All of us will experience fullness of joy, and pleasures forever more (Psalm 16:11), these pleasures are not going to be absolutely identical for all. There is an equality under grace (we are all sinners justified and saved by grace and nothing we receive will be because anyone can boast in themselves), but that equality does not mean uniformity.
Earlier this year, we spent some time as a church thinking about what happens to us when we die. We thought about the final hope of Jesus’ resurrected, glorified people in the new heaven and earth. Theologians call this the ‘eternal state’.
But is this eternal state identical for every individual or is their variation in the degrees of glory and happiness we will each know? I think it’s a bit of both.
What we all receive
Generally speaking, all believers will receive the joy of seeing God face to face, of being with Jesus, and being like him (1 John 3). There will be fullness of joy for all of God’s people. James speaks of a crown that believers receive, as the reward of eternal life (James 1:12). This is the inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you… i.e. all believers (1 Peter 1:4). Not one single person in heaven will have any flicker of unhappiness, in God’s presence.
This equality of joy fits in with the doctrines we know and love well: of justification and blessing from God on the basis of faith alone, in the work of Christ alone, by grace alone. This is the reward we have by faith in the work of Christ, earned by him. Paul teaches us that any gifts we receive from God can never be earned: ‘By works of the Law, no human being is justified in his sight’ (Romans 3:20). So, receiving these things in heaven, being in God’s presence isn’t grounded on our obedience. Believers will stand in heaven and be in the new creation, accepted, loved, forgiven, justified on the basis of Christ’s work. Romans 5:19 says, ‘by the one man’s obedience the many will be counted righteous.’ Jesus will say to all of his people “come and enter into the joy of your master” (Matt 25:23).
We love the equality of grace, that we all receive these things… by faith.
What we receive in different degrees
The danger though, is that we overextend the doctrines of faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone…