One of the big benefits of thinking aloud is that others can hear you, can express appreciation, or offer gracious interrogation of your tentative position on things that matter. Last week I offered a meditation on The Scars of Heaven, and it has been so enriching to interact with people online and offline about what our concept of pain and suffering will be in the Final State. One of those engagements was with a fellow elder in Millisle Baptist who offered some helpful counterpoints to what I shared. That, combined with some further reading and thinking, has brought me not so much to a retraction as to a clarification on where the memory of past pain and sin fits in our final enjoyment of God in glory.
Heaven is the home of saved sinners
Whatever our memory of our lives in time, our sins and scars, there is one undeniable fact which jumps from the pages of Scripture – heaven is a place which resonates with the song of sins forgiven. The most brief pass through Revelation records the song of saved sinners who exult in what God has delivered them from and to. This implies that we are conscious of sin at least as the requisite to our being saved, at least as the great problem to which Christ our Saviour is the ever enduring solution. Sin has no sweetness to us now, it brought no savour to the soul of Christ Jesus at Calvary, but the remembrance of its redemption will fill our lungs, our lives, and the praises of heaven. How wonderful it will be to remember sin as the great crisis, Jesus as the great Christ, heaven as the great crescendo of the salvation songs we offer now.
A new creation and a new forgetting
The truths outlined above must, however, be held in tension with other notes in Scripture, and it is here that my previous post did not carry enough nuance. The Bible speaks of a joyous and gracious forgetfulness on the part of God in relation to our sins. Hebrews 8:12 rejoices in the promise made through Jeremiah that God ‘will forgive their wrongdoing, and I will never again remember their sins.’ Part of the ineffable grace of God is his willingness to not remember our offences, our transgressions, our iniquities. This is not amnesia on God’s part, less is it a default in the immutability of God, but an anthropomorphic depiction of how God treats those who trust him. What a thing it is that God does not count our corruptions any longer, that he does not hold the horror of our sin over us. This forgetfulness of God is to be treasured in our hearts as a gospel truth.
This, however, is not the only forgetfulness. In Isaiah 65:17-18, where the Final State is foreshadowed, where the New Creation is powerfully hinted at, the prophet avers that ‘the past events will not be remembered or come to mind. Then be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating’. This cannot mean that we forget the fact of our sin, but perhaps the fire that it brought to our consciences and our souls, that the psychological ruin of our rebellion will be undone, that our remembrance will be as redeemed as our eternal present around God’s throne, that regret will be no more, that the ghost pain of departure and default will be forever gone. Whatever our experience of what the past means in heaven, this sweet forgetfulness must be an abiding feature. Whatever our view of our emotional and psychological experience in heaven, we necessarily encounter speculation and approximation, and our ultimate experience of being in God’s presence will outweigh the best of our anticipated joy.
The paradox of remembrance and forgetting perhaps shows the limit of our earth bound viewpoint, and the altogether different character of what joy will mean before the face of our forgiving Father.
‘Oh , blessed condition, in which God will not remember our sins, and we shall not remember the former things, of pain, and sorrow, and death!’ – F.B. Meyer