What Will Your Name Be in Heaven?

If you listened to my sermon this past Easter Sunday, perhaps you noticed that my title—“What Will Your Name Be in Heaven?”—was never addressed in the sermon. That’s one of the unfortunate things about having to turn in our sermon titles on the Wednesday before the Sunday we preach. Things can change considerably in sermon writing over a period of four days. Because of time (I could NOT even think of “going over” on Easter Sunday!) I had to cut the part of my sermon that would have made sense from that title. Hence, my title for last Sunday made no sense at all. Oh well. I still think it is well worth discussing with you here in this blog entry.

The idea was sparked by reading C.S. Lewis’ excellent book, “The Problem of Pain” (which I highly recommend). An interesting chapter toward the end of the book (chapter 10) is an insightful and thoughtful little reflection on our resurrection and restoration in heaven (those more familiar with C.S. Lewis will recognize that in many ways they are similar expressions to his more-often quoted phrases from Lewis’ “The Weight of Glory”—we sell both at our bookstore). Of course, I now have the luxury of citing quite a bit more of Lewis’ thoughts from this chapter than I would have been able to do in a sermon—easier to read in a blog than follow as quotes in a sermon.

So below is what I thought were some of his more notable excerpts:

“There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven; but more often I find myself wondering whether, in or heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else. You may have noticed that the books you really love are bound together by a secret thread. You know very well what is the common quality that makes you love them, though you cannot put it into words. …You have stood before some landscape, which seems to embody what you have been looking for all your life. …Even in your hobbies, has there not always been some secret attraction… something, not to be identified with, but always on the verge of breaking through, the smell of cut wood in the workshop or the clap-clap of water against the boat’s side? …Some inkling (but faint and uncertain even in the best) of that something which you were born desiring, and which … night and day, year by year, from childhood to old age, you are looking for, watching for, listening for? You have never had it. All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it—tantalizing glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear. …[If you ever truly found it], beyond all possibility of doubt you would say ‘Here at last is the thing I was made for.’”

But then Lewis gets to something interesting as to why each of us are different in so many ways. Why is that? What is God’s reason for that? Did God have something in his eternal mind—for his eternal purposes—in making each of us different souls? How do we see hints of that now in our inner longings? Will our differences be significant in heaven? Here’s what Lewis writes as he continues his mediation on our instinctive, inner, unspeakable longing for heaven:

“We cannot tell each other about it. It is the secret signature of each soul. …This signature on each soul may be a product of heredity and environment, but that only means that heredity and environment are among the instruments whereby God creates a soul. I am considering not how, by why, He makes each soul unique. If He had no use for all these differences, I do not see why He should have created more souls than one. Be sure that the ins and outs of your individuality are no mystery to Him; and one day they will no longer be a mystery to you. The mould in which a key is made would be a strange thing, if you had never seen a key; and the key itself a strange thing if you had never seen a lock. Your soul has a curious shape because it is a hollow made to fit a particular swelling in the infinite contours of the Divine substance. Or a key to unlock one of the doors in the house with many mansions. For it is not humanity in the abstract that is to be saved, but you—you, the individual reader. …All that you are, sins apart, is destined, if you will let God have His good way, to utter satisfaction.”

“…God will look to every soul like its first love because He is its first love. Your place in heaven will seem to be made for you and you alone, because you were made for it. …The day is coming when you will wake to find, beyond all hope, that you have attained it, or else, that it was within your reach and you have lost it forever.

This Lewis cites Jesus’ promise to his people Revelation 2:17, “To those who are victorious, …I will also give each of them a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it” (TNIV). Lewis continues:

“What can be more a man’s own than this new name which even in eternity remains a secret between God and him? And what shall we take this secrecy to mean? Surely, that each of the redeemed shall forever know and praise some one aspect of the Divine beauty than any other creature can. Why else were individuals created, but that God, loving all infinitely, should love each differently?”

What I particularly like from this is that, in the renewed, physical, restored earth that will be the kingdom of God in heaven, our physical, resurrected, eternal bodies will still retain our unique individuality, but it will be a sinless, gloriously interrelated individuality (in some ways, perhaps, like the Trinity), where we exist as distinct persons who are one community with God and with each other and, in some ways, one with a restored nature (restored animal life, plant life, etc.) on earth. This is our instinct since the Garden of Eden, which is why the idea of being “one with nature” is a common concept of paradise in everyone. But while being conformed to Christ’s image, we will still be individual persons with God-given differences, just as we are now in our fallen state. But these differences will not compete with one another or be threatened by one another or jealous or envious of one another, but rather, they will wonderfully compliment and selflessly enjoy one another for our differences. Our differences were made like a key to a lock for an eternal purpose God has in mind for us in electing and redeeming us in Christ. We’ll be given a new name by Christ—one just between us and him—an identity unique to us so that we can serve and glorify and worship God in a way only we will be able to do and that will uniquely, truly, fully, finally, satisfy us and glorify God. Our unique interests now are just a shadowed hint of it—what our specially designed role and work and worship will be then in the kingdom of heaven on earth. And we will enjoy that role as work and worship more than we can possibly imagine now.

I can’t wait. But I have to. And so do you. Just wait. Wait.

Thanks for reading.

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