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Saints in Heaven

Miscellanies by Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)

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Edwards talks about what Christians will be like when they get to heaven.

h. Death of a Saint. When a saint dies, he has no cause at all to grieve because he leaves his friends and relations whom he dearly loves. For he does not properly leave them, he enjoys them still in Christ, because everything that they love in them, and love them for, is in Christ in an infinite degree, whether it be nearness of relation, or any perfection and good received, or love in us, or a likeness in dispositions, or whatever is a rational ground of love.

ii. Saints. Is it not a very improper thing that saints in some respects should be advanced above angels, seeing angels are of more excellent natural parts? I answer: No more improper than it is for the queen in some respects to be advanced above the nobles and barons of far nobler natural powers.

917. Saints in Heaven Acquainted with What Is Done on Earth. That the blessed inhabitants of heaven are very much occupied in observing gospel wonders done on earth, and that their blessedness in seeing God consists very much in beholding his glory as displayed in those wonders, is manifest not only by the book of Revelation, but many other passages of Scripture, as Psa. 89, which treats of these wonders. Psa. 89:5, “And the heavens shall praise thy wonders, O Lord; thy faithfulness also in the congregation of the saints;” and Psa. 19:1, 2, considering the subject of the psalm, see Psa. 149:5 to the end, with Notes on verses 5 and 9. See Mat. 19:29; Mark 10:30; Luke 18:29.

1089. The Saints in Heaven Acquainted with the State of the Church on Earth. The man Christ Jesus is the head of the glorified saints in heaven. He is the head of the glorious assembly, who leads them in all their worship and praise, and is their vital head. They are in some sense the glorified body of Christ. They are with him as it were in all things, being partakers with him in all, all his exaltation and glory, all his reward, all his enjoyment of God the Father, all his reward by obtaining the joy set before him, his reign here on earth, the glory of his reign in his kingdom of grace, the bestowment of the promised reward in what is done to the elect here, his enjoyment of the success of his redemption, his seeing his seed, the pleasure of the Lord prospering in his hands, his justifying many by his righteousness, his conquering his enemies, his subduing the triumphing over Satan and antichrist and all other enemies. What he sees of God, they in their measure see. What he sees of the church of God on earth and of the flourishing of religion here, they see according to their capacity. What he sees of the punishment of his enemies in hell, they see in him. And therefore this damnation of the enemies of Christ, and its being in the presence of the inhabitants of heaven, consisting of Christ and saints and angels, is expressed thus, Rev. 14:10, “They shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:” saying nothing of the glorified saints, including them in the name of the Lamb. Christ, with his glorified mystical body, being but one mystical person, for he is the head of the glorified body, as the sight of the eyes that are in the head are for the information of the whole body, and what he enjoys they enjoy. They are with him in his honor and advancement, and they are with him in his pleasures. They are with him in his enjoyment of the Father’s love, and the love wherewith the Father loves him is in them, and he in them. They are with him in the joy of his success on earth, and they are with him in his joy at the conversion of one sinner. The good shepherd, when he has found the sheep that was lost, calls together his friends and neighbors, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost,” Luke 15:5, 6. And they are with him in his joy at the conversion of nations, and the world. The day of Christ’s espousals is the day of the gladness of his heart, Song 3:11. The day of the marriage of the Lamb is the day of Christ’s rejoicing, Isa. 62:5; Zep. 3:17. So it is the day of the gladness and rejoicing of the hearts of the saints in heaven, Rev. 19:1-9. When he rides forth in this world, girding his sword on his thigh in his glory and majesty, to battle against antichrist and other enemies, they are represented as riding forth in glory with him, Rev. 19, and in his triumph they triumph. They appear on Mount Zion with him with palms in their hands, and as Satan is bruised under his feet, so he is bruised under their feet also. The saints, therefore, have no more done with the state of the church and kingdom on earth, because they have left this world and have ascended into heaven, than Christ himself had, when he left the earth and ascended into heaven, who was so far from having done with the prosperity of his church and kingdom here, as to any immediate concern in those things. This is by reason of his ascension, that he ascended to that very end, that he might be more concerned that he might receive the glory and reward of the enlargement and prosperity of his church and the conquest of his enemies here, that he might reign in this kingdom and be under the best advantages for it, and might have the fullest enjoyment of the glory of it, as much as a king ascends a throne in order to reign over his people, and receive the honor and glory of his dominion over them. Christ came with clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and was brought near before him to that very end, that he might receive dominion and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve him, Dan. 7:13-14. God the Father bade him sit at his right hand, that his enemies might be made his footstool, and rule in the midst of his enemies, and that he might enjoy that glorious reward that is called receiving the dew of his youth, and judging among the heathen, and wounding the heads over many countries, Psa. 110. God the Father set Christ on his holy hill of Zion, to that end that he might have the heathen for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession. And when the saints leave this lower world by death and ascend to heaven, they do but follow their forerunner. They ascend as it were with him, and they are made to sit together in heavenly places in him. They are exalted to partake of his exaltation, and they have written upon them the name of the city of his God and his own new name, to sit with him in his throne, as he, when he ascended, sat down with the Father in his throne, to rule with him over the same kingdom, to partake with him in his reward: his honor, his victory, and triumph over his enemies, his joy that was set before him, viz. the joy of the success of his redemption, the joy of seeing his seed, of finding his lost sheep, the satisfaction of seeing of the travail of his soul, etc. They in this world travail with him for the same thing. They are crucified with Christ, and they deny themselves to promote and advance his kingdom and glory in the world. They many of them suffer with him and die with him, in the very same cause, and their sufferings are called a filling up of the sufferings of Christ. And as they suffer with him on earth in this cause, so they shall reign with him. They shall enjoy with him the prosperity of that cause, that interest which they sought by their labors and sufferings, as he did by his labors and sufferings when he was on the earth. They shall be as much with Christ in partaking with him of the glory of his reigning over the world in his kingdom of grace, as they shall partake with him in the glory of his judging the world. Indeed they now are not visibly to the inhabitants of the earth reigning with Christ over his kingdom of grace here, as they will hereafter be seen judging the world with Christ. No more is Christ himself now seen by the inhabitants of the earth visibly reigning here, as he will be seen judging at the day of judgment. But yet this does not hinder, but that he does now as truly reign here, and possess and enjoy the glory of this dominion, as he will truly judge at the end of the world.

The saints in going out of this world and ascending into heaven, do not go out of sight of the affairs that appertain to Christ’s kingdom and church here, and things appertaining to that great work of redemption that is carrying on here. But on the contrary, go out of a state of obscurity, and ascend above the mists and clouds into the bright light, and ascend a pinnacle in the very center of light, where everything appears in clear view. The saints that are ascended to heaven have advantage to view the state of Christ’s kingdom in this world, and the works of the new creation here, as much greater than they had before, as a man that ascends to the top of a high mountain has greater advantage to view the face of the earth than he had while he was below in a deep valley or forest, surrounded on every side with those things that impeded and limited his sight.

On this account, as well as others, both Christ and his saints are beautifully represented as ascending and reigning on a mountain, Mount Zion, God’s holy mountain, the mountain of the height of Israel, etc. On this mountain, they have their kingdom in view, as David, who dwelled and reigned in Mount Zion, had Jerusalem in view, and as the saints in heaven have greater advantage to see those things, so also to enjoy them, to see the glory of them and receive comfort and joy by them. They are under great advantage to possess them as theirs, being with Christ who does possess, in communion with whom they enjoy and possess their infinite portion, their whole heavenly inheritance and kingdom, as much as the whole body has all the pleasure of music by the ear, and all the pleasure of its food by the mouth and stomach, and all the benefit and refreshment of the air breathed in by the lungs. And thus it is the saints in heaven sing to the lamb, Rev. 5:9-10, “Thou art worthy, etc. for thou hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, and hast made us kings and priests, and we shall reign on the earth.” Thus it is, “The meek shall inherit the earth;” For Christ is the heir of the world, and he has purchased the kingdom. The kingdom is promised him by the Father, and at last shall be given him when other kingdoms are destroyed, Dan. 7:14, and the saints are heirs with Christ, and shall inherit with him the same kingdom, and reign in the same kingdom, and so they shall enjoy the victory with him. He binds kings in chains, and all the saints shall have that honor with him, Psa. 149:5, to the end. And thus it is that when the time comes that Christ shall break his enemies with a rod of iron, they also shall have power over the nations, and shall rule them with a rod of iron, etc. Rev. 2:26-28. And thus it is the souls of the martyrs of Jesus shall live and reign with Christ a thousand years. Rev. 20. They shall be most nearly interested in this revival or spiritual resurrection of the church that shall be then. That shall be in some sense the resurrection of Christ himself, in the same manner as the setting up the kingdom of Christ in the world, is represented as Christ’s being born, Rev. 12. They shall possess the joy and happiness of that revival of the church, and it will be as much their own, and much more in some respects, than of the saints of earth, see Rev. 19, the former part of the chapter. Thus Abraham, who is spoken of as the heir of the world, inherits it, possesses his inheritance, and shall enjoy the great promise of old made to him.

As the saints in heaven shall be under much greater advantage in heaven to see and enjoy God than when on earth, so they shall be proportionally under much greater advantage to see and enjoy the works of God, and especially those works of God which appertain to the work of redemption; which is that work by which God chiefly manifests himself to the inhabitants of the heavenly world, and especially the redeemed there. The saints and angels see God by beholding the displays of his perfections, but the perfections of God are displayed and manifested chiefly by their effects. The chief way wherein the wisdom of God is to be seen, is in the wise acts and operations of God, and so of his power, and mercy, and justice, and other perfections. But these are seen, even by the angels themselves, chiefly by what God does in the work of redemption. Eph. 3:10, “To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places, might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.”

Corollary. Hence we learn one reason, why the promises of the future glory of the church in this world are so much insisted on in the Word of God, delivered to his church ages before the accomplishment.

Objection. In Ecc. 9:5-6, it is said of the dead that they know not anything. Neither have they any more a portion forever in anything that is done under the sun.

Answer 1. Their having no more a portion, etc. implies no more, than that they shall no more be interested in sublunary things, or in any worldly concern. But not that they are not interested in the spiritual and heavenly affairs of that family of God, that is not of the world, that are chosen and called out of the world, and redeemed from the earth. And as is represented by the apostle, they do not live in the world, but have their conversation and citizenship in heaven.

2. It is manifest that, by the context, the wise man speaks of temporal death as it is in itself, and not as it is by redemption, an inlet into a more happy state, in those that are redeemed from death, from the power of the grave. For the dead are here said to have no more a reward, and as being in a far worse state than when living, Ecc. 9:4. The wise man’s design and drift leads him to speak of temporal death, or death as it is in itself, with regard to things temporal and visible, without any respect to a future state of existence. And therefore, all that is implied is that the dead body knows not anything. They that are in their graves know not anything: not but that the immortal soul that never dies knows something, knows as well that the dead body shall rise again, as the living know that they must die. It is in this sense, and no other, that all things come alike to all, and there is one event to the righteous and the wicked, Ecc. 9:3, and preceding verses. The event is the same in the death of both, only as temporal death is the same in all. In this sense, as dieth the wise man, so the fool. Ecc. 2:16.

Texts of Scripture that show that the saints in heaven see, and are concerned and interested in, the prosperity of the church on earth. Mat. 19:27 to the end; Pro. 10:30; Psa. 25:13.

1095. Saints in Heaven Reign on Earth. It is evident, when Christ promises a kingdom to his true followers, as he does especially in Luke 22:29-30. That one thing especially intended is their rejoicing with him in his kingdom of grace on earth, by Christ’s words in that place: “And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father has appointed unto me, that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” By this it also appears that by that expression, used here and elsewhere, of sitting on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel, is not intended merely judging the world with Christ at the day of judgment (as indeed it will be unreasonable on other accounts to suppose this chiefly intended, for the saints’ judging the world, at the day of judgment, will not consist in their judging the church of God. For they shall all have the blessed sentence pronounced on them together, and sit down on Christ’s right hand together, to be assessors with him in judging others. After this they shall not judge one another over again). But their judging the world will consist in their judging angels and wicked men.

1119. Saints in Heaven Acquainted with What Is Done on Earth. It is an argument of this that God so often calls the heavens to be witness of his dealings with men on earth, Deu. 31:28; Deu. 32:1; Deu. 4:26; Deu. 30:19; Psa. 1:4; Isa. 1:2.

1121. Saints and Angels in Heaven Acquainted with What Is Done on Earth. The psalmist, in Psa. 89, speaking of the work of redemption, the covenant God had made with his chosen, God’s prosecuting the designs of his mercy and covenant faithfulness in his dealings with his church from age to age, and gradually bringing the designs of his mercy to their consummation, as an architect gradually erects and completes a building, Psa. 89:1, 5, says verse 5, “The heavens shall praise thy wonders, O Lord, thy faithfulness also in the congregation of thy saints,” or holy ones. Now this cannot be merely such a figure of speech as when sometimes the earth, seas, rocks, mountains, and trees, are called upon to praise the Lord. This is rather a prediction of an event that shall come to pass, of the notice the heavens shall take of those particular wonders of God’s mercy and faithfulness, and their celebrating them in their praises, and doing it in the assembly of God’s holy ones. And what assembly can that be but that which we read of, Heb. 12:22-23? Such a praising of the heavens seems here to be spoken of, as is described in Rev. 5:8, to the end; Rev. 7:9-11, 15-17; Rev. 12:10-12; Rev. 14:3; Rev. 18:20; Rev. 19:1-7.

1134. Heaven, the Everlasting Abode of the Church. That the saints shall enter into heaven after the day of judgment, and not continue with Christ here below, is evident: John 14:2-3, “In my father’s house are many mansions: I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” Doubtless these words, “I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am,” etc. will be most eminently fulfilled at Christ’s second coming at the end of the world, that second coming spoken of, Heb. 9:28. And when it is said he will receive them to himself to be where he is, he must be understood, to the place to which I am now to go, to that house of my Father to which I am ascending, in which I am going to prepare a place for you. At my second coming I will receive you to those mansions which I now go to prepare in my Father’s house.

It is also evident that Christ went to the highest heavens, the third heaven, far above all heavens, at his first ascension, as the forerunner of his people, implying that they shall all go there in their turn, or after him. And doubtless in this he was the forerunner of them, with respect to their reception of their proper reward, or their complete happiness, which will not be till the last day, and was their forerunner as to a bodily ascension or translation, wherein the saints’ bodies shall be made like to Christ’s glorious body and shall ascend as that did, but they will not have glorified bodies till then. And he is doubtless the Forerunner of the whole church in going to heaven, which he would not be, if after the day of judgment the saints were to stay here below, for those who shall then be found alive in such a case never would ascend into heaven at all. And then it is most reasonable to suppose that Christ will be the first fruits in his ascension, in like manner as in his resurrection. But Christ is the first fruits in his resurrection with regard to what the saints shall be the subjects of at the second coming of Christ: 1 Cor. 15:23, “Christ the first-fruits; afterwards they that are Christ’s at his coming.”

1246. The Saints Higher in Glory Than the Angels. It is evident that the four and twenty elders in the Revelation do represent the church or company of glorified saints by their song. Rev. 5:9-10, “Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.” But these are represented from time to time as sitting in a state of honor, with white raiment and crowns of gold, and in seats of dignity, in thrones of glory, next to the throne of God and the Lamb, being nextly the most observable and conspicuous sight to God, and Christ, and the four living ones. Rev. 4:4, “And round about the throne were four and twenty seats, and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment, and they had on their heads crowns of gold.” So Rev. 5:6, “And I beheld, and lo, in the midst of the throne, and of the four living ones, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb, as it had been slain.” And the angels are represented as further off from the throne than they, being round about them, as they are round about the throne, and the beasts, and the elders, and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands. So Rev. 7:11, “And all the angels stood round about the throne and about the elders, and fell down before the throne on their faces and worshipped God.” These things make the matter of the superiority of the privilege of the saints in heaven very plain.

1281. Hades. Saints before the Resurrection. Saints in Heaven Have Communion in the Prosperity of the Church on Earth. There are three things very manifest from Heb. 6:12, “That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”

1. That the souls of the saints do go to a state of rewards and glorious happiness before the resurrection. That although the resurrection be indeed the proper time of their reward, and their happiness before be small in comparison of what it will be afterwards, yet that they are received to such a degree of happiness before, that they may be said to be in possession of the promises of the covenant of grace. Those whom the apostle has reference to, when he speaks of them that now inherit the promises, are the Old Testament saints, and particularly the patriarchs, as appears by the next words, where the apostle instances in Abraham, and the promise made to him, and of his patiently enduring, and then obtaining the promise.

Again: It is manifest the things promised to Abraham which the apostle speaks of, were things which were not fulfilled till after his death. And it is manifest by what the apostle expressly declares in this epistle, that he supposed that Abraham and the other patriarchs did not obtain the promises while in this life, Heb. 11:13. Speaking there of these patriarchs in particular, he says, “Those all died in faith, not having received the promises.” But here he speaks of them as now inheriting the promises. This word, as it is used everywhere in the New Testament, implies actual possession of the inheritance, and so it is used in the Septuagint. It generally signifies the actual possessing of an inheritance, lot, estate, or portion, and that being now in actual possession of the promised happiness is what the apostle means in this place, is beyond dispute by what he says, as further explaining himself in the words immediately following, where he says that Abraham, after he had patiently endured, obtained the promise. He not only has the right of an heir to the promise, which he had while he lived, but he actually obtained it, though he died, not having received the promise. And that we should suppose this to be the meaning of the apostle is agreeable to what he says, Heb. 10:36, “For ye have need of patience, that after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.” And that the apostle, when he speaks here of Abraham’s having obtained the promise after patiently enduring, does not mean merely in a figurative sense, viz. that the promise of multiplying his natural posterity was fulfilled after his death, though he was dead and his soul asleep (knowing nothing of the matter), for the word is in the present tense, inherit the promises. He not only did obtain them, but continues still to possess and enjoy them, though Abraham’s natural seed had been greatly diminished, and the promised land at that time under the dominion of the heathen, and the greater part of the people at that time broken off by unbelief, and rejected from being God’s people. And their city, and land, and the bulk of the nation was on the borders of the most dreadful destruction and desolation that ever befell any people.

2. If we compare this with what the apostle says elsewhere in this epistle, it is manifest that the saints he speaks of inherit the promises in heaven, and not in any other place in the bowels of the earth, or elsewhere called Hades. For it is evident that the promised inheritance which they looked for and sought after, and the promises of which they by faith were persuaded of and embraced, and the promise of which drew their hearts off from this world, was in heaven. This is manifest by Heb. 11:13-16, “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly; wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” And the heavenly inheritance in the heavenly Canaan, or land of rest, which Christ has entered into, is that which the apostle all along in this epistle speaks of as the great subject matter of God’s promises which the saints obtain through faith and patience. Heb. 3:11, 14. and Heb. 4:1, 3, 9-11; Heb. 8:6; and Heb. 9:15; and Heb. 10:34; and Heb. 12:1, 2, 16, to the end.
3. Another thing, which may be strongly argued from this, is that the happiness of the separate souls of saints in heaven consists very much in beholding the works of God relating to man’s redemption wrought here below, and the stages of infinite grace, wisdom, holiness, and power in establishing and building up the church of God on earth. For what was that promise which the apostle here has special reference to, and expressly speaks of, that Abraham obtained after he had patiently endured, which promise God confirmed with an oath, and in which we Christians and all the heirs of the promise partake with Abraham, and in the promises of which to be greatly confirmed, we have strong consolation and great hope? The apostle tells us, Heb. 6:13-14, “For, when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he swore by himself; saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee.” This promise is chiefly fulfilled in the great increase of the church of God by the Messiah, and particularly in the calling of the Gentiles, pursuant to the promise made to Abraham, that in his seed all the families of the earth should be blessed, Rom. 4:11, 13, 16, 17; Heb. 11:12.

When the apostle speaks of their inheriting the promises, he seems to have a special respect to the glorious accomplishment of the great promises made to the patriarchs concerning their seed now in those days of the gospel, as is greatly confirmed by Heb. 11:39, “And these all having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise, God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect;” plainly signifying that they received not the promise in their lifetime. The promise was in respect to that better thing that was to be accomplished in that age, in which the apostle and those he wrote to lived, and that the promise they relied upon was not completed, and their faith and hope in the promise not crowned till they saw this better thing accomplished. Rev. 14:13, “They rest from their labours, and their works do follow them;” follow with them, μετ, αυτων, not to come many thousand years after them, as Mr. Baxter observes. Doddridge on Rev. 14:13.

Consider the following two works by Edwards that have been updated and republished for easy reading:

Ripe for Damnation: Sermons on the Book of Revelation – by Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758). Are you hungry for more of Edwards’ sermons? On the book of Revelation? These new works are not found anywhere on A Puritan’s Mind, and there are new ones not found in his large 2 volume works. 4 deal with the plight of the wicked, and 2 deal with the bliss of saints in heaven. These sermons are powerful, practical, and biblical, glorifying the Lord Jesus Christ, and contain 2 never before published sermons.

Justification by Faith Alone – by Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758). In this classic work, Edwards covers the intricacies of how believers are made righteous only through Christ’s merits, and that this justifying righteousness is equally imputed to all elect believers. This is accomplished by the condition of faith as an instrument.

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