Resurrection Relationships

David Feddes

You’ve probably heard that when you die, you can’t take anything with you. That’s true of most things, but it’s not true of everything. There’s one thing in this life that you can take with you into the world beyond death.

What can you take with you? Well, you can’t take money, food, clothes, computers, cars, or houses. You can’t take diplomas, honors, awards, or promotions. You can’t take church buildings, religious positions, or even special spiritual abilities into the world beyond this one. But you can take the greatest thing of all, the thing that never fails or fades, the thing that remains when so much else passes away, the greatest thing in this life and the life to come: love.

If God’s kind of love lives in your heart, you may be sure of treasure in heaven. And the greater this love grows during this life, the greater your treasure of love will be in the next life. Already now love is worth more than anything else you have on earth, and when you get to heaven, it will be worth more than ever. Love is the only treasure you can take with you to heaven, the only treasure that will never decay or be taken away.

How do we know that love is the supreme reality of the new creation? Well, the Bible says the Lord Jesus will reign until he crushes all enemies. Then he will present his redeemed creation to his Father, “so that God may be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28). What is a world where God is all in all? It is a world of love, because “God is love” (1 John 4:16). Because heaven is a world of love, there is no place in it for people who have nothing of God’s love in their hearts. The only place for hearts without the love of God is hell. Without love, you are nothing in this life, and you will have nothing but misery in your final future.

Love is what gives anything else on earth its value, and love is what lasts when everything else is left behind. Without love, material things are useless. Without love, even supernatural abilities and achievements are empty. The Bible says that even if we could speak the language of angels, even if we could see the future and understand the most mysterious ideas, even if we were willing to die for what we believe, such things would be worthless without love. They can be valuable if they are done in love, but when heaven arrives on earth and the perfect world becomes a reality, everything temporary and incomplete will pass away. Many spiritual gifts that are now useful won’t be needed in the ultimate future.

But love will remain. “Love never fails,” says the Bible in 1 Corinthians 13. It is the “most excellent” thing, the “greatest” thing, the thing that makes everything else worthwhile. It is the thing that lasts forever and stands at the very center of God’s new creation. Heaven on earth will be a world of love, of perfect harmony among animals, people, angels, and God himself.

Relationships with Animals

Let’s begin with our relationships with animals. The Bible speaks of the whole creation being set free at the time of the resurrection: “the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21). The resurrection is not just the bringing back to life of human bodies but the renewal and the resurrection of God’s whole creation and the wonders He’s made, including the animals that God has made. After the Lord Jesus has judged the wicked and set all things right, the new creation will be a world of love—even for animals.

The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:6-9).

Just think of it: a world where animals get along perfectly with each other and with humans. My family and I love to go to the zoo. We enjoy seeing all those marvelous animals. But the animals have to be kept behind bars and fences and other barriers. The new creation won’t have any zoos. It’s not that there won’t be animals. We just won’t need to confine them to keep them from attacking us or running away, and we won’t need to protect them from each other. Who needs a zoo when all God’s creatures live in harmony?

Back in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve and the animals under their care lived in harmony with each other and ate vegetables and fruit (Genesis 1:29-30). That was God’s original design. But after Adam and Eve disobeyed God, a curse afflicted the whole creation. No longer did people live in perfect harmony with animals. No longer did the animals live at peace with each other. In a world cursed with sin and death, animals began hating and fearing people and killing and eating each other.

Human sin was to blame for bringing this trouble on animals, but we humans remain more important to God than animals. God decided to protect people from most animal attacks by making dangerous animals afraid of humans, and God also gave people permission to use animals for food (Genesis 9:2-3). So it’s wrong to make animals equal to people or to condemn using animal products for food or clothing. God says we may do so in this period between the original paradise and the new creation.

God also makes it plain that those who know the Lord must not inflict needless pain on animals but must care for them. God is “loving toward all he has made” (Psalm 145:17), so if you have God’s love in your heart, you will express something of the Creator’s love for his creatures. The Bible says, “A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal” (Proverbs 12:10). Livestock and pets must be fed and treated well. We must appreciate wildlife and avoid needless damage to them and their environment. You don’t have to be a nature worshiper or an animal rights extremist to be eager for the new world of love where animals will not be killed by people or by each other, where humans and animals are so fully in tune with God’s life and love that all live in peace.

Animal love won’t be the best thing about heaven on earth, but it will be a very good thing. If you’ve seen a cow nuzzling its calf, or bear cubs playing, you sense the affection animals can have for each other. Animals don’t have the same mind or the same spirit as humans, and animal love is not the same as the love between humans, but it is still something beautiful. Someday animals will frolic and lie down with all types of creatures, not just their own kind. In the new creation there will be many animals but no animal bloodshed.

There will be affection and perfect harmony among different kinds of animals, and also perfect harmony between animals and humans. If you have a dog or a cat, or if you’ve worked with a strong, responsive horse, you know the bond that can exist between animal and master. Our resurrection relationships in the new creation will surpass any bond between humans and animals that we experience now.

In that perfect harmony, I suspect we might be able to talk with animals. Even in today’s world, some animals have signals by which they communicate with their own kind. Bees communicate through complex dances, dolphins signal each other with piercing sounds, and beavers sound alarms by slapping their tails. In fact, some animals can grasp at something of human communication. Even now, even before the creation is renewed and set free, some horses and dogs can follow various human commands, a few gorillas can learn simple sign language from humans, dolphins can be trained to follow human commands, and parrots can even speak human words.

Back in the Garden of Eden, did some of the higher animals talk with humans? Maybe so. After all, Eve didn’t seem shocked when a snake began talking to her. In that case, Satan used an animal as his mouthpiece, but maybe that’s because some of the smarter animals had communicated with Eve before. The Bible doesn’t say whether or not such communication was ever common, so we can’t be sure. But we do know that many things in our world are different than God created them. After Adam and Eve sinned, the whole creation, including animals and humans, underwent negative changes. What if humans once had the ability to understand animal languages but lost that ability after the fall?  What if some animals originally spoke human language, but their vocal equipment and the speech centers in their brains were changed after man’s fall? In that case, it may be that when God resurrects humanity and brings heaven to earth and sets his whole creation free, he will bring a wonderful harmony among animals and humans where there is not only affection and love but even conversation.

The Bible speaks of animals in God’s new creation. Does that mean individual animals from this world will come back to life and live in the resurrected, renewed creation? Will dead pets be resurrected? Or are animals from this life gone forever, and the animals in the new world created from scratch? The Bible doesn’t directly tell us, so maybe we shouldn’t press the question too hard. Still, as one writer says, “Although the blessed have better things to do in heaven than play with pets, the better does not exclude the lesser.” When we think of heaven on earth, we should be more eager to see God than to see Rover—but why not both?

The Bible contains some possible hints of individual animals being resurrected. For example, a psalm writer says to God, “All creatures look to you… When you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust. When you send your Spirit, they are created” (Psalm 104:27-30). Scripture also says that when God’s people are resurrected, “the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21). Now, I wouldn’t hang a whole theory of individual animal resurrection on such verses. But there are hints. We don’t have to rule out the possibility that God would resurrect individual animals that have been in this world and give them life again in the new world. In any case, Scripture does speak of animals in the new world.

In thinking about resurrection relationships, why have I focused on animals first? Not because animals are most important, but in order to move from lesser to greater. Jesus himself appeals from lesser to greater. Jesus tells of God’s care for birds and then says, “You are worth more than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:31). Jesus speaks of rescuing a sheep stuck in a hole and then says, “How much more valuable is a man than a sheep!” (Matthew 12:11) If God cares about relationships among animals in the new creation, if it’s great that lambs and lions will lie down together, it’s far greater that people of all nations will be united in loving relationships with each other, with the holy angels, and with the living God.

Relationships with People

Bible prophecy describes a world where peace and love will flourish among people as the Lord reigns in the new Jerusalem:

They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. Every man will sit under his own vine and under his own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the Lord Almighty has spoken. (Micah 4:3-4)

God’s perfect world of love will be a world without war, crime, and arguing. When heaven comes to earth, every human relationship on earth will be a heavenly relationship.

I remember someone saying that heaven might not be so enjoyable if people you don’t like are there. But that won’t be a problem. If you get to heaven, you’ll be so delighted God let you in that you won’t have time to complain about who else he let in. Besides, all of our dislikes and hatreds will be swallowed up in the ocean of God’s love. Everything in others and in us that deserves to be disliked—every sin—will be removed. We’ll understand each other and love each other, even if we didn’t get along on earth. So you might as well start right now loving every person you know, because you just might find yourself next to each other at the eternal celebration.

All people there will be perfectly loveable. The Bible says, “Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:27). Those who have nothing of God’s life and love in their hearts won’t make it into the city of God, and those who do have the life and love of Christ will be purified of anything unworthy. In this life even the most godly, lovable people do some unlovely things and have some unlovely character traits. We all have something about us that bugs the people who know us. But in the new creation, there will be nothing wrong with anyone.

Everyone will be perfectly loveable, and everyone will be perfectly loving. Each person who is truly born again in Christ has already been given a spark of God’s life and love, and in the world to come, that spark will be a brilliant flame, a blaze of affection for each of God’s children. Each heart will be so full of God’s Holy Spirit, so flooded by divine love, that we will be able to love with a fullness and power that goes beyond any love we ever had in this life.

Part of our joy in the new creation and resurrection relationships will be our reunion with loved ones from this life. Someone once asked a pastor, “Are we going to know each other when we get to heaven?” The pastor wisely replied, “We won’t know each other… until we get to heaven.” Right now we wear masks. We hide the ugliest, most sinful things about ourselves because we’re ashamed. And we also hide some of the most beautiful things. We find it hard to say how much we love each other, or to tell of our deepest feelings and our most tender yearnings for God. Sometimes death comes when so much is still unsaid. In resurrection relationships, we won’t wear masks anymore. We won’t have any sin to hide; and we won’t want to hide our delight in God and in one another.

In the new creation, we will truly know each other, and each of us will be our true self. We won’t become a totally other self. Our bodies are resurrected, not replaced. Our personalities are perfected, not wiped out. Each of us will still have the unique identity that makes us who we are. I will still be myself. You will still be yourself. And you will recognize and be reunited with your loved ones.

Jesus says, “I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 8:11). Abraham will still be Abraham. Isaac will still be Isaac. Jacob will still be Jacob. They’re going to be transformed, but they’re still going to be themselves. In fact, they will be more truly themselves than they were in this life. And people will be able to recognize them, and they will recognize other people.

If this were not so, we would not find comfort when loved ones die. We would have no hope of seeing them again. But the reality of eternal life and knowing each other in eternity gives comfort to those who grieve the loss of loved ones in this life. “We do not grieve as those who have no hope… The dead in Christ will rise… We will always be with the Lord… Comfort one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:16-18). What comfort would there be in the face of death if there were not a reunion in which we know each other? But the comfort is that these dead will rise, and we will all be with the Lord and with each other forever.

The fact that we will recognize each other doesn’t mean that every relationship will remain exactly as it was. For instance, people who were husband and wife in this life will not be married to each other in eternity. Jesus says, “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage” (Matthew 22:30). In the new creation, marriage won’t exist. This might not sound like good news for those of us who dearly love our spouse and greatly enjoy marriage. How can eternity be happy without the affection and pleasures of marriage?

C.S. Lewis suggests that we think of it this way. If you tell small boys who are making mud pies that they won’t do that when they’re older and that they’re going to like girls, the boys might protest, “Never! We love making mud pies. We hate girls!” But then they grow up, and they do lose their interest in mud pies, and they do become interested in girls.

Now take that a step further. Marriage can be so good we can’t imagine being happy without it. But we’re going to grow up some more. And heavenly maturity will bring relationships and pleasures that far surpass marriage. In resurrection relationships, we will love everyone with a greater love than even the best marital love on earth. Marriage on earth can only hint at such love. Marriage points to the relationship between our Lord Jesus Christ and His church (Ephesians 5:22-33). Marriage is also a training ground for learning to really know somebody deeply and love them fully. After the resurrection, the training will be complete, and we will be able to love many more people deeply and fully.

There’s an old saying, “Variety is the spice of life.” It could also be said, “Variety is the spice of love.” According to the Bible, in heaven we will love and be loved by people from every nation and language. We will love and be loved by people from different centuries. We will love and be loved by the great heroes of the Bible. Won’t it be fun to talk with Noah and find out more about the ark he built? Won’t it be exciting to discuss with Queen Esther how she risked her life to rescue God’s people from destruction? Won’t it be thrilling to talk with blessed Mary about Jesus’ childhood or to discuss with Paul some of his daring expeditions? Of course, we won’t just be talking about old times; we’ll be enjoying people in their new, glorified state, and exploring all the new possibilities that we’ll have in God’s perfect kingdom. Of course, in addition to relationships with saints and heroes and new friends from all over the world, we will also enjoy seeing familiar faces. We will love and be loved by Christian family members and friends whom we knew in this life, and those bonds of love will be closer than ever.

We’re also going to meet faithful followers of Jesus we didn’t know in this life, people we might never have heard of before, who helped make it possible for us to know Jesus. Those of us from Christian families will meet godly ancestors who passed the faith from generation to generation. We will meet godly missionaries who went to places where the gospel had not been before. We will meet some who even died in order to bring the gospel to others. For instance, Boniface was a missionary to the Germans. Late in life, after winning many Germanic people to Christ, Boniface decided to reach out to some extremely barbaric people in the region of the Netherlands. Those people killed him, but the gospel began to take root in the Netherlands. And that’s where my ancestors come from. So I can be grateful for Boniface and for other heroic missionaries and martyrs who spread the gospel even at the cost of their lives. I am eager to meet such people in God’s new creation, to know who they are, to appreciate how much I owe them, and to enjoy resurrection relationships with them.

We’ll rejoice in recognizing how others helped us, and we can also rejoice in how we helped others. In the new creation, God will give us the joy of seeing the eternal fruit of things we did in this life by his Spirit, such as bringing up our own children to know the Lord, sharing the gospel with friends and neighbors, or offering money and prayers for ministries and missionaries who brought God’s truth and love to others. God will give us the joy of seeing how some of our actions made an eternal difference for other people.

In our resurrection relationships, there will be no hurry when we’re talking with somebody. You won’t be a slave to a schedule. I remember a movie in which two Native American chiefs are talking together. One chief has met some white people, but the other has never met any, so he asks, “What are white people like? Are they intelligent?” The other chief replies, “No. They are not intelligent. They worship a god who stands a couple of feet high and does nothing but go, “Tick tock, tick tock, bong bong bong!” Too many of us almost worship the clock. Our schedule drives and dominates us. We don’t spend much time getting to know people well or enjoying their company. Even if we have our priorities straight, even if the clock isn’t our god, our time is limited. But in heaven on earth, time won’t limit the fellowship that we have with other people.

Heaven will include a multitude that no one can count from every tribe and language and people and nation, but we’ll never run out of time to get to know everyone. We’ll have all eternity to get acquainted. You could talk to St. Peter or Jesus’ mother Mary for six months and still have no shortage of time to visit with others of God’s people. We won’t have to break off conversations for the sake of our busy schedule. No one will even keep track of time in heaven. There will be no night there, and the glory of God will be so bright that the sun and moon won’t be needed (Revelation 22:5). No one will need to sleep, since we will never be tired. No one will ever ask what time it is, because we’ll never run out of time. We can enjoy unlimited fellowship with fellow believers and with Jesus himself.

One of the delights of resurrection relationships will be the joy we have in blessings that God gives to others. The new creation will be envy-free. In our present sinful condition, we tend to envy the blessings others get. We’re not happy for them; instead, we wish we could have what they have. But in the world of love, we will be content with God’s gifts to us, and we will rejoice in all that he gives to others, even if they receive greater honors and pleasures than we do.

In the present, imperfect world, one of the few relationships where we might rejoice in someone surpassing us is when our own children do so. Good parents don’t resent their children’s success; we rejoice in it because we love them and delight in their successes and joy. If we have a hard time rejoicing in the success of other people, it’s because we don’t love them enough. When heaven comes to earth, that will change. We will love every person in heaven more than we love even our own children right now, so we will be glad in whatever makes others glad and rejoice in the rewards and honors other people receive.

There will certainly be plenty to be glad about. God will be pouring so much blessing and happiness on each of us that it will surpass our capacity to hold it all, and his blessing on others whom we love will add to our feast of happiness. In heavenly relationships, the happier other people are, the happier you will be. There will be no envy, no boasting, just ever-increasing joy and love.

Relationships with Angels

Another heavenly relationship to look forward to is with angels. We don’t know angels very well yet. We may have ties to a pet and stronger ties to some people we know, but we have little or no direct ties with angels. However, when we become citizens of the heavenly city, we “come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly” (Hebrews 12:22). Scripture portrays a vast host of angels gathered before God’s throne, joined by countless people and creatures of every kind (Revelation 5:11-13; 7:9-11).

Some of our most popular movies are about close encounters with loveable forms of life from another world. At one level, these movies are fun fantasies, but at another level, they also express a longing to relate to forms of life that aren’t of this world—and that longing is going to be fulfilled. We will see the angels of God and relate to them directly and join them in praising God. At that point, our earthly movies will seem silly, not because the aliens in them were too good to be true, but because they were so dull compared to the real angels and archangels and cherubim and seraphim who surround God’s throne. What a marvel it will be to enjoy direct relationships with such magnificent beings.

Angels already love God’s people more than we know. Jesus said that even the smallest and least important children are zealously cared for by the mightiest angels who have direct access to God the Father (Matthew 18:10). Jesus said that when even one sinner repents and finds new life, “there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God” (Luke 15:10).

Most angel activity is hidden from us in this life. Seldom, if ever, do we see angels or sense their nearness. Seldom, if ever, do we feel their love for us. But the angels are there, even when we don’t see them or feel them, and they are working to help God’s people. In the new creation, when heaven comes to earth, the angels will no longer be hidden, and their love will no longer be secret. We will know in full what it’s like to be loved by angels, and we will have the joy of loving them. Then we can meet and thank angels who helped us in this life, and we can enjoy their company forever.

Angels are so strong and splendid that if we saw them now, we would be tempted to bow down and worship them (Revelation 22:8). But in the world of love, angels will not overwhelm us. They will love us, and we will love them.

If angels were not so pure and did not love us so much, they might be tempted to envy us. God has done things for humanity and promised us privileges that surpass even what he gives his angels. The Son of God never became an angel, but he did become a human. “It is not to angels that God has subjected the world to come” (Hebrews 2:5). God’s people, not angels, “will reign forever and ever” (Revelation 22:5). Unbelievable though it sounds, unimaginable though it seems, we will reign with Christ and even have some kind of authority over angels. “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? … Do you not know that we will judge the angels?” (1 Corinthians 6:2-3) Have you ever thought about judging an angel? Whatever it means, I sure don’t feel ready for it. How could a puny little sinner like me ever have authority to evaluate a dazzling, mighty angel of God? But impossible though it sounds, it’s going to be a reality.

Suppose you walk into a room and see a drooling, helpless baby in smelly diapers. Across the room, you see a military office in uniform. He’s smart. He’s dignified. He’s powerful. If someone tells you the little stinker will someday have authority over that important officer, it might sound ridiculous. But what if that baby’s father is the king? In that case, no matter how silly it seems at the moment, it’s a fact that the little stinker will someday have authority over the officer who is far more capable and admirable right now.

If you know Jesus as your Savior, God is your Father. You’re a child of the King. You are royalty. Right now the angels are stronger and holier than you are, but a time is coming when your holiness will match that of the angels and your greatness will surpass theirs. Right now you may still be a spiritual baby, you may be small and weak, you may be smelly with sin, but you won’t be a baby forever. As God’s Holy Spirit keeps working in your life, you keep getting cleaned up, you keep growing up, and at the appointed time, your Father will give you great authority. When Jesus returns to judge the world and rule over it, God’s children will rule along with the Lord. Even angels will be under our authority.

Oh, if only we could have some sense of our destiny! Even those of us who are Christians often have no more foresight than a baby. Like babies crying for a bottle, we cry for God to meet our basic needs. Like babies clawing and biting each other over a worthless piece of paper, we fight and sue each other over things that have no eternal value at all. Like babies who need their diapers changed, we think that cleaning up our sins is all that Jesus came to do for us. Yes, clean diapers are necessary, but at some point shouldn’t a young prince realize that greater things await him than clean diapers? To be a Christian is not just to be forgiven and cleaned up; it is to be destined for a glory which reflects the glory of God our Father and Jesus our elder brother, a glory that surpasses even the angels. Oh, that we would grow up at least a little! We won’t enter our full inheritance until heaven, but can’t we at least be a little less babyish and start conducting ourselves and treating others in light of the royal privileges and authority that await us? And can’t we start even now to rejoice in the God who promises all this? At any rate, even if Christians don’t yet realize it or act like it, we are going to be promoted above God’s angels.

Are angels upset or envious of people being promoted above them? No, they are thrilled. Angels don’t lose when humanity gains. Their supreme delight is Christ, so their delight grows with every human who is remade to be like Christ. They rejoice at God’s wisdom and generosity in making small, sinful humanity so grand and glorious. The angels’ attitude might be somewhat like that of a superb teacher who spends long years helping a student until the student surpasses the teacher in amazing ways. The angels won’t resent it if humanity rises to stunning heights. In fact, that is the very thing angels have been working to bring about. In the circle of joy around God’s throne, angels become happier and happier with every human in the Lord’s royal family who receives a crown.

As the angels rejoice in us, we will rejoice in them. We won’t look down on them or feel superior. We will be glad to be human, and they will be glad to be angels. Each one, whether angel or human, will rejoice to have their own place and identity in that perfect world of love. Those who are made greatest in love will also be greatest in humility. After all, the greater we are in heaven, the better we will know the God who is infinitely greater than all the saints and angels combined. Knowing such a magnificent God so well, we won’t be capable of pride or boasting. We will simply delight in the Lord and in his glory which shines in various ways in various creatures, whether animals or humans or angels.

Relationship with God

We’ve looked at some biblical truths about resurrection relationships that are enough to astonish and attract anyone with the least bit of life in their soul, but I still haven’t said much about the best part. I’ve been saving the best for last. What I’m about to talk about is so good, so sweet, so stunning, so marvelous, that everything I’ve said up to this point is nothing by comparison.

The best thing about heaven, the thing that makes it heaven, is the presence of God himself: the ocean of his glory, the radiance of his beauty, the riches of his wisdom, the awe of his holiness, the thrill of his power, the sweetness of his love. When heaven comes to earth, there will be no more uncertainty or lack of clarity: just direct, clear vision and ravishing enjoyment of our Lord and God. The Bible says, “Now we see but a poor reflection … then we shall see face to face” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

The best resurrection relationship of all is with God himself. The new creation will be a world of love because “God is love” (1 John 4:16). Love is not only what God does but who God is. Before there were any angels, any people, any animals, before there was any created thing at all, there was God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, united in a love so deep that Father, Son, and Spirit are one God. This Holy Trinity created the heavenly realm and the earthly realm, and came up with a way to save and exalt sinful people and the fallen creation. God did this in order to pour an overflow of divine love on other beings, so that those beings might share in the life and love of God himself. God plans to bring heaven to earth in his new creation and make the earth as full of love as heaven is. All genuine love in the universe originates in God, and all the love of every creature is not even a fraction of the immeasurable wellspring of love that is in God.

God is love. Because God is infinite, he must be an infinite fountain of love. Because God is all-sufficient, he must be a full, overflowing, inexhaustible fountain of love. Because he is unchangeable and eternal, God is an unchangeable and eternal fountain of love. Jonathan Edwards once preached a marvelous sermon titled “Heaven, a World of Love.” Edwards described God as the one “from whom every stream of holy love, yea, every drop that is, or ever was, proceeds.”  Edwards went on to say,

There, in heaven, this infinite fountain of love—this eternal Three in One—is set open without any obstacle to hinder access to it, as it flows for ever. There this glorious God is manifested, and shines forth, in full glory, in beams of love. And there this glorious fountain for ever flows forth in streams, yea, in rivers of love and delight, and these rivers swell, as it were, to an ocean of love, in which the souls of the ransomed may bathe with the sweetest enjoyment, and their hearts, as it were, be deluged with love!”

If this heavenly relationship with God sounds too mysterious and overwhelming to imagine, remember that this will be heaven on earth, not just heaven in some other world, and remember that the Lord of love is none other than the same Jesus who walked this earth.

Jesus became one of us so that we could know God personally and experience his love. Jesus won’t relate to us only as a spirit; he will be present to us in his human body. Jesus befriended many people during his life and ministry. They could eat meals with him and talk with him freely. Even after Jesus rose from the dead, he remained a friend and ate with some friends before he went away to heaven. On the first Easter, the risen Jesus came alongside two of his friends walking down the road, and he accepted their invitation to be a guest in their home (Luke 24:13-32). A bit later, the risen Jesus came to his disciples on the beach of a lake where they were fishing. Jesus made a campfire, baked some bread, roasted some fish for them, and talked with them as they ate. When heaven comes to earth, we will be able to see Jesus with the eyes in our heads, and the eyes of our hearts will see into the divine nature of the Son, the Father, and the Holy Spirit.

In that very first moment when we come into direct contact with the Almighty, we may be ashamed at how we could ever have ignored or doubted this great God. We may be ashamed at how we offended his glory by thinking we could find happiness in anything but him. But even that shame will flood us with fresh wonder at his grace in loving us and pouring out his blood for us, and we will join every saint and every angel in adoring him.

There are many marvels to look forward to in eternity, but no other sight will compare to looking on the face of the Lord and to see that he is looking at me—and smiling! There will be many lovely sounds in heaven, but no other sound, no celestial music or conversation with saints or angels, can compare to the sound of the voice which brought the world into being, the voice that shakes the mountains and directs the galaxies, the voice that whispers faith into my cold heart, the voice that calls the dead from their tombs—nothing can compare to the sound of that voice saying to me, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into your master’s joy. Welcome home, my son. Come, reign with me!”

Since we don’t really know God very well yet, our desires sometimes focus on other aspects of our eternal home. But when we actually arrive in glory, all these wonderful things will not impress us nearly as much as God himself. Anything beautiful will pale by comparison to the Source of all beauty. Anything enjoyable will seem almost dry compared to the Fountain of all joy. Even our reunion with loved ones will take second place to our encounter with Love himself. No pleasure will compare with taking pleasure in our Father’s glory and knowing that he takes pleasure in us.

Indeed, the other pleasures of heaven will move us to take even greater pleasure in the Lord himself. As we relish relationships with others, we will relish even more the great God of love who made such relationships possible. As we hold positions of great authority, we will be acting in his supreme authority. Even our authority over angels will seem valuable only because both we and the angels belong to such a holy and generous and beautiful Lord and Father. The greatest joy in the crowns he gives us will be the joy of placing those crowns at his feet in worship. The ultimate joy of heaven is God himself. These other joys are droplets, but God is the Ocean; these others are rays, but God is the Sun.

In our eternal home, we will love God with our whole being. When we love animals, people, and angels, we will love them for God’s sake, seeing each as another reason to adore the supremely lovable and loving God. We will be united to the Lord in a way that goes beyond description or imagination, and he will be our all in all. We will spend eternity in the presence of God, who has loved us with an everlasting love. We will see and touch the hands and feet that bled for our salvation. We will gaze on the all-holy God whom no one now can see and live—and we will see him and live forever. That will be glory indeed.

By David Feddes. Originally broadcasted on the Back to God Hour and published in The Radio Pulpit.