Read I John 3:1–3
With respect to the believer’s final bliss many questions reach the minister. Some of these apply also to the intermediate state, for, as we remarked earlier, it is not always possible to separate these two.
1. IN THE NEW HEAVEN AND EARTH WHAT WILL BE OUR RELATION TO THE ANGELS?
With respect to this question as well as to many others, we shall have to wait for the full answer until we get to the region of bliss. Very little has been revealed. It may be argued, perhaps, that basically this relation will remain what it is now. God created the angels to be “ministering spirits sent forth to render service in the interest of those who are to obtain salvation” (Hebrews 1:14). On the other hand, man was created to exercise dominion (Genesis 1:26). Is it possible, then, that even in the realm of glory angels will still be rendering service to us? (See, however, Question 3 under Additional Questions below.) It can hardly be doubted that redeemed man will remain forever a higher creature than the angels (I Corinthians 6:3; d. Revelation 5:11). It is also certain that even in the realm of glory the angels will learn a great deal from us (cf. Ephesians 3:10), and it is possible that we shall learn much from them and from their songs in adoration of God and the Lamb (Revelation 5:11, 12:7, 11, 12).
Between the redeemed and the angels there is ever a close relationship.
ATTENDANTS of Christ (II Thessalonians 1:7), their and our exalted Head (Ephesians 1:21, 22; Colossians 2:10).
BRINGERS of good tidings concerning our salvation, having seen the Lord not only in his birth but also in his resurrection and post-resurrection glory (I Timothy 3:16; cf. Luke 2:14; 24:4; Acts 1:11).
CHORISTERS of heaven ( I Corinthians 13:1; d. Luke 15:10; Revelation 5:11, 12).
DEFENDERS of God’s children (II Thessalonians 1:7–10; cf. Psalm 91:11 ; Daniel 6:22; 10:10, 13, 20; Matthew 18:10; Acts 5:19; Revelation 12:7), though the latter outrank them and win judge them (r Corinthians 6:3; cf. Hebrews 1:14).
EXAMPLES in obedience ( I Corinthians 11:10; cf. Matthew 6:10).
FRIENDS of the redeemed. constantly watching them, deeply interested in their salvation and rendering service to them in every way, also in executing the judgment of God upon the enemy (Galatians 3:19; I Corinthians 4:9; II Thessalonians 1:7; cf. Matthew 13:41; 25:31, 32; Luke 16:22; I Peter 1:12; Hebrews 1:14; Revelation 20:1–3).
“Glory to God” is ever the anthem of the angels. In the realm of perfection it will also be our anthem, and it should be that even now.
2. WE HEAR SO MUCH ABOUT “GOING TO HEAVEN” BUT THE II IBLE INFORMS US THAT THE MEEK WILL INHERIT THE EARTH (MATTHEW 5:5). WHAT IS RIGHT?
In the realm of final bliss, a new heaven and a new earth, that is, God’s entire, gloriously renewed universe, will be ours to enjoy and to use for the glory of God. The conditions of holiness, joy, glory, etc., obtaining even now in heaven, win then pervade the entire redeemed universe (Revelation 21:1–3). We ourselves, both in body and soul shall be adapted to this new universe (see Outline XXIII).
3. IN VIEW OF I CORINTHIANS 15:50, WHICH INFORMS US THAT “FLESH AND BLOOD” CANNOT INHERIT THE KINGDOM OF GOD, IS THE CONCLUSION WARRANTED THAT THE PHYSICAL COMPOSITION OF THE RESURRECTION BODY WILL BE DIFFERENT BY AND BY?
As the context clearly indicates (see especially verse 50b; also verse 53 and 54), this passage does not speak about the physical composition of the resurrection-body, but informs us that our resurrection-bodies win be immortal and incorruptible, not marked by the weakness and corruptibility of our present bodies. They will resemble the transformed body of our resurrected Lord (Philippians 3:21).
4. WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THE SEA OF CRYSTAL?
By means of the glorious symbol of this Transparent Sea, the Lord, according to the context, assures us that we shall see much more clearly than we do now the meaning of the ways of God’s providence. God’s “righteous acts” will then be “made manifest” (see Revelation 15:1–4). Th ere is some truth in the lines:
“Not now but in the coming years,
It will be in the better land,
We’ll read the meaning of our tears,
And there sometime we’ll understand.
We’ll catch the broken threads again,
And finish what we here began;
Heaven will its mysteries explain,
And then, ah then, we’ll understand.” (Maxwell N. Cornelius)
(For a more detailed explanation the reader is referred to my lecture on the subject “By The Sea Of Crystal” in Lectures On The Last Things, published by BAKER BOOK HOUSE, Grand Rapids, Mich.)
5. WHEN JOHN SAYS, “BELOVED, NOW ARE WE GOO’S CHIlDREN, ANO IT ISN’T YET MADE MANIFEST WHAT WE SHALL BE,” DOES HE IMPLY THAT WHEN AT HIS SECOND COM. ING CHRIST IS GLORIOUSLY REVEALED WE SHALL NO LONGER BE CHILDREN OF GOO BUT SHALL ADVANCE TO A STILL HIGHER STATE?
And what could be “higher” than being a child of God? See I John 3:1 We are children now. We shall be children then. But the glory which these children will one day possess has not yet been publicly displayed. Not yet are we wearing the crown of victory. Not yet have we entered the new heaven and earth. Not yet do we have bodies that resemble Christ’s glorious body. Etc.
6. IN GENERAL, WITH R.ESPECT TO THE BELIEVER’S STATE OF BLESSEDNESS, WHAT ARE SOME OF THE FALSE IDEAS AGAINST WHICH YOU WOULD WARN?
First, I would issue a serious warning against going beyond that which Scripture has revealed, whether clearly and in so many words, or by safe inference.
Second, I would warn against the position apparently held by some, that the lHe hereafter (whether in the intermediate or in the final state) will be so altogether different that every connection between it and the present state of believers will have vanished. Thus, erroneously the preservation of personal identity is denied, whether explicitly or implicitly.
Third, I would warn against any doctrine of the last things which places all the emphasis on the fact that the believer will rejoice in the absence of pain, worry, labor, sickness, etc., but forgets that it is especially the absence of sin (as the root of all of these) that should cause us to rejoice.
And finally, in close connection with the preceding, I would warn against all man-centered ideas concerning the everlasting joys of the new heaven and earth. What we should look forward to especially is the enjoyment of the resplendent glory of our God. Such passages as Psalm 73:25; Romans 11:36; I Corinthians 10:31; Revelation 7:15; 21:3; 22:3, 4 have their application here.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
A. Questions Answered in the Outline
1. In the new heaven and earth, what will be cur relation to the angels?
2. Will believers inherit heaven or earth?
3. What is the meaning of The Transparent Sea?
5. With respect to the believer’s final bliss, what are some of the false idea against which we should guard ourselves?
B. Additional Questions
1. Does Romans 8:16, 17 shed any light on the examination contained in I John 3:1?
2. What exactly is the meaning of I John 3:1b?
3. Is it possible to infer from Hebrews 1:1–4 that once we have obtained salvation, tho angels will no longer render service to us?
4. Explain I Corinthiens 6:31.
5. Explain I Peter 1:12, “which things angels desire to look into.”