Getting the Beatific Vision out of the Cupboard (John 17:24–27)

Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

—John 17:24

The desire of the Son, lifted up to the Father, is that those who the Father has given to the Son, be with the Son, to see His glory. This beholding is referred to as the beatific vision.  The beatific vision is perhaps the most absurd doctrine for the church to have put up in the cupboard and allow to collect dust. Thankfully it never expires. Though it is sad, from one perspective, I can understand why difficult truths like perichoresis aren’t well known. I easily grasp why most saints don’t know of or know the difference between supralapsarianism and infralapsarianism. But why would we ever put the doctrine of the beatific vision in long term storage?

“Beatific” shares the same root as the word “beatitude” meaning blessed or happy. The beatific vision is the blessed vision, the happy sight of our God. This vision is the blessed hope and holy longing of the saints. Titus 2:13 speaks of our “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” The blessed hope is not waiting for the appearing of our Lord as the means to some other end. His appearing is itself our blessed hope. I’m afraid that the beatific vision isn’t as well known, because it isn’t the ultimate hope of much of the “professing” church.

But known or unknown by this name, the beatific vision remains the greatest longing of the saints. This is the prayer of Moses answered, a prayer we find resonating in our own souls: “Please show me your glory” (Exodus 33:18). This longing is our song. “One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple” (Psalm 27:4).

There is an intimacy to this beholding. It is for those given to Him, His bride. The desire of Christ is that His people be with Him to see Him. It is blessed, we see throughout the Upper Room Discourse (chapters 13–16), to receive the Spirit and to receive the Word and to receive the eyes of faith to behold Christ now, but there is greater blessedness yet. It is a blessing to receive a letter from your beloved. It is an altogether higher one to be with them and to see them. Such is the desire of Christ.

The Christ who has again and again told the disciples that He is leaving them and going to His Father, now tells His Father of His desire for their people to be with Him to see Him. In John 16:16 Jesus told them, “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” But here, in v. 24, Jesus is promising something greater than even the disciples beheld when they looked on the resurrected Christ. This is a beholding of Christ with Christ where He is. Earlier Jesus spoke of the future as though it already were, saying, “I am no longer in the world” (v. 11). In John 14:3 Jesus told the disciples, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”

And this is not just a sight of Christ’s glory in a glorious place with glorified eyes. It is a greater sight of Christ’s glory. What is this glory of the Son that we are to behold? It is a given glory. I don’t believe this is simply to be understood as the eternal glory that the Son has forever had from the Father by His eternal generation. This given glory is the glory that comes in answer to the petition Jesus opened this prayer with. “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you” (v. 1). This is a glory bestowed on the incarnate Son, and yet, I believe we can say that the glory that is bestowed on the incarnate Son is something of a manifestation of the Son’s eternal, divine, and invisible glory. It is the Son’s glory (“my glory”); a glory He possesses that is seen. And it is glory given to the Son because the Father has loved Him before the foundation of the world.

In His humiliation, Jesus was the revelation of the glory of the Triune God. When John said, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14), John was not just referring to the sight of Christ after His resurrection. As you read this gospel, you see the incarnate Son in His humiliation reveal the glory of God. So if Jesus, in His humiliation, revealed the glory of the Triune God, how much more in His exaltation? And this glory is given to the Son because of His humiliation. Philippians 2:9–10 draws this conclusion from the humiliation of Christ. “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

That this sight of the glorified Christ goes beyond that which even the disciples were privy to after the resurrection can be seen in a text like 1 John 3:2. “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” This is a seeing, that when you see it, you are changed. It is a beholing of being that changes our being. We shall see Him as He is. Seeing Him as He is, we will not longer be the same. 2 Corinthians 3:18 speaks our now beholding with unveiled face the glory of the Lord and thereby transformed into the same image from degree of glory to another. The beholding we are considering here, is a sight without veil such that when we see it, we are perfectly glorified. It is a sight only the perfectly glorified are fit to see. It is a sight of the very glory of God in Christ.

The glory that is bestowed on the risen and ascended Christ to be seen by all on His appearing is His eternal glory manifest. It is the glory of the triune God mediated to us through the incarnate Son. In 1 John 3:2, the antecedent for the “he” who appears is God the Father. But throughout the New Testament, it is the Son whose appearing we await as the blessed hope. How do we solve this riddle? Jesus already has in the upper room. On that day, Jesus will most profoundly say to the redeemed, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (14:9).

The Don: There Are No Ordinary People


“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner—no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbor he is holy in almost the same way, for in him Christ is vere latitat—the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself—is truly hidden.” —C.S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory” in C.S. Lewis Essay Collection & Other Short Pieces (HarperCollins Publishers, 2000), pp. 105–106

A Drink from Brooks: Death the Cure

And as death will cure all your bodily diseases, so it will cure all your soul-distempers also. Death is not mors hominis, but mors peccati, not the death of the man, but the death of his sin; peccatum erat obstetrix mortis mors sepulcchrum peccati, sin was the midwife that brought death into the world, and death shall be the grave to bury sin. Death shall do that for a Christian that all his duties could never do, that all his graces could never do, that all his experiences could never do, that all ordinances could never do. It shall at once free him fully, perfectly, and perpetually from all sin, yea, from all possibility of ever sinning more. —Thomas Brooks, A String of Pearls

The Penning Pastor: The Good of Evil

An evil nature cleaves to me; so that when I would do good, evil is present with me. It is, however, a mercy to be made sensible of it, and in any measure humbled for it. Ere long it will be dropped in the grave; then all complaints shall cease. That thought gives relief. I shall not always live this poor dying life: I hope one day to be all ear, all heart, all tongue: when I shall see the Redeemer as he is, I shall be like him. This will be a heaven indeed, to behold his glory without a veil, to rejoice in his love without a cloud, and to sing his praises without one jarring or wandering note, for ever. In the mean time, may He enable us to serve him with our best. O that every power, faculty, and talent, were devoted to him! He deserves all we have, and ten thousand times more if we had it; for he has loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood. He gave himself for us. In one sense we are well suited to answer his purpose; for if we were not vile and worthless beyond expression, the exceeding riches of his grace would not have been no gloriously displayed. His glory shines more in redeeming one sinner, than in preserving thousand angels. —John Newton, Works

The Penning Pastor: That Faint Light Is One of Dawn, not Dusk

The day is now breaking: how beautiful its appearance! how welcome the expectation of the approaching sun! It is this thought makes the dawn agreeable, that it is the presage of a brighter light; otherwise, if we expect no more day than it is this minute, we should rather complain of darkness, than rejoice in the early beauties of the morning. Thus the life of grace is the dawn of immortality: beautiful beyond expression, if compared with the night and thick darkness which formerly covered us; yet faint, indistinct, and unsatisfying, in comparison of the glory which shall be revealed.

It is, however, a sure earnest: so surely as we now see the light of the Sun of Righteousness, so surely shall we see the Sun himself, Jesus the Lord, in all his glory and lustre. In the mean time, we have reason to be thankful for a measure of light to walk and work by, and sufficient to shew us the pits and snares by which we might be endangered: and we have a promise, that our present light shall grow stronger and stronger, if we are diligent in the use of the appointed means, till the messenger of Jesus shall lead us within the vail, and then farewell shades and obscurity forever. —John Owen, Works Vol. 1