A Classic Study by John Flavel (1628–1691)
The End of the Journey
How glad are seamen when they make the shore?
And saints, no less, when all their danger’s o’er.
What joy is there among seamen, when at last, after a tedious and dangerous voyage, they descry land, and see the desired haven before them! Then they turn out of their loathed cabins, and come upon open deck with much joy. "Then they are glad, because they be quiet: So he bringeth them to their desired haven" (Ps. 107:30). Now they can reflect with comfort upon the many dangers they have passed. Olim haec meminisse juvabit: it is sweet to recount them.
But O, what a transcendent joy, yea, ravishing, will overrun the hearts of saints, when, after so many conflicts, temptations, and afflictions, they arrive in glory, and are harboured in heaven, where they shall rest for ever! (see II Thess. 1:7). The scripture saith, "They shall sing the song of Moses, and of the Lamb," (Rev. 15:3). The song of Moses was a triumphant song composed for the celebration of that glorious deliverance at the Red Sea. The saints are now fluctuating upon a troublesome and tempestuous sea; their hearts sometimes ready to sink and die within them at the apprehension of so many and great dangers and difficulties. Many a hard storm they ride out, and many straits and troubles they here encounter, but at last they arrive at their desired and long-expected haven, and then heaven rings and resounds with their joyful acclamations. And how can it be otherwise, when as soon as ever they set foot upon that glorious shore, Christ Himself meets and receives them with a "Come ye blessed of my Father," (see Matt. 25:34). "O joyful voice! O much desired word!" saith Paraeus, "what tribulation would not a man undergo for this word’s sake!"
Besides, then they are perfectly freed from all evils, whether of sin or suffering, and perfectly filled with all desired good. Then they shall join with that great assembly, in the high praises of God. O what a day will this be! If (said a worthy divine) Diagoras died away with an excess of joy, whilst he embraced his three sons that were crowned as victors in the Olympic games in one day; and good old Simeon, when he saw Christ but in a body subject to the infirmities of our nature, cried out, "Now let thy servant depart in peace;" what unspeakable joy will it be to the saints to behold Christ in His glory, and see their godly relations also (to whose conversion, perhaps, they have been instrumental) all crowned, in one day, with everlasting diadems of bliss! And if the stars did, as Ignatius saith, make a choir, as it were, about that star that appeared at Christ’s incarnation, and there is such joy in heaven at the conversion of a sinner; no wonder then, the morning stars sing together, and the sons of God shout for joy, when the general assembly meet in heaven. O how will the arches of heaven ring and echo, when the high praises of God shall be in the mouth of such a congregation! Then shall the saints be joyful in glory, and sing aloud upon their beds of everlasting rest.
And is there such a day approaching for the sons of God, indeed! And have I authority to call myself one of the number! (see John 1:12). O then let me not droop at present difficulties, nor hang down my hands when I meet with hardships in the way. O my soul, what a joyful day will this be! For at present we are tossed upon an ocean of troubles, fears, and temptations; but these will make heaven the sweeter.
Cheer up, then, O my soul, thy salvation is now nearer than when thou first believedst, (see Rom. 13:11). And it will not now be long ere I receive the end of my faith, (see I Pet. 1:9). And then it will be sweet to reflect even upon these hardships in the way. Yet a few days more, and then comes that blessed day thou hast so long waited and panted for. Contrast the glory of that day, O my soul, to thy present abasures and sufferings, as blessed Paul did (see Rom. 1:18), and thou shalt see how it will shrink them all up to nothing. Contrast the inheritance thou shalt receive in that day to thy losses for Christ now; and see how joyfully it will make thee bear them (see Heb. 10:34). Contrast the honour that will be put upon thee in that day, to thy present reproaches, and see how easy it will make them to thee (see I Cor. 4:5). What condition can I be in, wherein the believing thoughts of this blessed day cannot relieve me?
Am I poor, here is that which answers poverty: "Hearken, my beloved brethren, hath not God chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom?" (James 3:5).
Am I tempted? Here is relief against that: "Now is come salvation and strength; for the accuser of our brethren is cast down," (Rev. 12:16).
Am I deserted? Here is a remedy for that too, "And there shall be no night there," etc. (see Rev, 22: 5). Come, then, my soul, let us enter upon our inheritance by degrees, and begin the life of heaven upon earth.
(This concludes are excerpted reprints of Mr. Flavel’s book)