Yesterday we looked at one of the three features that Paul says will mark the complete unity that God’s people will have in heaven. The first feature was the knowledge of the Son of God. We will look at the other two features now and Paul calls them ‘a perfect man’ and ‘receiving from the fullness of Christ’.
A perfect man
When Paul uses the illustration of a perfect man he is not referring to believers as individuals in a perfect state of sanctification. Rather he means that the entire people of God will be a perfect man. I think he is referring back to his ‘one new man’ in chapter two which he used to describe the unity of Jews and Gentiles in the body of Christ. Not only will the sin of racism have disappeared, but so also will all other sinful barriers to true unity.
Of course, the concept of the church as a body is also in this illustration of a perfect man. This fits in with Paul’s focus in this passage on the role each person has to play in the church, using their God-given gifts and personalities for its benefit. In the eternal state, their personalities will be perfect, no longer affected by sin. The gifts, given to release their potential, will be fulfilled. This suggests that each of us will retain our unique personalities, although perfectly sanctified and contributing wholly to the joyful state of heaven.
Receiving from the fullness of Christ
In this third description of the eternal state, Paul says that we will have reached a particular stature (the word he uses can depict either age or size, but indicates full development). Each believer has already received out of the measure of Christ (v. 7) and heaven will be its completion; each has part now and fullness then. This does not mean that every one in heaven possesses the same amount, for there are degrees of glory. But it does mean that every one in heaven will be full of Christ. It is like filling a cup or a huge urn with water; both are full and cannot take any more, although the urn contains a lot more.
We may ask, what makes the distinction? At one level, the difference is due to the sovereignty of God, as can be seen from the parable of the talents in which one person was given ten and another five. But at another level, it is connected to our devotion to Christ and his kingdom in this world. We are encouraged by Jesus to lay up treasure in heaven. If believers live for the things of this world and allow their focus to drift from Christ’s cause to the achieving of worldly satisfaction, they will get to heaven but they will be cups and not urns. If we want more of Jesus in heaven, make more of him while you are here on earth.