts or enemies in the holy city. And since all are fully lovely, we will experience perfect joy in loving each other.

The principle of the love shared will be agreeable to the character of those sharing it.

  • Love in heaven will be totally holy. Most of the love in this world has some mixture of sin. But love in the eternal state will be free from corrupt principles or selfish motives. It will not be directed toward low or evil purposes. But it will be a pure flame, consistent with God’s glory and happiness. We will love God for God’s sake and one another for God’s sake, and for their relation to him.
  • In its intensity, this love will be perfect. There will be no remaining hatred toward God, or distaste or coldness or deadness of heart toward God. There will be no envy towards others. Those who have a lower position in glory will suffer no thoughts of loss by seeing others in glory above them, but they will rejoice in the happiness that each one has attained. True love delights in seeing the prosperity of another, and a satisfaction in seeing another perfectly happy. There will be a pure, sweet and fervent love among the saints in glory, and we will agree in the position that each one occupies, as to the rightness and beauty of it. Those who have a superior position in glory will not be proud, because they will have a perfect humility, and will have an abundant love to all.

The excellent circumstances in which this perfect love will be exercised and enjoyed.

  • Love in heaven is always mutual. Love will always be returned with love, which will be much different from life in this age. When we reach out in love, our love will be accepted and prized.
  • We will know the greatness of God’s love for us, and we will have the capacity to express appropriate appreciation to our Sovereign Redeemer. At that time, the truth of our loving because he first loved us (1 John 4:19) will be deliciously comprehended.
  • The joy of heavenly love will never be interrupted or cooled by jealousy. When we share love in heaven, we will have no doubt of the love of others for us. “Everyone will be just what he seems to be and will really have all the love that he seems to have.” We will have no fear that God or others will withdraw their love from us, and we will not withdraw our love from others.
  • There will be nothing to hinder the mutual expressions of love. Here, we can feel dull and heavy in spirit, and our flame can flicker or smolder, but there it will be forever new, vibrant and fresh. We will not lack correct words to tell others of our love, and we will feel freedom in expressing it for God and others.
  • Love will be expressed with perfect decency and wisdom. There will be no false steps, no poor decisions, or lack of discretion. There will be no indecent, impure or dissonant actions or voices. No passion will run out of control.
  • We will not be separated by distance or time. We will become fully acquainted with one another, and not able to come to misunderstandings or forgetfulness. We will agree in truth, and so in our opinions, worshiping the ever-glorious Lord. We will be employed together in serving God and helping each other in the joy of that employment.
  • We will be united to each other as very near and dear relations, as children of God and brothers and sisters together in his family. All will be closely related to Christ, the Bridegroom as his beloved Bride.
  • All will belong to each other. We are God’s, God is ours, and we are one another’s forever.
  • We will enjoy eternal prosperity and blessing together, sharing in God’s eternal riches.
  • All things will promote our love, because all things will show forth the beauty and loveliness of God and Christ by the Spirit (Revelation 21:22-23). The beauty and glory of the city will be an eternal testimony to the glory of God that we share in love.
  • There will be no lessening or end to the enjoyment of love together (1 Peter 1:4).

Let us all meditate on the glory of God in Christ that we will share!

Grace and peace, David

Heaven (Part Four)

For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes’” (Revelation 7:17 NIV).

How will we live in heaven?

What will life be like? We will live in love, fulfilling a great purpose of God in our salvation. Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly loved children, and walk in love, as Christ also loved us and gave himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God (Ephesians 5:1-2 CSB). When all things pertaining to the present state of the church pass away, love will continue. Love will never fail (1 Corinthians 13:8); cf. Edwards, Heaven, a World of Love. Let’s think of two aspects of the love that will be shared by God’s people forever.

The great cause or source of love in heaven is the presence of God himself, who is love (1 John 4:8, 16). God will reveal the majestic greatness of his love in heaven (Revelation 7:17; 21:4). Having determined to live eternally with his chosen people, God will make known to us the riches of his love and grace (Ephesians 2:7; cf. 3:18). Since God is all-sufficient and infinite, it follows that he will be eternally the overflowing and inexhaustible fountain of love.

  • We will be with the Father, who is the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3). We will see the fullness of the love of the One who loved the world so much that he gave his Son for it.
  • We will live with the Son, Jesus Christ, the Lamb slain and resurrected, the Prince of peace, who so loved us that he gave himself for us (Ephesians 5:25). The great Mediator will see the results of his atoning work and be satisfied (Isaiah 53:10-11).
  • We will be with the Holy Spirit, who has poured out God’s love into our hearts (Romans 5:5) and whose great task is to produce love in us (Galatians 5:22).

The people who are the objects of God’s immutable, unending, inexhaustible love have three characteristics.

  • They are completely lovely, because no one who is unlovely has any admittance into the Holy City (Revelation 21:8, 27; 22:15). No one will have any moral deformity, but all will be beautiful to look at and wonder at the power of God’s grace in Christ. The church will be a radiant church, without any blemish, but it will be holy and blameless (Ephesians 5:27). False professors or hypocrites will not mar that company. No one will have a hateful, malicious spirit, or will have any motive to dislike anyone. Everyone will draw forth love from each other.
  • They are perfectly lovely. Too often now there is in the best of believers some defect of character or attitude or conduct that damages what is otherwise quite attractive. But there will be nothing sinful or foolish or weak in that city. No words will disturb the perfect harmony of love that will reign there.
  • They will be able to set their hearts upon what they have always desired and delighted in without hindrance. Many great realities of the faith have captivated their minds on earth, and they were willing to suffer the greatest loss for what they held in prospect. Yet what we desire to know now, too often the presence of sin, suffering, death, or the simple weakness of the flesh keeps from our full apprehension.

This week, meditate on the coming glorious love that followers of Christ will share forever. Since we’re headed for this destiny, walk in love together on this earth.

Grace and peace, David

The Source of Love (Part 2)

1 John 4:19-21

We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister (NIV).

God’s love produces love in us. The experience of God’s character transforms our spiritual condition. Consider this. One of John’s great word pictures of God is that God is light. When light enters a room, it overcomes the darkness. In this picture of God being light, God is holy and his holiness produces holiness in his people (1 John 1:5-7).

  • In the same way, God is love and his love produces love in his people. As his light overcomes darkness, so his love overcomes our hatred.
  • John exposes three black lies (1:6; 2:4; 2:22-23) in this letter. All three lies falsely claim that a person can know God and yet not be transformed by fellowship with God. Such false claims deny the power of God’s character (cf. 2 Tm 3:1-5).
  • But God is the God of glory (brightly shining excellent worthiness), and when we encounter him by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, his powerful glory starts an ongoing transformation. God’s holiness, truth and love bring about change. Think of a light on a dimmer switch. Before you push it to turn on the light, there is darkness. And as you turn up the switch, the light becomes brighter. As our fellowship with God increases, our lives shine brighter with his holiness, truth and love.

In what ways is the intensity of God’s glory changing you? For example, God is faithful. Is faithfulness developing in you? God is patient and kind. Are you patient and kind?

God’s love creates love for God’s family. The parts of our lives are not disconnected. Contemporary people wrongly assume that a person can be one sort of a person in one role and another sort of person in another role. For example, “he or she is a good political leader, even though he or she is sexually immoral.” While that it might be true of work that is mere technique, it is not true of anything that involves morals. A jealous person might be able to shovel the snow out of your driveway, but that does not mean that they shovel out of kindness, or that they will necessarily do a “good job” shoveling snow. Unless a person has a change of mind about sin, it eventually affects performance.

In the same way, we cannot disconnect our relationship with God from our relationship with God’s people. For example, some say, “I’ll trust God, but I’ll never trust another Christian!” But according to this text, such an attitude is not possible. If you cannot love your brother, whom you can see, you also cannot love God, whom you cannot see. Why? “If the first commandment is that I should love the Lord my God with all my heart and mind and soul and strength, then it must follow of necessity that I am greatly concerned about doing what God asks me to do. And what does God ask me to do? The first thing He asks is that I should love my brother” (Lloyd-Jones, The Love of God, pp. 197-198). My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you (Jn 15:12 NIV).

God’s commands agree with the principle of relationship. The Lord has commanded us to love God and to love our neighbors. The two greatest commands are so closely joined that loving God requires that we love one another. John draws this statement from the teaching of Jesus (John 13:34-35). Following Christ is demonstrated to the world by our love for one another. And this kind of love flows from grace, and not out of worthiness of the object loved. God loved us without a cause in us, and so we must love one another in the same way.

This is where true Christianity gets tested. We do not love each other because we feel, “What fine people they are! They like me and I like them!” No, that is far from what the Lord is saying. We love, because we have been deeply affected by the source of love, God, and the power of his love, having transformed us, reaches out to love others. Is this true of you?

Grace and peace, David

Unneeded Teaching

1 Thessalonians 4:9-10IMG_2092

Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more.

First Thessalonians is one of the first letters that the apostle Paul wrote. By God’s grace, he was able to start a church in Thessalonica, which was the capital of Macedonia with a population of approximately two hundred thousand. Paul was only there a short time and had to leave because of intense opposition to the gospel of Christ. One of the purpose of this letter is to give instruction about the Christian way of life (4:1-5:22). He wants his readers to know how to please God (4:1). He had instructed the Thessalonian believers about this, but he felt that they needed more. Thankfully, he sensed their need and by the Spirit we have this letter.

The apostle’s method to arouse their attention is paradoxical for two reasons. First, their love for one another is evident. It appears unneeded, since there were people who were the recipients of their love. Second, in an earlier prayer for them in this letter (3:12), he had prayed that their love for each other would increase. Why say that they didn’t need this instruction, if he had sensed the need to pray about this concern? Let’s make a couple suggestions.

  • Followers of Christ can display the reality of the Spirit’s work, and still be in the need for instruction. Sadly, there are some who think they have “arrived” and do not hesitate to let their pastor or Bible teacher know that they already know what he is teaching them. They look at themselves as the educated elite, above the needs of ordinary Christians. They say something like “This stuff is Christianity 101. We need something deeper.” Certainly, I would never plead for constantly giving out the “ABCs” of the Christian faith and walk. However, there is something wrong in the spirits of those who look down on the basics. We can get rather blind to our own weaknesses at the very time the Spirit directs someone to teach us what we need to hear. A useful practice is for everyone to read a devotional like Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening. Sharon and I have found many times that what he wrote years before and that we have read more than once is applicable again to our current situation.
  • The Holy Spirit can burden teachers to pray about a matter and then to teach on it for the ongoing progress of those who listen. Let us never forget the help that our Friend from heaven gives through his work in the souls of those that speak to us. Part of it might come from the teacher’s own observations and those given to him by others, but often the Spirit leads those that teach into the word to help the hearers in a special way. When the Spirit urges us to pray for others about some need, you can be sure that there is a reason.
  • Though we might be doing what the Spirit teachers, we all need to grow in our faith and practice. No one has arrived. Yes, we might be strong in faith or love or hope. But really, how much greater is your faith than a mustard seed? Are you overflowing with hope? How much stronger and deeper ought your love to be? Remember that in all points, the measuring point of the new covenant way of life is “as I have loved you” (John 13:34-35; 15:12).
  • God has taught every Christian to love one another. This is an interior, life-changing act by the Spirit of God. It’s what happens when we’re born again from above. He gives us an inward impulse to reach outward in love toward each other. Yet, this inward teaching still needs the instruction from the Holy Scriptures. It is always the Spirit and the word!

So then my friends, this unneeded teaching is much need. Let us respond by loving one another “more and more”.

Grace and peace, David