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When the Blessings of Heaven Threaten to Blow your Mind!

Today we continue our deep dive into Richard Baxter’s classic work, The Saints’ Everlasting Rest, as edited and abridged by Tim Cooper.

“This rest,” says Baxter, “contains as the highest part our deepest enjoyment of God the highest good. And here, reader, do not be surprised if I am at a loss. When I know so little of God, I cannot know much of what it is to enjoy him. When I know so little of my own soul while it is here in this tabernacle, how little can I know of the infinite majesty or the state of this soul when it is advanced to that enjoyment? We will never be capable of clearly knowing until we are capable of fully enjoying. How can a man born blind conceive of the sun and its light? How a man born deaf conceive of the nature of sound and music? So too, we lack still that sense by which God must be clearly known. I stand and look on a heap of ants and see the mall with one view, very busy to little purpose. They do not know me, my being, nature, or thoughts, though I am their fellow creature. How little then must we know of the great Creator, though he with one view continually beholds us all? What knowledge we have is imperfect and such as must be done away with; it is only a glimpse the saints behold, as though through a glass darkly (1 Cor. 13:9-10, 12). But, poor Christian, be of good cheer. The time is near when God and you will be near, as near as you can ever desire. . .

We must conceive the change of the senses in proportion to the change of the body. As God advances our sense and enlarges our capacity, so will he advance the happiness of those senses and fill up with himself all that capacity. And if the body will be thus employed, oh, how will the soul be taken up? As its powers and capacities are greatest, so its action is strongest and its enjoyment sweetest” (36, 37).

When I read this section from Baxter’s work I immediately thought of Jonathan Edwards and his explanation of how a finite mind could ever comprehend the beauty and majesty of God. Edwards pointed out that undoubtedly our glorification will entail a massive transformation of our mental and intellectual faculties, such that with each new disclosure of some truth about God there is a corresponding expansion of our capacity to see it and enjoy it.

This always takes me back to a comment made by one of my students when I was teaching theology at Wheaton College. We were exploring some genuinely mysterious and complex truths in God’s Word when he put his hands to his head and cried out, “My brain is going to explode! I can’t take any more. My mind just can’t comprehend such things!” If that is true now, why would it be any different in heaven? The difference, as Edwards and Baxter point out, is that whatever faculties of thought and affection we need to see God and grasp what he is like and enjoy him to the fullest, God will himself provide. Don’t ever think that your capacity to think now is the measure or standard of how you will think then.

If there should ever come a time in heaven when you feel compelled to grab your head and cry out in frustration for not being able to understand who God is, I assure you that God will then do something miraculous and glorious in your faculties of perception that expand your ability to grasp what it is about himself that he has just revealed. With each new insight, with each new disclosure, with each new truth that God chooses to make known, comes a new ability to understand, a new capacity to enjoy, a new foundation on which to stand and declare, Great is our God!

 

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