A biblically-grounded understanding of disability sees a disability as a display of God’s glory. Accordingly, by the sovereign work of God, that which has come to pass, must of theological necessity be the best of all possible worlds. Therefore, even disability necessarily displays the perfection of God’s purposes. Further, God through his Word shows a particular delight in displaying his eternal power and goodness through those things considered weak and of little account by this world’s standards. Disability then, in a peculiar fashion shines forth the radiance of his glory.
A Display of God’s Glory – Revelation 21:4-5a
Revelation 21:4-5a says, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”’ The motif of the eschatological cessation of weeping and mourning is seen in Isaiah 35:10; 51:11; 62:2; 65:19, especially Isaiah 25:8: “He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.” God’s activity is intimate here; he not only puts an end to all crying, but he himself will personally wipe away every tear from their eyes. Every sadness and grief caused by disability shall be all wiped away, for these were part of the former things. G. K. Beale asserts, “The final coming of God’s presence in fulness results in absolute peace and security from any form of suffering that characterized the old creation. The ‘curse’ of ‘death’ and its associated sufferings, which were introduced in the first Eden, will be removed in the last Eden” (G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1999), 1049.). There will be no more death, neither mourning, nor crying or pain. Robert Mounce affirms, “Eternal blessedness is couched in negation because the new and glorious order is more easily pictured in terms of what it replaces than by an attempt to describe what is largely inconceivable in our present state” ( Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1977), 372.). All the griefs and lacks caused by intellectual disability will be removed since these are part of the former things. And God promises to make all things new. And all of this will be for a show of his glory.
The only and most essential question is, can it be affirmed from Scripture that those with intellectual disabilities are members of the elect, those who will bear the image of the man of heaven? Psalm 37:11 reads, “I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction.” In this verse David connects God’s steadfast love, God’s saving love, with the condition of being under affliction. Affliction here is the ground for the reception of God’s love. Isaiah 63:8-9 says, “For he said, ‘Surely they are my people, children who will not deal falsely.’ And he became their Savior. In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them.” God shows his affiliation to those who suffer under affliction by bearing in His own body the affliction with which they are afflicted. This connection results in their salvation, redemption, and God placing on them His love and pity. Job 36:19 reads, “He delivers the afflicted by their affliction and opens their ear by adversity.” God works to deliver the afflicted through the means of affliction and adversity. Psalm 25:16-18 says, “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses. Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins.” The Psalmist affirms that the basis for the forgiveness of his sins is the recognition of his affliction and trouble. These passages show a clear connection between disability (affliction) and salvation. Through creation, salvation, and eschatology the glory of God is revealed in those who have an intellectual disability.
Rev. Eric Nelson, SHN President & Founder