The Implications of the Edwardsian Principle for Heaven and Hell

What is the Edwardsian principle, that is, the keystone rule of Jonathan Edwards?  If you have paid any attention to John Piper’s ministry over the last thirty years, you know it.  And I would argue that the principle itself is not original to Edwards or Piper, but is in fact derivative.  It is derivative from the Scriptures.  God is the original of it.  But what is it?  Simply this: God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.  Or, God’s passion for his own glory and his passion for my joy in Him are not at odds.  Edwards writes, “The end of the creation is that the creation might glorify [God].  Now what is glorifying God, but a rejoicing at the glory he has displayed,” and elsewhere, “The happiness of the creature consists in rejoicing in God, by which also God is magnified and exalted,” and it is this magnification of His glory in the happiness of His creatures in that glory that God is committed to with unswerving zeal; thus, again, God’s passion for his own glory and his passion for my joy in Him are not at odds.

This morning I simply want to show, by virtue of Piper’s quotes on the matters, what implications this holds for heaven and hell.

First, what of heaven then?

“Heaven will be a never-ending, ever-increasing discovery of more and more of God’s glory with greater and ever-greater joy in him.  If God’s glory and our joy in him are one, and yet we are not infinite as he is, then our union with him in the all-satisfying experience of his glory can never be complete, but must be increasing with intimacy and intensity forever and ever.  The perfection of heaven is not static.  Nor do we see at once all there is to see — for that would be a limit on God’s glorious self-revelation, and therefore, his love.  Yet we do not become God.  Therefore, there will always be more, and the end of increased pleasure in God will never come.

Hear is the way Edwards puts it: ‘I suppose it will not be denied by any, that God, in glorifying the saints in heaven with eternal felicity, aims to satisfy his infinite grace or benevolence, by the bestowment of a good [which is] infinitely valuable, because eternal: and yet there never will come the moment, when it can be said, that now this infinitely valuable good has been actually bestowed.’  Moreover, he says, our eternal rising into more and more of God will be a ‘rising higher and higher through that infinite duration, and . . . not with constantly diminishing (but perhaps increasing) celerity [that is, velocity] . . . [to an] infinite height; though there never will be any particular time when it can be said already to have come to such a height.’  This is what we see though a glass darkly in Ephesians 2.7, ‘[God seats us in heaven with Christ] so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.’ It will take in infinite number of ages for God to be done glorifying the wealth of his grace to us — which is to say the will never be done.”

Second, what of hell?

Hell is unspeakably real, conscious, horrible and eternal — the experience in which God vindicates the worth ofhis glory in holy wrath on those who would not delight in what is infinitely glorious.  If infinitely valuable glory has been spurned, and the offer of eternal joy in God has been finally rejected, an indignity against God has been committed so despicable as to merit eternal suffering.  Thus, Edwards says, ‘God aims at satisfying justice in the eternal damnation of sinners; which will be satisfied by their damnation, considered no otherwise than with regard to its eternal duration.  But yet there never will come that particular moment, when it can be said, that now justice is satisfied.’  Of the love of God and the wrath of God, Edwards says simply, ‘Both will be unspeakable.’

John Piper, God’s Passion for His Glory, 37-38.


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