The Eternally Wounded Christ
There is so much we do not know about the experience of believers in glory. The Scriptures give us just enough insight to stir up within us an anticipated longing to be in glory. "Being with Jesus" is the most common way in which Christ and the apostles spoke about the believer's eternal happiness. Jesus told His disciples, "If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also" (John 14:3). The Apostle Paul told the church in Philippi, "I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better indeed" (Phil. 1:23). The Apostle John, in the vision of heavenly glory, wrote,
"I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, 'Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!' And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, 'To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever'" (Rev. 5:11-13).
Jesus, under the figure of the slain lamb is the centerpiece of heaven. There is, in these words, a clear depiction of the ongoing visible reminder of the sufferings of Christ for the redemption of His people. There are several reasons why Jesus bears the wounds of His sufferings for all eternity. Consider the following:
In the first place, believers need to have their fears and doubts allayed. When the glorified Christ charged Thomas to touch the nail-prints in his hands and feet, and his pierced side, he was teaching every subsequent generation of believers about that which of most importance to their faith. While we do not now see the visible wounds of Christ, we see them by faith as we see Him suffer for us in the Scripture. There is, therefore, no reason for us to doubt that He continues to bear these visible signs of His love and redemption.
In the second place, believers need the visible marks of the suffering of Christ so that God's wrath does not break out on us for our daily sin. In The Christian's Reasonable Service, Wilhelmus A 'Brakel wrote,
"In order that the wrath of God would not be aroused by daily sin, it is necessary that the Surety continually display the atonement before the throne. Paul pointed to this in Rom 5:10, 'For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.' And why are we saved by His life? '... seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them' (Heb 7:25)."1
Though Jesus offered himself once-for-all for our sins, it is His continual intercession--in accompaniment with the finished work He accomplished at Calvary--that secures our right to the blessings and favor of God.
In the third place, a sight of the wounds of Jesus stirs up in us affection for Christ. His wounds remind us of the love of the Bridegroom for His bride--and what He did for His bride. In Heaven, Christ will continue to reveal God to us. This is one of the foremost ways in which God will reveal His wisdom, power, grace, mercy, justice, and love to those Christ has redeemed. Anne Cousins, in her hymn based on the words of Samuel Rutherford, wrote,
"The Bride eyes not her garment, but her dear Bridegroom's face;
I will not gaze at glory, But on my King of Grace—
Not at the crown He gifteth, But on His piercèd hand:—
The Lamb is all the glory Of Immanuel's land." (Letters 21, 168.)
Whatever else heaven will be, we can be sure that it is being with the Lamb who was slain. We will enter heaven because of the nail pierced hands and feet of Jesus. We will remain safe in heaven for all eternity because of the sufferings of the Savior. For all eternity, God will reveal more and more of the dying love that He has for us in Christ. May God remove all doubt and fear from us in the here-and-now as we gaze, by faith, on the wounded hands, feet and side of the Savior. Rest in the fact that the "Surety continually displays the atonement before the throne."
1. Wilhelmus A 'Brakel The Christian's Reasonable Service (The Netherlands: D. Bolle, Rotterdam, 1993) p. 548