Picturing how a person will look in heaven is just about impossible! We know we won’t have the same type of bodies: ‘who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body…’ (Philippians 3:21, and see also 1 Corinthians 15:44); and there won’t be the same gender distinction. We won’t age. Will there even be skin tone in the same way as there is on earth? There are so many limitations in our understanding about our appearance in heaven, but that is not the main point of this painting.
The intention of this scene is to depict the joy of receiving reward in heaven for service done on earth (‘He will reward each according to his works’, Matthew 16:27) – so that we might offer back to the Lord anything He might give us in that day – to give Him all the praise and honour and glory.
[They] cast their crowns before the throne, saying:“You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.”
There are no degrees of fitness for heaven; fitness for heaven is only and always found in trusting Christ as Saviour. But there are degrees of reward for how a Christian has served God. In the words of William MacDonald*:
‘There will be differing capacities for enjoying the glories of heaven. Everyone will be happy, but some will have greater capacity for happiness than others. Everyone’s cup will be full, but some will have bigger cups than others.
We must get away from the idea that we will all be exactly alike when we reach the glorified state. The Bible nowhere teaches such dull, faceless uniformity. Rather it teaches that crowns will be awarded for lives of faithfulness and devotedness, and that while some are being rewarded, others will suffer loss…’
There are several types of crowns mentioned in the Bible – an incorruptible crown, a crown of rejoicing, a crown of righteousness, a crown of life, a crown of glory; I don’t know if these are literal crowns, what they look like, and if or how they differ in appearance and value from each other. But it is a challenge that there are different types and values of reward for work we do on earth.
‘For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.’
2 Corinthians 5:10
To conclude with another quote from William MacDonald*:
‘Day by day we are determining the rewards that we will receive and the measure to which we will enjoy our eternal home. We determine it by our knowledge of the Bible and our obedience to it, by our prayer life, by our fellowship with God’s people, by our service for the Lord, and by our faithful stewardship of all that God has given to us. As soon as we realise that we are building for eternity with every passing day, it should have a profound effect on the choices we make and the priorities we set.’
*William MacDonald, ‘One Day At A Time’, Gospel Folio Press ©1998