“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)
The end God has in mind regarding our sufferings is not just our personal conformity to Christ, but also the conformity of the whole church to Christ, so that all of God’s people will be fit to enjoy fellowship with God forever. It is one thing to be entitled to eternal life; it is another thing to be fit for it. We therefore suffer for the sake of the church (those who are already in it, as well as those who will someday be in it). We die that others may live; but if they live, we live too, in the sense that we all become fit to enjoy the presence of a holy God. Holiness is pleasant only for those who are fit to bear it; otherwise, it is a consuming fire. There will be degrees of nearness to God in heaven, depending on our holiness. All the redeemed will be there, but some will be nearer to God than others. We will all be perfectly happy in heaven, but the joy of some will be greater than others. They have wept more profusely, therefore they will rejoice more exceedingly.
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