Paul, the apostle, exhorts us as believers to set our mind on things above, “where Christ is,” rather than on the things of this earth (Col 3:1). This heavenly-mindedness empowers us to continue to live for God while we patiently wait for the return of our glorious Savior. This eternal perspective was emphasized by the Puritans, “which they maintained served as preparation for either heaven or hell.” In Chapter 51 of A Puritan Theology, Beeke and Jones summarize the teaching of Christopher Love, a Puritan preacher whose ministry was characterized by a deliberate focus on heaven. “In Love’s numerous writings…there appear seventeen sermons opening up the subjects of heaven and hell in Heaven’s Glory, Hell’s Terror (1653).”
The reality of living somewhere for eternity was not a classroom subject for Love. “As he preached and wrote upon heaven and hell…he lived and died under the reality of them…The problem was that he died in 1651 at the hands of Puritans accusing him of high treason against Oliver Cromwell’s Commonwealth government. He was tried and executed for his involvement in the so-called Love’s Plot to restore Charles II to the throne.” However, his deliberate attention on heaven is surely what aided him to die “with remarkable assurance that he was destined for heaven’s glory, not hell’s terror.”
Today, we think about Love’s summary of the glories of heaven, while tomorrow we turn our attention to the terrors of hell.
Heaven is glorious because Christ is glorious. “The glories of heaven were a major source of encouragement for Puritan pastors and their flocks during the turbulent times of the seventeenth century….When discussing the glories of heaven, the Puritans were thoroughly Christocentric….Heaven’s glory was never considered apart from Christ’s presence.” Christ is the Author and Finisher of the glorified life (Heb 12:2).
Both body and soul will be glorified at the return of Christ. “The glorification to come will afford us spiritual bodies (1 Cor 15:44), which arise after the life and death of a merely natural body, ‘which needs natural refreshment to maintain life, as food, sleep, raiment, and the like.’” In contrast to Love, who “focuses more on the intellectual nature of the beatific vision,” the Puritan John Owen “made the beatific vision of Christ in His human nature the central focus of heaven’s glories. In heaven, Christ appears as the head of glorified humanity; He is the immediate means by which God reveals His mind to His creatures; the object of divine glory; and the sight of Him will be transforming for those who have loved Him with an undying love. The saints on earth hope for heaven, but never heaven apart from the visible sight of Christ.”
We live in earth-bound bodies. Therefore, it is most natural for us to think most about this life, rather than the life to come. Let us learn from the Puritans. “That the elect will be glorified body and soul when Christ returns should move us to try to examine ourselves as to whether we may ‘warrantably conclude in your own conscience, that you shall appear with Jesus Christ in glory.’ For Love, such a trial of self bore great fruit for him personally when it came time for his own earthly trial for treason in 1651. That his body would one day be raised with Christ allowed him to face death fearlessly.” The deliberate choice to set our minds on Christ and the glories of heaven will surely do the same for us.