The Westminster Catechisms begin by articulating the basic purpose of mankind; to glorify God and to fully enjoy him forever. Perhaps one of the best things about the Westminster Standards is that they are a library of Scripture footnotes. Every theological proposition articulated is backed by at least one Scripture reference. In the first question of the Larger Catechism, which I just referenced, there are four passages cited for that second statement about enjoying God forever. In this short post, I want to examine one of those references and how, I think, it properly casts the whole trajectory of our existence in the category of enjoying God forever (which is exactly what WLC Question 1 is attempting to do). This enjoyment of God, I will argue, has at its root the benefitting of God's covenantal nearness.
The Enjoyment of God as Covenantal Nearness
As I mentioned, there are four passages cited in that catechism question. One of them is Rev 21:3-4. For the sake of my post's purpose, I want to focus merely on verse 3 which reads, "And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.'" Why is it that the Westminster Divines chose to reference this text as they stated the enjoyment of God to be man's chief end?
It would seem that their inclination to reference this text comes from a biblical-theological strand that is set in motion right all the way from Genesis. Mankind was created in the image of God. Geerhardus Vos, in his Reformed Dogmatics, discussed that Adam's being made in God's image was an essentially religious estate. He writes concerning the image of God that because of it, "[Adam] is disposed for communion with God, that all the capacities of his soul can act in a way that corresponds to their destiny only if they rest in God." Thus, for Adam, life in its fullness consisted in the enjoyment of God in covenantal communion. Life was not an abstract idea to be ascertained but it resided in God the life-giver.
This covenantal nearness is demonstrated in Genesis 1-3. As Vos describes, the Garden is the Garden of God. Adam, as a resident of this garden, was a beneficiary of fellowship with God in God's own dwelling place. In this estate, he enjoyed God in the most basic sense of the word. Understanding this casts the fall of man in an increasingly bleak light as now mankind is separated from that which (or, who) his enjoyment was created to rest; in God himself. God's redeeming acts seek to cure this ailment.
The trajectory of redemption (beginning at Gen 3:15) moves toward the end of God consummating a holy people to dwell with himself the holy God in a holy realm. He does this through covenantal mediation, by the redeeming work of Christ, and unto the new heavens and new earth where God will declare from his throne, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God."
In that estate we will enjoy God like we never have before. We enjoy him now in seed-deposit form with the indwelling of the Spirit by whom we enjoy a covenantal nearness to God albeit an incomplete one. We will have a full and final enjoyment of God in the new heavens and new earth when we are finally purged from sin and conformed to Christ's likeness. We will dwell with him and every inclination within our being will be aimed toward him and completed in him. And his full glory we will enjoy as the warmth of a true and better sun.
(See Daniel Ragusa's article Life as the Enjoyment of the Covenant Communion Bond: The Garden of God at Reformed Forum for a great treatment of this subject)