Jonathan Edwards wrote, “There will be different degrees of both holiness and happiness [in heaven] according to the measure of each one’s capacity, and therefore those that are the lowest in glory will have the greatest love for those that are highest in happiness, because they will see most of the image of God in them” (The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 2, 902; thanks to John Piper, Let the Nations be Glad, for highlighting Edwards’ theology).
What if your reward will NOT be jewels, or crowns, or mansions? What if the reward God promises is a capacity…a capacity to enjoy Jesus. Though Edwards preached from Romans 2:10 (December1740) as the basis for the above thought, I would direct your mind’s eye to Romans 8:28-29:
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
Please note Paul’s train of thought:
1. Conformity to Jesus is good (implied)
2. God works “all things” (v. 28; all circumstances, all suffering, all pain, all conflict) for the good purpose of conforming you to Jesus (v. 29; this conformity could otherwise be stated as “holiness,” “sanctification,” or “Christ-likeness”).
3. Your conformity to Christ serves a greater purpose, namely, that Jesus might be the “firstborn” (v. 29; not just chronological, but also in terms of prominence and preeminence).
Because I was a pilot, I might have a greater appreciation for what Chuck Yeager accomplished than, say a pianist. The pianist, on the other hand, would most certainly appreciate Wolfgang Mozart more than me…why? We all have a greater capacity to enjoy those into whom we have been the most conformed. Pilots appreciate Yeager, pianists appreciate Mozart…and Christ-like Christians appreciate Christ.
If you would have the greatest capacity to enjoy Jesus in heaven, then be most conformed into His image on earth.
I think Edwards is correct and wonderfully so. I believe God’s reward is something like credits. Now these credits are good in heaven’s store and can be used to buy more of only one item, namely a capacity to enjoy Jesus. Those with the most credits have the largest capacity to know and enjoy Jesus. Those with the most credits are those who have been the most sanctified this side of glory (and that sanctification happens most in suffering).
The thief on the cross came to Christ in the last moments of his life. He has a thimble capacity for enjoying Jesus. Paul, through suffering, knew Jesus exponentially more; thus he has a fifty-gallon drum capacity to enjoy Jesus. Both men are “full” in heaven; thus neither is jealous or boastful, but one has a greater knowledge and appreciation of Jesus.
If you would be the most happy in heaven, be the most sanctified now. That means you must not be most concerned with whom or how you have been hurt, but that you have hurt in return. You must see that Jesus did not respond as we do (cf. 1 Peter 2:22-23). You must marvel that He never selfishly sought His own good, but ONLY sought the honor of His Father (cf. Romans 15:2-3).
Beloved, if you would have a greater capacity to enjoy Jesus you must learn to love the unlovable…in so doing you will (1) be conformed into His image, and (2) increase your appreciation of what HE did for you.
10,000 Blessings in The Reward,