Wednesday, June 19, 2013

What Will We Be Like in Heaven?

To celebrate the publication of the updated and revised version of John MacArthur’s book The Glory of Heaven, we are posting a blog series adapted from the climactic chapter of the book. Throughout church history, not much focus has been given to the topic of what believers will be like in heaven—that ought to make these articles all the more interesting, provocative, and enlightening for you and your family. -GTY Staff

Most of us understand the concept but have a hard time envisioning anything truly perfect. Everything in our earthly life experience is flawed, imperfect.
And for those who know and love the Lord, the imperfections we are most deeply aware of often tend to be our own. I’m not speaking of the frailties of our bodies—though we feel those all too well. But the imperfections that trouble us most are not that superficial. The real problem is sinfulness that comes straight from the heart (see Mark 7:21–23).
Of course we have a tendency to be more tolerant of our own imperfections than the failings of others. We try to cover ourselves, but in our hearts we know all too well that we are woefully and sinfully imperfect. What Christian cannot echo the sentiment Paul expresses in Romans 7:24: “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
We’re not alone in this. The entire universe suffers the effects of human sin. Paul also writes, “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now” (Romans 8:22). That’s why all we can know on earth is imperfection. All creation agonizes under the cruel effect of sin’s curse, waiting for the consummation of all things, when the curse will finally be removed.
At that time, everything will be perfect. Pain, sorrow, and the groaning of creation will finally be no more. “The ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Isaiah 35:10).
Not only that, but we shall be gloriously perfected. The whole person—body and soul—will be made completely new, flawless. As the apostle John wrote, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2).
We can’t envision it now—“what we will be has not yet appeared”—but we will finally be wholly and completely Christlike. This is the very purpose for which God chose us in eternity past: “to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Romans 8:29). “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him” (Ephesians 1:4). He has already begun His good work in us, and He will faithfully “bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). And when we see Christ, we will instantly and summarily be made utterly perfect, because we shall see Him as He is.
Heaven is a perfect place for people made perfect. Perfection is the goal of God’s sanctifying work in us. He’s not merely making us better than we are; He is conforming us to the image of His Son. He is making us fit to dwell in His presence forever. The utter perfection of heaven is the consummation of our salvation. It is the purpose for which He chose us before the foundation of the world.
Being conformed to the image of Christ is not something that will begin when this life ends. God is already performing His sanctifying renovations in the lives of His people on this side of eternity. We will explore that in greater detail next time.

(Adapted from The Glory of Heaven; all Scripture quotations from the ESV unless otherwise noted.)

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