Heaven – Jesus continues to reveal God
When we think about the reasons why Jesus came into the world we tend to focus, especially during the Christmas season, upon his coming in order to save his people from their sins. And this is of course a perfectly right thing for us to do. However, we must take care that we do not allow ourselves to think about this in a narrow manner as though this objective was tightly restrictive – much was involved in fulfilling this precious purpose. One fundamental part of Jesus’ salvation was the communication of a true knowledge of God. Indeed in coming Jesus made God the Father known to his followers.
Jesus made this clear in his conversation with his disciples in the Upper Room shortly before his arrest, trial and subsequent execution. We realise just how much this aspect of Jesus’ ministry meant to him when we hear him praying his High Priestly prayer of Jn.17. This is what he said to the Father as he prayed to him:
This ministry Jesus had while on earth of revealing God he now continues in heaven.
One of the promises Jesus made in his Sermon on the Mount was that the pure in heart would see God. But what exactly did he mean? After all, as Jesus also taught, God is a Spirit (Jn.4:24) and as Paul made explicit God is invisible:
1Tim.1:17 "To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory forever and ever. Amen."
This being the case we should not necessarily expect to see God the Father with our physical eyes but rather in heaven we will have a deepened and enlarged understanding of God, his character and his ways. Indeed we will be granted as clear a knowledge of God as it is possible for a creature to possess!
Just think for a moment. There are things now that we know about God but we struggle to grasp how it all fits together; we struggle to appreciate the extent and reach of what we do know about him; we are aware that what we have is just the merest of glimpses and that there is so much more detail to perceive, so many more depths to plunge and so much more to experience of this Infinite God. We have begun to taste and see that the Lord is good but when all is said and done this is only the beginning -
Heaven is the place where our faculties and capacities will be so developed by grace that we will be brought to the fullest possible experience of the knowledge of God imaginable. We will be brought to know God as fully as it is possible for a creature to know his Creator. And how hard we find it to talk about all this as it is way, way beyond what we have currently known!
And yet, and yet...
We do have inklings that it is possible to enjoy much more than we currently do enjoy.
We know other Christians who have a greater grasp of the wonders of God than we do; we know Christians whose understanding of the ways of God are clearer than ours; we know Christians who experience more peace and joy as they walk closely with him.
Well, one day, when we are in heaven, everything that hinders us from knowing him better will be removed and our faculties enlarged so that we will "see" clearly, we will understand more fully, we will make perfect deductions and draw the right conclusions about him and his divine attributes.
Sin will no longer cause our minds to twist or to obscure his magnificence
Tiredness will no longer interfere to distract us
Conflicts that might confuse us will be no more
We will be set free from every weight that has hindered us before, from every sin that clung so closely to us and that so disturbed us. We will be at rest and at peace – the perfect conditions for knowing God.
Here on earth our busy-
Ps 46:10 "Be still, and know that I am God."
Well, in the glories of heaven, Jesus who is the Only Mediator between God and man will continue to act as that mediator. He will bring us to such an understanding, to such an experience of the divine perfections and to such an awareness of the infinite, overwhelming, indescribable love of God that our entire being will be completely calm: we will be utterly and completely satisfied with God!
The knowledge and the experience we have of the glories of God are real and by no means to be despised, they are ours as we look to Christ with the eye of faith, for it is Christ who is presented to us as the object for our faith. But in heaven things, at least some things, will be very different! Faith will give way to sight. Our focus however will remain the same. If our faith was centred on Christ on earth then our sight will be focussed on him in heaven. We will indeed contemplate all of the excellences of God as they are manifested to us in Christ. There we will be brought to know, in the fullest possible way that "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God (is seen) in the face of Jesus Christ." And we will see it! (2Cor.4:6.) For the light of the glory of God shines brightly through the Lamb of God who is said to be the Lamp of Heaven:
Rev.21:23 "for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb."
Jesus and his Redemption – at the Heart of Glory
Christ is right at the centre of heaven and the glories of God are most clearly seen in and through his great and wonderful plan of salvation. It is in heaven, having been saved by the remarkable free grace of God, that the believer is shown the full extent God’s glorious generosity:
Age after coming age the believer will be brought to experience and to know more and more about God and it will all be mediated through our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. We certainly won’t somehow move on from Christ in heaven, there is nothing to move beyond him for! We will be caught up continually and eternally with Christ in heaven.
But that leads us to ask whether the Bible tells us anything about our Saviour in heaven and if so what.
In order to answer such questions we naturally turn to the book that speaks most about the future, the Book of Revelation which begins with these words:
Rev.1:1 "The revelation of Jesus Christ,"
In this particular book Jesus is presented to us as reigning in glory as the great and might victor who triumphs over all of his enemies and defeats all of his foes. Yet in the midst of this glorious vision Jesus is referred to most often in a way that might surprise us – he is referred to again and again as the Lamb. (29x in the Book of Revelation Jesus is referred to by the word for a lamb. This in contrast to the name Jesus 14x or Christ 7x.)
Now the lamb was a sacrificial animal – a pure unblemished victim that was substituted for the worshipper and killed to secure pardon. Think of the Passover sacrifice in the OT. The blood of the sacrificed lamb was painted on the doorframe and it gave protection to all who took refuge in the house from the Destroying Angel. When the angel saw the blood it "passed over". The Christians in the first century thought of Jesus as their Passover:
1Cor.5:7 "For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed."
If Jesus Christ is indeed at the heart and centre of heaven he is there as Christ crucified. Calvary is not forgotten in heaven, nor will it ever be so! Jesus is the Lamb in Heaven, he is the Lamb who had died.
Rev.5:6 "And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth."
This was the song of worship that was sung:
A couple of chapters further on and the same theme is found:
When John was discussing just who this great crowd of people actually were the reply he was given was as follows:
Rev.7:14 "These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."
Rev.7:17 "For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."
The sacrifice of this lamb was anything but futile and ineffective. How powerful this shed blood, this death, proved to be! Again praise is to be found in the immediate context.
Heaven is for those (and only for those) whose names are to be found written in the Lamb’s book of life. And again the significance is spelt out to us – this is the Lamb who died:
Rev.13:8 "and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain."
In heaven then, that place where the glory of God shines most perfectly and most brightly, where all that glory is mediated to us through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the death of our Saviour is remembered and forever celebrated.
Small wonder then that the apostle Paul and Christians wit-
1Cor.1:23 "but we preach Christ crucified,"
1Cor.2:2 "For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified."
Gal.2:20 "And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."
Let me ask you a couple of questions in closing.
Do you love to hear about the death of the Lord Jesus Christ? Does the idea of his sacrificial death and the shedding of his blood thrill you? Or do you want to move on as quickly as possible to some other, any other, topic?
Heaven will not be heaven to you if you find the cross of Christ tedious and dull, if not positively distasteful. Because in heaven, God’s glorious heaven, the death of the central character, Jesus Christ the Lamb of God, is not overlooked, not forgotten, but remembered and celebrated and made the subject of glorious praise and adoration throughout eternity.
But you can be made ready. On the Day of Pentecost Peter preached and his words convicted his hearers of their guilt – they were responsible for the death o the Saviour. In their troubled state they asked Peter what they could do and Peter quickly told them. The same can true for you too:
"Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38)