“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” John 1:14
That which at present I design to demonstrate is, that the beholding of the glory of Christ is one of the greatest privileges and advancements that believers are capable of in this world, or that which is to come. It is that whereby they are first gradually conformed unto it, and then fixed in the eternal enjoyment of it. For here in this life, beholding his glory, they are changed or transformed into the likeness of it, 2 Cor. 3: 18; and hereafter they shall be “for ever like unto him,” because they “shall see him as he is,” 1 John 3: 1, 2. Hereon do our present comforts and future blessedness depend. This is the life and reward of our souls. “He that has seen him has seen the Father also,” John 14: 9. For we discern the “light of the knowledge of the glory of God only in the face of Jesus Christ,” 2 Cor. 4: 6.
There are, therefore, two ways or degrees of beholding the glory of Christ, which are constantly distinguished in the Scripture. The one is by faith, in this world, – which is “the evidence of things not seen;” the other is by sight, or immediate vision in eternity, 2 Cor. 5: 7, “We walk by faith, and not by sight.” We do so whilst we are in this world, “whilst we are present in the body, and absent from the Lord,” verse 8. But we shall live and walk by sight hereafter. And it is the Lord Christ and his glory which are the immediate object both of this faith and sight. For we here “behold him darkly in a glass” (that is by faith); “but we shall see him face to face” (by immediate vision). “Now we know him in part, but then we shall know him as we are known,” 1 Cor. 13: 12.
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No man shall ever behold the glory of Christ by sight hereafter, who does not in some measure behold it by faith here in this world. Grace is a necessary preparation for glory, and faith for sight. Where the subject (the soul) is not previously seasoned with grace and faith, it is not capable of glory or vision. Nay, persons not disposed hereby unto it cannot desire it, whatever they pretend; they only deceive their own souls in supposing that so they do. Most men will say with confidence, living and dying, that they desire to be with Christ, and to behold his glory; but they can give no reason why they should desire any such thing, – only they think it somewhat that is better than to be in that evil condition which otherwise they must be cast into for ever, when they can be here no more. If a man pretend himself to be enamoured on, or greatly to desire, what he never saw, nor was ever represented unto him, he does but dote on his own imaginations. And the pretended desires of many to behold the glory of Christ in heaven, who have no view of it by faith whilst they are here in this world, are nothing but self-deceiving imaginations.
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The beholding of Christ in glory is that which in itself is too high, illustrious, and marvellous for us in our present condition. It has a splendour and glory too great for our present spiritual visible faculty; as the direct, immediate sight of the sun darkens our sight, and does not relieve or strengthen it at all. Wherefore we have no way to take into our minds any true spiritual apprehensions of the nature of immediate vision, or what it is to see the glory of Christ in heaven, but by that view which we have by faith in this life of the same glory. Whatever otherwise falls into our minds is but conjecture and imagination; such as are the contemplations of most about heavenly things.
Excerpts from Meditations and Discourses on the Glory of Christ. If you do not have this book in your library, you can download text, pdf or digital here.