Heaven the Presence of God and Christ
Thomas Brooks, 1608-1680
All the glory of Heaven would be but a poor low base in the eye of a saint, had he not a direct and immediate sight of God there. In Heaven, all mediums shall be removed, all glasses shall be broken, and the glorified saint shall behold God with open face, all curtains being forever withdrawn from between God and the soul. Good souls in Heaven are like good angels, who are still beholding the face of God (Matthew 18:10). As God is still looking upon them as the jewels of His crown, so they are still looking upon God as their Heaven, yes, as their great all, and that by a direct and immediate act of their souls.
The sight and knowledge that they shall have of God in Heaven shall be permanent and constant. Now saints have a happy sight of God, and then they have lost it; this hour they have a precious sight of God in the mount, and the next hour they have lost this sight. Behold, He who should comfort my soul stands afar off (Lamentations 1:16); and He has covered Himself with a cloud, that our prayers cannot pass through (Lamentations 3:44).
Our visions of God here, are transient and vanishing. The visions, the glimpses of majesty and glory, which Moses and Peter saw in the mount, were not permanent but transient; their sun was quickly clouded, and both of them soon after were found walking in the dark. Therefore, well says Augustine, "Happiness may be obtained here, but here we cannot have the fullness and take possession thereof." Oh, but in Heaven, our sight of God and our knowledge of God shall be permanent. It shall be lasting: there shall be no sin, no cloud, no mist, no curtain to hinder us from a constant sight and vision of God. There we shall see God clearly, fully, eternally.
The spouse's question, "Have you seen him whom my soul loves?" (Song 3:3), shall never be heard in Heaven because God shall be always in their eye and still upon their hearts. Nor shall Job's complaint be heard: "Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: On the left hand, where he does work, but I cannot behold him; he hides himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him" (Job 23:8-9). Heaven would not be Heaven were it not always day with the soul; if the soul did not live in a constant sight and apprehension of God, then all the glory of Heaven could not make a Heaven to a glorified soul.
As the best sight and knowledge of God is reserved until last, so the best and choicest presence of God and Christ is reserved until last.
First, in Heaven saints shall have the greatest and the fullest presence of God.No man in this world has so complete and full a presence of God but he may have a fuller; but in Heaven the presence of God shall be so full and complete that nothing can be added to it to make it more complete.
Sometimes sin, sometimes Satan, sometimes the world,
sometimes resting in duties, sometimes the weakness of our graces, hinder us
from enjoying a full presence of God here; but in Heaven, there shall be
nothing to interpose between God and us; there shall be nothing to hinder us
from enjoying a full and complete presence of God. It is this full
presence of God that is the Heaven of Heaven, the glory of all our
glory. An imperfect and incomplete presence of God in Heaven would darken
all the glory of that state. It is the full and perfect presence of God
in Heaven that is the most sparkling diamond in the ring of glory; and
this you shall have.
Secondly, they shall have a soul-satisfying presence of God in Heaven.They shall be so satisfied with the presence of God in Heaven that they shall say, We have enough, we have all, because we enjoy that presence that is virtually all, that is eminently all, that is all light, all life, all love, all Heaven, all happiness, all comforts, all contents, etc. "As for me, I will behold your face in righteousness. I shall be satisfied, when I awake with your likeness" (Psalm 17:15). Though the spiritual and gracious presence of God with the saints in this world does much cheer and comfort them, yet it does not satisfy them. They are still crying out, "More of this blessed presence! Oh, more of this presence! Lord, less money will serve, so that we may but have more of Your presence! Less of the creature will serve, so that we may have but more of Your presence!" (See Psalm 42:1-2; 37:1-3).
As the king of Sodom said unto Abraham, "Give me the people, and take the goods to yourself" (Genesis 14:21), so say gracious souls: "Give us more and more of the presence of God, and let the men of the world take the world and divide it among themselves."
Divine presence is very inflaming; a soul that has but tasted the sweetness of it cannot but long for more of it. Precious souls that have experienced the sweetness of the divine presence cannot be satisfied with a little of it, but in every prayer this is the language of their souls: "Lord, more of Your presence!" In every sermon they hear, "Lord, let us have more of Your presence!" In every ordinance they receive, "Lord, grant to us more of Your presence!"
Nay, this gracious presence of God that they enjoy here makes them very earnest in their desires and longings after a celestial, glorious presence of God and Christ in Heaven, which presence alone can satisfy their souls.
Look, as the espoused maid longs for the marriage day, the apprentice for his freedom, the captive for his ransom, the traveler for his inn, and the mariner for his haven—so do souls that are under the power and sweetness of God's gracious presence long to enjoy His glorious presence in Heaven, which alone can fill and satisfy their immortal souls.
So says Bernard, "As what I have, if offered to You, pleases not You without myself; so, O Lord, the good things we have from You, though they refresh us, yet they satisfy us not without Yourself. Lord, I am willing to die, to have a further discovery of Yourself."
And so says Augustine, "You have made us, O Lord, for Yourself, and our hearts are unquiet until they come unto You."
And so when Modestus, the emperor's lieutenant, threatened to kill Basil, he answered, "If that be all, I fear not. You cannot more please me than in sending me unto my heavenly Father, to Whom I now live, and to Whom I desire to hasten."
And says Augustine, "Let all the devils in Hell beset me round, let fasting macerate my body, let sorrows oppress my mind, let pains consume my flesh, let watchings dry me, or heat scorch me, or cold freeze me; let all these, and what can come more, happen unto me—just so I may enjoy my Savior."
Augustine wishing that he might have seen three things—Rome flourishing, Paul preaching, and Christ conversing with men upon the earth—Bede comes after, and correcting this last wish, says, "Yes, but let me see the King in His beauty, Christ in His heavenly kingdom."
By all these examples, you see that it is not a spiritual
presence, but the glorious presence of God and Christ in Heaven that can
satisfy the souls of the saints. It was a great mercy for Christ to be
with Paul on earth; but it was a greater mercy, and a more satisfying mercy,
for Paul to be with Christ in Heaven (Philippians 1:23). They enjoy much
who enjoy the presence of God on earth, but they enjoy more who enjoy the
presence of God in Heaven. No presence below this presence can satisfy a
believing soul. But,
Thirdly, as they shall enjoy a satisfying presence of God in Heaven, so they shall enjoy a constant, permanent presence of God in Heaven.Here on earth, the gracious presence of God comes and goes. But in Heaven the King of glory will be always present. "Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we be ever with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words" (1 Thessalonians 4:17-18).
It is the constant presence of God in Heaven that makes a Heaven of comfort to blessed souls. Should this sun ever set, should this presence ever fail, Heaven would be as dark as Hell, yes, Heaven would be another Hell. Here on earth, Jonah complains that he was cast out of God's presence, and the church complains that He who should comfort her soul stands afar off. No saint always enjoys the gracious presence of God. They that enjoy most of this presence may say of it, as Jacob spoke of Laban's countenance: "I see," said he, "your father's countenance is not towards me as it was before" (Genesis 31:5); so may they say, "Oh, we see; oh, we feel, that the presence of God is not with us as before!
Oh, what a warming, what a cheering, what a quickening, what an enlivening, what a comforting, what a melting, what an encouraging, what an assisting presence of God had we once! Oh, but it is not so now with us! We who used always to be upon Christ's knee or in His arms are now at a distance from Him. He who used to lie day and night as a bundle of myrrh between our breasts has now covered Himself with a cloud (Song of Solomon 1:13). Oh, we cannot see His face, we cannot hear His voice, as in the days of old, etc."
But now in Heaven saints shall enjoy the constant presence of God; there shall not be one moment to all eternity wherein they shall not enjoy the glorious presence of God. Indeed, it is this constant presence of God in Heaven that puts a glory upon all the saints' glory. Heaven without this constant presence of God would be but as a court without a king or as the sky without the sun. Thus, you see that the best and choicest presence of God and Christ is reserved for Heaven.