From these prerogatives there will arise to the elect in heaven, five notable effects: --
1. They shall know God with a perfect knowledge (1 Cor. i.10), so far as creatures can possibly comprehend the Creator. For there we shall see the Word, the Creator; and in the Word, all creatures that by the Word were created; so that we shall not need to learn (of the things which were made) the knowledge of him by whom all things were made. The most excellent creatures in this life, are but as a dark veil (1 Cor. xxiii.12; 2 Cor. iii.16) drawn between God and us; but when this veil shall be drawn aside, then shall we see God face to face, and know him as we are known. We shall know the power of the, Father, the wisdom of the Son, the grace of the Holy Ghost, and the indivisible nature of the blessed Trinity. And in him we shall know, not only all our friends who died in the faith of Christ, but also all the faithful that ever were, or shall be. For,
(1.) Christ tells the Jews that they shall see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God (Luke xiii.28); therefore we shall know them.
(2.) Adam in his innocency knew Eve to be bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh (Gen. ii.23), as soon as he waked; much more then shall we know our kindred, when we shall awake perfected and glorified in the resurrection.
(3.) The apostles knew Christ after his resurrection, and the saints which rose with him, and appeared in the holy city (Matt. xxvii.53.)
(4.) Peter, James, and John, knew Moses and Elias in the transfiguration (Matt. xvii.4;) how much more shall we know one another, when We shall be all glorified?
(5.) Dives knew Lazarus in Abraham's bosom (Luke xvi.23;) much more shall the elect know one another in heaven.
(6.) Christ saith that the twelve apostles shall sit upon twelve thrones (Matt. xix.28), to judge (at that day) the twelve tribes (1 Cor. vi.2, 3;) therefore they shall be known, and consequently the rest of the saints.
(7.) Paul saith, that at that day we shall know as we are known of God (1 Cor. xiii.11;) and Augustine out of this place comforteth a widow, assuring her, that as in this life she saw her husband with external eyes, so in the life to come she should know his heart, and what were all his thoughts and imaginations. Then, husbands and wives, look to your actions and thoughts; for all shall be made manifest one day (See 1 Cor. iv.5.)
(8.) The faithful in the Old Testament, are said to be gathered to their fathers (Gen. xxv.35; 2 Kings xxii;) therefore the knowledge of our friends remains.
(9.) Love never falleth away (1 Cor. xiii.8); therefore knowledge, the ground thereof, remains in another life.
(10.) Because the last day shall be a declaration of the just judgment of God, when he shall reward every man according to his works (Rom. ii.5; Rev. xxii.12; Eccles. xii.14; Rom. ii.16;) and if every man's work be brought to light, much more the worker. And if wicked men shall account for every idle word (Matt. xii.36), much more shall the idle speakers themselves be known. And if the persons be not known, in vain are the works made manifest. |Therefore,| saith the apostle |every man shall appear, to account for the work that he hath done in his body,| &c., 1 Cor. v.10. Though the respect of diversities of degrees and callings in magistracy, ministry, and economy shall cease; yea, Christ shall then cease to rule, as he is Mediator (I Cor. xv.14, 28), and rule all in all, as he is God equal with the Father and the Holy Ghost.
The greatest knowledge that men can attain to in this life (1 Cor. xiii.11) comes as far short of the knowledge which we shall have in heaven, as the knowledge of a child that cannot yet speak plain, comes of the knowledge of the greatest philosopher in the world. They who thirst for knowledge, let them long to be students of this university. For all the light by which we know anything in this world, is nothing but the very shadow of God; but when we shall know God in heaven, we shall in him know the manner of the work of the creation, the mysteries of the work of our redemption; yea, so much knowledge as a creature can possibly conceive and comprehend of the Creator and his works. But whilst we are in this life, we may say with Job, |How little a portion hear we of him?| Job xxvi.14.
2. They shall love God with as perfect and absolute a love as possibly a creature can do. The manner of loving God, is to love him for himself (1 Cor. xiii.12); the measure is to love him without measure. For in this life (knowing God but in part) we love him but in part; but when the elect in heaven shall fully know God, then they will perfectly love God: and for the infinite causes of love, which they shall know to be in Him, they shall be infinitely ravished with the love of Him.
3. They shall be filled with all manner of divine pleasures. |At thy right hand,| saith David, |there are pleasures for evermore,| Psal. xvi.11: |Yea, they shall drink,| saith he, |out of the river of pleasures,| Psal. xxxvi.8. For as soon as the soul is admitted into the actual fruition of the beatifical essence of God, she hath all the goodness, beauty, glory, and perfection of all creatures, in all the world, united together, and at once presented to her in the sight of God. If any delight in fairness, the fairest beauty is but a dusky shadow to that. He that delights in pleasures shall there find infinite varieties, without either interruption of grief, or distraction of pain. He that loveth honour shall there enjoy it, without the disgrace of cankered envy. He that loveth treasure shall there possess it, and never be beguiled of it. There they shall have knowledge void of all ignorance, health that no sickness shall impair, and life that no death can determine. How happy, then, shall we be, when this life is changed, and we translated thither!
4. They shall be replenished with an unspeakable joy. |In thy presence,| saith David, |is the fulness of joy.| (Psal. xvi.11.) And this joy shall arise chiefly from the vision of God, and partly from the sight of all the holy angels, and blessed souls of just and perfect men, who are in bliss and glory with them; but especially from the blissful sight of Jesus, the Mediator of the New Testament, our Emmanuel, God made man. His sight will be the chief cause of our bliss and joy. If the Israelites in Jerusalem so shouted for joy, that the earth rang again, to see Solomon crowned, how shall the elect rejoice in heaven, to see Christ, the true Solomon, adorned with glory! If John Baptist, at his presence, did leap in his mother's womb for joy, how shall we exult for joy, when he will be with us in heaven! If the wise men rejoiced so greatly to find him a babe, lying in a manger, how great shall the joy of the elect be, to see him sit, as a king, in his celestial throne! If Simeon was glad to see him an infant, in the temple, presented by the hands of the priest, how great shall our joy be to see him a king, ruling all things, at the right hand of his Father! If Joseph and Mary were so joyful to find him in the midst of the doctors in the temple, how glad shall our souls be, to see him sitting, as Lord, among angels in heaven! This is that joy of our Master, which, as the apostle saith, |the eye hath not seen, the ear hath not heard, nor the heart of man can conceive.| (1 Cor. ii.5; Matt. xxv.21;) which, because it cannot enter into us, we shall enter into it.
5. Lastly, They shall enjoy this blissful and glorious state for evermore: therefore it is termed everlastings life (John xvii.3.) And Christ saith, that our joy shall no man take from us. All other joys, be they never so great, have an end. Ahasuerus's feast lasted an hundred and eighty days (Esth. i.3): but he, and it, and all his joys are gone. For mortal man to be assumed to heavenly glory, to be associated to angels, to be satiated with all delights and joys, but for a time, were much: but to enjoy them for ever, without intermission or end, who can hear it, and not admire? All the saints of Christ, as soon as they felt once but a true taste of these eternal joys, counted all the riches and pleasures of this life to be but loss and dung, in respect of that (Phil. iii.8.) And therefore, with incessant prayers, fasting, alms-deeds, tears, faith, and good life, they laboured to ascertain themselves of this eternal life; and for the love of it, they willingly either sold or parted with all their earthly goods and possessions (Acts ii.45.)
Christ calleth Christians merchants (Luke xix.), and eternal life a precious pearl, which a wise merchant will purchase, though it cost him all that he hath (Matt. xiii.)
Alexander hearing the report of the great riches of the eastern country, divided forthwith among his captains and soldiers all his kingdom of Macedonia. Hephæstion asking him, What he meant in so doing? Alexander answered, That he preferred the riches of India (whereof he hoped shortly to be master) before all that his father Philip had left him in Macedonia. And should not Christians, then, prefer the eternal riches of heaven, so greatly renowned (which they shall enjoy ere long), before the corruptible things of this world, which last but for a season?
Abraham and Sarah left their own country and possessions, to look for a city whose builder and maker is God (Heb. xi.10, 15, 16;) and therefore bought no land but only a place of burial. David preferred one day in this place before a thousand elsewhere; yea, to be a door-keeper in the house of God, rather than to dwell in the richest tabernacles of wickedness (Psal. lxxxiv.10.) Elias earnestly besought the Lord to receive his soul into his kingdom (1 Kings xix.4), and went willingly, though in a fiery chariot, thither (2 Kings ii.11.) St. Paul, having once seen heaven, continually desired to be dissolved, that he might be with Christ (Phil. i.23.) Peter, having espied but a glimpse of that eternal glory in the Mount, wished that he might dwell there all the days of his life, saying, |Master, it is good for us to be here.| (Matt. xvii.4.) How much better does Peter now think it to be in heaven itself! Christ, a little before his death, prayeth his Father to receive him into that excellent glory (John xvii.5.) And the apostle witnesseth, that |for the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross, and despised the shame.| Heb. xi.2. If a man did but once see those joys (if it were possible), he would endure an hundred deaths to enjoy that happiness but one day.
Augustine saith, that he would be content to endure the torments of hell to gain this joy, rather than to lose it. Ignatius, Paul's scholar, being threatened, as he was going to suffer, with the cruelty of torments, answered, with great courage of faith, |Fire, gallows, beasts, breaking of my bones, quartering of my members, crushing of my body, all the torments of the devil together, let them come upon me, so I may enjoy my Lord Jesus, and his kingdom.| The like constancy shewed Polycarp, who could not by any terrors of any kind of death, be moved to deny Christ in the least measure. With the like resolution Basil answered his persecutors, when they would terrify him with death: |I will never,| said he, |fear death, which can do no more than restore me to him that made me.| If Ruth left her own country, and followed Naomi, her mother-in-law, to go and dwell with her in the land of Canaan (which was but a type of heaven), only upon the fame which she heard of the God of Israel (though she had no promise of any portion in it), how shouldst thou follow Christ into the heavenly Canaan, where God has given thee an eternal inheritance, assured by an holy covenant, made in the word of God, signed with the blood of his Son, and sealed with his Spirit and sacraments! This shall be thine eternal happiness in the kingdom of heaven, where thy life shall be a communion with the blessed Trinity; thy joy, the presence of the Lamb; thy exercise, singing; thy song, hallelujah; thy consorts, saints and angels: where youth flourishes, that never waxeth old; beauty lasts, that never fadeth; love abounds, that never cooleth; health continues, that never slacketh; and life remains, that never endeth.