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Sunday, December 06, 2015

The Beatific Vision

I'm one of those strange people that is looking forward to the day when I'm in the presence of Christ, no more part of this world. I understand Paul's "to die is gain" much better than "to live is Christ" (Phil 1:21). I'm looking forward to heaven.

The other day in church we were singing one of the songs that talks about heaven. It talked about the standard stuff ... how wonderful it will be with pearly gates and streets of gold, no more tears, only joy, all that warm and friendly stuff. And I thought, "You know, I just don't care about that. Those are not the things I want from heaven." I thought it because I realized it was odd. Isn't that what everyone wants? Not everyone. Not me.

A lot of people want to go to heaven for a lot of reasons. The pleasures offered, the "no more tears", the streets of gold. A lot of people are looking forward to heaven because they're tired of this life here. Discouraged by the sin and corruption they see all around them, they want an escape. Some want an escape from worldly sorrow and pain. I get all that. It's just not my motivation.

Why do I want to go to heaven? What is it that draws me there? There are two things. I really want to be with Christ, and I really want to stop being ... me. I want to be no longer capable of sinning. And then I realized that this is precisely what John talked about in his text on what theologians call "the Beatific Vision."

What is the Beatific Vision? That, simply put, is when we see Jesus. There is nothing more precious. To be in His presence, that is the ultimate glory. So John writes,
See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. (1 John 3:1-3)
The Beatific Vision, then, is just that. "We will see Him just as He is." That's the first reason I'm looking forward to heaven with delight. Just to see Him as He is.

Notice, though, that John clarifies that encounter. We will see Him as He is because we will be like Him. No, not deity, but we will be partakers of the divine nature. We won't "see through a glass darkly" (1 Cor 13:12). We will finally be conformed to the image of Christ (Rom 8:29). No more sin nature. No more blinded eyes. To know Him fully because we have been shaped into His shape.

That's why I'm looking forward to heaven. "Beatific" means "blissful", and that is a blissful vision to me, to be in His presence without the tinge of my sin. That is my longing.

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