In all three of the readings for All Saints Day we are told that the saints will see God. Jesus declares, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” The apostle John writes, “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 St. John again gives us a vision of heaven where the saints stand before the throne of God and see with their own eyes the Lamb. This is also what Job confessed his hope to be, that he would stand again upon the earth and see God with his own eyes.
This is the goal of your life. It is what God created you for. To see Him. It won’t happen perfectly until you are in heaven or until the great last day when the Lord Jesus comes with his holy angels and judges the living and the dead. Then, as St. Paul says, you will see face to face, then you will know as you have been known. This is what the saints in heaven see right now. I used to, I remember, pity my grandfather, because he died so young, in his prime, as they say, with so much left undone. What a ridiculous, faithless, silly thought! Pity a Christian for going to heaven? Pity him for getting to see God face to face! I pitied because I imagined that this sinful world is where the action is, where stuff gets done, where we can accomplish great things. And it is, this is the arena of the good fight of faith, the place where we battle the devil, the earth where we work to spread God’s kingdom, there is much to be done, but the point of it all, the end, the goal of everything we do, is finally to see God, to see the One who created you, to look on the face of the Son who suffered for you, who proudly wears still the marks of His passion. This is what the blessed dead see. This is why St. Paul, and he knew, he’d been caught up into heaven, he’d seen it, why St. Paul says, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” O how blessed are those whose lives are ended.
Then we will see perfectly. Now we see as through a mirror, dimly, St. Paul says. But we do see. And the more we see dimly, the more we will want to see perfectly. It is like seeing a beautiful sight from far off and wanting more than anything to get closer to see it in all its beauty. The joy of seeing it is enough to make you happily bear the slog, and on the way sometimes you dip down into some trench and the beautiful sight is hidden from view, but you know it’s there and you pick up your pace to get up the hill and see it again in the distance, there’s your goal. It’s as we sing, “Far off I see my fatherland, where through Thy blood I hope to stand, but ere I reach that Paradise, a weary way before me lies.” Every taste we have of God’s mercy in this life, every sight we have of His wisdom, of His beauty, of His love and care, of His happiness, should spur us on to want to see it perfectly, so that death is no fear to us and we don’t think anymore of pitying the blessed dead, but we yearn with all our heart to be there with them, to see the love, the mercy, the wisdom, the beauty, the joy in all His glorious light. That’s who God is: pure love, pure mercy, pure wisdom, pure beauty, pure joy. Whatever of this we see in this world we see only dimly, only as a ray from the Son, but then with all its brightness.
This is our happiness. We don’t define happiness according to our own sinful desires. That is pure anarchy. And we see it taking absurd formation in our society with nothing but pain and misery in its wake. If the boy wants to be a girl, go ahead, follow your feelings, and you’ll be happy. Except he won’t be, because he’ll never be a girl, because God exists and He is Creator and there is no way for a boy to be happy except as a boy. If the husband no longer feels the spark and the romance with his wife, go ahead, follow your feelings, chase after the new fling, and you’ll be happy. Except he won’t, and meanwhile his pursuing his supposed happiness has destroyed the happiness of his wife, whom God gave him to have and to hold. It is anarchy – if you choose your happiness and I choose mine according to what we want, our desires will conflict and the stronger will win and the weak will lose. This is the fatal flaw in all utilitarian thinking, all talk of happiness based on my own desires. It ends in me hurting you because my feelings are more important than yours. It ends in a will to power, the survival of the fittest, a Darwinian horror show, which is the culture of death and fornication and abortion and sodomy and covetousness. It is godless and being godless it is loveless. God is love.
Jesus tells us what true happiness is. The word Jesus uses for “blessed” we could translate as “happy,” except that this word always has God in mind. makarios. Happy, yes, but happy with God smiling on you, happy with God approving, happy with God giving it, happy as God intends it. And it is this definition of happiness that the Holy Spirit writes on the Christian mind and heart, teaches us to think and see and live: our happiness always involves our God, is always on His terms, according to what He tells us is good; without Him we can’t be happy; without Him the very notion of happiness is meaningless and vanity.
Blessed, happy with God, are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. This is not only a promise of heaven. It is what God gives us on earth. Jesus says to Philip, “Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father.” The pure in heart see God, here dimly in time and there perfectly in eternity. We sing “Create in me a clean heart, O God” as we prepare to take the Lord’s Supper, because there we see God, and it is only the pure in heart who will see Him. There we see His love, experience His joy, consume His mercy, stare into His wisdom, and it is only the pure in heart who can do this.
But you are a sinner and your heart is not pure. Yes, it has lusted after evil, has hated, has been discontent. But the Lord Jesus is pure. Come, He says, let us reason together, though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be white as snow. The purity expected in the Old Testament, for a man to enter into God’s presence where He dwelt between the cherubim on the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant in the Temple, the purity was a cleansing of the body. You could not enter the Temple without purifying, washing, the body. The penalty for doing so was death. And this was a picture of the spiritual reality. God doesn’t care how clean your body is – the person sitting next to you might, your mother might, and for their sake you should wash your hands and take your showers – but God’s concern is your heart. To enter into His presence, you must be pure in heart, and this is not what you are in yourself. This beautiful vision of seeing God, of seeing His beauty, His joy, His wisdom, this great goal of our life, this pinnacle and definition of happiness, this you cannot have, you cannot attain to unless your heart is purified and cleansed. So mean it when you sing, “Create in me a pure heart, O God!” Everything depends on this. The blood of Jesus, which you receive by faith, His righteous payment of His own innocence to the throne of God’s justice, His perfect obedience and divine love poured forth in His anguish and agony on the cross, this purifies your heart from dead works to serve the living God. No sin or filth can stand there where Jesus dwells. Jesus is pure innocence and He joins Himself to you, like a cover on your heart, so that all God can see is purity and innocence and beauty, a pure heart. And so you see God. You see pure love, pure mercy, pure righteousness, pure beauty, and joy, in Jesus, in His body and His blood. What is this except to see God? What is God? Who is God? He is mercy, He is love, He is beauty, He is joy.
But we in the meantime will look at our own spirits and see how poor they are, we will mourn over the trials and crosses God puts in our lives, we will seek justice in our lives and yet see that the wicked so often prosper, we will be weak and meek as the wicked persecute and say all kinds of evil against us because we are Christians, and Jesus says, good, you are blessed, you are happy, because all this drives you to put all your hope in Jesus and spurs you one to the goal of seeing His glorious face. Practice mercy now, love and forgive one another, suffer for the sake of the Gospel, take joy, rejoice, Jesus says, when they say all kinds of evil against you, because here too you see God. These are the acts of God, of Christ, to love, to forgive, to have mercy, to be mocked and insulted for the sake of God’s kingdom. This is to be conformed to the image of the Son, here in time, imperfectly, dimly, so that you hope and look forward all the more to that blessed day when you will be like Him, conformed to His glorious body, and see Him as He really is.
Deliver my life from the wicked with Your sword,
With Your hand from men, O Lord,
From men of the world who have their portion in this life,
And whose belly You fill with Your hidden treasure.
They are satisfied with children,
And leave the rest of their possession for their babes.
As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness;
I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.