The “Beyond Heavenly” Future of the Church

Norbert Lieth

God’s Word promises the redeemed of the church an inheritance of inconceivably great glory, above and beyond the skies of heaven. The letter to the Ephesians especially shows this. An exploration.

Our sanctification and spiritual transformation began with conversion and rebirth. Throughout the Christian life, the Holy Spirit continues this sanctification and transformation. But it finishes with Him in glory, when we see Him as He is.

“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). “And as we have borne the image of the earthly, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly” (1 Cor 15:49). “Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself” (Phil 3:21). “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6).

Someone once said on the subject, “We are being masterfully perfected. You won’t fall through the cracks.” The “judgment” will certainly help with this.

The church is a representation of the infinite richness of divine grace and goodness in Christ: “That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:7). “To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph 3:10-11).

Among other things, this miracle of transforming grace will be eternal. Throughout the eternal ages, God will reveal to the heavenly host what He accomplished in Christ with a mankind that was lowly, corrupt, sinful, and ruled by the devil.

“What is man, that thou art mindful of him?” (Ps 8:4). He not only thought of us and saved us, He elevated us above everything and showed us all the riches of His grace.

William MacDonald writes in his commentary on Ephesians 2:7, “This miracle of transforming grace will be the subject of eternal revelation. Throughout the endless ages, God will be unveiling to the heavenly throng what it cost Him to send His Son to this jungle of sin, and what it cost the Lord Jesus to bear our sins at the cross. It is a subject that will never be exhausted.”

Paul writes that the eternal wealth of God in His saving action is inexhaustible, like the universe is thought to be today. Roughly put, modern science must recognize that, “The more we grow in knowledge of the universe, the more we realize how little we know…and there are more and more questions.” “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” (Rom 11:33).

An infinite God will teach us infinitely, reveal new things to us, and usher us into who knows how many more secrets.

“He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things” (Eph 4:10). There is a fatherhood in the heavens (Eph 3:15), and a heavenly Jerusalem (Heb 12:22). The high priesthood of the Lord Jesus is higher than the heavens (Heb 7:26). He ascended through the heavens to the highest place (Heb 4:14).

The throne of God the Father is the highest place in eternity, high above all heavenly places. It is the center of government, the Father’s house, the source of everything created; it is the eternity of eternities. Even the “new Jerusalem” is limited, but not God. The church in Christ is relocated there.

“And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all” (Eph 1:22-23). We are literally “members of His body” (1 Cor 12:27; Eph 5:30). “For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power” (Col 2:9-10).

The description “body of Christ” as an organism was only revealed after the ascension of Jesus in Acts, and was a mystery (Eph 3:3-7). The apostle Paul speaks of the church as the body of Christ for the first time in 1 Corinthians 6:15.

In the same way that the members of our body belong to us, we belong to Christ as His members. Together with Christ, the church as the body is the fullness of the One who pervades all in all. Every corner of eternity will be filled with Jesus and His body the church, and not of ourselves: it is God’s grace alone. How could it be boring in these eternal worlds?

Fritz Binde wrote the following in his booklet The Perfection of the Body of Christ: “This is far beyond our capacity. That God was so resolved in His intent for salvation and called this wonderful organism into existence, who can conceive of it? His Christ is incomplete without the body. […] Yes, the totality of these members constitutes the fullness of Christ.”

We learn three things about the future of the church. First, it will co-inherit. Second, it will co-judge. Third, it will co-rule.

It will take part in the liberation of creation (Rom 8:19-21). It will co-govern all of the heavenly regions (2 Tim 2:12). It will judge the world: “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?” (1 Cor 6:2). I could imagine this beginning earlier, during the Great Tribulation… (Eph 5:6; Col 3:6).

The church will judge angels: “Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?” (1 Cor 6:3). It will return with Him in glory. “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory” (Col 3:4).

We will never be God, never be omnipresent like Him, but we will be with Christ wherever He is. As His body, as joint heirs with Christ and conformed to Him, the church will co-rule and co-partake (cf. Jude 14; Rev 19:11ff.; Zech 14:5; 2 Thess 1:7, 10; 1 Thess 3:13).

“And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be” (Rev 22:12).

Isaiah 53:12 speaks of God having “a portion with the great” and “divid[ing] the spoil with the strong.” Couldn’t that also be understood to mean that the Lord will return with “His reward”: that is, the church purchased by His blood?

Since the church is the body of Christ, it will share in His earthly dominion. It is always where Christ is. But its real and highest purpose is in the heavens. It will probably have a say in what happens on earth from the heavens, of course always subordinate to the Head.

To my understanding, Jesus won’t just be present on earth with His church (as far as the millennial kingdom is concerned). That’s why the resurrected David will be appointed as representative and prince (Ezek 34:23-24; 37:24-25; Hos 3:5). “And I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David a prince among them; I the LORD have spoken it” (Ezek 34:24). “And David my servant shall be king over them…” (Ezek 37:24).

It could be similar to the Lord’s resurrection: He could be visibly present, disappear suddenly, and be in eternity or in the realm of the dead. The eternal Son of God will never be confined only to the earth; He will fulfill and determine all eternity. As God, He will be omnipresent.

The kingdom of heaven means that heaven will rule over the earth. This indicates a close connection, perhaps similar to how things were before the Fall. Likewise, Christ’s spiritually/physically transfigured church will rule as His body from heaven, and certainly won’t be tied to one place, although we will never be omnipresent. Even the angels have access to the earth already, although they’re not omnipresent like God.

The church appears with Christ in a royal and priestly manner (Rev 1:6). It will, as mentioned, take part in the government in the new heaven and the new earth, along with Christ Jesus and the Father. There is plenty to do if we’ll only think of the infinite vastness.

Midnight Call - 02/2020

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