“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8)
On this All Saints’ Day briefly consider the promise of Jesus that the pure in heart get to see God!
Everyone wants to see God; even unbelievers want to see Him so they can “prove” to themselves He exists. This longing to see God is part of our being, and we will not be satisfied until this happens. To thus behold God in His unveiled splendor is referred to as the Beatific Vision. It is the most blessed, beautiful, wondrous sight ever. Until now we have only beheld the creation, which even in its fallen state has a high degree of splendor, and through it we obtain a veiled picture of God. We have seen nothing beyond this creation, and consequently no one can imagine beholding the Creator! Moses expressed this longing when he asked to behold God’s glory [Ex 33:18]. Though God spoke to Moses as a man speaks to a friend [33:11], yet shortly after this high praise God explained to Moses,…no man can see me and live [33:20]. God was applying this to Moses; not even God’s “friend” could see Him and live.
Why can no man—not even Moses—see God and live? Because no man has a pure heart. Impurity cannot remain in the presence of the Pure and Holy One, thus no one can see God and live. The Scripture associates “the heart” with man’s thinking and his attitude. Every human since the fall of Adam is born with polluted thinking and a rebellious attitude toward God. The prophet Jeremiah bemoans this condition of man: The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? [17:9]. All I need do is look into my heart—especially in light of God’s law—and I realize the truth of Jeremiah’s statement; my heart is not pure, it is desperately sick. I cannot see God.
However in this life God allows His people to see Him, but only in a veiled way. God allowed this veiled view of Himself for Moses: So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by. Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen [33:22,23]. God allowed another veiled vision of Himself for Moses and the elders at the foot of Mt. Sinai: …and they saw the God of Israel. And there was under His feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone, and it was like the very heavens in its clarity. …So they saw God, and they ate and drank [Ex 24:10,11]. As they ate of the peace offering sacrifice, these chosen few “saw God”. So too when we in this life eat of the body and blood of THE peace offering, we in an even greater way “behold God” while we thus commune. But this is not yet the Beatific Vision.
Holy Scripture describes a time when His people will somehow literally behold Him. Saint John wrote: Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is [1 Jn 3:2]. God’s people will thus see Him as He is, not because they have been extra good but because God has made them into saints. A saint is a holy person. There was only one saint who was holy because of His works. This saint, the Holy One of Israel, went to the cross to bear our sins and thus bestow sainthood upon us. Saint Paul marks the point of the bestowal of sainthood: But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God [1 Co 6:11]. This holy washing is none other than Holy Baptism, in which God made each of us saints: sanctified and justified children. God thus gave unto each of us pure hearts. In this life we strive to live as saints; as we behold Christ by faith we strive to love and live for others in the name of Christ. Into eternity we shall enjoy the unfathomable Beatific Vision, for Jesus has promised, Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Because of Christ’s cross and empty tomb, we will get to see God in His unveiled glory!