Nothing on Earth Can Compare

Edwards captures the largeness of God and heaven.

The Northampton pastor compels his hearers to remember the sweet and sometimes forgotten promises of Scripture. The “mustard seed” that fights to grow here will surely grow into “a great tree” in eternity. The soul that fought to taste the love of God in this earth but battled bitterly against besetting sin, hurtful situations, and desperate circumstances will find its “little spark of divine love” turned into “a bright, ardent flame.”

 

The one sermon many secular students ever read or hear about is “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” preached by Jonathan Edwards. It’s a good and true sermon, but it boxes in Edwards as an aficionado of anger—and he was much more than that. Owen Strachan and Douglas A. Sweeney’s The Essential Jonathan Edwards is an excellent introduction to the great 18th century theologian who is heavy sledding for modern readers. Please read the thoughts about heavenly joy Edwards had in the excerpt below, courtesy of Moody Publishers, and you’ll see why he tried so hard to warn his congregation that they were in danger of missing out.

The Essential Jonathan Edwards was an honorable mention selection for WORLD’s 2018 Book of the Year in the Accessible Theology category.—Marvin Olasky

We often make the pleasures of this world our standard for happiness. Yet even the best and most lasting joys of this world cannot fractionally compare to the goodness of heaven. Living in heaven, Edwards tells us, is like taking “flight out into an endless expanse” and plunging “into a bottomless ocean” of the “beauty and loveliness of God.” None of this will prove “a dull story,” as our earthly joys often do. God has made lasting delight in earthly experiences and possessions evasive. We lose happiness easily here. We grow bored with our favorite things. We easily sense something of the ennui of this world, the listlessness, the tendency to break down and stagnate. We will not know such a deadening pattern in heaven. Our enhanced senses will handle as much delight as they possibly can for all of eternity. We will know joy upon joy, delight upon delight, “forever and ever.”

Mansions for all

The gold standard of earthly achievement has been, for centuries, a mansion. Though we might initially chastise such a desire, it seems from the Bible that we were made to desire a heavenly mansion, a place where we can rest in satisfaction and ease, as John 14:2 promises. Edwards elaborated on this text in his sermon “Many Mansions”:

Let all be hence exhorted, earnestly to seek that they may be admitted to a mansion in heaven. You have heard that this is God’s house: it is his temple. If David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah, and in the land of Jeshua, and of the Philistines, so longed that he might again return into the land of Israel, that he might have a place in the house of God here on earth, and prized a place there so much, though it was but that of a doorkeeper; then how great in happiness will it be to have a place in this heavenly temple of God. If they are looked upon as enjoying an high privilege that have a seat appointed there in kings’ courts, or an apartment in kings’ palaces, especially those that have an abode there in the quality of the king’s children; then how great a privilege will it be to have an apartment or mansion assigned us in God’s heavenly palace, and to have a place there as his children. How great is their glory and honor that are admitted to be of the household of God. (Works 19, 743)

Edwards’s words show that God intends for His people to live satisfied, restful, enjoyable lives in heaven. This is what the mansion signifies—not self-glorifying wealth, but the abundant, generous gift of God to His people. On this earth Christians know suffering, poverty, and want to varying degrees. It is a sure hope that in the life to come, the Lord will give us an endless bounty of goodness and a “high privilege” that has never been known on this earth (1 Cor. 2:6–10). We will not hole up in our heavenly mansions, however. In the world to come, we will gather as the family of God:

Heaven is the house where God dwells with his family. God is represented in Scripture as having a family; and though some of this family are now on earth, yet in so being, they are abroad, or not at home, but all going home. Ephesians 3:15, “Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.” Heaven is the place that God has built for himself and his children. God has many children, and the place designed for ’em is heaven. And therefore the saints, being the children of God, are said to be of the household of God. Ephesians 2:19, “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.” God is represented as an householder, or the head of a family, and heaven is his house. (Works 19, 738)

In heaven, we will dwell together with God. We will gather as a joyful family to celebrate the One who has called us to Himself. We will experience perfect communion and intimate fellowship with one another and with our God. We will make our way to our mansion and take unforeseen delight in the home prepared for us.

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