In our current sermon series we have explored the language of our faith that communicates what we believe as Christians. Today’s post will discuss one final big word, glorification, which is the end result of all the other words.
We’ve quoted the founder of our denomination, John Wesley, a good bit during this series. For him, glorification was the ultimate goal of the Christian life and the final step in salvation. It is when we achieve our divinely-appointed destiny and share in God’s glory with our resurrected bodies in the new heaven and the new earth. Glorification is the culmination of the process of sanctification through which we become like Christ and have all sin removed from our lives, once and for all. It is what is spoken about in various places in the New Testament:
Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is. (1 John 3:2 NLT)
Dear brothers and sisters, our physical bodies cannot inherit the Kingdom of God…For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die, our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. (1 Corinthians 15:50a, 53 NLT)
So our glorification, as believers, occurs when Jesus comes again or when we die. In either case, we are then made ready for our eternal home in heaven.
We are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own… (Philippians 3:20-21 NLT)
So glorification is a state of being (being like Christ) that is lived out in a place (heaven).
Since this is the end game of the Christian life, John Wesley put a lot of emphasis on it. In fact, he went so far as to make this statement: “I want to know one thing, the way to heaven; how to land safe on that happy shore. God Himself has condescended to teach the way; for this end He came from heaven.”
The most important thing we can learn here on earth is how to get to heaven. That’s because this life is really just preparation for the next life. And heaven is not so much a reward for how we live our life as it is a consequence. It is the result of following the way of salvation and sanctification until we, through perseverance, ultimately arrive at our intended destination.
How’s that for stringing a bunch of “big words” together? ☺
I don’t know about you, but like John Wesley, I want to know the way to heaven.
Of course, that way is found in Jesus Christ who is the way, the truth, and the life.
And right before He made that statement, Jesus told His followers: “Believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:1-2 NIV)
If our glorification is lived out in a place called heaven, what kind of a place is it?
In the remainder of this message, I want to look at what the Bible has to say about heaven, where all who believe in Christ will live eternally in their glorified state.
1) A Place of PERMANENCE
All honor to God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; for it is his boundless mercy that has given us the privilege of being born again so that we are now members of God’s own family…And God has reserved for his children the priceless gift of eternal life; it is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. (1 Peter 3:3-4 LB)
In this world, we face the prospects of being cut from the team, dismissed from our job, deported from our homeland, displaced by a hurricane, or abandoned by a friend. We’re continually reminded there are no guarantees in life and nothing lasts forever.
But upon our arrival in heaven, we will be eternally secure with no fear of rejection. Then the theology oftentimes debated in Christian circles will be absolutely correct: “Once saved, always saved!” Or better said, “once there, always there!”
And our inheritance as God’s children won’t be ruined and it won’t run out. As the great hymn, Amazing Grace, suggests, even “when we’ve been there ten thousand years,” everything will be as new and fresh as the day we arrived. It’s a place of permanence because, like God’s mercies, all is “new every morning.” Nothing rots, spoils, or decays, and there are no cancer-causing preservatives required!
2) A Place of PEACE
In the 3,500 years of recorded human history, about 268 of them have been without war. Since WWI (inappropriately dubbed “the war to end all wars”), we have not had a single year without some type of international conflict.
Of course, what happens among nations also occurs in homes and neighborhoods, and even within our own hearts and minds. We can identify with the sentiment expressed by the hymn writer in Just as I Am. We feel “tossed about with many a conflict, many doubt,” with “fightings and fears within, without.”
In this world, discord, disagreements, and all-out war are the prevailing conditions. But, in contrast, heaven is a place of peace.
Why is that the case? John, in his Book of Revelation, gives us the answer:
And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new! All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children. But cowards, unbelievers, the corrupt, murderers, the immoral, those who practice witchcraft, idol worshipers, and all liars — their fate is in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” (Revelation 21:5, 7-8 NLT)
First of all, heaven is a place of peace because the Prince of Peace, Jesus, rules over it. He is “the one sitting on the throne” and He is the One who needs to be there.
In contrast, who is the ruler of this world? Satan.
Explains the chaos, huh?
Satan is a “substitute” ruler and not a very good one at that. But Jesus is the One who is worthy to sit on the throne and brings perfect peace.
Heaven is also a place of peace because there are no evil doers present.
In our glorified state, there will be no one to fear and nothing to worry about. Because we’ll be in a place of absolute peace, where all is well and all are well.
3) A Place of PLEASURE
So what’s heaven like? Is it the great fishing hole in the sky? Does everybody shoot under par on the golf course? Do we get to shop with an unlimited line of credit? Is it home to a casino where everyone hits the jackpot?
I wouldn’t get your hopes up in any of those regards. Besides, what brings you enjoyment might be torture to someone else.
That being said, it is a very pleasurable place and one we can look forward to. John Wesley said there is “perfect happiness” in heaven.
What makes it a place of such great pleasure? For one, it is described throughout Scripture as “paradise.”
Jesus: “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43 NLT)
Revelation makes it very clear that it is an absolutely beautiful setting – streets of gold, walls adorned with precious jewels, gates of pearl, crystal clear rivers.
There is also great pleasure to be found in heaven because of what we receive there.
Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Put this in writing. From now on, the Lord will bless everyone who has faith in him when they die.” The Spirit answered, “Yes, they will rest from their hard work, and they will be rewarded for what they have done.” (Revelation 14:13 CEV)
In heaven, our days of toil and labor will be over and we will enjoy true rest.
I’m convinced there will still be things to be done, but it won’t be hard work. And we will receive rewards that will bring us pleasure and delight.
Scripture makes it clear that everyone doesn’t just get a “participation award” in heaven. There is some pecking order of rewards and prizes. We’re not told what they are exactly, but they’re based on our earthly performance so what we do here affects what we receive there.
Whatever it looks like, heaven will be a pleasurable, even glorious, place for us to enjoy.
4) A Place of No PAIN
Much of our human existence is characterized by hurts, suffering, and sorrow, but in heaven, those things are non-existent.
“[God] will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (Revelation 21:4 NLT)
Has anybody else noticed how hard life is and how tough it can be? Do you ever just want the pain and suffering to end?
It will one day. That great truth not only gives us something to look forward to, it also helps us cope. We can have hope that an end is in sight; there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
That’s why whenever folks are hurting, you’re more likely to hear them talking about and longing for heaven. One day, we’ll all be able to echo the words of the Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Free at last, free at last! Thank God Almighty! I’m free at last!”
That’s the reality now being lived by those who have preceded us in death.
Whether our loved ones died at a ripe old age or had their lives cut tragically short, be assured they’re in a place where there is “no death or sorrow or crying or pain.”
Given a chance, I promise you, as much as they may love you and want to be with you, they wouldn’t come back. They wouldn’t give up their new immortal, glorified bodies for their old immortal, earthly ones.
That’s because heaven is a place of permanence, peace, pleasure, and no pain. But most of all, it’s…
5) A Place of God’s PRESENCE
We know that, through His Holy Spirit, God is with us here in this world. But in heaven, we’ll experience the glory and grandeur of God’s presence in a fuller, more complete, way.
“Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.” (Revelation 21:3 NLT)
The throne of God and of the Lamb will be there…And they will see his face… And there will be no night there – no need for lamps or sun – for the Lord God will shine on them. (Revelation 22:3-5 NLT)
Ultimately, God is what makes heaven heaven.
As John Wesley said, “The essential part of heaven is to see, know, and love God.”
In God’s eternal presence, I have a feeling all of our questions and concerns will fade away.
“When I get to heaven, I’m going to ask God…” No, you won’t! You’ll fall down in worship!
“What if when I get to heaven, so-and-so isn’t there?” It won’t matter! You’ll just be glad you are!
This reality of heaven is why Jesus assured His disciples, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:3 NIV)
Commenting on this passage, New Testament commentator William Barclay writes: “Here is a great truth put in the simplest way; for the Christian, heaven is where Jesus is. We do not need to speculate on what heaven will be like. It is enough to know that we will be forever with him. When we love someone with our whole heart, we are really alive only when we are with that person…The best definition is to say that heaven is that state where we will always be with Jesus.” (William Barclay, John, Vol. 2, p. 156)
I don’t know about you, but that’s enough for me. Like Christ’s original disciples, what I want more than anything is to be where Jesus is.
And that’s where you and I will be because of the “big word” of glorification.
Let me quickly recap the ground we’ve covered in this series. We started with depravity, recognizing that we are all sinful creatures and can do nothing good, let alone save ourselves. But God doesn’t abandon us, He extends to us His prevenient grace so that because of His goodness we can respond to Him and exercise our free will. Then we have a choice to make – will we repent of our sins and believe the Good News of Jesus Christ? When we do, we experience conversion and receive God’s salvation. And we can be certain that we are saved because of the assurance given by the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. But that’s not the end, because God has made us for a purpose – to be like Him – and that becomes a reality when we embark on the journey toward sanctification by surrendering every area of our lives to the Lord. Then through the ministry of the church (ecclesiology) and perseverance we can make it to the end until we achieve glorification and find our eternal home in heaven.
So what these “big words” show us is that what we do and how we live in the present affects what will happen to us in the future (and we can’t skip right to glorification).
For us who follow Christ, a bit of heaven can be experienced right now. We can have a sense of belonging as permanent residents of God’s Kingdom. We can enjoy a type of peace that is beyond human understanding. We can feel the pleasure of the abundant life Jesus offers. We can experience a limited freedom from pain through the healing power of Christ. And we can definitely live in the presence of God since His Holy Spirit is resident in us and among us.
With our eye on the prize, let’s take one day at a time and keep moving toward our eternal destination by trusting God and obeying His Word, repenting of our sins and believing the good news, following Christ and surrendering our lives to Him.
What can you do today to get a head start on living like you will in heaven?
There’s no sin there, so perhaps it is time to cease and desist sinful behavior in your life. There’s no discord there, so maybe you need to forgive and reconcile with some folks. And since Christ is on the throne there, why not make Him Lord and King now?
How can you give someone else a little glimpse of heaven that may lead them there? What can you do to help others “see, know, and love God” right here and now?
When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be!
When we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory!
Let us then be true and faithful, trusting, serving ev’ry day;
Just one glimpse of Him in glory will the toils of life repay.