My Dear Friends,
When a Christian thinks about heaven he instinctively thinks about his eternal inheritance, the eternal home in the heavens not built by human hands, where he will enjoy the nearer presence of God in Christ forever. And this is right and wonderfully true. But. is our first thought about heaven to be about what it will mean for “me”? Much of our Christian life is a battle against anthropocentrism, the tendency to make ourselves the centre of our spiritual universe. I want to suggest to you that when you think about heaven your first thought should be, not what it will mean for you, but what it will mean for God.
In his quite wonderful treatise on Communion with God (vol. 2 of his Collected Works), John Owen wrote “Now, Christ delights exceedingly in his saints: ‘As the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so thy God shall rejoice over thee’, Isa.lxii.5. His heart is glad in us without sorrow. And every day whilst we live is his wedding day . thoughts of communion with the saints were the joy of his heart from eternity.” When I first read those words I was stunned. I felt I could hardly take in what Owen was saying. From eternity past, our Lord Jesus Christ looked forward to intimate, unbroken communion with redeemed sinners like me. I am not sure (to my great shame) whether I had ever really thought of what my salvation would mean for my Saviour as such. And yet Owen was simply echoing a truth that is writ large throughout the Bible - the heavenly Father’s supreme purpose is not my salvation but his Son’s glory (read Romans 8:29). I know these two cannot be separated; but the omega point of the Father’s eternal purpose is not my blessedness but his Son’s glory, the glory of being the firstborn among many brothers. Christocentrism, not anthropocentrism, is the pulsebeat of the gospel.
Now take this thought with you as we think for a moment about heaven.
The eternal glory is where the Lord Jesus is united in a special way with his redeemed people. In the final new creation, the Saviour will be united with his bride in all her fullness and perfection (Rev.21:1ff). His pleasure, the pleasure which he anticipated throughout the ages of eternity, will be consummated, and his joy will be complete. Please do not misunderstand me: Heaven will be our great and glorious joy and delight. In heaven we shall see his face (Rev.22:4). In heaven he will wipe away every tear from our eyes (Rev.21:3). In heaven sin and death will be no more and we will endlessly worship our heavenly King with sinless delight and un-distracted joy. But heaven is first about HIM, not about us.
Samuel Rutherford was surely right when he wrote, “The Lamb is all the glory in Immanuel’s land.” Remarkably, however, it is when we make our Saviour’s joy the default of our spiritual life that we discover that his joy is our joy. It is almost inconceivable that God, the living, true, and holy God, rejoices over his redeemed people with singing (Isaiah 62:5) - but he does! He rejoices over you - not because of any worth in you, but because you are in his beloved Son.
I am conscious that I have poorly expressed what has been on my heart. But if nothing else may we learn to think Christocentrically and discover that his blessedness is our blessedness. This is my “Thought for Christmas”. Not one mention of a star, a cradle, wise men, donkeys or whatever. See beyond the incidentals to the heart of the matter, the revelation of the glory of God in the saving incarnation of his Son. To what purpose? Your and my salvation? Yes. But first for the glory and eternal praise and blessedness of his Son.
With my love and greetings as ever.