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But do those in heaven now know what is happening on earth? Do the saints with Christ see the progress of the church and God’s providential governance of the affairs of mankind Continue reading . . .

One of the more glorious and comforting truths in Scripture is the assurance we are given that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8). In other words, all believers who die pass immediately into the conscious presence of Christ. There they experience in a disembodied state all the joy and delight that comes from seeing Jesus and celebrating his saving grace to them. Theologians call this the “intermediate state” because it comes in between our life now, on this earth, and our resurrection life, later, in the new heavens and new earth.

But do those in heaven now know what is happening on earth? Do the saints with Christ see the progress of the church and God’s providential governance of the affairs of mankind? Jonathan Edwards says Yes.

“There can be no doubt, but that the saints in heaven shall see the flourishing and prosperity of the church on earth: for how can they avoid it, when they shall be with the King himself, whose kingdom this church is, and that as King manages all those affairs. Shall the royal family be kept in ignorance of the success of the affairs of the kingdom?” (Miscellany 529, Yale, 18:71).

Edwards’ point is well taken. If the “dead in Christ” are with Christ and never apart from him, how could he exert his sovereign rule over all earthly affairs and the saints not be aware of it?

Edwards also points to the fact that we shall be with the angels of heaven, “those ministers by which the King manages those affairs” (Yale, 18:71). If the angelic hosts are so directly involved in the providential ministry of God on earth and in the church, how could we live and worship with them in heaven and not be informed as to what is happening?

We should also remember that the saints are not merely “in” heaven with Christ. They also “reign with him in the same kingdom; they sit with him on his throne.” If my reading of Revelation 20:1-6 is correct, this is the essence of the so-called “millennial” reign of the saints as they even now, during this so-called “Church age,” share Christ’s authority and oversight of the affairs of nations and the church.

We must also take into consideration that the saints in heaven would be enabled to see the unfolding of events on earth from God’s perspective. Here is how Edwards put it:

“The saints in heaven are under infinitely greater advantages to take the pleasure of beholding how Christ’s kingdom flourishes, than if they were here upon earth: for they can better see and understand the marvelous steps that divine wisdom takes in all that is done, and the glorious ends he accomplishes, and what opposition Satan makes, and how he is baffled and overthrown” (Yale, 18:72).

But wouldn’t the sight of sin and the sadness of our friends and family on earth serve only to diminish our joy in heaven? For one thing, we can be certain that in the presence of the Son of God there will be no tears or sadness or any knowledge gained that might spoil our happiness. God is more than capable of enabling us to see his purposes in such a way that we understand how all things truly work together for his glory and the good of his people (Rom. 8:28). More than that, says Edwards,

“They [the saints in heaven] can see the wise connection of one event with another, and the beautiful order of all things that come to pass in the church in different ages, that to us appear like confusion. They will behold the glory of the divine attributes in his works of providence, infinitely more clearly that we can” (Yale, 18:72).

In the final analysis we can’t be absolutely certain that the saints in heaven now know what is happening in the church on earth. But it seems reasonable to assume they do!

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