The following is an edited transcript of my interview with Tony Reinke, who invited me to be a guest on Desiring God’s “Ask Pastor John” podcast. You can also listen to the audio of this interview.
I think joy in eternity will be the same sort of thing we know as joy and happiness and delight right now. But it will be purified and absolute in the sense that, as Paul says, right now we are “sorrowful yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10). We live in a world under the curse. And so even as we rejoice with those who rejoice, we weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). And that is right and it should be.
We don’t just paste on a smiley face as we look at a world of tremendous need, of children suffering. And there’s sex trafficking going on and you have all of these different things. So right now our happiness in Christ is something that can and should be very real. But at the same time we recognize we can’t be absolutely happy all the time. In fact, it would be inappropriate if we were, given the condition of the world.
But in eternity we will enter into our Master’s happiness (Matthew 25:21). I just love that the Master doesn’t say to His servant, “Muster up your own happiness and bring it here, and it is your duty to make yourself happy all the time.” Rather, He says, “Enter into my happiness.” And what makes Heaven such a desirable and wonderful place is that it’s permeated by the person of God. It is where God is. We shouldn’t want to be in a heaven without God.
First of all, it wouldn’t really be Heaven because it’s God who brings His nature to it—all of His attributes, including His happiness. So I think in this life here and now, we do get foretastes of the complete and total bliss, the utter happiness, of Heaven. And we can be happy even in the midst of great difficulty, just as The Valley of Vision, the book of Puritan prayers, models. It is full of words such as “happiness” and its synonyms. Yet it’s just so deep with the burdens and realities of a sin-defiled world—but always with the sense of hope, of blood-bought hope, of hope with substance and expectation that one day God is going to wipe away the tears from every eye, as Revelation 21:4 says. There will be no more suffering, no more pain. There will be no more separation. We will experience all of the realities of who God is, and every day will be better than the one before.
The old fairy tale ending—happily ever after—that’s not a fairy tale. That is God’s unfolding drama of redemption, the greatest story ever told, the ultimate redemptive story. And He promises us we will never pass our peaks. And we’ll live happily ever after in His presence, to His glory and for our good. And that magnificence should permeate our lives and our thinking today. We should not wait until we die to discover a taste of all that. We should be experiencing it daily even now.