Life in Heaven!
Ashton Oxenden, 1882
Fifty years hence — where shall you and I be? We shall probably have passed away from this world. Our places will be filled by others. Our houses will be occupied by other tenants. Another set of faces will be seen in our village or our town.
Where shall we be? 'In our graves,' you will say. Yes, our bodies will be there, but not our souls. They can never die. They are immortal. Those who have lived here without God, and without hope — will be living still without Him in Hell, and hopelessly banished from His presence. But those of us who have been living that Christian life — that spiritual life of which I have spoken so often in the foregoing chapters — they will be still living that very same life which was begun here, but which will then be perfect and unbroken through eternity!!
The Christian Life in Heaven — this is the closing subject of my Book.
O my God, if no good has been received from any of these chapters, bless this at least to the Reader. Or, if You have made them useful to anyone, oh grant a double blessing to these remaining words.
I shall speak of the Christian life in Heaven:
I. As a life of Service.
II. As a life of Holiness.
III. As a life of Happiness.
IV. As a life of a blessed Companionship.
V. As a life of Endless Duration.
I. The Christian Life in Heaven is a life of SERVICE.
When John speaks of the happy world above, he says, 'There shall be no more curse — but the throne of God and the Lamb shall be in it — and His servants shall serve Him!' Blessed be God, He allows us now to serve Him. If we are His people, our delight is to do His will. But oftentimes, when the spirit is willing — the flesh is sadly weak. Oftentimes we grieve to think that our hands are so feeble, and our hearts so cold. Our zeal flags. Our spiritual desires are checked. We grow faint and weary in well-doing. But in Heaven there will be no sins to hinder us — and no infirmities to weaken us!
Imagine what the service of the Angels must be. How readily and cheerfully they obey the summons of their Lord. Is there work to be done? Their language is, 'Here am I, Lord — send me.' Is there some relief to be given, some comfort to be carried, to one of God's suffering people? Their delight is to be the messengers and carriers of His mercy. 'Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to those who shall be heirs of salvation?' We know not how they help us — but they do help us — and not one is ever backward to perform his errand .
Now, this may give us some idea of the spirit in which our work will be done in Heaven. We know not what that work will be — but this we know, that God will ever have some holy, happy work for His people to perform. We shall enter upon our rest — and yet rest not day nor night. Our labors will be at an end — and yet we shall labor still. There will be work to do in God's Church above. There will be a choir of heavenly singers — and every voice and every heart will be in tune. There will be a glorious band of worshipers — and their thoughts will never wander, or their devotions flag. We shall be employed to carry out God's will in ways that we have no idea of now. Some think that many of those glittering stars we see, and their worlds, are filled with inhabitants. And perhaps God may have a message of mercy for us to carry to those worlds. Who knows? Who can say what blessed work the Lord may have in store for His gathered ones in Heaven? This we know, that the Christian Life there will be one of Service.
II. It will also be a life of HOLINESS.God's command to us now is, 'Be holy, for I am holy.' 'Be followers of God, as dear children.' 'Be therefore perfect, as your Father in Heaven is perfect.' But how miserably small is the degree of holiness which any of us reach! There are times when we grow, like plants in the garden of the Lord. We advance in grace, under the fostering care of the heavenly Gardener. But how constantly is our growth checked. How often are our leaves withered, and our blossoms nipped. How often does the cold blast of temptation fall upon us, and drive us back from the point which we had gained. 'Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect' — this is the constant complaint of the holiest Christian.
But in Heaven it will be very different! We shall carry no body of sin with us there. Flesh and blood cannot enter there. There will be no more curse, no evil, no corruption, no infirmity, in that unfallen world. We shall all bear the image of God — we shall all be like Christ. Our love which is now so feeble — will be strong. Our faith, which is now so mixed with unbelief — will be pure and perfect. Our humility, which is often so spoiled by the creeping in of pride — will be the humility of a lowly but rejoicing heart. To know the will of God, to feel that our wills are in complete harmony with His, and to be ever doing not our will, but God's — this will be our delight!
Tell me, are you not constantly made sad by the risings of a sinful nature within you? When you would do good — evil is present with you. Are you not often reminded that you are still a prisoner here, tied and bound by the chain of your sins? Ah, the prison-door will soon be thrown open! Your prison dress will soon be laid aside. You will soon pass through the outer ward. You will soon breathe a purer air. You will soon gain your liberty, 'the glorious liberty of the children of God.' When the King comes in to see His guests, there will be none, not one, who does not have on the wedding garment. 'These are those who came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.' 'They are without fault before the throne of God!'
III. But let us think of the life in Heaven as one of HAPPINESS.Holiness and happiness are twins — they cannot be separated. Where there is true holiness — there must be true happiness.
There are many questions concerning Heaven which we cannot answer.
Where will it be? We cannot tell you; for God has not revealed it. It may be far away in some distant planet. It may be here in this very world of ours — purified and fitted for our eternal residence.
What shall we be like in Heaven? What language shall we speak? We know not; and never shall we know, until we reach our Father's presence.
Never until then shall we know where Heaven is, or what it is. Nor does it matter. For if God spared not His own Son to redeem us — then nothing will be lacking to make us supremely happy. The Home of the Redeemed, the House of 'many mansions,' the Palace of the Great King — has joys which eye has never seen before, nor ear ever heard, and which it has not entered into the heart of man to conceive!
Who can tell the blessedness of a ransomed soul when it reaches Heaven? We read that 'to die is gain' — not shall be gain at some future time, after a certain delay — but to die is gain — immediate gain. There is but one step — and the soul is in glory. Before the sounds of mourning have subsided in the chamber of death — the song of the upper sanctuary has begun. There is no delay — no waiting for an escort to conduct us along that untrodden path. On angels' wings, in angels' arms — Lazarus is borne to Abraham's bosom. The pardoned thief was that day 'with Christ in paradise.'
What makes God's people unhappy here on earth? What brings a cloud now and then over the brightness of our sunny life? What makes the rejoicing heart sometimes fall back into sadness?
The presence of sin — but there shall be no more sin there.
The assaults of the Tempter — but he cannot reach us there.
Doubts and misgivings as to our acceptance — but there shall be no more then.
The trials of life — but they will be ended.
Affliction, pain, sickness — but these will be unknown in Heaven.
There is another thing too which sometimes distresses us; and that is our ignorance. There are some things in God's Word which we cannot understand, and many of the dealings of His providence perplex us. Now we see but dimly, as through a dark glass — but soon we shall see clearly. 'Now I know in part, but then shall I know even as I am known.'
Who can tell the exceeding joy of having . . .
everything cleared up;
every mystery of His inscrutable Providence made plain;
every tangled thread unraveled?
What a blessed study will the past be — to look along the whole line that we have traveled since our birth, and not only to see how step by step the Lord has led us — but also why He led us in the way He did . . .
why He thwarted our plans here — and made them succeed there;
why He directed us to one place — rather than another;
why He appeared to prosper us at one time — and to chasten us at another;
why He sometimes seemed to be our Enemy — rather than our Friend.
It will be joy indeed, when our minds are capable of taking all this in, when 'we shall know even as we are known.'
But does not this tell us that there is a lesson for us now to learn? When you read God's Word, remember the feebleness of your knowledge, and that there are many depths which you cannot fathom. Be thankful for what is plain — and leave what is difficult to be cleared up in Heaven. The Holy Spirit will meanwhile teach you all that you need to know — if you earnestly apply for His gracious help.
Try and feel the same too, with regard to the Lord's providential dealings with you. Be patient, O child of God; be submissive to your Father's will. Accept His darkest dispensations cheerfully, thankfully, without a murmur. 'Be still, and know that He is God.' Wait a moment, and the shadows will flee away, and all will be clear. What you do not understand now — 'you shall know hereafter.'
IV. Our life in Heaven will be a life of blessed COMPANIONSHIP.'We shall be ever with the Lord!' Not only under His care, as we are now — not merely near Him, as we may be even in this world — but actually with Him. This was His promise, 'If any man serve me, let him follow me; where I am, there shall my servant be.' And this was His prayer, 'Father, I will that those whom you have given me, be with me where I am.'
Happy were those who walked with Him along the plains of Galilee. Happy were those who were His close companions, when He dwelt among us. Happy were those who shared His trials and His joys. Happy were those who, like Mary, sat at His feet, and heard His words. We may well envy them. But we shall enjoy a yet higher privilege — we shall be with Him in His own glorious and eternal kingdom!
But we shall have other companions. And who will they be? The angels, who have never sinned. The multitude too, whom no man can number, of God's saved ones, 'having their Father's name written in their foreheads.'
Such will be our companionship. Are we beginning to enjoy it now? Do we love the Savior? Are His people dear to us? Are our hearts drawn towards them — the holier they are, the more heavenly-minded, the more Christ-like? Are our happiest hours those which we spend in the Lord's courts, and with His people? Then we have already something of Heaven about us. We have a pledge of that inheritance which will one day be ours!
5. Once more — the Christian Life in Heaven will be one of ENDLESS DURATION.Everything about this poor world is fleeting, changing, temporary. Everything about the future world is fixed, lasting, endless. Whatever portion is ours — it will be unchangeable, eternal. 'He who is unjust' now — will be 'unjust still;' and 'he who is filthy' now — will be 'filthy still.' And 'he who is righteous' now — will be 'righteous still.' Our state in the eternal world will never alter.
In Hell, the gnawing worm of conscience will never die — the fire of torment will never lose a particle of its heat. And so too the joys of Heaven will be unceasing, always full, and always new. The pleasures at Christ's right hand will be for evermore!
Oh, the littleness of all earthly things! What is pain for a few weeks or months? What are the pleasures which this world makes so much of? What are riches, and honors, and greatness? They are 'but for a moment,' compared with the Christian's 'eternal weight of glory!'
Learn, oh learn it in time — that everything here is quickly passing away, and that everything in Heaven is forever. To be forever safe — forever happy — to be forever with those who have been our Christian brethren on earth — to meet them again, never to be separated — to be ever with the Lord Himself — this will be our blessed portion, if we are Christ's.
But are we His? Have we 'passed from death unto life?' Have we washed our robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb? Are we children of His household, and subjects of His kingdom? Is Heaven already begun in us?
I have spoken of our life in Heaven being one of service — are we delighting in the Lord's service now?
I have spoken of it as a life of holiness — is ours a holy walk now?
I have spoken of it too as a life of happiness — are we already happy in Christ? Have we found peace in Him?
Our companionship will be with the Lord, and with His saints — are such our companions now?
It is a great mistake to look upon Heaven merely as a place of reward, a sort of new life altogether different from this. No, it will be our present Christian life carried on and perfected in a better world! It will be the transplanting of the fruitful tree — to another and a richer soil. It will be the calling up of the faithful servant — to a higher and more honored post.
And now I have been graciously permitted to carry out my purpose, and to finish this little Book. Both you and I must give an account of it. May we do it with joy and not with grief! May the Lord bless you, and make you a blessing to others! We shall only be a little while longer here. Oh, that our lives may be happy and useful! Oh, that our passage through this world may be a blessed one, and that we may shine hereafter 'as the brightness of the firmament' and 'as the stars forever and ever!'