By Reverend Mark Hunnemann
In October of 1747, at the age of 30 years old, David Brainerd, who was the son-in-law of Jonathan Edwards, died. He was known as an exceptionally godly man, loving pastor, and very fruitful missionary to the Native Americans. Last night I read Edwards funeral sermon for this occassion, and I was so moved by it that I wanted to share some of the main points of his message. Edward's is arguably the most intellectually gifted man ever born in this land, and certainly one of the most godly and annointed of God.
This had to be at least a two hour sermon and was packed with biblical content--alas, I will not be able to quote most of the verses due to space. His text was 2 Cor.5:8..."We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord." In this section Paul is explaining why he was able to press on with such boldness and immovable steadfastness while suffering such relentless opposition and torment. Answer: the glories that await us in heaven the moment we die (as with Brainerd)--if we are in union with Jesus Christ--far outweigh the momentary afflictions of this life. Principally, "the souls of true saints, when they leave their bodies at death, go to be with Christ." (Vol.2, pg 27) The sweetness begins as he explains what that entails.
The believer is instantaneously perfected or glorified as they enter the "third heaven" and are in the presence of the glorified human nature of Christ. He piles up biblical references supporting our conscious existence in heaven. In addition, we are reminded of two states of Christ's church--the church militant (still fighting the good fight), and the church triumphant (resting from their labors)--our mutual union with Christ unites all believers of all ages.
"The souls of true saints, when they leave their bodies at death, go to be with Christ, to dwell in the immediate, full, and constant view of Him." (pg. 28) Though we see through a glass dimly here, in heaven the beatific vision ravishes the soul with pleasures and joy unspeakable. The spirits of just men made perfect (Heb.12:22-24) Jesus Himself spoke of His longing that we would share with Him the exceedingly wondrous glory, joy, and beauty in heaven (John 17:24) The infinite beauty of the Lord Jesus will elicit unending pleasures in us which the greatest pleasures on earth were but dim glimpses.
Please remember all this occurs immediately after death, and is only magnified once we attain our glorified bodies (after Second Coming). The impediments of indwelling sin, temptations, and our frail bodies all tended to dwindle vital communion with Christ here, but upon death our union with Christ will burst forth in full flower.
At conversion we are espoused to Christ, but when we enter heaven's palace, the fullness off marriage intimacy begins. The tenderness, closeness, and sweetness of our constant interaction with Jesus is the essence of heaven. Christ shall be "unbosomed" to us and His infinite endearment shall sweep our affections into ravishing pleasure and joy. "Thus they shall eat and drink abundantly, and swim in the ocean of love, and be eternally swallowed up on the infinitely bright, and infinitely mild and sweet, beams of divine love; eternally receiving that light, eternally full of it, and eternally encompassed round with it, and everlastingly reflecting it back again to its fountain." (pg.29) So close are we to Jesus that we partake with Him in His own enjoyment of the Father--which infinitely magnifies our joys and privileges. The Trinitarian delight and eruptions of sheer joy, are shared with us. The angels shall marvel at us and we shall rule over them.
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses..." (Heb. 12:1) The church triumphant observes (with no sorrow) their brothers-in-arms still on earth.We (deceased believers) participate in Christ's current reign over the church and the universe."The saints, when they ascend to heaven, and are made to sit together with Christ in heavenly places, and are partakers of His exaltation,are exalted to reign with Him." (pg.30) As kings and priests we reign with Christ over heaven. and earth, and its all inhabitants--visible and invisible. Our hearts and minds are in perfect union/agreement with Jesus and we truly sit in dominion with Him over all. The text above from Hebrews clearly is speaking of departed saints (hall of fame in ch. 11 symbolizing all believers) observing the welfare of the church militant...partaking with Christ in the joy of the advancement of gospel and kingdom of God.
(It is Edward's observations on the CURRENT reign of deceased believers that I found so edifying and glorious)
"The happiness of the saints in heaven consists very much in beholding the glory of God appearing in the work of redemption..." (pg.30). Departed saints have a vantage point which allows them to see the working together of all things, how Satan is baffled and overthrown, and what seems confusing to us they see the excellencies of divine wisdom. It is because of the intimacy of our union with the Lord Jesus that we shall be privy to the divine plan, which angels long to look into. Listen to these words..."The saints in heaven (are now) as much participating with Christ in reigning over the nations, and in the glory of His dominion"...as we shall after the Second Coming. The departed saints are kings and queens over all creation, as we are co-heirs with Christ. Which is why when Jesus appears to slaughter the anti-Christ, we are by His side (Rev. 19:14)
Of course the highest joy of heaven will be our praise and worship of our Creator and Redeemer.The praise itself shall be of excellent sweetness and ravishing to the soul. Whatever dullness of heart we have in worship here shall be transcended in heaven, and the corporate nature of the praise shall only magnify it's pleasurablness. In Heb.2 we see Jesus as the choirmaster leading His Bride in worship of the Father.
In speaking directly of his dear son-in-law, Edwards states...
"...how infinitely greater the privilege of being with Christ in heaven, where He sits on the right hand of God, as the King and God of angels, and of the whole universe, shining forth as the great light, the bright sun of that world of glory; there to dwell in the full, constant, and everlasting view of His beauty and brightness; there most freely and intimately to converse with Him, and fully to enjoy His love,as his friends and spouse; there to have fellowship with Him in the infinite pleasure and joy He (Christ) has in the enjoyment of His Father! How transcendent the privilege there to sit with Him on his throne, to reign with Him in the possession of all things, and to partake with Him in the joy and glory of His victory over His enemies, and the advancement of His kingdom in the world, and to join with Him in joyful songs of praise to His Father and their Father, to His God and their God, for ever and ever! Is not such a privilege worth seeking after?"