O, That Day When Freed From Sinning! (2)
As we resume our examination of the doctrine and experience of glorification, I want to take a moment and elaborate on a point I made in my 2003 message at the Desiring God National Conference commemorating the 300th birthday of Jonathan Edwards. Continue reading . . .
As we resume our examination of the doctrine and experience of glorification, I want to take a moment and elaborate on a point I made in my 2003 message at the Desiring God National Conference commemorating the 300th birthday of Jonathan Edwards. I spoke on Edwards’s view of heaven as the eternal increase of joy. Although this may sound odd to you, may I suggest that this glorification, of which the apostle speaks, never ends. Let me say that again: glorification never ends.
I don’t mean that it will never be reversed, although that’s true. There will never be the slightest diminishing or regression or reversal or loss of the purity and holiness and likeness unto Jesus that we gain at the resurrection of our bodies. What I mean is that although glorification will happen in an instant, in the twinkling of an eye, it will also eternally grow and expand. The condition of our body, soul, and spirit, although entirely free from sin as a result of the event of glorification, is not the final expression of what we will experience throughout eternity. Let me say that again: glorification is a singular event that happens in a moment in time. But I want to suggest that there is a very real sense in which it is also an eternal process, a never-ending, ever-expansive, incremental increase in our knowledge and experience of God and thus also in our joy or delight in him. How do we know? Thank you for asking!
It is true that when we are “glorified” we will forever cease from sin and disease and death. But that does not mean that all we could possibly know about God and his redemptive purposes in Christ will be ours at a single point in time, as if to suggest that we won’t “learn” in the New Heavens and New Earth. At the moment of glorification all false ideas about God and his ways will be eradicated from our brains. But that doesn’t mean that all possible true ideas about him are instantly imparted to us. In fact, I would argue that to suggest otherwise borders on blasphemy. To contend that we will, at the moment of glorification, instantaneously and forever know everything about God that can be known is to reduce God to the level of the Devil. It is to suggest that there is a limit to what is true about God and thus a limit to what we his creatures can know of him.
Here is why I know I’m right. It comes in the form of a question.
Is God infinite? If so, what does that mean? It means that there is no limit to God, in the sense that what can be known of him and his character and his ways can never be exhausted. Everything else in this universe is quantifiable. Everything that is created can be counted, measured, weighed. That is to say, there is a finite number of quarks in material reality. There is a finite number of grains of sand on the seashores of the earth and on every planet in the cosmos. There is a quantifiable number of stars in the galaxies above. Everything that has been created is finite.
But the Creator is not. God cannot be quantified. The truths about him cannot be counted. God cannot be exhaustively known. When you examine a typical Systematic Theology textbook you may be overwhelmed to discover a lengthy section devoted to some 15-25 attributes of God. You may doubt whether you could ever master so many truths about God. But these paltry few divine attributes are nothing compared to the inexhaustible reservoir of truths about God. If the immeasurable universe were but an ocean of water, these 25 attributes would be but a sub-microscopic droplet within it.
To argue that the doctrine of glorification means we attain to an exhaustive and altogether comprehensive knowledge of God is to reduce God to the status of a creature. It would mean that God is finite, that there is a quantifiable amount of truth to and about him that can be reduced to a specific number. The great medieval philosopher/theologian, St. Anselm (1033-1109), is well-known for his definition of God. God, he said, is “That than which none greater can be conceived.” But if there is a finite, definitive, limited quantity of truths about God, could we not conceive of something greater, a being of whom even more truths might be discovered? Yes.
Not only do we reduce God to the level of a creature, in a sense we elevate ourselves to the level of the Creator. If we ever attained comprehensive knowledge of this being who purports to be infinite, would we not ourselves then be omniscient? Is not the definition of omniscience the capacity to know all that can be known? If it is, to suggest that we might ever reach a point at which we know everything about a God who is infinite would require that we ourselves be infinite at least in terms of our knowledge. And that, I suggest, is blasphemous.
Now consider a profound and necessary implication of this truth. With each new revelation about God that we learn, we rejoice. Genuine joy is always the fruit of knowledge. As our knowledge grows and increases so too does our joy or delight in what we have learned. And if that discovery of infinite truths about God never ends, then neither does the depth and intensity and expanse of our joy. It simply must increase forever as our knowledge of God increases forever. If we ever arrive at a point in eternity future where there is nothing more to know or learn or discover about God, he’s not God! It would mean that the object of our knowledge, the one who we thought was God, is finite, measurable, fathomable, limited, quantifiable, bounded, and exhaustible. Such a being is not the God of the Bible who is in every respect infinite, immeasurable, unfathomable, unlimited, unquantifiable, unbounded, and inexhaustible!
That is why I can say that, in a very real sense, glorification never ends. Our transformation never ceases in the sense that we will continue to learn and expand in our knowledge of God and thus too in our delight and joy in God, all of which will lead to ever-increasing dimensions of change and growth and understanding.
To be continued . . .