One doctrine that you may never have heard of (but one that you really should know about) is the beatific vision. This “happy vision” or “blessed vision” is the blessed hope of beholding God in heaven, and it is the telos of the human soul. The beatific vision is what Moses was impatient to see on Mount Horeb (cf., Ex 33:18-23), and it has been the blessed hope of the vast majority of saints down through the centuries. This doctrine is what animated the prayers and contemplations of so many wonderful theologians like Gregory of Nyssa, Augustine, Anselm of Canterbury, Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin and John Owen. The overwhelming majority of Christians throughout the ages have said with Paul, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Cor 13:12). What makes heaven, heaven is that there we shall see the face of God. That blessed vision is the culmination of all our godly enjoyments in this life, and the satiation of all our desire. That blessed vision is the promised land we march on toward, the consolation that sustains us on our pilgrimage. We shall see God. While Christians have many desires and aspirations, the central point of every single one of them is the same as David’s: “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” (Ps 27:4). We see the beatific vision promised all over the Scriptures, including Isaiah 33:17, Psalm 17:15, 1 John 3:2-3, 1 Corinthians 13:12, and Revelation 22:5.
Even if you haven’t heard of this doctrine before, you are probably already primed and ready for it. “Christian Hedonists,” who have learned from John Piper that “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him”—those who have come to agree with Piper that the chief delight of the soul is “seeing and savoring Christ”—are ready to embrace the beatific vision. If you have learned from Lewis to ache for “the stab of joy,” to reject playing with mud-pies in the slums for the sake of a holiday at sea, and to go joyfully “further up and further in” to Aslan’s country forever, you are ready to embrace the beatific vision. If you have learned from Jonathan Edwards that heaven is “a world of love,” you are ready to embrace the beatific vision. If you have learned to pray with Augustine, “Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee,” you are ready for the beatific vision.
This doctrine is relevant for so many areas of our life, but one in particular is the area of sin and temptation. If it is true that those who will see God are “the pure in heart” (Matt 5:8), and if the beatific vision is our blessed hope, we will come to hate our sin with a pure and holy hatred on account of what it keeps us from. We will hate our sin because it threatens to keep us from seeing God clearly, and seeing God clearly is what we want more than anything else. Therefore, the beatific vision can be a powerful motive for the pursuit of godliness in progressive sanctification.
For the Kids
The beatific vision is the fancy term for something every Christian looks forward to: the hope of seeing God in heaven. This is the hope of every Christian—every person who has come to trust Jesus to forgive them of their sin because of his life, death and resurrection, and to give them a new heart. When Jesus gives them that new heart, that heart comes with new desires and new hopes, and the biggest of those new hopes is that one day we will get to see God in all his glory. Jesus promises to fulfill that hope by faith now in this life, but the Christian will receive that promise with vision in heaven—and it will be the most beautiful thing they can ever imagine! His glory will be so beautiful, and they will be so happy, that they will never be sad or disappointed by anything ever again. Their enjoyment of him will keep growing, without stopping or slowing down, forever and ever and ever.
Samuel G. Parkison