the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
Charles Buck Theological Dictionary
Is considered as a place in some remote part of infinite space, in which the omnipresent Deity is said to afford a nearer and more immediate view of himself, and a more sensible manifestation of his glory, than in the other parts of the universe. That there is a state of future happiness, both reason and Scripture indicate; a general notion of happiness after death has obtained among the wiser sort of heathens, who have only had the light of nature to guide them. If we examine the human mind, it is also evident that there is a natural desire after happiness in all men; and, which is equally evident, is not attained in this life. It is no less observable, that in the present state there is an unequal distribution of things, which makes the providences of God very intricate, and which cannot be solved without supposing a future state. Revelation, however, puts it beyond all doubt. The Divine Being hath promised it, 1 John 2:25 . 1 John 5:11 . James 1:12; hath given us some intimation of its glory, 1 Peter 3:4; 1 Peter 3:22 . Revelation 3:4 . declares Christ hath taken possession of it for us, John 14:2-3 . and informs us of some already there, both as to their bodies and souls, Genesis 5:24 . 2 Kings 2:1-25 : Heaven is to be considered as a place as well as a state: it is expressly so termed in Scripture, John 14:2-3 : and the existence of the body of Christ, and those of Enoch and Elijah, is a further proof of it.
Yea, if it be not a place, where can these bodies be? and where will the bodies of the saints exist after the resurrection? Where this place is, however, cannot be determined. Some have thought it to be beyond the starry firmament; and some of the ancients imagined that their dwelling would be in the sun. Others suppose the air to be the seat of the blessed. Others think that the saints will dwell upon earth when it shall be restored to its paradisaical state; but these suppositions are more curious than edifying, and it becomes us to be silent where divine revelation is so. Heaven, however, we are assured, is a place of inexpressible felicity. The names given to it are proofs of this: it is called paradise, Luke 23:43 . Light, Revelation 21:23 . A building and mansion of God, 2 Corinthians 5:1 . John 14:2 . A city, Hebrews 11:10; Hebrews 11:16 . A better country, Hebrews 11:16 . An inheritance, Acts 20:32 . A kingdom, Matthew 25:34 . A crown, 2 Timothy 4:8 . Glory, Psalms 84:11 . 2 Corinthians 4:17 . Peace, rest, and joy of the Lord, Is. 57: 2. Hebrews 4:9 . Matthew 25:21; Matthew 25:23 . The felicity of heaven will consist in freedom from all evil, both of soul and body, Revelation 7:17; in the enjoyment of God as the chief good, in the company of angels, and saints; in perfect holiness, and extensive knowledge. It has been disputed whether there are degrees of glory in heaven.
The arguments against degrees are, that all the people of God are loved by him with the same love, all chosen together in Christ, equally interested in the same covenant of grace, equally redeemed with the same price, and all predestinated to the same adoption of children; to suppose the contrary, it is said, is to eclipse the glory of divine grace, and carries with it the legal idea of being rewarded for our works. On the other side it is observed, that if the above reasoning would prove any thing, it would prove too much, viz. that we should all be upon an equality in the present world as well as that which is to come; for we are now as much the objects of the same love, purchased by the same blood, &c. as we shall be hereafter. That rewards contain nothing inconsistent with the doctrine of grace, because those very works which it pleaseth God to honour are the effects of his own operation. That all rewards to a guilty creature have respect to the mediation of Christ. That God's graciously connecting blessings with the obedience of his people, serves to show not only his love to Christ and to them, but his regard to righteousness. That the Scriptures expressly declare for degrees, Daniel 12:3 . Matthew 10:41-42 . Matthew 19:28-29 . Luke 19:16; Luke 19:19 . Romans 2:6 . 1 Corinthians 3:8 . 1 Corinthians 15:41-42 . 2 Corinthians 5:10 . Galatians 6:9 .
Another question has sometimes been proposed, viz. Whether the saints shall know each other in heaven? "The arguments, " says Dr. Ridgley, "which are generally brought in defense of it, are taken from those instances recorded in Scripture, in which persons who have never seen one another before, have immediately known each other in this world, by a special immediate divine revelation given to them, in like manner as Adam knew that Eve was taken out of him; and therefore says, This is now bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man, Genesis 2:23 . He was cast into a deep sleep, when God took out one of his ribs, and so formed the woman, as we read in the foregoing words; yet the knowledge hereof was communicated to him by God. Moreover, we read that Peter, James, and John, knew Moses and Elias, Matthew 17:1-27 : as appears from Peter's making a particular mention of them: Let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, one for Moses, and one for Elias, 4th ver. though he had never seen them before. Again, our Saviour, in the parable, represents the rich man, as seeing Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom, Luke 16:23 , and speaks of him as addressing his discourse to him. From such like arguments, some conclude that it may be inferred that the saints shall know one another in heaven, when joined together in the same assembly. "Moreover, some think that this may be proved from the apostle's words, in 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20 .
What is our hope or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? for ye are our glory and joy; which seems to argue, that he apprehended their happiness in heaven should contribute, or be an addition to his, as he was made an instrument to bring them thither; even so, by a parity of reason, every one who has been instrumental in the conversion and building up others in their holy faith, as the apostle Paul was with respect to them, these shall tend to enhance their praise, and give them occasion to glorify God on their behalf. Therefore it follows that they shall know one another; and consequently they who have walked together in the ways of God, and have been useful to one another as relations and intimate friends, in what respects more especially their spiritual concerns, these shall bless God for the mutual advantages which they have received, and consequently shall know one another. Again; some prove this from that expression of our Saviour in Luke 16:9 . Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations; especially if by these everlasting habitations be meant heaven, as many suppose it is; and then the meaning is, that they whom you have relieved, and shown kindness to in this world, shall express a particular joy upon your being admitted into heaven; and consequently they shall know you, and bless God for your having been so useful and beneficial to them. "
To this it is objected that if the saints shall know one another in heaven, they shall know that several of those who were their intimate friends here on earth, whom they loved with very great affection, are not there; and this will have a tendency to give them some uneasiness, and a diminution of their joy and happiness." "To this it may be replied, that if it be allowed that the saints shall know that some whom they loved on earth are not in heaven, this will give them no uneasiness: since that affection which took its rise principally from the relation which we stood in to persons on earth, or the intimacy, that we have contracted with them, will cease in another world, or rather run in another channel, and be excited by superior motives; namely, their relation to Christ; that perfect holiness which they are adorned with; their being joined in the same blessed society, and engaged in the same employment, together with their former usefulness one to another in promoting their spiritual welfare, as made subservient to the happiness they enjoy there. And as for others, who are excluded from their society, they will think themselves obliged, out of a due regard to the justice and holiness of God to acquiesce in his righteous judgments. Thus, the inhabitants of heaven are represented as adoring the divine perfections, when the vials of God's wrath were poured out upon his enemies, and saying, Thou are righteous, O Lord, because thou hast judged thus: true and righteous are thy judgments, Revelation 16:5; Revelation 16:7 ." "
Another question has been sometimes asked, viz. Whether there shall be a diversity of languages in heaven, as there is on earth? This we cannot pretend to determine. Some think that there shall; and that, as persons of all nations and tongues shall make up that blessed society, so they shall praise God in the same language which they before used when on earth; and that this worship may be performed with the greatest harmony, and to mutual edification, all the saints shall, by the immediate power and providence of God, be able to understand and make use of every one of those different languages, as well as their own. This they found on the apostle's words, in which he says, That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord; which they suppose has a respect to the heavenly state, because it is said to be done both by those that are in heaven, and those that are on earth, Phil.ii. 10, 11. But though the apostle speaks by a metonymy of different tongues, that is, persons who speak different languages being subject to Christ, he probably means thereby persons of different nations, whether they shall praise him in their own language in heaven, or no. Therefore some conjecture that the diversity of languages shall then cease, inasmuch as it took its first rise from God's judicial hand, when he confounded the speech of those who presumptuously attempted to build the city and tower of Babel; and this has been ever since attended with many inconveniences. And, indeed, the apostle seems expressly to intimate as much, when he says, speaking concerning the heavenly state, that tongues shall cease, 1 Corinthians 13:8 . that is, the present variety of languages.
Moreover, since the gift of tongues was bestowed on the apostles for the gathering and building up the church in the first ages thereof, which end, when it was answered, this extraordinary dispensation ceased; in like manner it is probable that hereafter the diversity of languages shall cease." "I am sensible, " says Dr. Ridgley, "there are some who object to this, that the saints understanding all languages, will be an addition to their honour, glory, and happiness. But to this it may be answered, that though it is, indeed, an accomplishment, in this world, for a person to understand several languages, that arises from the subserviency thereof to those valuable ends that are answered thereby; but this would be entirely removed, if the diversity of languages be taken away in heaven, as some suppose it will." "There are some, who, it may be, give too much scope to a vain curiosity, when they pretend to enquire what this language shall be, or determine, as the Jews do, and with them some of the fathers, that it shall be Hebrew, since their arguments for it are not sufficiently conclusive, which are principally these, viz.
That this was the language with which God inspired man at first in paradise, and that which the saints and patriarchs spake; and the church generally made use of in all ages till our Saviour's time; and that it was this language which he himself spake while here on earth; and since his ascension into heaven, he spake to Paul in the Hebrew tongue, Acts 26:14 . And when the inhabitants of heaven are described in the Revelations as praising God, there is one word used by which their praise is expressed, namely, Hallelujah, which is Hebrew; the meaning whereof is, Praise ye the Lord. But all these arguments are not sufficiently convincing, and therefore we must reckon it no more than a conjecture." However undecided we may be as to this and some other circumstances, this we may be assured of, that the happiness of heaven will be eternal. Whether it will be progressive or not, and that the saints shall always be increasing in their knowledge, joy, &c. is not so clear. Some suppose that this indicates an imperfection in the felicity of the saints for any addition to be made; but others think it quite analogous to the dealings of God with us here; and that, from the nature of the mind itself, it may be concluded. But however this be, it is certain that our happiness will be complete, 1 Peter 5:10 . 1 Peter 5:4 . Hebrews 11:10 . Watts's Death and Heaven; Gill's Body of Divinity, vol. 2: p. 495; Saurin's Sermons, vol. 3: p. 321; Toplady's Works, vol. 3: p. 471; Bates's Works; Ridgley's Body of Divinity, ques. 90.
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Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Heaven'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​cbd/​h/heaven.html. 1802.