What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived—
the things God has prepared for those who love him. (1 Cor. 2:9)
Have you ever worried that you might grow bored in heaven, that things may lose their luster or taste, that the whole novelty and intrigue of heaven might fade as do most things on earth? When you sing, “When we’ve been there ten thousand years . . . we’ve no less days to sing his praise than when we’d first begun,” do you wonder whether or not to be encouraged by such a statement?
Sure, eternal life sounds wonderful at first. But unless you have a firm grasp on what the Bible has to say about eternal life, you may begin to wonder. Eternity really is a long time, you might think.Is this something I really desire? After ten million years, will I really have the same desire I once had to go on living here? At the heart of these existential questions lies a deep concern for whether eternal joy actually exists.
If at this point Jonathan Edwards were still alive and knew what you were thinking, he would probably put his hand on your shoulder and lay your fears to rest.
In his sermon “Heaven, a World of Love,” Edwards—in a way that is nothing short of breathtaking—brilliantly unpacks the staggering realities of our joy in heaven.
Here are just three of these realities.
1. You Will Have Greater Capacity for Joy
In heaven, your resurrected body will come equipped with unimaginable capacity for joy (1 Cor. 15:42–44).
The Bible says you will have a resurrected body far better than anything you knew on earth. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15, says that your body will be stronger, fuller, more spiritual, more glorious, and everlasting. Your delight, your knowledge, your intellect, and all your affections will be renewed and restored so that you might enjoy Christ with perfected bodies. Edwards states, “[Our earthly soul that] had only a little spark of divine love in it, in heaven shall be, as it were, turned into a bright and ardent flame, like the sun in its fullest brightness, when it has no spot upon it.”
So far so good. An enormous amount of joy. But that still doesn’t solve the problem of complacency. Isn’t it still possible that the joy will fizzle out?
2. You Will Have an Ever-Increasing Capacity for Joy
In heaven, your capacity for joy will never cease to grow.
Never. According to Edwards, you will be “enraptured with joys that are forever increasing, and yet forever full.”
Sam Storms argues that your capacity for love, knowledge, understanding, and yes, joy are “ever-expansive, progressive, incremental” (“Joy’s Eternal Increase”). Never-ending. The implications are staggering.
First, it pummels any idea of heaven becoming boring, static, or all-too-familiar. How can it? If your ability to enjoy God and his gifts are always expanding, your perception of heaven will always be fuller, deeper, richer. You will never look on the same reality twice without some new way in which to enjoy it. You will look at each day through some new lens, where you see more clearly, understand more fully, and feel more deeply the truest joy—ever-increasing, ever-full joy for all eternity.
How, you may ask, is this possible? Won’t you run out of things to enjoy after ten million years? Again, Edwards would say: “No!” Why not?
3. You Worship an Infinite God
Because God is infinite, he can be infinitely enjoyed. Jesus Christ is not concerned about running out of ways to keep up with your ever-increasing ability to enjoy him. His character is endlessly deep, unsearchable, and inexhaustible. Imagine the scope of the entire universe: trillions of shining stars, burning brighter than the sun; magnificent constellations; billions of spinning galaxies, all magnificent and vast, colorful and mysterious. Yet they are finite. Brilliant though they are, they fall utterly short in comparison to the breadth, length, height, and depth of the love of Christ. His love, grace, kindness, wisdom, power, and mercy each stand as never-ending, infinite universes for all your affections to delight in.
If God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him, the ever-increasing enjoyment of God for all eternity will simultaneously become the ever-increasing glorification of himself. This is genius!
Now when you sing, “When we’ve been there ten thousand years,” you need not dread or doubt. You will not be the same person you once were. After ten thousand years you will look back and say, “How little I knew of him then. How much I have grown in my love for him. Yet how much more I still have yet to know of his character!” Further up and further into it you grow!
C. S. Lewis once defined joy in this life as “an unsatisfied desire, more desirable than any satisfaction.” I think he’s right. God doesn’t want your hope to be in this life but in the life to come. He wants you to long for your homecoming, when you meet him face to face. When you do this, you have access to a joy “more desirable than any satisfaction” here and now. Pray, then, for an ever-increasing capacity to know and enjoy him as you long for eternity.
Editors’ note: This article originally appeared at Desiring God. To learn more about our longing for our heavenly home, register for The Gospel Coalition 2015 National Conference, April 13 to 15, in Orlando.