Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of his glory.
So, then, heaven, with all its glories, is an "inheritance." Not a thing that can be bought with money, earned by labour, or won by conquest. It comes by birth; it is given to the man who shall receive it, because he has been "begotten again unto a lively hope," etc. They who come unto glory are sons. But is it possible for us, provided that heaven be our inheritance, and we are God's sons — is it possible for us to know anything whatever of that land beyond the flood? It is. God's Spirit can turn the veil aside for a moment, and bid us take a glimpse, though it be but a distant one, at that unutterable glory. There are Pisgahs even now on the surface of the earth, from the top of which the celestial Canaan can be beheld; there are hallowed hours in which the mists and clouds are swept away, and the sun shines in his strength, and our eye, being freed from its natural dimness, beholds something of that land which is very far off, and sees a little of the joy and blessedness which is reserved for the people of God hereafter. The text tells us that the Holy Spirit is the "earnest" of the inheritance — not merely a pledge, but a foretaste of that which shall be enjoyed in full hereafter — the first-fruits of the eternal harvest.
I. First, then, THERE ARE SOME WORKS OF THE SPIRIT WHICH ARE PECULIARLY AN EARNEST TO THE CHILD OF GOD OF THE BLESSINGS OF HEAVEN.
1. And, first, heaven is a state of rest. It may be because I am constitutionally idle that I look upon heaven in the aspect of rest with greater delight than under any other view of it, with but one exception. To let the head, which is so continually exercised, for once lie still — to have no care, no trouble, no need to labour, to strain the intellect, or vex the limbs! It is a rest which puts from them all carking care, all harrowing remorse, all thoughts of tomorrow, all straining after a something which they have not as yet. They are runners no more — they have reached the goal; they are warriors no more — they have achieved the victory; they are labourers no more — they have reaped the harvest. "They rest, saith the Spirit; they rest from their labours, and their works do follow them." My beloved, did you ever enjoy on certain high days of your experience a state of perfect rest? You could say you had not a wish in all the world ungratified: you knew yourself to be pardoned; you felt yourself to be an heir of heaven; Christ was precious to you; you knew that you walked in the light of your Father's countenance; you had cast all your worldly care on Him, for He cared for you. You felt at that hour that if death could smite away your dearest friends, or if calamity should remove the most valuable part of your possessions on earth, yet you could say, "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord." Your spirit floated along the stream of grace, without a struggle; you were not as the swimmer, who breasts the billows, and tugs and toils for life. Your soul was made to lie down in green pastures, beside the still waters. You were passive in God's hands; you knew no will but His. Oh! that sweet day! It was a morsel taken from the loaf of delights; it was a sip out of the wine vats of immortal joy; it was silver spray from the waves of glory.
2. But, secondly, there is a passage in the Book of Revelation which may sometimes puzzle the uninstructed reader, where it is said concerning the angels, that "They rest not day and night"; and as we are to be as the angels of God, it must undoubtedly be true in heaven that, in a certain sense, they rest not day nor night. They always rest, so far as ease and freedom from care is concerned; they never rest, in the sense of indolence or inactivity. In heaven spirits are always on the wing; their lips are always singing the eternal hallelujahs unto the great Jehovah that sitteth upon the throne; they rest, but they rest on the wing; as the poet pictured the angel as he flew — not needing to move his wings, but resting, and yet darting swiftly through the ether, as though he were a flash shot from the eye of God. So shall it be with the people of God eternally; ever serving — never wearied with their service. "They rest not day and night." Have there never been times with you when you have had both the pledge and the earnest of this kind of heaven?
3. Heaven is a place of communion with all the people of God. A heaven of people who did not know each other; and had no fellowship, could not be heaven, because God has so constituted the human heart that it loves society, and especially the renewed heart is so made that it cannot help communing with all the people of God. Have we anything on earth like this? Ay, that we have, in miniature. We have the pledge of this; for if we love the people of God, we may know that we shall surely be with them in heaven. We have the earnest of it; for how often has it been our privilege to hold the highest and sweetest fellowship with our fellow Christians!
4. Part of the bliss of heaven will consist in joy over sinners saved. The angels look down from the battlements of the city which hath foundations, and when they see prodigals return they sing. Jesus calleth together His friends and His neighbours, and He saith unto them, "Rejoice with Me, for I have found the sheep which was lost."
5. But further than this — to put two or three thoughts into one, for brevity's sake: whenever, Christian, thou hast achieved a victory over thy lusts — whenever, after hard struggling, thou hast laid a temptation dead at thy feet — thou hast had in that day and hour a foretaste of the joy that awaits thee, when the Lord shall shortly tread Satan under thy feet. That victory in the first skirmish is the pledge and the earnest of the triumph in the last decisive battle. If thou hast overthrown one foe, thou shalt overthrow them all. Oh, Christian, there are many windows to heaven, through which God looks dawn on thee; and there are some windows through which thou mayest look up to Him. Let these past enjoyments be guarantees of thy future bliss; let them be to thee as the grapes of Eshcol were to the Jews in the wilderness; they wore the fruit of the land, and when they tasted them they said, "It is a land that floweth with milk and honey." These enjoyments are the products of Canaan; they are handfuls of heavenly flowers thrown over the wall; they are bunches of heaven's spices, brought to thee by angel hands across the stream. Heaven is full of joys like these. Thou hast but a few of them; heaven is strewn with them. There thy golden joys are but as stones, and thy most precious joys are as common as the pebbles of the brook. Now thou seest the glimmerings of heaven as a star twinkling from leagues of distance; follow that glimmering, and thou shalt see heaven no more as a star, but as the sun which shineth in its strength.
6. Permit me to remark yet once more, there is one foretaste of heaven which the Spirit gives which it were very wrong for us to omit. And now I shall seem, I dare say, to those who understand not spiritual mysteries, to be as one that dreams. There are moments when the child of God has real fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ. You know what fellowship between man and man means. There is as real a fellowship between the Christian and Christ. Our eyes can look on Him. I say not that these human optics can behold the very flesh of Christ; but I say that the eyes of the soul can here on earth more truly see Christ, after a spiritual sort, than ever eyes of man saw Him when He was in the flesh on earth. There are moments with the believer when, whether in the body or out of the body, he cannot tell — God knoweth — but this he knows, that Christ's left hand is under his head, and His right hand doth embrace him. Christ hath shown to him His hands and His side. He could say with Thomas, "My Lord and my God"; but he could not say much more. The world recedes; it disappears. The things of time are covered with a pall of darkness; Christ only stands out before the believer's view.
7. I do not doubt, also, that on dying beds men get foretastes of heaven which they never had in health. When Death begins to pull down the old clay house, he knocks away much of the plaster, and then the light shines through the chinks. The nearer to death, the nearer to heaven, with the believer; the more sick, the nearer he is to health.
II. THE BLACK REVERSE OF THIS PICTURE. There is another world, for the wicked as well as for the righteous. They who believe not in Christ are no more annihilated than those who do believe in Him. If thou be this day without God and without Christ in the world, thou hast in thyself a few sparks of that eternal fire. Ungodly, unconverted men, have an uneasiness of spirit; they are never contented; they want something; if they have that, they will want something more. They do not feel happy; they see through the amusements which the world presents to them; they are wise enough to see that they are hollow; they understand that the fair cheek is painted; they know that its beauty is but mere pretence; they are not befooled; God has awakened them. Now, when a man gets into that uneasy state, he may make a guess of what hell will be. It will be that uneasiness intensified, magnified to the extreme. But unconverted men without Christ have another curse, which is a sure foretaste to them of hell. They are uneasy about death. I have my mind now upon a person who trembles like an aspen leaf during a thunderstorm. But those dreads of death are but the foreshadows of that darker gloom which must gather round your spirit, except you believe in Christ.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.