A Celtic Christian Worldview (22)
About the true blessedness of the life to come, Holy Scripture explains what eye has not seen nor ear heard nor has reached the heart of man what things God has prepared for those who love Him. Of the latter the Lord says they will be like the angels in heaven. And the same Lord’s teaching declares something more exalted of them: then the righteous will shine like the sun in the Father’s Kingdom…with Him the saints will be glorified together as long as they suffer with Him.
- The Book of the Order of Creatures XV.1
The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.
- Romans 8.16, 17
The final chapter of the Liber de Ordine Creaturarum deals predictably with the life to come. The entirety of the Christian worldview moves toward that life. If your Christian worldview is primarily concerned with changing the culture of our day, pointing out the failings of secularists, insisting on traditional standards of morality, or assuring certain liberties, then you merely have an agenda, not a worldview. A true Christian worldview takes in all aspects of the world – as our writer has endeavored to do – and keeps them focused and pursues their improvement “under the heavens”, that is with a view to knowing, delighting in, serving, and partaking of God Himself.
The writer’s comments on the life to come – which we will explore through our last four installments – are not very detailed. He does not address the question of the new heavens and new earth, because his primary focus is elsewhere. He is not interested in the “times or seasons” signaling the return of Christ, because he understands that what can be known about the life to come is explained in Holy Scripture, and nothing about the specific timing of Christ’s return can be discovered there (“It is not for you to know,” our Lord insisted – Acts 1.7).
Our writer simply describes the life to come as “the true blessedness”. Isn’t that lovely? Blessedness – that condition of perfect righteousness, uninterrupted peace, and unspeakable joy in the unobstructed, face-to-face presence of the Lord – is what awaits us. So great is that estate, that we have not seen anything like it, nor could we hope to describe it adequately. But our Lord is even now preparing it for us, and He will come and take us to it in His own good time (Jn. 14.1-3).
But who can expect to attain to the life to come? Can we have any assurance in this life that the life of true blessedness awaits us when this life is through? Our writer says we can, and he is following the apostle Paul in identifying those who “will be glorified together” with God and the angels.
Paul offers two grounds of assurance. First, he says that “the Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom. 8.16). This is as we might expect, since the Scriptures require two witnesses to validate any truth claim (cf. Deut. 17.6; 19.15). But how does this work?
Well, we are the first witness (Acts 1.8). We must be willing to declare that we believe in and belong to Jesus, spirit and life, that we are not our own, but have been purchased with the price of His blood. We must be vocal and consistent in our witness if our word is to have any semblance of truth. After all, what witness will be believed who is unwilling to testify when called on to do so?
Then, the Holy Spirit also bears witness with our spirit, from within our soul bringing forth those affections of love for God and neighbor, and that fruit of spiritual liveliness that indicates we are a new person, en routeto being transformed into the image of Jesus Christ (Gal. 5.22, 23; 1 Cor. 12.7-11; 2 Cor. 5.17; 3.12-18).
We bear witness and the Holy Spirit bears witness. Thus we may know that the true blessedness of the life to come is even now being prepared for us.
But, Paul says – and the writer of the Liber latches on to this especially – we will have pleasure and blessedness in the life to come if we “suffer with” Jesus here and now. Certainly we do not all expect to die on a cross; but Jesus commands us to take up our own cross daily, to set aside our merely selfish interests, lay down our lives in service to others, and, like a seed planted in the ground, die to self in order that we may live and bear fruit for Jesus.
Glory, with Jesus and the Father and the Holy Spirit, and with holy angels and glorified saints, awaits us in the true blessedness of the life to come. Will there be more to enjoy? More than you’ve ever seen or heard. But all of whatever externals we may be privileged to enjoy in the world to come will only be meaningful to us as they further enable the blessedness of seeing Jesus in His glory, and entering that glory and the pleasure of God forever and ever, world without end.
Questions for Reflection
1. How often do you meditate on the true blessedness of the life to come? Would you say that this is truly the goal and substance of your Christian worldview?
2. How do you experience the Spirit bearing witness with your spirit that you are a true child of God?
Psalm 23.4-6 (The Gift of Love: Though I May Speak with Bravest Fire)
The Lord is ever by my side; His rod and staff with me abide.
A table rich for me He spreads; with oil my Lord anoints my head.
Goodness and mercy, full and free, shall ever after follow me;
and in the house of God, my Lord, shall I abide forevermore!
Help me to have a clearer vision of the life to come, O Lord, that in this life I may…
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T. M. Moore, Principal
Davies, p. 27