John Newton: “We Can’t Even Imagine!”
“Our most enlarged ideas of our future glory, are faint and imperfect. Who can describe or conceive the happiness of heaven? It will be as unlike as possible – to this wilderness of sin and sorrow where we are now confined. Here on earth, we are in a warfare – but then we shall enter into perfect rest. We now cry out, “O that I had wings like a dove! For then I would flee away and be at REST.” (Psalm 55:6).
Heaven will be a rest from all SIN. No ‘unclean thing’ shall ever defile or disturb us forever! We shall be free from all indwelling sin. This alone would be worth dying for! Indwelling sin is a burden under which all the redeemed must groan, while they sojourn in the body.
And those who are most spiritual – are most deeply affected with shame, humiliation, and grief, on account of their sins – because they have the clearest views of the holiness of God, the spirituality of His law, the love of Christ, and the deceitfulness of their own hearts! Therefore the Apostle Paul, though perhaps in grace and talents, in zeal and usefulness, was distinguished above all saints – accounted himself the ‘chief of sinners,’ (1 Timothy 1:15) ‘less than the least of all saints, ‘(Ephesians 3:8) and cried out under the disparity he felt between what he actually was – and what he desired to be, “0 wretched man that I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin!” (Romans 7:24).
But we shall not carry this burden of sin beyond the grave. The hour of death shall free us from our inbred enemies (the inseparable attendants of this frail perishing nature) which now trouble us, and we shall see them no more forever!
Heaven will also be a rest from all outward AFFLICTIONS, which, though necessary, and, under the influence of Divine grace. are profitable – yet they are grievous to bear. But in heaven, they will no more be necessary. Where there is no sin – there shall be no sorrow. Then, “God will remove all of their sorrows, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. For the old world and evils are gone forever!” (Revelation 21:4).
Heaven will also be a rest from SATAN’S TEMPTATIONS. How busy is this adversary of God and man – what various arts and schemes he employs! What surprising force, what constant assiduity does he employ to ensnare, distress, and terrify those who by grace have escaped from his servitude! He says, like Pharaoh of old, “I will pursue, I will overtake, I will destroy!” (Exodus 15:9) He follows them to the last stage of life – but he can follow them no farther. The moment of their departure out of the body – shall place them beyond his reach forever!
Heaven will also be a rest from UNSATISFIED DESIRES. Here on earth, the more we drink – the more we thirst. But in heaven, our highest wishes shall be crowned and exceeded! We shall rest in full communion with Him whom we love; we shall no more complain of interruptions and imperfections, and a careless heart.
Here on earth – we obtain a little glimpse of His presence, when He brings us into His banqueting-house, and spreads His banner of love over us! And how gladly would we remain in such a desirable frame! How unwilling are we to ‘come down’ from the mount! But these pleasing and holy seasons are quickly ended, and often give place to some sudden unexpected trial, which robs us of all that sweetness in which we lately rejoiced. But when we ascend the holy hill of God above – we shall never again ‘come down’! We shall be forever with the Lord, never offend Him, and never be separated from Him again! “I will see Your face in righteousness; when I awake, [will be fully satisfied with Your presence!” (Psalm 17:15).
Here on earth – we find a mixture of evil in our most holy moments! When we approach nearest to God, we have the liveliest sense of our defilement, and how much we fall short in every branch of duty, and in every temper of our hearts. But when we shall see Jesus as He is – we shall be fully transformed into His image, and be perfectly like Him!
“Yes, dear friends, we are already God’s children, and we can’t even imagine what we will be like when Christ returns. But we do know that when He comes – we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He really is!” I John 3:2.
No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined – what God has prepared for those who love Him!” 1 Corinthians 2:9.”
- John Newton (1725-1807)
[Reprinted from The Beacon, the newsletter of Riverside Baptist Church, Newport News, Virginia.]