these things are but the least part of the happiness of heaven

these things are but the least part of the happiness of heaven

“Since we are freed from all sin and its effects, we are also rescued from punishment. After death, hell confines the sinner to eternal misery. Yet the blessed are delivered from all these things.

“However, these things are but the least part of the happiness of heaven. Our joys are positive, more than just the negative that we have been redeemed from. What these are I shall try to show you.

“Here we enjoy the sight of God, the blessed spring and eternal source of all our happiness. But what this is, I can no more fully explain than can finite creatures comprehend infinity. Yet the sight of God continually fills our souls with joy unspeakable and full of glory, and with a love so flaming that nothing but the blessed author of it can satisfy, nor eternity itself can end. It is that which makes us live, love, sing, and praise forever while it also transforms us into His blessed likeness. Beholding God’s face, we enjoy His love. His blessed smiles make glad our souls, and in His favor we rejoice continually, ‘for in His favor is life.’ And by this blessed vision of God, we come to know Him far above how any had known Him in the world below. For the sight of Him opens our understandings, and ‘gives us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.’ Here we all enjoy Him face to face. Below the saints enjoy God in a measure, but here we enjoy Him without measure. There they have some sips of His goodness, but here we drink largely and swim in the boundless ocean of happiness. Below the saints have their communion with God broken off many times, but here it is uninterrupted. Below love is mixed with fear, and fear has torment; but here love is perfect, and perfect love casts out fear. In heaven we love God more than ourselves, and one another like ourselves. Here we enjoy the perfection of all grace.

“In heaven our understanding and knowledge is enlarged according to the greatness of what we can observe and think. In the world below light could only shine into our minds through the windows of our senses, so God had to condescend to our limited capacities when revealing His Majesty. Our purest ideas of God were very imperfect, but here the gold is separated from the dross and we can conceive the simplicity and purity of God. We understand about His decrees and counsels, His providence and dispensations. We clearly see here that from eternity God was sole existing, but not solitary, that the Godhead is neither confused in unity, nor divided in number. We see that there is a priority of order but no superiority among the persons of the Trinity, but that they equally have the same excellency and power, and equally are adored. Those ways of God that in the world below seemed unsearchable and beyond our comprehension, we understand so clearly here by His divine wisdom that the truth could not be made more simple. 

“These are some of the things that make our souls happy. However, the happiness of the saints in heaven will not be complete until their bodies are resurrected and united with their souls. I will therefore show you what the resurrection body shall be like:

“First, the resurrection bodies of the blessed will be spiritual bodies, like mine. You may better understand this not only by seeing but by touch. (After saying this, the holy prophet was pleased to give me his hand.) They will be bodies that are purified from all corruption, yet will have substance. They will not be like wind or air, as people on earth sometimes foolishly imagine.”

Then I said to him that I always understood spiritual as the opposite of material, so I thought that a spiritual body must be immaterial, and not capable of being touched or felt as I found his hand was.

To this the prophet replied that their bodies were spiritual, not only because they were purified from all corruption, but as they were sustained by the enjoyment of God without needing food, drink, or sleep. Beholding the Lord is what supports both their souls and their bodies, and is what they live upon forever. “Have you not read,” said the prophet, “that the blessed Jesus, after His resurrection, appeared in His body to His disciples when they were met together in a chamber and the doors shut about them? And yet He called to Thomas to come and reach forth his hand and thrust it into His side, which shows it had substance.
“Our bodies in the resurrection shall be immortal, and incapable of dying. Below their bodies are all mortal, perishing, and subject to crumbling into dust at any time. But here our bodies will be incorruptible and freed from death forever, for our corruption here shall put on incorruption, and our mortality will be swallowed up of life.”

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Here I desired the prophet to bear with me a little, while I gave him an account of my own ideas about these matter.

“Speak, for I am ready to remove your doubt,” he said.
“I have learned,” I said, “in the holy Scriptures that immortality belongs to God only, and not to men. Daily experience tells us that bodies of men are mortal, and die. Therefore Paul told Timothy that God only has immortality.”

“When I say that the bodies of the blessed here are immortal, I am speaking about the bodies in their resurrected state, that then they are subject to death no more. Man in his corruptible state is mortal and subject to death. And there is nothing more evident to all that dwell in the world below. Even the bodies of all those glorified souls that are here in heaven are at this time still kept under the power of death. At the resurrection day, when they shall be raised up again, they shall then be immortal. And as to what you say from the Scripture, that the blessed God has only immortality, it is very true. He is most essentially so in His own being and nature; there is no angel or man that can, in that strict sense, be said to be so. We are immortal through His grace and favor; but God is immortal in His essence and has been so from all eternity. In that sense He may well be said only to have immortality. Whatever the blessed God is, He is essentially so in His own being. It can likewise be said that He only is holy, and there is none good but God, none righteous, nor none merciful but He.”

Chapter 5: We Shall Know Each Other

I remarked, “As I was brought here, I saw among the saints some that appeared to shine with greater brightness than the others. Are there among the blessed different degrees of glory?”

“The happiness and glory which all the blessed here enjoy is the result of their communion with and love to the ever blessed God. The more we see Him, the more we love Him; and love changes our souls into His nature, and from this results our glory. This makes a difference in the degrees of glory. Nor is there any murmuring in one to see another’s glory much greater than his own. The ever blessed God is an unbounded ocean of light and life, and joy and happiness, still filling every vessel that is put therein, till it can hold no more. And though the vessels are of several sizes, while each is filled there is none that can complain. My answer therefore to your question is that those who have the most enlarged capacity do love God most, and are thereby changed most into His likeness. This is the highest glory heaven can give. Nor let this seem strange to you, for even among God’s flaming angels there are diversities of order and different degrees of glory.

While I was talking with the prophet a shining form drew near. It was one of the redeemed. He told me he had left his body below resting in hope until the resurrection; and that though he was still a substance yet it was an immaterial one, not to be touched by mortal.

He said, “We here behold a sight worth dying for- the blessed Lamb of God, the glorious Savior. Here we see Him in His kingly office, on account of which He is called King of kings and Lord of lords. But all the glorious greatness of our blessed Redeemer does not make His kindness seem distant, but only more precious. It makes heaven more than heaven to me to find Him reigning here, Who suffered so much for me in the world below. And our Redeemer’s great happiness increases our own, as He invites each faithful servant to enter into his Master’s joy.

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“Here we see not only our elder Brother, Christ, but also our friends and relatives. Although Elijah lived in the world below long before your time, you no sooner saw him than you knew him. And so you will also know Adam when you see him. Here we communicate the purest pleasure to each other, a sincere ardent love uniting our society. And oh, how happy is that state of love! Where there is love like this, all are filled with delight. How can it be otherwise, since in this blessed society there is a continual receiving and returning of love and joy.

“But besides all the happiness that comes to us by our communion with God and with each other, it is to me a mighty happiness to understand all the deep mysteries of religion which the wisest in the world below could not fully understand. Here we discern a perfect harmony between those scripture texts that in the world below seemed to oppose each other. And here we are especially filled with wonder and gratitude at discovering the divine goodness towards each one of us in particular. In respect to my former life on earth, I have seen the mercifulness of those very afflictions that I once (when upon earth) thought to show His anger. I am now fully convinced that no affliction that I met with in the world below (and I met with many) either came sooner or fell heavier or continued longer than was needful. My hopes were not disappointed, but God used all things to prepare me for a better eternal reward than what I had hoped for.

“But I remember that you are still in the body, and may be tired with hearing what I could forever tell, so great is the happiness that I possess. I shall only add one other thing about our happiness: though a vast multitude of blessed souls partakes of this joy and glory, this does not make less of what each receives. For this ocean of happiness is so bottomless that the innumerable company of all the saints and angels never can exhaust it. Nor is this strange, for in the world below everyone equally enjoys the benefit of light. There is no one that can complain that they enjoy it less, because another enjoys it also. All enjoy the benefit of light as fully as if no one else enjoyed it but themselves. If a multitude of persons drink of the same river none of them is able to exhaust it, even though each of them has the liberty of drinking as much as he can. So whoever enjoys God enjoys Him as much as he can contain, according to his capacity.

“Thus I have given you a brief account of our heavenly Canaan. It is not the thousandth part of that which might be said, yet it is enough to let you see it is a land flowing with milk and honey.” In this happy place worldly relations cease. Nor is there male and female here, but all are like the angels. For souls cannot be distinguished into sexes, and therefore all relations are here swallowed up in God.”

He had no sooner spoken than he took me by the hand. Then, far swifter than an arrow from a bow, we passed by several shining forms clothed in robes of immortality, who looked at me as I passed them. He said, to me, “Farewell, my friend, your guardian angel will shortly come and bring you back to the world below.”

I drew near the shining form of a redeemed one that stood before me, who appeared extremely glorious, encircled with rays of dazzling luster. I hardly could behold her for the exceeding brightness of her face.
She said to me, “For what I am, to Him that is on the throne be all the praise and glory. The robe of glory which you see me wear is only the reflection of His own bright beams!”

“You appear to be one who feels the mighty joys that you speak of.”
She replied, “You should not think this strange. The mighty wonders of divine love and grace will be the subject of our song forever. Here all human relations cease and are swallowed up in God Who is alone the great Father of all this heavenly family. As for the members of the family that I left behind in the world below, I have committed them to God. I shall be glad to see them all heirs of this blessed inheritance. But if they should join with the grand enemy of souls and refuse the grace offered them, and thereby perish in their unbelief, God will be glorified in His justice, and in His glory I shall still rejoice.”

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Then I desired to know whether the saints in heaven understood and were concerned for what was happening in the world below.
To this she replied, “As to the affairs of particular persons, we are not concerned with them and are ignorant of them. Only God is present in all places and sees all things. But the struggles and the victories of the church below is told to us by the angels, who are ministering spirits sent forth to minister to those that shall be heirs of salvation. From what they report we are excited to renew our praises to Him that sits upon the throne.”

Chapter 6: Conducted to Hell

Then the bright messenger who had brought me to heaven returned. “I have,” said the angel, “a commission to return you to the earth from where I took you, after first visiting the regions of the prince of darkness. There you will see the reward of sin, and what Justice has prepared as the judgment of those who would exalt themselves above the throne of the Most High. ”

To leave heaven for earth was extremely disappointing. But to leave heaven for hell turned my very heart within me! However, when I knew that it was God’s good pleasure, I was a little comforted. So I said to my bright conductor, “That which God has ordered I shall always be willing to obey. Even in hell I will not be afraid if I may have His presence with me there.”
To this my shining guardian replied, “Wherever the blessed God grants His presence, there is heaven, and while we are in hell He will be with us.”

Then bowing low before the Almighty’s throne, swifter than thought my guardian angel carried me on a speedy journey down through the heavens. When I saw the stars I told my conductor that I had heard on earth that each one of these stars had their own worlds. “But I would ask you to tell me the truth of this matter.”

To this my shining guardian answered, “To Him Who is Almighty there is nothing impossible. But from knowing that it is in His power to do this, to argue that it is His will, is no good logic in the school of heaven. We know what He pleases to reveal to us, and what He has not revealed are secrets locked up in His own eternal counsel. For anyone to inquire into these secrets would be but bold and presumptuous curiosity. There is no doubt that He can make as many worlds as He wants, but He has not yet revealed it to us, and it is not our duty to inquire.” 

By this time we had come down to the lowest regions of the air. There I saw multitudes of horrible forms and dismal dark appearances which fled from the shining presence of my bright conductor.

I said, “These surely are some of the vanguard of hell, so black and so frightening are their forms.”

My conductor replied, “Now we are upon the borders of hell, and these are some of the apostate spirits that wander around like roaring lions.”
Soon we were surrounded with a darkness much more black than night, and with a stink far more suffocating than that of burning sulfur. My ears were likewise filled with the horrible yelling of the damned spirits, which in comparison with, would make the most discordant notes on earth sound like beautiful music.

“Now,” said my guardian angel, “you are on the edge of hell, but do not fear the power of the destroyer. My commission from the Imperial Throne secures you from all danger. Here you may hear from devils and damned souls the cursed causes of their endless ruin. What you ask them about, they will answer. The devils cannot hurt you, though they would want to, for they are bound by Him that has commissioned me.”

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