J. A. Trench.
Article 35 of 55 from 'Truth for Believers' Volume 2.
It is one thing to know so little of heavenly things, as to be in a difficulty to define them, but another to say that we know absolutely nothing about them. Christianity is the revelation of heaven to our hearts now. If the prophet is quoted that "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him," it is to contrast the Christian state of things. "But God hath revealed them unto us by the Spirit." And it is added, "For the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deeps of God." The depths of His own being and blessedness being revealed, are then, where we find the sum of the things prepared for us in the eternal counsels of His love, revealed now that we may enjoy them.
I think it is of immense practical importance for our souls to see that there is, therefore, no new element of blessing, or of joy before us, none that is not already revealed. There will be increased power of enjoyment of them, for the Spirit dwelling in us, now so often necessarily occupied with the negative work of opposition to the flesh — ("that we might not do the things that we would") will then be for ever only the power of our positive enjoyment of these things. The heart will then be enlarged to its full capacity of enjoyment. "For now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face: now I know in part, but then shall I know even as also I am known." Everything that now puts bounds and limit to our enjoyment will be gone, for in this tabernacle we groan, being burdened, like birds in a cage that long to be free to soar into our own native air. But admitting all this, and the vast difference it will make, all the things we shall live in and find our joy in for ever, are revealed that we may live and find our joy in them now. "Our politeuma — citizenship — is in heaven."
To begin with — John's Gospel is the revelation of our home in heaven. Beautifully in keeping with his manner in minor divisions, he opens with an historic scene that illustrates the doctrine of the book. The moment the testimony of John the Baptist has reached the point of bringing out the glory of the Person of the Son of God in connection with His work, and in both its parts as taking away the sin, and baptising with the Holy Ghost, the hearts of two of his disciples are drawn after Jesus with a longing He has awakened in them, that He may satisfy it. "Where dwellest thou?" The other Gospels could only tell us that foxes had holes, and the birds of the air had nests, but the Son of Man, Creator of them all, had nowhere to lay His head in the scene He had created. But in John the answer is "Come and see." And this gospel is the revelation of the heavenly home of the Son of God, as dwelling in the bosom of the Father, and come to reveal and make known the Father according to the love in which He dwelt, that we might know the Father in the Son, and thus the Father's house.
So later on, when He definitely directs their hearts there. (John 14) He treats heaven as a familiar place to them. "Whither I go ye know." As though He said, You know heaven quite well. Philip hits off the truth exactly, "Show us the Father, and it sufficeth us." He feels if only he knew the Father, he would know the Father's house. And the answer is simple, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." Thus every characteristic trait of heaven's blessedness had been presented to them in the Person and path of the Son of God. But now He was going to take His place as the Centre of the whole revealed scene. Thus He prepared and made it perfectly the home of our hearts. Further, He has given us the Holy Ghost. And when He was come, He was to glorify Christ, "For he shall receive of mine and shall show it unto you." And now mark, "All things that the Father hath are mine, therefore said I that he shall take of mine and shall show it unto you."
Thus it is that in Romans 8 it can be brought out, that if the flesh has its things, the scene and element suited to it — they that are after the Spirit have theirs. And it is the second great point of our deliverance in answer to the cry of Romans 7 — not only that of life and nature, "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death" but of, and by the power of, objects suited to that life. Else we would be like fish out of water; that is, with a new life and its affections, capacities, tastes and desires, and no sphere of things suited to them.
Now the things of the Spirit are the things of Christ, "all that the Father hath." Are these things less real and substantial than the things of the flesh? (Heb. 11:1) What of our home there with its new relationships and joys? What of the fellowship which is ours with the Father in His thoughts of, and plans and counsels and work for, the glory of the Son? For which we need, indeed, Christ dwelling in the heart, that we may comprehend the breadth and length and depth and height, but are strengthened by the Spirit in the inner man for this very purpose. What of the new objects thus presented to us, instead of the poor things we were pursuing after the flesh? What of the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, to which we are called? Is it more or less powerful to our poor hearts than the association and fellowship of men we once belonged to and took such deceived interest in? What of the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the world unto our glory — which none of the princes of this world knew — to replace and displace for us for ever its wisdom and learning and philosophy.
What is the Christian characteristically, according to 2 Corinthians 4:18, but one who looks at the things which are not seen? They must be perfectly revealed to do so. Then there is that for which Christ has apprehended us — "the things that are before us." The goal — the prize of the calling of God on high. So that if the Apostle breaks his heart over those inside the circle of the profession of Christ "who mind earthly things," he can state what the Christian is as having his "conversation" — all that forms the life morally — "in heaven." How could this be so if we knew absolutely nothing of what was there! What of the Tree of Life, the hidden manna, the white stone, the white raiment, the new Jerusalem? Shall they be of less reality and power to our hearts than the promises to the fathers, who only saw these heavenly things from afar off, but embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth?
What of the glory to be revealed to us, and the earnest of all that is before us in it — of the inheritance — the Holy Ghost possessed already? Are the grapes of Eschol, borne to the children of Israel in the desert to have for us no antitype?
The heavens, with Christ there as the intimate link that connects us with all that is there, are the present revealed scene of our home, relationships, objects, hopes, joys, interests and pursuits, that thus a heavenly people may be formed practically as such, by what is heavenly on the earth — showing out nothing but what is heavenly.