Thursday, March 4, 2010

levels of happiness in Heaven

A few people (including me) were all confused when I mentioned the "levels of happiness" in Heaven in my post yesterday. Well, I'm here to clear that up!

And by "clear that up," I mean that I'm going to write word-for-word out of one of John Piper's books.

This is an excerpt from his book Suffering & the Sovereignty of God:

Jesus pointed in the same direction when he said, "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven" (Matt 5:11-12). This would carry the greatest encouragement to rejoice if Jesus meant that the more we endure suffering in faith, the greater will be our reward. If a Christian who suffers much for Jesus and the one who does not suffer much experience God's final glory in exactly the same way and degree, it would seem strange to tell the suffering Christian to rejoice and be glad (Luke 6:23) because of the reward he would receive even if he did not suffer. The reward promised seems to be in response to the suffering and a specific recompense for it. If this is not explicit and certain here, it does seem to be implied in other passages of the New Testament. I will let Jonathan Edwards bring them out as we listen to one of the most profound reflections of this problem I have ever read. Here Edwards deals, in a breath-taking way, the issue of how there can be degrees of happiness in a world of perfect joy:

"There are different degrees of happiness and glory in heaven...The glory of the saints above will be in some proportion to their eminency in holiness and good works here [and patience through suffering is one of the foremost good works, cf. Romans 2:7]. Christ will reward all according to their works. He that gained ten pounds was made ruler over ten cities, and he that gained five pounds over five cities (Luke 19:17-19). "He that soweth sparingly, shall reap sparingly; and he that soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully" (2 Cor 9:6). And the apostle Paul tells us that, as one star differs from another star in glory, so also it shall be in the resurrection of the dead (1 Cor 15:41). Christ tells us that he who gives a cup of cold water unto a disciple in the name of a disciple, shall in no wise lose his reward. but this could not be true, if a person should have no greater reward for doing many good works than if he did few.

It will be no damp to the happiness of those who have lower degrees of happiness and glory, that there are others advanced in glory above them: for all shall be perfectly happy, every one shall be perfectly satisfied. Every vessel that is cast into his ocean of happiness is full, though there are some vessels far larger than others; and there shall be no such thing as envy in heaven, but perfect love shall reign through the whole society. Those who are not so high in glory as others, will not envy those that are higher, but they will have so great, and strong, and pure love to them, that they will rejoice in their superior happiness; their love to them will be such that they will rejoice that they are happier than themselves; so that instead of having a damp to their own happiness, it will add to it...

And so, on the other hand, those that are highest in glory, as they will be most lovely, so they will proportionally excel in divine benevolence and love to others, and will have more love to God and to the saints than those that are lower in holiness and happiness. And besides, those that will excel in glory will also excel in humility. Here in this world, those that are above others are the objects of envy, because... others conceive of them as being lifted up with it; but in heaven it will not be so, but those saints in heaven who excel in happiness will also excel in holiness, and consequently in humility... The exaltation of some in heaven above the rest will be so far from diminishing the perfect happiness and joy of the rest who are inferior that they will be the happier for it; such will be the union in their society that they will be partakers of each others happiness. Then will be fulfilled in its perfections that which is declared in 1 Corinthians 12:22, "If one of the members be honored all the members rejoice with it."


I highly recommend that you click on the links to John Piper & Jonathan Edwards. Edwards is "widely acknowledged to be America's most important and original philosophical theologian" (he died in 1758) and John Piper is.. well, one of the most world-known theologians of our time. So their words shouldn't be taken lightly or dismissed!

This isn't a life or death matter, but it is something that I believe Scripture teaches us.


  1. I agree and see no reason to add to what Edwards and Piper have stated. Piper is a preacher of God's Word, a man whom God has raised up to declare His Truth to all within ear-shot. Edwards is a time-tested theologian, as are other men like Calvin, and Luther. As we should discerningly give heed to what these men say, we must remember their fallibility, with our own. Men are fallible in their speaking and reasoning, so also are they fallible in listening. None to diminish what Piper and Edwards are teaching here, for Scripture seems to clearly agree with them. If anyone has a difficult time trusting the words of a single man, then test him against others and Scripture. In the case of Piper, he has stood many tests and passed exceedingly; all the more glory to God.

    Great post Shan. It is very clear that the saints shall inherit a Kingdom rich with many rewards, all of which produce proportional affections for God.

    Glorify God with all of your mind.

  2. I definitely agree that one man's words that are tested against Scripture and are proven true stand. But, I don't know that I fully agree with everything that Piper and Edwards have to say, though a lot of their points are valid and their intentions true. However, even the truest of intentions can be proven false, Paul tells us that.

    I don't know that I can agree that there are going to be different levels of happiness in heaven. While I believe that there will be different degrees to which we can enjoy heaven--someone who dies after a life of proving His word (Paul) vs. someone who dies at 15--Certain people might have a better appreciation for heaven than others can, That being said, I do not think that heaven is what is different. Heaven isn't different, our perception is.

    As for the Scriptures that they cited, I think that some of them are taken a little out of context. 1 Corinthians 12:22, "If one of the members be honored all the members rejoice with it." That context is about spiritual gifts. It has nothing to do with how it will be in heaven. The other is 1 Cor. 15:41. They're using it as if the passage is teaching that heaven will be different for all. However, I think it's teaching that we will know one another ... because we will all be unique. Our resurrected bodies will be changed and different from one other---just like our earthly bodies. But this isn't talking about a differing heaven.

    When it talks about different members being honored, I don't see how heaven will be "better" for some, because it's not that way at all on earth.Elders are honored, but not greater than deacons or other Christians.Men are respected for their leadership, but we're still all "one in Christ". No one is greater than another. It seems that in heaven, all will be unified.

    Speaking of unity, the entire theme of Christianity (aside from love, of course) speaks of unity (look to Ephesians). If we're all to be one body on earth and we're all to be one church and one family--why would this unity theme be exempt from heaven? We will be unified in the Lord all the more in heaven!

    Another thing, and I hope this makes some sense:
    Romans 2 and "rendering each one according to his own works...". It basically gives two end results: those who will receive eternal life and those who won't. But the passage goes on and says "All have sinned." Even if some people suffered more and did great things--everyone sinned. And the fact that all have sinned makes us all equal--because one sin or a life filled with sinful screwups makes us unworthy of Christ's love, grace, and mercy. If any of us can attain a life in heaven after having sinned, why would some people's be better---like Christ's blood cleansed some people more?!

    I think that heaven will be the same for everyone. Some may be able to appreciate it more, I believe that like God sent His one Son to die for all, He will produce one heaven for all.

    While we may disagree, let me end with this: I don't think this is a point of salvation. I pray that we can ALL receive the gift of heaven! No matter what heaven is like, it will be glorious and filled with the Light of God! It will be magnificent and no earthly matters will matter anymore.

  3. Then why would Christ say that those who are persecuted will have a great reward in Heaven? Why would he even say something like that? He used the word "reward," I think, for a reason. He could have just said to take heart because one day we will have no more pain in Heaven. But He didn't -- He said that they would be rewarded.

    And, quite frankly, I would hope that the martyrs who were brutally killed WOULD get a great reward in Heaven! I've never, ever known true suffering or true persecution for the name of Christ -- and who knows if I ever will. So, in my opinion, someone who is stoned to death for following Christ, and someone who lives a peachy keen life to the age of 80, would have different reactions to going home to God.

    That's just what I believe. I think there are SO many verses as to the persecuted being greatly rewarded in Heaven.. I don't think they should just be looked over and ignored.

    Plus, on a separate note (kind of), the Bible says blessed are those who have faith without sight (John 20:29). So clearly God is distinguishing believers from those who saw & believed than those who didn't see yet still had faith.

    In my opinion, God wouldn't have let this make the "final cut" (you know - not including the Gospel of Mary, Apocrypha, etc) of Scripture unless each word was SERIOUSLY important.

    And those are my .02 :)

  4. What you said here: "would have different reactions to going home to God" is exactly what I believe. The people have the different reactions, not God. I think that there IS reward in heaven, for sure. I also believe that the reward is GETTING to heaven!

    And, using your logic, if those of us who have not seen but yet believe are going to be blessed....that means we'll be more blessed than the apostle Peter or Paul--who were arguably the greatest follows of Christ of all time.

    I think you have to take the Sermon on the Mount (which you referenced) as a whole. It's not those who are pure in heart will see God, but if they didn't suffer then they'll have a slightly lesser reward. Those who mourn will have comfort, but if you didn't ever mourn then you won't receive comfort in heaven. It all goes together. If you live like this (bad things happening but you still get through this terrible, earthly life) guess what? Your reward is heaven!

    Either way--heaven will be great. I just want to get there, and when I do--I'll be happy.

  5. Well, Paul never saw Jesus. He only heard his voice on the road to Demascus and saw a bright light. But I still do believe that we who believe without sight will be blessed. I think God blesses those who, 2000 years after the birth of Christ, believe. I don't think God will bless me more than Peter, but Jesus did say that. So I believe it!