Heaven – to be like Jesus
So far in our studies on heaven we have seen that heaven is the place where God’s glory is most clearly revealed. We have also seen that Jesus is at the very heart of heaven and indeed it is he who makes heaven heaven.
God has always determined a wonderful future for his people. Way back in the Book of Psalms we catch a glimpse of this:
Ps.31:19 "Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you"
With the passing of time, and the unfolding of his plan of salvation, something of the wonder of this future has been made clearer. Thus in the NT we find that our God has determined that heaven is to be the destination of his people – heaven, if you like, is to be the family home of the family of God!
God plans to take all Christian believers to heaven by virtue of Jesus’ death and resurrection and by virtue of their union with him. God has planned an extraordinarily rich and blessed future for his people. Thinking about this future, the apostle Paul got excited – shouldn’t the same be true of us too?
Rom.8:18 "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us."
1Cor.2:9 "as it is written, "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him""
1Cor.13:12 "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known."
2Cor.4:17 "For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,"
When the Westminster Catechism reflected on the benefits to be enjoyed by the Christian at the resurrection it included the following statement:
Believers "will be made completely happy in the full enjoyment of God forever."
While we cannot hope to get a full and complete understanding of all that God our Father has in store for us we are not left totally in the dark either. This evening we are going spend our time thinking about one aspect of what heaven’s joy will entail for us – we will be like Jesus.
To be like Jesus
What are the grounds for this extraordinary statement that we believers will one day be made like Jesus? Is it founded upon anything solid or is it just one more example of religious enthusiasm running wild?
Well the reason why we have this astonishing hope and prospect is because that is what the Bible tells us will happen to us. The apostle John writing towards the end of his long life put it like this:
1Jn.3:2 "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."
If that were the only verse that taught this truth it ought to be enough to thrill us! But there are other places in the NT where we are told the exact same thing.
The apostle Paul was obviously very taken with this aspect of a believer’s salvation because he referred to it in several of his letters:
In his first letter to the church in Corinth written around AD53, Paul described Adam and Christ as the two representative heads of the human race. He continued:
A little further on in the same chapter would write of just how that image of the man of heaven would be reproduced in the believer:
Writing to the church in Rome some 4 years later Paul gave us his fullest most systematic explanation of the gospel, the power of God for salvation. His understanding of the scale and scope of this salvation is mind-
Rom.8:29 "For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers."
Another four year period passed and Paul was still writing about this same truth this time to the Philippians:
What does it mean to be like Jesus
Think for a moment: what do you know about Jesus in heaven? Here is a list I came up with:
He is glorious in glory
He has a body
He is alive
He is active
He is approved of and relates to his Father
He is sinless
He is pure
He is perfect
He is compassionate, loving and kind
He rules and reigns
Did you think of these things I wonder? Perhaps you thought of yet more things.
There are of course some fundamental differences between us and Christ which will never be eradicated – they can’t be nor should we try to overlook them. Jesus is in heaven on merit – his own merit. We will never be in heaven that way but only as we are "in Christ" through repentance and faith. His qualities are all intrinsic and natural to him. The qualities which will be made ours all come to us from outside of ourselves, they all are mediated to us through Christ and by virtue of our union with him.
Nevertheless that still means that it will be a wonderful thing for us to be made like him as much as it is possible for a saved sinner to be!
Let us focus a little more closely on two distinct aspects of our Christ-
If we are to get to heaven we must undergo a dramatic change because heaven is a place of holiness and purity and nothing will ever be allowed to enter it which would defile it (Rev.21:27). Those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life are destined to enter heaven and must be fully sanctified in order that they might do so. This is necessary because without holiness no-
This perfection is part and parcel of God’s plan and purpose for his people:
Eph.1:4 "he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him."
This perfection of holiness means that we will have completely done with sin. Our relationship with sin will completely ended, we will never sin ever again and sin will cease to hinder us and to spoil our lives.
All the tawdriness of our sinful lives will be finally eradicated, all the pollution and contamination caused by our sin will be washed away. All our humiliating capitulations and failures will be brought to an end. All the turmoil that sin has stirred up in our lives hiding and defacing the original image of God will be calmed and we will be at peace. All of our furtive running to the darkness to cover our shame and disgrace will be over. The power of our favourite sins will be destroyed and our besetting sins will lose their appeal and their influence.
Sinless perfection will be a reality for us as it will be for all of God’s people – not in this life as some have erroneously taught – but in heaven.
Jesus never sinned and enjoyed unbroken fellowship with his Heavenly Father and we will be like him in this respect.
That is the prospect that awaits every Christian believer and it should encourage us to get ready for heaven now; it ought to encourage us to declare war on sin right now and to press on with the daily battles that are involved in increasing sanctification. If developing purity and increasing holiness have no appeal for you now why do you think you’ll enjoy heaven then?
The apostle John explains that the hope of heaven and of being like Jesus is a great incentive to holy living here and now:
1Jn.3:3 "And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure."
Is this true of you? If it isn’t there are several possibilities as to why:
Perhaps you are simply ignorant of God’s plan and purposes for the Christian
Perhaps it is because for one reason or another you are in a backslidden state and you’ve stopped taking these important spiritual matters seriously and you’ve simply become careless
Or perhaps your lack of interest in these matters is an indication that you have no true hope of heaven at all and that your need is quite simply to become a Christian
If you find yourself described in any of these three conditions do something about it and do it at once!
The material and the spiritual are both from God
The philosopher Plato and several eastern religions have promoted the idea that the spiritual and physical parts of man are in conflict. The spirit, it is maintained, needs to be liberated, to be set free from the confines of the body which only functions as a prison of the soul. The material is viewed negatively and the non-
This is not the Bible’s position. God created all things including the material and not just the spiritual. When he looked out on the material world he had made – specifically after he had made man out of the dust of the ground -
Life in a physical body is not therefore something that is inherently bad – after all Jesus became a real man with a real body without falling below God’s standards of perfection. This is not to say that the way in which we experience life in our material bodies is without any problems or difficulties but the answer is not to be found in somehow setting the spirit free from the body but rather of restoring the body to the pattern of perfection in which it was originally made.
The Christian hope involves a very physical future.
Christians who have already died have been ushered immediately into the Lord’s presence in heaven but they have not yet attained the final state in which they spend eternity. Paul writes about this to the Romans:
Elsewhere he wrote that God had not set out merely to save our souls but the whole us and that includes our bodies:
What we do in our bodies now is important and in eternity we will be given resurrection bodies and what we do in them will be important too. Jesus was raised in a resurrection body as the first fruits – his resurrection sets the pattern which will be followed in due course by every believer:
1Cor.15:23 "But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ."
What will our bodies be like then?
While the Bible doesn’t provide us with a photographic picture of what we will look like it does indicate a number of things concerning the life of eternity:
The same but different – it will be our bodies that are raised, but they will be changed too. There will the same type of continuity and difference as exist between a seed and the mature plant that grows from the seed. God will not allow our bodies to be destroyed by Satan who will know no victory whatsoever over the believer.
They will never experience any corruption. How unlike our physical bodies now! Now we have aches and pains, as we age we gradually stop working properly and more and more things start to go wrong – wounds that once healed quickly now take an age. Physically we’re on a down-
Our resurrection bodies are described as being spiritual bodies. Now this does not mean that our bodies will be non-
And all of this will be the work of our Lord who has saved us! He will look upon us individually and collectively and be satisfied with what he sees! What an amazing thought that is!! The Bride of Christ will be there in glory without any spot wrinkle or blemish – we will be exactly what he wants us to be. The redeemed church will be able to say in the fullest way imaginable: I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine. I am my beloved’s and his desire is for me (Song.6:3; 7:10).
May God be praised for his wonderful plan of salvation and his wonderful Saviour our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be all the glory!