They will see His face (Rev. 22:4).
As the Scripture sets before believers our enduring hope, the saints hear of the day when we shall see “face to face” (1 Cor. 13:12). Specifically, when Christ appears, “we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). John Owen once asked, “To whom is it not a matter of rejoicing, that with the same eyes with which they see the tokens and signs of him in the sacrament of the supper, they shall behold himself immediately in his own person?” He then adds “in the immediate beholding of the person of Christ, we shall see a glory in it a thousand times above what we can here conceive.”
Believers have been longing for such a sight (Job 19:26), yearning to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord (Ps. 27:4). And while we have some faint acquaintance with Christ’s glory now by faith, a total transformation in us, changed from perishable to imperishable (1 Cor. 15:51–52), is necessary to see His unveiled glory. It is when we are like Him that we shall see Him as He is (1 John 3:2). Thus, the day will come when the obstacle to our glorified seeing, the darkness of our sin, the weakness of our frame, shall be removed. Then there will be no hindrance to beholding His glory. This sight is, as Jonathan Edwards said, “the chief bliss of heaven.” And what will such a sight produce in believers? What shall be some of the blessings of beholding the Lord?
It will produce at least five things. First, the sight will produce joy. In Psalm 16, David writes, “In your presence there is fullness of joy [literally “joys”—it is so abundant this joy cannot be spoken of in the singular]; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Ps. 16:11). The believer shall never have a languishing, sorrowful soul or a miserable body again. There will be no more drooping heads in present hardships. All trouble will be gone, and that will thrill our souls. However, the greatest joy will be found in uninterrupted communion with the Lord. We shall truly rejoice in Him. Sin will no longer darken our appreciation of His person and works. Thus, we will delight in our God like never before.
Second, this sight will produce satisfaction. During our days on earth, we found Solomon’s testimony to be true. “The eye is not satisfied with seeing” (Eccl. 1:8). We grow weary with everything. We crave novelty and variety. That craving gets us in trouble because, at times, we tire even of God’s good gifts due to our inward corruption. Nothing fills the restlessness in us. And while Augustine was right to say, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee,” even as believers we cannot sustain focus upon our Lord. We grow dissatisfied and distracted because of sin. But that is not how it will be in glory.
In Psalm 17, David is praying for deliverance from the wicked and their violence. He then contrasts his hope with that of worldlings “whose portion is in this life” (Ps. 17:14). Their belly is filled with treasure. They are satisfied with children and leaving their abundance to their infants. But not David. He wants more than what this cursed world, even in its blessings, can offer. “As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness” (Ps. 17:15).
David is looking to another world, and he’s saying, “When I behold the Lord, only then will I be satisfied!” Surely, Jesus is offering the Samaritan woman the same satisfaction in the living water He gives. But that satisfaction is only sampled in part here. For in glory, we will be more satisfied than we have ever been. All our needs will be supplied as the river of living water and the abundant fruit of the Tree of Life satisfies us (Rev. 22:1–3). Further, we will be filled to overflowing with contentedness, and our purpose for existing—to worship God fully—we will do with all our might. We will forever marvel at the grace permitting us to draw near to Him, who is holy, mighty, glorious, and yet loves us.
Third, we shall have rest. Revelation 14:13 declares, “And I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Blessed indeed,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!’ ” Jesus promised rest to those who come to Him (Matt. 11:28), and in Hebrews 3–4 we are told that the promise of entering His rest remains. So we strive to enter His final rest, holding fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm to the end.
Each Lord’s Day we have a partial taste of this rest when in corporate worship we meet with Christ and draw nourishment from His Word. But when He comes, our souls will have a fullness of rest from all our toils. The fight in the wilderness will be finished. The burden of war with a wicked world, with internal corruption, with a tempting and accusing devil, will all be over. The very creation from which we were alienated will no longer strive against us. Christ will have reconciled all things so that we will be in a state of total peace. This will be true rest.
That leads to a fourth blessing: peace. Isaiah is full of the images of peace. He speaks of the coming of the Prince of Peace, saying there will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace (Isa. 9:6–7). But in Isaiah 26:3, as the prophet is describing the strong city in which the Lord’s delivered people will dwell in the last days, he says, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind in stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” The idea here is God’s people will be steady and undistracted in their state of mind. We will be entirely focused on the Lord and thereby kept in a state of perfect peace. Nothing will pull our attention away from the object of our affection.
John Owen comments concerning our present condition:
Our minds are apt to be filled with a multitude of perplexed thoughts; fears, cares, dangers, distresses, passions, and lusts, do make various impressions on the minds of men, filling them with disorder, darkness, and confusion. But where the soul is fixed in its thoughts and contemplations on this glorious object, it will be brought into and kept in a holy, serene, and spiritual frame. For “to be spiritually-minded is life and peace.”
We strive for this now, but then it will be our frame forever.
Finally, there is the blessing of love. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:8, “Love never ends.” He goes on to speak of prophecy, tongues, and knowledge as gifts ceasing, the perfect arriving, the day of seeing face-to-face and knowing fully. Then he says verse 13, “So now faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” What he seems to be indicating is in the present life of the church, faith, hope, and love will continue. But love is superior. Why? Because faith and hope belong to this imperfect world.
Faith will one day become sight. Hope will soon be realized, and you cannot hope for what you already see (Rom. 8:24). But love will never cease. We will forever bask in the love of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We will love Christ more and more as we behold His glory. For we will increasingly comprehend together with all the saints, though never fully grasp, what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge (Eph. 3:18–19).
Our hearts will always be swelling with affection to Him who first loved us and has made us His sons, heirs of God and co-heirs together with Christ. We shall never get over the beauty of our Lord and the grace shown that we are His bride. Seeing His face will be a delight far surpassing our present conceptions. With such a sight before us, let us purify ourselves in the hope of seeing Him (1 John 3:3).