(v. 18) What is the hope of His calling:
Redemption has a result; a consummation – your right-relatedness to the Trinity through Christ has a very clearly defined goal; it is ultimate conformity to Christ. Our election before the foundation of the world is aimed at this goal – “chosen that we should be holy and blameless before Him in love” (1:4).
You’ve been called out of darkness into His marvelous light for this very purpose – that you may gain the glory of Christ (2 Thess 2:14). The more fixed your hope is on the final goal and outcome of redemption, the more straight and resolute will be your walk towards that goal.
All history is moving towards this event in which the sons of God are presented publicly to the rational universe (that is the holy angels). The entire creation is poised for this event (Rom 8:18-25).
The goal of redemption is not adequately described as simply the absence of sin, death, and sorrow and a new immortal body. The consummation of redemption will be the enjoyment of God in Christ communicating Himself to us forever. It is eternal love attending you: it is Christ given to be your life, light, and blessedness without cessation. And it is the redeemed enjoying God and pleasing God perfectly.
In glory the Church will be a spotless reflection the character of the Godhead – God’s communicable attributes will have reached maturity in her – she will be as much like God as a creature can possible be. Relations within the society of the redeemed will reflect the excellence of relations within the Trinity (perfect love, honor, deference, goodness, humility, wisdom, truthfulness).
Now all of this is to fulfill God’s vision (dream if you will) – for He has never desisted from the goal He announced originally to make man in His image and likeness. What is His dream? It is to have an eternal temple to dwell in. Not a temple made of inanimate things, but a temple of living stones. That is how God describes you, the redeemed; the saints – as living stones that are growing together, being fitted together, being built up into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit; a spiritual house for a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (Eph 2:21-22; 1 Pet 2:5).
(EX. Heaven is not an eternal vacation – it is an eternal vocation for that will be the source of our bliss. Randy Alcorn observes in his book, The Treasure Principle, “heaven will be a place of rest and relief from the burdens of sin and suffering; but it will also be a place of great learning, activity, artistic expression, exploration, discovery, camaraderie, and service,” p. 36.)
At the consummation the ages, the aim of redemptive history shall be realized (as announced by an angel) – “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them. . .” (Rev 21:3). And there shall no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His bondservants shall serve Him; and they shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads (Rev 22:3-4).
There’s an old Chinese proverb that says fish and guests smell after three days. If we are careful about who stays in your home for an extended period of time – how much do you think God cares about who His eternal human companions will be? (APPL. This should give us some insight into our tests and trials; for they keep surfacing where our affections lie. God is wise to test us – testing exposes our loyalties. Affliction shows us what we really love; it detaches us from the love of the world and anchors our hope more securely to God as our true ‘home.’)
When Richard Baxter went house to house visiting church members, he always asked his parishoners this question, “Do you see all of life as preparation for the next life?”
(v. 19) What are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.
Not only do the riches of God in Christ comprise our inheritance (also the physical creation! Abraham, a type of every believer lived in tents his whole life even though he was heir of the world (Rom 4:13). Yes, the meek shall inherit the earth; but we who make up the company of the redeemed are also Christ’s inheritance; His Bride – that the Lord Jesus Christ might be theFirst-born among many brethren (Rom 8:29).
Heaven is about mutuality – I am my Beloved’s and He is mine. Mutual ownership will take our joy over the top. This is to be a source of delight to us – the marriage metaphor is a figure of speech filled with incredible promises of mutuality and intimate love (Jn 17:26).
(EX. -- C. S. Lewis offered the following contrast; compared to the Lord dwelling with the redeemed in glory, the most ideal romance among mortals is like a glass of milk mixed with water (it’s insipid by comparison).
Mutuality means that we give ourselves to God and He to us in a covenant of co-ownership– As Spurgeon said, “I’ll be able to say on that day, God on yonder throne is mine!” This is where God is taking us – this day is moving closer and closer to us. (In glory our fellowship with the Lord will be one of perfect intimacy. “Our communion with God lies in his giving himself to us and our giving ourselves and all that he requires to him” (Owen, Communion, p. 3). (APPL. What this means for the present – though by faith, the saints have begun this communion with God now).
To be in God’s presence is to behold God. The pure pleasure involved in beholding God has begun in the saints (2 Cor 3:18). But for the present in our beholding we see in a mirror dimly –then it will be face to face. “And it will be said on that day, ‘Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us” (Is 25:9).
And there shall no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His bondservants shall serve Him; and they shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads (Rev 22:3-4).
The Reformers referred to “The beatific vision.” To beatify is to bring a person to a state of exalted joy above anything possible on earth. It means the vision that makes us blessed, orhappy. Beatific is from two Latin words: beatus, blessed, and facere, to make. To look at God will change us and make us like Him: “We shall be with Him and see Him as He is (1 Jn 3:2).
The beatific vision which will bring us endless exalted joy will be our beholding of Christ in His glory (this is what our Lord prayed for in John 17:24 – that the saints would behold His glory.)
The sight of Christ glorified will ravish our souls (2 Thess 1:10). We will never cease to marvel at the sight of God looking out at us through eyes of flesh – our amazement will never cease as we behold our glorified Savior with the marks of our atonement on His glorified body. The slain Lamb is the center of heaven; the Light of heaven. (EX. The invalid Puritan, Isaac Ambrose, said, God’s desire is to converse with us after our form.)
This vision of God will be the consummation of our knowing God and will give us full delight and joy for all eternity: “In your presence is fullness of joy, in your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Ps 16:11) (Grudem, Systematic Theology, pp. 189-190).
Invalid Puritan Isaac Ambrose said, God’s desire is to converse with us after our form.
Your present ability to behold the Lord, albeit in a mirror dimly, is what differentiates you from the unsaved around you. Beholding is a gift of sovereign grace that has begun for the redeemed (2 Cor 4:4-6). Scripture describes the redeemed in 2 Corinthians 3:14-18 as the unveiled ones.
Though you behold in a mirror dimly now, you are being fitted to behold face to face. In order to behold face to face, you must be a partaker of God’s holiness so that you can look upon Him without fear, shame and covering your face. This will happen the moment you see Christ – when we see Him we will be like Him for we shall see Him as He is (1 Jn 3:2; Phil 3:20-21).
Your eternal vocation will involve beholding – it will be your source of ravishment and bliss.(APPL. -- Is beholding so as to delight in the Lord a part of your vocation now? If so, then you are experiencing the answer to the prayer in our text.)
(EX. I find myself agreeing with Maurice Roberts and other divines who caution us about studying God’s attributes in a cold, sterile, philosophic manner. Our study of God ought to be in a doxological mindset – that is for the purpose of delight and enjoyment and adoration and relational knowledge of Him. This exhortation is a logical bridge to our third point.)
(v. 19) What is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.
God’s attributes were not on display all at once until the work of Christ. Understanding this fact is an important access point to your growth in the knowledge of God. Here’s why -- consider that God has literally harnessed His attributes and put them to work in your salvation.
Think of it -- He is exercising His infinite love, wisdom, and power (which are all resident in Christ) in order to bring you to glory. God is exerting His attributes for your eternal welfare and glory.(APPL. This is so important to our topic – God wants you to grow in the knowledge of Him by seeing His attributes at work in your salvation.)
God can only be known in covenant because He dwells in burning holiness – the cherubim cover their faces as they call out holy, holy. God says who would dare to risk his life by approaching me – I dwell in unapproachable light (Jer 30:21; 1 Tim 6:16).
God cannot be known and enjoyed apart from a place of safety – creating a place of safety is what He has done in placing us in Christ, our ‘City of Refuge.” For God has carved out a place of protection for us in the wounds, blood, and body of Christ. Christ is given to us as our covenant with God.
Let’s go even deeper – the unsearchable riches of the Godhead are put on display in Christ – which means that HOW God is taking the Church from dust to glory that is the revealer of the Godhead to the holy angels (Eph 3:8-10). (EX. Give the example of the Jay and Jerry Feller water purification plant.)
It says in 2 Peter 1:3-4 that the precious and magnificent promises of the Gospel are given to us out of (or by means of) God’s own glory and excellence. Thus the Gospel promises to forgive you and to adopt you in Christ are promises cast in the foundry of God’s attributes. God took His own attributes and poured them into the mould of the Gospel promises. (APPL. God wants you to know Him better and better as you take delight in all that He is toward you in Christ. Dwell upon Him as the God of all grace who is exercising His mighty attributes on your behalf. This makes you an owner, not merely a spectator or observer.)
God exports His life, love, blessedness, and righteousness across time and eternity and gives Himself to us in Christ. This is why at the moment of salvation (2 Cor 4:4-6) the believing sinner beholds God Almighty’s glory in the face of Christ. The sinner sees for the very first time WHO God is – that God plucks out His own heart (so to speak) in the giving of His Son in order to reconcile hostile sinners to Himself. It’s God’s attributes harnessed in the Person and work of Christ in order to bring us to God.
When the sinner by faith beholds this display of divine love; it casts enmity out of his heart – it makes a friend of a former enemy (it reconciles – Col 1:21-22).
When the sinner sees by faith that his own eternal welfare and God’s glory are forever joined and bound up together in the Person of Christ –hostility toward God is purged from the sinner’s heart; it’s impossible for the former enmity to remain there.
The exercise of God’s immutable and glorious attributes (in the redemptive work of Christ) accomplishes not only your highest good (eternal salvation) – but it also is the highest form of God’s self-revelation; this revelation of God in our behalf will redound to the eternal glory to God.
The more that sinks in – the more delight you will have as you meditate upon who God is (it is always who God is toward you in Christ. It is always Christ’s perfect suitability for our every need. It is always Christ who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption – 1 Cor 1:30). Christ is the wisdom and power of God; He holds His offices of Prophet, Priest, and King in order to bring you to God.
This is the truth of the Gospel which dispels lies about God; lies that kept the soul in its dark dungeon. Now that we are sons of light; we find that we have communion with God when we take Christ for the reasons God gave Him (acceptance, forgiveness, righteousness, access). God is exalted when you keep taking Christ for the reasons God gave Him. Listen to what Owen says in Communion with God:
We must assure ourselves that there is nothing more acceptable to God than to keep our hearts filled with him as the eternal source of all that rich grace which flows out to sinners in the blood of Jesus. Our resistance to walking close with God stems from the fact that we do not behold and receive his love. The more we see God’s love by faith, the more will we delight in him (p. 32).
God’s giving of himself as an all-sufficient God, to be enjoyed by his creatures, to provide for all their needs out of himself, is only revealed in Christ. In Christ, God is in covenant with his people to be a Father to them. In this covenant he has promised to lay out himself as the one who alone can meet the needs of his creatures. In Christ, God has promised to give himself to them for their eternal good and to be their exceedingly great reward (p. 87).
We must be convinced that God will use all his glorious attributes for our good. He has set forth Christ to be the Lord our Righteousness (Isaiah 45:24,25; 1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Cor. 5:18). We must be convinced that His attributes are powerful and able to bring us into eternal glory. To assure us of this, God wraps up the whole covenant of grace in one promise: “I will be your God.” Now we know that this Gospel covenant is confirmed in the blood of Christ. To be in Christ by faith is to know the wonder, excellence, wisdom and knowledge of God exercised in the salvation of sinners (pp. 88-89).
Going to Christ as one’s sin bearer is the believer’s daily work. Christ calls the believer to daily lay the burden of their sins upon him. By faith the saints are to see God laying their sins upon Christ. This is what it means to know Christ crucified. Believers draw near and take from Him that righteousness which he has wrought for them, so fulfilling what Paul taught (2 Cor. 5:21). Christ is delighted that his saints should always hold communion with him by giving him their sins and receiving his righteousness. We commune with Christ when we keep taking Him to be our righteousness (p. 144).