God, who is holy and wholly good, cannot countenance even the presence of evil (Habakkuk 1:13). Yet, when believers die they go straight into the presence of the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). How can this be?
David by faith says, I will behold thy face in righteousness. Somehow this sinner will — between the moment of death and the moment of waking in your presence — be made perfectly and completely righteous. My record will be cleaned, my heart will be chaste, my mind will be pure.
And what does perfection look like? It looks like Jesus Christ. It is the righteousness of Christ which will allow me to stand before the holy face of God. That is why God predestinated his people to be “conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29).
Heaven is, as earth should be, Christ-centered. It is for this reason that David also declares, I shall be satisfied when I awake in thy likeness. The great satisfaction, the great reward, of heaven is experiencing the presence of Christ and being made like to Christ. Heaven is, ultimately, not about being reunited with deceased love ones, or being healed from all sickness — heaven is all about Jesus.
That is why, in Revelation, the throne of the Lamb is the center of attention; that is why the psalmist writes, “Whom have I in heaven but thee?” (Psalm 73:25). And that is why John was told to write “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord” (Revelation 14:13); only those in Christ are blessed in death.
But those who are in Christ awake in his likeness and in his presence… and therefore to complete and lasting satisfaction.
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