The New Testament does not provide many details of the eternal conditions that will obtain when the present church dispensation on earth is ended. The study of prophecy in itself, concerned with the earth and with Israel rather than with the Church, does not shed much light on the subject. The characteristic expression in the Old Testament (especially in Isaiah) “in that day” has reference to the millennium or to events which usher it in, as also has the phrase in the Hebrew Epistle “the world to come, whereof we speak”, 2. 5. We are bound by the sense of time by which our lives are governed that we find it difficult to visualize a sphere in which time has no meaning. Some hymn writers, however, have sought to catch the atmosphere:
Safety – where no foe approaches;
Rest – where toil shall be no more; Joy – whereon no grief encroaches;
Peace – where strife shall all be o'er:
Where deceiver ne'er can enter. Sin-soiled feet have never trod;
Free, our peaceful feet may venture In the paradise of God.
Object of eternal pleasure,
Perfect in Thy work divine! Lord of Glory! without measure
Worship, joy and praise are Thine.
Nevertheless, there are indications and suggestions in the Scriptures which do not leave us entirely shut up to specula-tion, and which give us an insight into what must be of great interest to us all.
There appear to be two main occupations with which the saints will be engaged throughout those countless ages. At the present time, the ways of God are subservient to His eternal purpose, which will then find fulfilment. First, the response to God on the part of the sons, the worship led by the Son, already known here as “minister of the sanctuary’, Heb. 8. 2. No sudden change is envisaged, but rather a continuation, in new and unfettered conditions, of what is already experienced in a more limited way. The Epistle to the Ephesians sets out the truth of what is known but will then expand in the eternal day, “unto him (God) be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages”, 3. 21. Thus will this great vessel of praise function under the baton of her glorious Leader, who sings the praise of God “in the midst of the church”, Heb. 2.12.
The second important feature of that day will be response to Christy the great Lover of the church, on the part of the heavenly bride. She is seen “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband”, Rev. 21. 2, and again, as the bride, the Lamb’s wife, v. 9. Perhaps the most striking feature is portrayed in the first type of the church, Gen. 2. 18-23. It is to be noted that this was no after-thought on the part of God, especially in the light of the anti-type of Eve (the church) and the divine purpose in relation to her. There is the suggestion of great skill in the forming or building of the woman. The deep sleep of Adam speaks no doubt of the church as the product of the death of Christ, of His great love when He gave Himself for it, Eph. 5. 25. This took place prior to the introduction of sin into God’s universe; hence the direct connection with His purpose, rather than with His ways. Adam now says, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh”, and there is definite confirma-tion of the type in the similar language taken up by Paul, who also adds, “This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church”, Eph. 5. 30-32. It is indeed a truth of immense importance that the saints, whilst having no part in deity, yet partake of the same order of manhood then as Christ Himself, as the writer to the Hebrews says, “for both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one”, 2. 11. This is objective truth having a subjective issue, regu-lating our conduct and causing us to move in the light of it.
This thought of kinship is further strengthened in the second great type of the church when Abraham sends out his trusted servant (figurative of the Spirit), under whose hand were all the goods of his master. His commission was to seek out a bride for Isaac, with the strict injunction that she must be of his own kindred. Rebekah comes to light, journeying across the desert under the watchful care of the servant, even as the church goes through this world in pilgrim character in the hands of “another Comforter”. At the end of the journey she meets Isaac and it is said, “she became his wife; and he loved her: and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death," a suggestion of the loss to the true Isaac of Israel, Gen. 24. 67. Thus the church is to be eternally the responsible bride of Christ. Ought not this feature of union with Him to be the enjoyed portion of His own in greater measure, even while waiting to join Him in His own sphere? What a unique opportunity is afforded, week by week, in the celebration of His Supper, as we enter in the power of the Spirit into all that love has done. Thus do we touch in reality what shall soon be known in actuality, and which shall have no end.