Series: 1 Corinthians
Heaven Is a World of Love, Part 2 (1 Corinthians Sermon 54)
June 21, 2020 | Andy Davis
1 Corinthians 13:8-13
Brotherly Love, Heaven, Love of God
Pastor Andy Davis preaches a second expository sermon on 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 exploring the love we can expect in heaven.
- SERMON TRANSCRIPT -
This is my final sermon in 1 Corinthians 13. We've had a lot of opportunities to study this incredible chapter, and just again to set it in context, we're in the middle of three chapters, 1 Corinthians 12-14, the Apostle Paul wrote almost 20 centuries ago to a local church in Corinth that he helped plant, and he was seeking to address various problems and difficulties in the life of that church, but the Holy Spirit was filling him and giving him words and perspectives that would be beneficial for every century of local church life since then. And so he is discussing the topic of spiritual gifts, three chapters, and we're right in the middle of it, this love chapter. Now that spiritual gifts, special abilities that God has given to each individual member of the body of Christ which enable us to minister to one another, they really are delivery systems of the grace of God. Our salvation is a process, it's an ongoing work: justification, sanctification, glorification, and so we are enabled through the Holy Spirit by spiritual gifts to participate in each other's salvation. And that's exciting, isn't it? When you think about it, but there were excesses, there were difficulties in the Corinthian church. They were misunderstanding some things. But we need to understand how the spiritual gifts are delivery systems for the grace of God, as it says in Ephesians, he gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers. That is the delivery system, primarily those five roles for the word of God. How the word comes from the mind of God through the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers to individuals, and people are converted and local churches are planted, and then they are strengthened and ministered to, a delivery system for the Word of God, and beyond that, beyond those five roles that are given there in Ephesians, we have those with gifts of healing, we have tongues and prophecy, which we are gonna have a chance next chapter to look at and to understand in its context. People with gifts of serving, gifts of administration, people with gifts of giving, all of these are delivery systems for the Word of God. God's grace flows through all of these, and they produce ultimately the three qualities that are highlighted at the end of 1 Corinthians 13: faith, hope and love.
So as the spiritual gifts are up and running in a local church they are strengthening faith, hope, and love in the people of God. That's what's going on, that's what hopefully is happening right now. As I preach this final chapter in 1 Corinthians 13 my desire is that the Holy Spirit would use me to strengthen your faith, your hope and your love, and we've come to understand those three, those vital aspects of the human soul: faith, hope and love. Faith is the eyesight of the soul by which we see invisible spiritual realities past, present, and future. By faith, we can see Christ crucified, by faith we can see the empty tomb and Christ raised from the dead. By reading the New Testament accounts of the post-resurrection appearances, it's like we're in the upper room and we can see the nail marks in Christ's hands and his feet like Thomas, and we are convinced and strengthened that Christ rose from the dead. It's the ministry of the word, it produces faith in us and our faith needs to be continually sustained and renewed and strengthened until we don't need it anymore.
And then what about hope? Hope is a strong feeling in the heart, a conviction, a sense of certitude in the heart that the future is bright based on the promises of God. It's something that lost people don't have. As it says in Ephesians that lost people are without hope and without God in the world, and we see that, don't we? As we look at current events, we see a bunch of hopeless people who don't think that the future is brighter, who are filled with fear, filled with anger, filled with rage, filled with all kinds of things. They don't have the hope that we have. And we have a responsibility to shine radiantly with hope, so that people who were without hope and without God in the world will ask us to give a reason for the hope that we have. And so my role this morning is to just feed your hope with the word of God, hence the meditation on heaven, that's gonna do it. If you believe what God says about your future, you should be buoyed up with hope as a result of the ministry of the word of God.
And then there's love, love is a strong attraction in the heart for another being, results in this world of sacrificial actions, but what 1 Corinthians 13 says is that faith and hope and love are the greatest and they abide but the greatest of these is love. And why is that? As I said in a sermon two weeks ago, it's because faith and hope are temporary. I look on them like the booster rockets that got the men to the moon. They drop off at a certain point. You don't need them anymore, when at last, you see Christ face-to-face you don't need faith or hope anymore. You will see him with your own eyes; you will see him, as the scripture says, face-to-face. And the need for faith is gone, and your hope will be gone too, because it will be fulfilled. Who hopes for what he already has? Romans 8 says hope is temporary, it will be fulfilled in heaven. But love, love continues. And heaven is a world of love. Heaven is a world of love.
Now, that phrase, that concept came into my life, into my mind from some sermons that were written by Jonathan Edwards almost 300 years ago, about two and three-quarter centuries ago. Edwards was a New England Puritan, very thorough, careful craftsman in the word of God, and he preached 17 sermons on 1 Corinthians 13, and the final one was, as I said last week, 40 pages long in the text, Charity and its Fruits, 40 pages on this one theme: Heaven is a World of Love. And I began kind of unfolding that and kind of explaining it last week, and got through four of his six points. I heard there was some trouble with the live stream, so I really don't know how much you heard last week, but I don't have time to go carefully through the first four, but I wanna give a bit of an overview of those four and then move on to the last two as we culminate our work. Now, we're talking about heaven because of the language at the end of 1 Corinthians 13. Paul talks about how the spiritual gifts deliver a vision, a concept of God that is imperfect and immature and incomplete, but it's enough for our salvation. It's like baby talk. And when we get to heaven we're going to come into a fully developed understanding of who God is, it's not inaccurate. If it's faithful to the text, it's inspired by the Holy Spirit, delivered by the ministry of the Spirit through proper use of spiritual gifts. It's an accurate picture of God, but Paul said it's like speaking like a child, like baby talk or the initial comments or concepts of a little boy or a little girl compared to what we're going to have when at last we see, not through a mirror dimly, but face-to-face. So he's talking about our heavenly experience of God. Now, Edwards divided his essay into six headings. First the cause and fountain of the love that is in heaven. Second, the objects of that love that is in heaven. Third, the subjects of that love that is in heaven. Fourth, the principle or nature of that love that is in heaven. Fifth, the circumstances in which heavenly love is exercised, expressed, and enjoyed. And then sixth, the happy effects and fruits of that love that is in heaven. So let me give a review of the first four before we get to the new material today.
I. The Cause and Fountain of that Love in Heaven
First, the cause and fountain of that love that is in heaven is Almighty God himself. We are going to see God at last face-to-face. The thing that was denied to Moses on the mountain when he said, "Show me your glory." And he could not see the glory of God for as God said at that time, "No man may see me and live." Whereas Paul will say later in this same epistle, "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God,” we cannot handle a full display of the glory of God, but in heaven we will be able to handle, to look as it were, at the radiant sun in all of its brilliance and not be incinerated, not drop dead. We will be able to drink in the glory of God and the central aspect of the glory of God, I believe, the glory of God is the radiant display of his attributes. And the central attribute of God is love. God is love. And as I said last week, it's so far beyond our ability to comprehend the difference between God is love and God is loving. God is loving because he is love. We are loving because God is love. Not because we are love. What would you think of a person who said, "I am love." be like, "That's weird." That's an infinite claim, but God claims to be love, and he is love, and love is in God the way light is in the sun, it's hard to even- can't even separate them. There's an infinite source of love in heaven bubbling from the throne of God like the river of the water of life continually created and renewed like a river. Ultimately, I think of it like an ocean. And we should understand that the God of love has always been love, and love always has to do, as I said, with another person. And so we believe as Christians in the Trinity, the mystery of the Trinity, three persons, Father, Son, and Spirit. And we believe from eternity past, God has never changed, and so there has been love flowing and re-flowing within the Trinity from eternity past, and still today it flows and re-flows and we are going to observe it and derive the benefits of it forever. So the Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father, and the Father loves the Spirit, and the Spirit loves the Father, and the Son loves the Spirit, and the Spirit loves the Son, a perfect flowing and re-flowing of love. And then he's included us in it. Drawn us in. And so heaven is a world of love because the cause and fountain of that love is God and God will be in our midst, his throne will be right in our midst, that's why.
"God is loving because he is love. We are loving because God is love, not because we are love."
II. The Objects of Love in Heaven
Secondly, the objects of love in heaven, there will be nothing but lovely objects in heaven. First and foremost: God himself, a perfectly lovely object. When you think about that, realize the source of all beauty there has ever been, everything that's ever ravished your heart or your eyes, everything that's ever drawn you and drawn affection from you, and emotion from you has come from God. All of the natural beauty you have ever seen in this world has come from God. All of the relational beauty you've ever seen, whether it's from parents early in your life, brothers and sisters, good friends, a spouse, your own children. All of those experiences that you have of love have come ultimately from God, and God is a perfectly lovely being in heaven. He will be there. And all of the other beings in heaven will be perfectly lovely, there'll be nothing twisted or grotesque or immoral or defiled. It says in Revelation 21:27, "Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the book of life." So perfectly lovely objects, and all of the redeemed will be perfectly lovely, you will, each one of you my brothers and sisters in Christ, be glorious in heaven. "You will shine like the sun [Jesus said] in the Kingdom of your Father." You will be perfectly lovely, and I will look forward to looking at you, and you will look forward to looking at me. Isn't that weird to say? But there it is. And you won't worship me and I won't worship you, we'll understand that the source of all the beauty comes from God, but perfectly lovely, and all of the redeemed will be perfectly lovely both within and without. Our hearts will be lovely and our bodies as well. Jonathan Edwards put it this way, "No string in the heavenly Symphony shall vibrate out of tune. Not a single discordant note in the heavenly song of worship to the Lamb, and the place itself shall be lovely.” The new Jerusalem, a radiant city, shining and described in Revelation 21-22, radiantly beautiful. And the new Earth, who can even put into words? The present Earth is cursed, it's under a curse, bondaged to decay, but it will be delivered into glorious freedom of the children of God. It will be itself resurrected and radiant and ready to be explored and ready to be a source of us worshipping God, but we will not worship nature, we will be free from all idolatry.
III. The Subjects of our Heavenly Love
Thirdly, the subjects of love by this Edwards means the nature of the hearts that produce the love, the subjects of the love that is in heaven. The heart of God, as I've said, the original seed of love, a never-ending inexhaustible supply of love forever. Now, what I believe with all my heart is that that love will flow in ever new and fresh and fascinating ways, it will captivate your attention for all eternity. There'll never be an end to the things you will experience and know of the love of God. You'll be learning the love of God forever, you'll be learning the glory of God forever, for you'll never be omniscient, and you will forever be able to have new ideas and fresh ideas of how glorious God is and how loving he is. Love, the love of God, is perfected toward us. God is truly attracted to the redeemed in heaven. He loves every one of them. No one is left out, no one is excluded, but God has a perfect affection for each one of his members, the bride of Christ, the bridegroom. Christ loves every single one of the members of his bride, or also members of his body. And not only that, but going outward horizontally, the hearts of the saints will be perfected toward one another, and we'll talk more about that in a moment.
IV. Of the Nature and Degree of Heavenly Love
What about the nature and degree of heavenly love? First of all, its nature, it will be all together holy, pure and divine. We will be totally conformed to the love of God, and love for God will at last be perfected. We will forever be studying and knowing and drinking in God, and therefore our love for God will be expanding in some degree for all eternity. I was reading last night a very negative article about heaven, it's like, "How could that be?" Well, this woman was a non-Christian and she said, "The Christian heaven, as it's described, sounds like hell to me." And she had 10 reasons for it, but one of the things she said is that eternity is static, never changing and therefore eternally boring. It's like, "Read my book when I write it." It will not be like that. Forever we will be learning new things about the glory of God, and that's exciting. So the saints' love for God in heaven will be pure, it will be accurate, it be based only on truth, and it will be free from all idolatrous conceptions of God, also our love for others will be perfected as well, we'll be free from all evil motives, free from all lusts, they'll be no base carnal desires, no selfish principles. There'll be at last, no pride, no envy, no covetousness; those aspects of 1 Corinthians 13 will be fulfilled in us perfectly in heaven.
"We will forever be studying and knowing and drinking in God, and therefore our love for God will be expanding in some degree for all eternity."
And what of the degree of love? Well, all heavenly love will be perfect in degree. Start with this: vertically, we will love God more in heaven than we do now. Let's keep that simple. Amen and Hallelujah. You will love God perfectly in heaven and love him more than you do here on Earth. Now, one of the key concepts though, when it comes horizontally, and this has been explosive and I've been meditating on, I do believe it's true, and it's very powerful, that there will be differing levels of glory in heaven. Not every created being will be equally glorious. Some are more glorious than others. And some will be more highly honored and more highly rewarded than others based on how they lived on Earth. And yet for all of that differing level, as it says, "Star differs from star in glory, so it will be with the resurrection from the dead.” 1 Corinthians 15, God willing, we'll get to that in a period of time, but glorification will deliver our hearts from all envy. So you can imagine, you will be somewhere in the hierarchy of glory and there will be created beings more glorious than you, shining more with the glory of God than you, and then there will be creative beings that will be less glorious than you. Unless you're bringing up the rear, in which case I'm telling you, you'll just be happy to be there and you'll be delighted to be there. But even in that case, you would have no envy whatsoever for any that's greater than you in glory; you'll be free from that. And why is that? Because all of the glory given to created beings is coming from God, it's some display of God anyway, and you delight in that. Beyond that, you will see the justice of God in rewarding some for the way that they sacrificed, the way that martyrs laid down their lives, the ways that others served in ways that are glorious and honorable and courageous. And you'll see the rightness of it and you will be delivered from all envy and you will celebrate. And as it says in 1 Corinthians 12, "When one part of the body is honored the whole body is honored with it." And so we will delight as part of a vast Family of God in the honors given to our brothers and sisters, and how beautiful will that be? And then of those that are below us in glory, we'll feel no arrogance, we will not boast in such a way that they will feel envious of us but we will see them as beautifully created in the image of God and delight in their glory as well. And so, as Edwards said, "It will not be a grief to any saint to see another saint elevated and honored above himself, actually, it will draw forth greater love and admiration and honor because God has done it and God is revealed and glorified by that person.”
Therefore, there will be variable experiences in heaven, not everyone's gonna have the same experience in heaven. Edwards said, "All shall have as much love as they desire and as great manifestations as they can bear, and so all shall be fully satisfied with what they're experiencing in heaven and where there is perfect satisfaction, there can be no envy." So an interesting application for this is how you live on Earth now affects how you will experience God's love in heaven, it will expand your capacity, your appetite in heaven, I believe. I think that's the essence of the rewards, it's a greater capacity to enjoy God. So I look at the two journeys, putting sin to death now by the Spirit and growing in holiness will increase your appetite for God in heaven. And sacrificially, sharing the gospel with others and talking to others about the word of God and being salt and light, and affecting others and other Christians using your spiritual gifts to bless others, that will increase your capacity for God in heaven. So I just wanna set before you, by way of application, be ambitious in a holy way. Go for as much heaven as you possibly can get. Even today say, “I wanna do as many good works as I can possibly do because I want to enjoy God more in heaven as a result.” I will say this concept was new to me three, or four, five years ago, and it's rather explosive, but I think you can talk like a baby, and then you can talk like a toddler, then you can talk like a little child, you can actually grow and develop in your conception of heavenly realities the more you meditate on it. But all of us are gonna jump by a quantum leap when we finally see Christ face-to-face. And we will have perfect love for the saints, “There will be undoubtedly [as Edwards said] an inconceivably pure, sweet and fervent love between the saints in glory and that love will be in proportion to the perfection and attractiveness of the objects beloved.” It's a very powerful, very awesome concept. Alright, that's all by way of review.
V. The Excellent Circumstances in which Love will be Exercised, Expressed, and Enjoyed in Heaven
Now, let's talk about the excellent circumstances in which love will be exercised, expressed and enjoyed in heaven, and let's start with this, the love in heaven will always be mutual. One of the greatest griefs and sorrows in this world is unrequited love. All you have to do is listen to popular songs and within three or four songs, you'll hear some primal scream of some individual who loved and wasn't loved in return, maybe the love has died and the person has left that life, would say, "You know you can... I can bring them... " And I'm not gonna cause you to stumble in many ways by singing any of these tragic songs, but you know what I'm talking about. I loved and they didn't love me, it hurts, it hurts. Could be, man to woman, woman to man, it could be parent to child, could be friend to friend, it could be all of that, unrequited love, and it's a grief, but in heaven, that will be gone forever. There will be no unrequited love in heaven. Love expressed from one saint to the other will be reciprocated in the other saint back.
Now here I have to say a word about marriage. Marriage will be, I would say, not obsolete, but fulfilled in heaven. Fulfilled. The time for procreation will be over. We'll neither marry nor be given in marriage, it would be like the angels in heaven, Jesus said. But I still believe that the core- the center of a Christian marriage is Christian oneness. It's Christian unity. A Trinitarian unity, like between the Father and the Son. And what I wanna say to you Christian couples is, your best days are yet to come as a married couple. You're going to go up into super marriage in heaven, just without the physical side, and so there will be no exclusive relationships in heaven. So I'm not gonna go so far as to speculate because it says, "What we will be has not yet been made known," 1 John 3. "So are you saying, pastor, I'm gonna be like, married to everyone in heaven? Is that how it works?" Something like that, but I know that starts sounding weird, but there's no exclusivity, you're not gonna be excluding any saint, but in terms of your spouse, your best-relating days are up ahead and will be eternal, and that's exciting.
Also in those horizontal relationships there'll be no coolness, no aloofness and no jealousy within it. Now, in this topic of unrequited love you must realize that the single most tragic, unrequited love there has ever been has been God's love for his people, God's love for his people. It has in every generation, been not suitably requited. You know, in Israel's day, it was likened to marriage between God and Israel, and Israel was likened to a prostitute wife in Gomer in the book of Hosea, who was constantly wandering after her lovers and her husband had to buy her affections back so that she would even spend time with him. And as I was studying that book for probably two years and doing scripture memorization, it was early in the process that I realized that the Holy Spirit was saying that I was Gomer in some degree. That my heart was constantly wandering after idols and impure and not loving God the way I should. And that's a grief. But in heaven, we his people, we his bride, will love him back ardently and perfectly, finally. Our love for God will be perfected and healed, and it will be there forever. And if you're a Christian today, you must in your heart- your heart must leap up to say, "Oh, Amen, let that happen." The greatest grief of my life is my lack of love for Christ and for God, and to know that when I get to heaven, a world of love, that I will finally love God the way I should have loved him every day of my life. That that will be perfected in me, how beautiful will that be. But not only that, I will have an ever-increasing sense of his love for me.
One of the great graces- great verses, sorry, of God's love for us in Christ that I think is worthy of daily study is in Ephesians 3:18-19, and there, Paul prays for the saints that each of them would, “have power together with all the saints to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and to know that love that surpasses knowledge- that you would be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” That's dimensional language. The dimensions of God's love for you, you will know- have a sense of the magnitude. So think of the new heavens and the new Earth, think about outer space and the infinitude of outer space and probing to the edge of the dimensions of the created order, and God's love is greater than that. Heaven, even the highest heavens, can't contain him. And you're gonna have a sense of the infinite magnitude of God's love for you, the greatness of it, and that you will, in heaven, be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. I don't fully know what those words even mean; I'll be full as full as God is full. How beautiful is that? And I believe in this sense dimensions and details, that's a phrase that God I think gave me a little while ago, we're gonna study the dimensions of God's love for us in Christ and also the details, the tiniest ways he showed love to us in life. How many are there? How many ways has God loved you this week? How many ways has God loved you over the course of your life? You don't even know. That's why I believe a review of your life will be well in order, and God will show you all of the ways he loved you in your life, and you'll learn the details and you will get a second chance, an eternal second chance to thank him for all the ways he loved you. And not just you, but you'll get a chance to study and learn how he loved your brothers and sisters, and you'll study that and you'll love him for that as well. And it will just continue to grow and you'll have a sense of dimensions and details, the forest and the trees. So think of vast redwood forest expanding as far as the eye can see, and then you get to study the details of a single redwood tree and be able to study every aspect of the bark and all of the things that are there. You're gonna know all the dimensions and details of God's love for you in Christ.
And our love in heaven will be uninterrupted and never damped. There'll be no stray thoughts, no dissonant demeanors that will ever creep in to ruin our love, not even for an instant. Our hearts will never grow weary. Our love will never faint or grow dim. Like the church at Ephesus had forsaken their first love. That's not gonna happen to us in heaven. Or Israel in the Old Testament, how God said through Jeremiah, Jeremiah 2:2, "I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the desert, through a land not sown.” “I remember how you used to love me, but you don't love me like that anymore.” Well, that's not gonna happen in heaven. Our love will never grow dim for God in heaven, and that's true also horizontally, human to human. We're not gonna start out the first 5000 years really loving this person or that person, and then something will happen and we won't love them as much anymore, that's just not gonna happen. Our love for each other, our ardor for each other will continue to grow. And there won't be any flattery, no fakery, people will be what they appear to be, and their love will be genuine. So much of our love here in this world is like a thin veneer over an unloving heart. Years ago, when I was in industry as an engineer, I worked for a company that made semi-conductor devices, this is a long time ago, and they did something called wet-metallization, they used to put gold, they used to plate gold on things. Well, I had a cross, a very cheap cross that I asked if I could plate with the gold, and you're like, "Wow, they are just giving gold away?" yeah, not much. Okay, it was in the bubbling kind of wet-metallization thing for about five minutes out came shiny and radiant and beautiful dripping and all that, and then it dried and there was my gold cross, and within a day it was kind of gold, and within three days it wasn't gold at all, and you're like, “Is that what our love for Christ and for each other is like?” Yeah, something like that. I noticed this morning that my iPhone buttons used to be shiny metallic on the side now they're white plasticy, anyway, that's worn off, so many things are like that in this world, they just wear off. But in heaven, it will not be that way. Our hearts will be pure and perfectly united behind every expression of love we ever made. And there will be no evil influence that will come from the outside to corrupt our pure expressions of love, and nothing will ever bubble up from within. Our hearts will be free and clear. In this world, we're somewhat like clods that don't really get it. How many times did the apostles- they were like that, the 12, just didn't get it. "Are you that dull?" Jesus would say. But our hearts will not be dull, we will understand.
Also in this world, we are frequently guarded and careful when it comes to love relationships. We tend to be closed. We tend to guard ourselves because of past wounds and past hurts. We're fragile and cautious in love, we don't believe it when people are nice to us or express love to us because we've been hurt before. But in heaven we will all of us have been healed from all of that, and we will be actually open, free, bold and courageous in love, because we know that the love will be requited forever.
And our resurrected glorified minds and bodies will aid this love for all eternity. Our flesh, as I said, hinders our experiencing of love in this world, but our resurrection minds will be able to understand, vertically, God, perfectly, never comprehensively. There will always be more to learn about God, but whatever we know about God, will be a perfect and right knowledge of God, our resurrection minds will be able to do that, and we'll be able to understand each other as well. We'll know who this is and who that is, and what their story is, and all that. And we'll get all that and then our hearts will be perfected as well, the right information that's come in will elicit the right response from us. And then our bodies will kick in; we will be energetic in expressions. First and foremost of worship to God, you'll never grow tired in your worship. Never. So I think of this as perfect truth plus perfect energy, you're just getting the truth and a perfect reaction to the truth and an energetic expression of love, how often will that be or how awesome will that be? Edwards said this,
Often, the saints on earth want to fly, but they're held down as with dead weights upon their wings. Often they would be active and would mount up as a flame of fire, but they find themselves hampered, chained down, so they cannot do as their love inclines them to do. Love for God pushes them to erupt and burst forth in praise, but their dull, weak, lifeless flesh holds them back. But in heaven, they shall have no such hindrance, they will have no dullness, there'll be no corruption of the heart to wage war against divine love and hinder its expression. And in heaven, no earthly body shall clog with its heaviness the heavenly flame, the saints in heaven will have no difficulty expressing all their love. Their souls being on fire with holy love shall not be like a fire pent up but like a flame uncovered and at liberty. Their spirits being winged with love shall have no weight upon them to hinder their flight. There shall be no lack of strength or activity, no lack of words, where with the praise, the object of their affection, nothing shall hinder them from communing with God and praising and serving him, just as their love inclines them to do.
We're going to have limitless energy in our resurrection bodies to express our love horizontally for one another and especially vertically toward God. And in heaven, love will be expressed with perfect decency and wisdom. On earth, sometimes we swing and miss as we try to express our love to other people. Today is Father's Day, I assume that some of you will want to honor your fathers and you'll give him a gift, perhaps. I'm not asking for anything from my family, I'm not making a pitch to be honored on Father's Day, but there is the possibility at least of a swing and miss when it comes to a Father's Day gift. It does happen, and not just that, it happens on Mother's Day, it happens on birthdays, you meant well but you just didn't know what the person really wanted or needed. Some of our expressions of love can be somewhat ham-handed. We don't really understand the circumstance that person's going through, we mean well, but we can't express it, but in heaven, there will be no unwise or ill-timed or foolish overtures, only genuine expressions of love genuinely received.
And in heaven nothing external will ever come in to sever a love relationship, we will never be separated from one another. Every wedding that I perform in the vows are these words, "Till death do us part." And we know that all human relationships, earthly relationships are temporary because of death, death is the final enemy. But in heaven, death will have been vanquished. Death and Hades will have been thrown into the lake of fire. Death will be dead, and we will live forever and ever. And therefore, our relationships will never be severed; nothing will come from the outside in. The gates of the New Jerusalem stand open forever because there are no enemies left, all the enemies are gone, they've been removed. And so there will be no sorrow. No grief. John Bunyan, when he was imprisoned in the 17th century for preaching the Gospel without a license, was separated for 15 years from his wife and his blind daughter, and he said the separation from them has been like the plucking of my flesh from my bones. I think it was hardest for him, as he could have gotten out that day if he just signed a document that he would never preach again, but he couldn't do it. In 1858, when John Paton said goodbye to his loving godly father in Scotland, to get on a boat to go to the New Hebrides Islands in the South Pacific, it was well for them to assume they would never see each other again on Earth. And so the parting is one of the most powerful emotional scenes I've ever read in church history, painful. It was like a death. Even though both of them were still alive, they would never see each other in that world again. But death will have been destroyed forever, and other things that have separated people, one from another will have been completely resolved. There'll be no barrier, no dividing wall of hostility at all in heaven. Racism at last will have been solved. There's nothing that governments can do, there's no policies, we can be salt and light and reduce the impact of racism, but we're going to a world in which there will be people from every tribe, language, people, and nation in perfect Trinitarian unity. And I believe we'll remember the journey we went through and see how Christ solved it and give him the glory, and I'm looking forward to that. And frankly, the more of that heavenly hope we can have now the better, this is exactly what our country needs, is people that are filled with this kind of heavenly hope to speak the truth into these circumstances.
Beyond that, all of the past history of wrongs, of invading armies that raped and pillaged and murdered, and then there are national hatreds against other nations and individuals from those nations tend to hate one another, all of those things will have been solved, swallowed up in the grace of God. How sweet will that unity be that we'll have in heaven? In heaven, we will be part of a beautiful family of God, we will all be members, he our perfect Father, we his sons and daughters, and we're gonna have that family unity. That's why I said, when one part of the body is honored, the whole body is honored with it. When your brother or your sister is honored, you're gonna celebrate because they're part of the family, and so are you, and it's gonna be marvelous. We're gonna belong to each other. Says the Song of Songs 6:3, "I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine." God will be yours, and you will be his, and your brothers and sisters will be yours, and you will be theirs. We'll belong to one another in a way we can hardly imagine.
And there will be uninterrupted prosperity; you're going to be super rich in heaven. Super rich, all of the things that you prize and are delightful displays of the grace and the goodness of God will be yours, especially the rewards that God will lavish on you for your faithful service. There'll be no grief, no sorrow of any pain to diminish your sense of that wealth. Christ himself will no longer be a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering, all of that will have been fulfilled because the sufferings of his people will have been completed and they will be done. And our ownership of property will serve our perfect love for each other. So you're saying, “Are we actually gonna own stuff in heaven?” Yes, you will, you'll have your own crowns, you'll get to cast them before the Lord and give him credit, but they'll be yours. And if any of you should sit on thrones to Jesus's right or left, I'd like to know who you are. I'd be honored to shake your hand if you're one of those that are sitting to Jesus's right or left in the Kingdom of heaven, but those would be your thrones.
And what about properties and inheritances and all that you may say, "Well, is that even biblical?" Well, Jesus said this in Luke 16:11 and 12, "If you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy," listen to this, "with someone else's property, who will give you property of your own?" So we're going to have stuff forever and ever and ever, but yet we will have an expansive heart in love, so that whatever is ours, we will gladly share with others. So you all can visit my mansion, wherever that is, whenever you want, I hope that you'll reciprocate. I'm sure you will. If you're saying, "We're all gonna be living in the new Jerusalem in that infinitely tall skyscraper and all that, that is described in Revelation 21:5, I don't know the details. All I know is it says in Acts 4:32, "All the believers who are one in heart and mind, no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had." So they are our own. There are ours, but we will openly, freely share with one another.
And we will know in heaven confidently and peacefully that this experience that we're having will go on forever, we don't have any fear, we won't think it'll ever end. We'll know it won't end. It will go on forever and ever. We'll have no fear of bad news in heaven, but we know that the things that we experience will be forever. Edwards said, "All in heaven shall flourish in immortal youth and freshness. Age shall not diminish anyone's beauty or vigor. Attribute shall not wither like a river flowing forever deeper, increasing, always springing forth, always blossoming, always bearing fruit, not static." Like it says, Revelation 22:1-2, "Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal flowing from the throne of God and of the lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. And on each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing 12 crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” Forever.
VI. The Blessed Effects and Fruits of this Love as it will be so Expressed in Heaven
Sixth, and very briefly, the blessed effects and fruits of this love as it will be so expressed in heaven, we will because of this perfect love behave perfectly toward one another in heaven. I find this interesting that Edwards thought about our heavenly behavior and it will be good. We're gonna treat each other well in heaven, most excellent, perfect behavior toward God and toward one another. Heavenly society will be perfect in every way. No one will be isolated; no one will be ostracized, or as we say these days cancelled. No one will be unpopular or left out. All will be welcomed at all times.
I don't know, we don't know how we will be employed in heaven. I think we will have employments in heaven. Why would God give us a resurrection mind, a resurrection body, limitless energy, this incredibly- new heaven, new earth, and all of these- and nothing to do? That makes no sense at all. But we do know the central employment of heaven will be worship. We are gonna be around the throne, we're gonna be seeing the glory of God directly, unhindered, unfiltered, we will be on our faces forever praising God. And we will have perfect tranquility and joy in heaven. We will experience it in peacefulness and joy. Think about the crystal sea with no ripples or waves or storms or typhoons or any of that, but just peace. I think it represents perfect peacefulness.
Alright, applications. First to you who are non-Christians, any of you that may be here in this building now, any of you that may be listening by live stream, my heart is filled right now with one thought, I don't want you to miss out. I don't want you not to be there. I've said before that if there were no hell, but just some neutral place that wasn't heaven and there were heaven, it would be like hell to not be there. But there is a hell, eternal conscious torment. And the Lord Jesus Christ came into the world to live a sinless life and earn a righteousness through perfect love, vertically for God and horizontally for others, a perfect life of righteousness that he desires to give you as a gift, like a beautiful robe of holiness that you can put on yourself now by faith, you'll need it on judgment day, because without that he will not let you into heaven. And he's willing to take all of your filthy sins and all of your wickedness and your defilements, all of the ways you have not loved God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and you've not loved your neighbor as yourself, all of that defilement, that record of sin and die, Jesus dying, shedding his blood on the cross under the just wrath of God, so that you would be free from guilt. Please trust in Christ; please believe in him. Don't miss out on this heavenly world that I've been describing for two weeks.
Now you Christians, spend more time, I would say daily, meditating on heaven. I've given you probably a 100 ideas today of things you could think about in heaven. It says in Colossians 3, "Since then you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God." Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things, for you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. So you ought to think about, set your hearts on heaven more than you have in the past. Meditate on it daily.
Secondly, think of yourself, therefore, more and more as an alien and stranger here, this world is not your home, say that to yourself, "This world is not my home. I'm not looking for eternal blessedness here." This is a corrupted sin-soaked, world of sorrow and misery- opportunity to serve. Yes, opportunity. We'll get to that in a moment. But this world is not your home. So you ought to think more and more like an alien and a stranger here, think, "Heaven is my home."
"This world is not your home. So you ought to think more and more like an alien and a stranger here, think, "Heaven is my home. ""
Thirdly, let's study heaven as a world of love in particular, and let that study move you vertically to love God more than you ever have before. Let your love for God be more ardent and passionate and knowledgeable than ever before, love him with all- every fiber of your being. Ask the Holy Spirit to work in you to love God. And secondly, let him move you horizontal, love your neighbor as yourself, in the way that I've been describing here for two weeks, say, "Oh God, would you please take the truths that are in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, about what love is and what love isn't and fulfill them in me. Oh, God, make me patient. Make me kind. Make me not envious or boastful or arrogant. Make me not easily angered. Oh God, help me not to keep a record of wrongs, I want to fulfill 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, just work that in me." And let heaven, meditation on heaven, help you with that. I would also urge that you pray over Ephesians 3:17-19, daily, pray it for yourself and pray for others. Let me say it again, “I pray that you being rooted and established in love may have power together with all the saints to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. And that you would know that love that surpasses knowledge- that you would be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” He prayed that for Ephesian Christians and for all the Christians he knew, pray that for yourself, pray that for your spouse, or your kids, or your parents, or your friends, your pastors, pray that for me. I would love that. To be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God, knowing how much God loves me in Christ, pray for that.
Fifth, let thoughts of heaven's holiness and purity drive out all lust and sin habits. After Colossians 3:1-4, that set your heart on things above, set your heart in heaven, he said, "Put to death, therefore whatever belongs to your earthly nature.” All the lusts, the habits of sin, if there's anything in your mind, the Holy Spirit's bringing to your mind that you know he wants you to kill, kill it. Kill it now by the power of the Spirit, put to death the misdeeds of the flesh by the Spirit. Let yearning for heaven's holiness drive out sin.
And then sixth, let zeal for the glory of God in heaven move you to take risks in evangelism and missions. Live a risk your life. It's not really a risk. You can't lose. If you get persecuted, you'll get great rewards in heaven, if they listen to you and become your brother and sister in Christ, you'll get to be with them in heaven, either way, you can't lose, so let's be bold in evangelism. We're put here in Durham to be a light shining as in a dark place, let's be bold.
And then finally, let the comforts of heaven that we've described today greatly reduce any of you that are sorrowful, that have been through losses and crosses in this world, that are hurting. Maybe you've lost a loved one. Maybe you've got physical pain, chronic illness... I don't know what your circumstances are, but let meditation on heaven reduce the pain and the sorrow you feel about that. Some day, you're gonna be in a world with no death, mourning, crying or pain.
Close with me in prayer. Lord, thank you for two weeks that we've had to meditate on this, Lord, we ask that it would produce in us zeal for your glory in the two journeys, personal holiness, and also gospel advance. Help us, oh Lord, be a light shining in our country. Help us to live so filled with hope, that people who are without hope and without God in the world will be moved to ask us to give a reason for the hope that we have. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.