All people are equal in worth, but they differ in gifting and performance. God is the creator of diversity, and diversity means “inequality” of gifting (1 Corinthians 12:14-20). Because God promises to reward people differently according to their differing levels of faithfulness in this life, we should not expect equality of possessions and positions in Heaven.
If everyone were equal in Heaven in all respects, it would mean we’d have no role models, no heroes, no one to look up to, no thrill of hearing wise words from someone we deeply admire. I’m not equal to Hudson Taylor, Susanna Wesley, George Mueller, or C. S. Lewis. I want to follow their examples, but I don’t need to be their equals.
There’s no reason to believe we’ll all be equally tall or strong or that we’ll have the same gifts, talents, or intellectual capacities. If we all had the same gifts, they wouldn’t be special. If you can do some things better than I can, and I than you, then we’ll have something to offer each other.
We live in a culture that worships equality, but we err when we reduce equality to sameness. It’s illogical to assume everyone in Heaven will be able to compose a concerto with equal skill or be able to throw a ball as far as everyone else. In a perfect world, Adam was bigger and stronger than Eve, and Eve had beauty, sensitivities, and abilities Adam didn’t. In other words, diversity—not conformity—characterizes a perfect world.
Scripture is clear that we’ll have different rewards and positions in Heaven, according to our faithful service in this life. Since everyone will be happy, what could be the nature of these differences? Jonathan Edwards said, “The saints are like so many vessels of different sizes cast into a sea of happiness where every vessel is full: this is eternal life, for a man ever to have his capacity filled. But after all ’tis left to God’s sovereign pleasure, ’tis his prerogative to determine the largeness of the vessel.”[i]
A pint jar and a quart jar can both be full, but the larger jar contains more. Likewise, in Heaven all of us will be full of joy, but some may have a larger capacity for joy, having been stretched through their dependence on God in this life. John Bunyan said it well: “He who is most in the bosom of God, and who so acts for him here, he is the man who will be best able to enjoy most of God in the kingdom of heaven.”
Our different personalities, rewards, positions, and names in Heaven (see Revelation 2:17) speak not only of our individuality but also of how God finds unique reasons to love us. I love my wife and daughters, and I love different things about each.
We’re like unique instruments, played by an orchestra to produce one beautiful sound, rich in its variety. We all have our unique part in glorifying God. We bring something singular and vital to the concert of praise.
[i] Jonathan Edwards, quoted in John Gerstner, Jonathan Edwards on Heaven and Hell (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1980), 21–22.