Seeing A Heavenly Vision of God

gloryofchristHow can Christians survive the onslaught of the evil trinity (Satan, the world, and the flesh)? How can we resist powerful temptations and avoid the snares of the Devil? It seems like the invitation to sin is all around us, and the desire to sin is often still within us. The 19th century Scottish theologian Thomas Chalmers was right, I believe when e wrote of the “Expulsive power of a new affection.” “The best way to overcome the world,” he said, “is not with morality or self-discipline. Christians overcome the world by seeing the beauty and excellence of Christ. They overcome the world by seeing something more attractive than the world: Christ” (cited in Kelleman, Gospel-Centered Counseling, 73). A heavenly vision of God fuels us in the fight of faith.

The Bible speaks of the amazing power of seeing a heavenly vision of God. In several passages we can read about the power of this vision. John, for example, writes about the ways in which seeing a heavenly vision of God can purify us from our sin. 1 John 3:2-3 states:

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. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

Here is a remarkable thought: to hope in Christ is to move towards purity. Full and final purity will be achieved only as we come to “see him as he is,” but the more we are captured by this vision the closer we get. The more we come to see Jesus for who he really is, in all his beauty and excellence, as Chalmers says, the more we shall be like him. We are being progressively transformed into the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29), from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor. 3:18). The more we come to know Christ the more we become like Christ. As Sam Storms has written:

Just as the vision of Christ in the future will sanctify us wholly, the vision of Christ in the present (in Scripture) sanctifies us progressively. It is our experience of Christ that sanctifies” (“First John 2:28-3:3).

When we are captured by this vision we move towards greater and greater purification from our sins.

Secondly, we might look at Revelation 17:17 tells us that a heavenly vision of God will wipe away every tear in our suffering. We read:

For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
    and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

The vision of Christ in the throne, his role as our shepherd leading us to these springs of living water is more than just comforting. This vision will be, on the day that it arrives, a resolution to suffering. Jesus is not here, in this passage, merely wiping away tears as a consolation. The sort of wiping parents do to try to comfort their children when they are upset. No, rather it is a wiping away of the source of suffering and tears. It is a removal, a resolution to sorrow. When we see Christ we will no longer grieve and sorrow. In Matthew 9:15 Jesus asks a rhetorical question:

And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?

When the bridegroom is present there will be no more weeping, for we will see him who is all glory, joy, and peace.

Thirdly, a growing vision of God sustains us in the face of suffering. Look at what Paul says to the Romans:

and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

Paul urges believers to reflect on their relationship with Christ, so that they may see how greatly this vision of his glory outweighs our present sufferings. If you were to put the glory of Christ on one side of the scale and our present experience of suffering on the other side there would be no comparison. It’s a silly comparison, one so ridiculous to Paul that he says he won’t eve consider it “worth comparing.” The glory of Christ far outweighs suffering, and so we seek to grasp a richer and more full understanding of that glorious vision so that we might be sustained in our suffering. Think of Stephen. At his stoning he looks up to see the risen Christ standing at the right hand of the father, and as a result he can endure his own death (Acts 7:54-60). This vision gives us great strength in the face of trials and difficulties. We ought, then to pursue of a heavenly vision of God.

How can we overcome sin and temptation? We can overcome them by being captured by a greater vision. As Bob Kelleman has written:

Regular exposure to the holy and loving heart of God ignites a love for God in the heart of the believer, which is the only right and effective relational motivation for Christian living. (73)

Pursue this vision, friends, that you too might live to the glory of God, that you too might overcome.

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