This post is part of a series walking through the first volume of Abraham Kuyper’s Common Grace.
Kuyper argues that the Bible clearly teaches the connection between common grace and eternity for both nations (Revelation 21:26) and individuals (Revelation 14:13). But does Scripture go into detail? How much of a connection is there? We can’t know this from experience, after all. For example, does learning here benefit us after the return of Christ? There is a vast variety of people, doesn’t death equalize us all, consequently wiping out the fruits of common grace? A superficial reading of 1 Corinthians 13 would seem to answer ‘yes.’ Even tongues and prophecy will pass away and be equalized in all people, as will wealth and worldly goods. So much, it would seem, for common grace.
Yet to push this argument this far would have the effect of erasing our consciousness. So ‘passing away’ in 1 Corinthians 13 must have some other meaning. What we see in the context is that ‘passing away’ is like growing up. Childishness ‘passes away’, but isn’t obliterated from our consciousness. In fact our childhood powerfully shapes the person we become. This seems to be inferred in Paul’s comparison of being like a child. Our cloudy reason will be cleared up in the afterlife, not wiped clean into a blank slate. Right now we see something in a mirror, even if it is a cloudy something as in a glass darkly.
Even more, what we see in the cloudy mirror is not ourselves, but rather God shining through His Word. When this clears up we will see Him face to face. Which tells us that death doesn’t end common grace’s work in us; it rather perfects our vision. This is parallel to Paul’s argument about knowing in part–then we will know all, but the part we know now doesn’t vanish just because we then know all. The fact that what we know now is small and imperfect doesn’t negate its reality, it just makes it as if it were to vanish by comparison with the brilliance of what is coming.
All of which to say that building ourselves here is building ourselves for heaven.
Kuyper also sees this lesson in the parable of the talents. The individuals in the parable are not all equal in all things–though Kuyper admits this parable isn’t really dealing with worldly good primarily. Yet we may assume that common grace is outlined in Scripture for heaven and doesn’t “perish forever in the grave.” (569)
While I think Kuyper has made some good points here, I don’t know that he’s made the point he wants to make. Nobody, not even the biggest two kingdoms supporter out there, argues that sanctification is irrelevant for heaven. And that’s what Kuyper is really talking about here, at least in his examples. Yes, what we learn for our good here remains in heaven so far as it contributes to our holiness. That’s not the issue at stake. Kuyper will have more to say on this in the next chapters.