Heaven will surely have an economy, but its trade will look much different that what we find on earth. There will be the poor in heaven, that is, those who spent their life on earth in a manner that was often contrary to the gospel and inconsistent with their Lord’s demands, and so when they arrive at heaven to receive their reward, it will surely be smaller than other men who lived faithfully to the Lord.
There will also be the rich in heaven, those who while upon earth honored the Lord as best they could and sought to promote him in all their ways, thoughts and duties. They will come to heaven and will certainly receive a greater reward than those who lived unprofitably and unfaithfully.
But this is where the economy of heaven will be so unlike that of what is on earth. On earth, being poor is despised for two reasons: 1) because you depend on others; 2) because you cannot enjoy the fruits of the earth. The reason these two are despised are because, as the first – because man in sin is autonomous and loves only himself and so to be in dependence upon another is loathsome; there is nothing more desired than to be free of other men and live by your own rules and own dictates. The poor are not so – they are the slaves of those who pay them. As the second, man only loves their own pleasure and seeks it for themselves alone to enjoy. All their profit and goods are accumulated for themselves, they spend on themselves and hoard to themselves. The fruits of the earth are only used in light of their own persons. And so poverty is a hated thing.
But heaven is of another sort. In heaven there surely will be an economy and graduation of gifts and blessings. This has always been so among God’s creation: the angels, the plants, the animals, and even among spiritual gifts. Here, we long for prestige and position. There we will long for grace. The rich man in heaven will have no account in the things themselves that God blesses him with, for they are only given that he might share with him who has less. And so those who are rich will see that the good things given are to be used to be shared. It will not be otherwise. It wouldn’t even enter into a heavenly man’s mind to use what God has blessed him with only for himself. In heaven, if a man has an apple and another man has none, it will be beyond instinct to share. And the man who has less in heaven is the recipient of grace and goodness from those whom God has blessed more for their faithfulness.
But it is more than this. Those whom God blesses richly will be delighted in sharing because this is the center of the likeness of God. God’s goodness consists in the giving of himself, that is, in pouring out himself for others at whatever cost to himself. So it can be said that “God is good” and furthermore, that “God is Love” – because all of what God does is itself good: it is the outpouring of himself upon his creatures, in his Son and Spirit. And so the rich will feel it the greatest pleasure in all of heaven to share those gifts which God has given to them. Whatever knowledge God has revealed to them they will see it of greatest pleasure, not to dwell on those thoughts alone, but to share them with his companions.
And the poor in heaven, if they may be called such, will be the recipients of grace, and so they will ever be humbled by the greatest gifts that are shared and given to them. Their joy will be that God has so graciously allowed and permitted them to receive from others of what God has given. And their receiving of grace will be a parable and a story to the rich, that is, it will be the gift of the poor to the rich that all are under the grace of God; the rich will see by their sharing with the poor that they are the same as the poor, that they all are alike beneficiaries of God’s grace. And so the poor will be like the rich, that they have shared by their poverty with the rich, and all will be rich, and so full of God’s grace.
This whole economy is founded and rooted in the person and nature of God, which is clearly seen in Christ, “who thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took on him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient to death, even the death of the cross. Why God also has highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name”
Christ, being the clear expression of God, teaches us what it means to be God. It is not that God is self-hoarding, as we sinners are, but self-giving, even to such a degree that he would give his most valuable possession. And Christ, who is this possession, teaches us even more what it means to be God. Christ gave of himself infinitely to sinners, withholding not even his own life for us and instead was spent for our sakes. In this God is seen and this is the nature of what heaven will mirror. There must be degrees of order in heaven among men or else there would be no sharing among us, which is to mirror God. And because we are created in his image, this may very well be the center of what it means to be made in his image, that is, to share what good things God has bestowed upon us with others who have not what God has bestowed upon ourselves
(Digression: this is contrary to modern understandings of the imago dei, where by it we understand our freedom. Instead, I would see that the imago dei means that we are not free, but instead slaves of each other but not slavery in a negative sense. We are slaves in that, when correctly oriented to God, we cannot but help give ourselves to others – we are a slave to them, we serve them at every opportunity that we might. And in this we find our freedom, in our slavery to each other. It may even, in some sense, be said that God is our slave, that is, that he cannot but help to pour out himself and serve us at every opportunity. Christ said as much when he said, “the Son of man came not to be served, but to serve and give his life a ransom”. Freedom then consists not in what we are able to choose for ourselves and the exercise of this power and faculty, but instead, freedom consists in the “death” of ourselves, that is in free abandonment of all our goods for the sake of others.)
And so the economy of heaven will be one of perpetual growth towards God, in and through the Church, who through the gradation of roles and gifts will still yet ever expand into the infinite expanse of God, the rich building the poor, and the poor building the rich. And so our joy will ever be increasing because, through one another we experience the grace and goodness of God. Our joy will be endless yet expanding infinitely, each moment better than the last, yet more humbling than the last, for what ever we have received we will share.
It is through this that God will be glorified in his Church. It will be the demonstration of his grace to all his heavenly hosts of his grace, mercy, love and goodness. And the Church, which will every increase in its joy, will fill heaven even more with the praises and glory of God, and we will be the delight of heavenly creatures, the ones in whom “angels long to look” because in us, they see the grace of God poured out in such a unique fashion and manner that it fills their eyes with wonder. And the Church, the sinners made saints, will become the central dwelling place of God and all heaven will stand in wonder and awe at this wondrous dwelling place that God has created for himself.