The final major movement of the gospel is glorification. Most often, this is when we talk about heaven. We will discuss heaven in this reflection, but glorification also has significance for the here and now. We will consider this as well. But it may help us, before we get into that, to expand how we think about heaven.
3 Conceptions of Heaven
All three of these conceptions of heaven are accurate, so we are not trying to refute an error in our thinking. But the third conception tends to be neglected, so we will be trying to fill a gap in our thinking; a gap that is particularly relevant for bringing our journey of grief to resolution.
First, heaven is a place of splendor. The splendor of heaven is a contrast to the finitude and sparsity of earth. Here we worry about things like money, food, and shelter. Heaven is a place with streets of gold, perpetual wedding feasts, and mansions. Whether these amenities exactly correlate with our current conception of them, the main point is that in heaven there will be no lacking for our basic needs.
Second, heaven is a place of purity. The purity of heaven is a contrast to the effects of sin within and around us on earth. On earth we are aware of our moral deficiencies and brace against the moral deficiencies of others. We live knowing sin is like a crouching lion waiting to devour us. In heaven, we will be completely free from the fear that emanates from the presence of sin. In heaven, we will remember the fear of sin like children remember the fear of monsters under their bed.
Third, heave is a place of rest. The rest of heaven is a contrast to the effect of suffering. While we frequently allude to the reality that Jesus will wipe away every tear upon our arrival in heaven (Revelation 21:4), I am not sure we squeeze all the juice from this truth that we should. This is more than a “won’t that be nice” reality of what is in store for us in heaven.
Heaven being a place of rest means that rest – settledness, peacefulness, and all that is meant by the Hebrew word “shalom” – is what God desires for us. In the same way that God wants purity for us on earth, God wants peace for us. We are not selfish to long for this rest any more than we are being vain to long for a conscience free from guilt. Our longing for peace echoes God’s heart for us.
This means that the work we’ve done in our journey together is not a remedial aspect of the Christian life, something that God was willing to grant us “time off” to focus on because we were so hurt. This rest for our soul we’ve been seeking to restore is something God wants for us and the time devoted to it is an investment God affirms.
Since our journey has been primarily about processing suffering, we will consider the rest aspect of glorification for its eternal and temporal significance.
Eternal Significance of Glorification
From Revelation 21:4 notice that Jesus welcomes those who have been crying into heaven. He comes near. He notices their pain. He is tender in his approach. Much of what causes our unrest in response to suffering is how little we get this response from those around us. Too often when we are hurting people pull away, look the other way, or approach our pain in ways that seem dismissive. This adds to our hurt and creates a sense of stigma. Heaven will not be that way.
If part of your unrest is exacerbated by the nagging question, “Will I ever be understood?,” the answer is “Yes!” This is true even before we can articulate our pain (Romans 8:26). The Holy Spirit is translating the groans we can’t put into words to the Father. This is nice, but often we do not have a felt sense of this being true. In heaven, we will live with a perpetual sense of being fully understood and fully loved. The unrest of feeling stigmatized and misunderstood will evaporate.
The work we have done together has been part of answering the phrase in the Lord’s prayer where we ask that things be “on earth as they are in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). As with any answer to this prayer, our current experience is partial. But we pray with confidence knowing it is God’s will. We receive each incremental growth towards this reality as something to be celebrated. I pray our journey together has advanced this aspect of answering Matthew 6:10 in the painful parts of your life that prompted the anger of unresolved grief.
Temporal Significance of Glorification
But we must also ask, “How does glorification impact the ‘not yet” part of our experience before we reach heaven?” I will use another metaphor. Imagine a season of your life when you had more to do than time to get it all done. Remember what it was like as you laid down at night. You were exhausted. You wanted sleep. You didn’t feel like you had time to sleep, so you felt guilty. But you felt like you had no choice but to sleep, so you felt helpless. You felt conflicted about embracing the very thing you needed. This detracted from the replenishing effect God wanted sleep to have.
This is an image of how many of us respond to embracing the recuperation process after a profoundly painful experience. We can tell we’re hurt. We want to feel better. We don’t feel like we have time or that it will do any good, so we feel selfish and futile for trying to process the pain. But as the pain leaks anger and despair into other areas of life, we realize we have no choice, so we start to feel hopeless.
That may capture how you felt at the beginning of this journey. If so, it captures why it was hard to catch traction in the early part of this material. Understanding the rest aspect of glorification helps us set these concerns aside and embrace what God desires for us.
Go back to the beginning of this metaphor. Imagine it is not you who are excessively busy and tired, but a friend. Imagine you came over to help them with a project and as you walk in to see what they wanted you to do next, you found them asleep mid-task. How do you feel about their rest? You are grateful they are getting what they need. You smile with fondness that their tenacity gave way to their humanity. You pray that this rest is as restorative as possible. You hope they wake up refreshed and not self-conscious or feeling guilty for having slept.
That has been my intent for our journey together. That you not only found guidance to renew a sense of rest for your soul, but that you realized that God is this kind of friend (Exodus 33:11). My prayer is that you have realized the anger you felt in your grief is something you can share “with” God for relief, comfort, and support rather than directing it “at” God as if God were opposed to you.My prayer is that you have realized the anger you felt in your grief is something you can share “with” God for relief, comfort, and support rather than directing it “at” God as if God were opposed to you. Click To Tweet
Questions for Reflection
- Which of the three conceptions of heaven is most beneficial for processing the painful things you have experienced?
- What metaphor would you use to describe how you relate to the rest that God wants to offer you as a means of recovery from the painful things you have experienced?
* * * This article is part of a series entitled Anger with God: Grappling with God Amidst Life’s Greatest Pains and Betrayals.
 If you want to explore the implications of this passage further for the implications of how we process suffering, I would encourage you to read the article “Making Peace with Romans 8:28” at www.bradhambrick.com/romans828.