Heaven: To See the Face of God in Christ and Be Like Him

“I shall see Thy face in righteousness; I will be satisfied when I awake after Thy likeness.”

“Little children, it is not yet manifest what we shall be, but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”

“Thou hast made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God.”

“We who behold with unveiled faces the glory of the Lord as in a mirror are being transformed into that same image as from glory to glory.”

“Now we know in part; then we shall know in full. Now we see as in a mirror dimly; then we shall see face to face.”

“He predestined us to be conformed to the image of Christ so that He should be the firstborn among many brethren.”

Heaven is the fulfillment of our nature. It is to see Him whom we were created to see, and by seeing to be like Him. It is the Beatific Vision: the direct, immediate (not mediated) presence of God in and to the soul.

In Heaven, we shall be like Christ. We shall be fully one with Him; this sight is not external, it is internal, it is perfect oneness; He in us and we in Him, complete unity. When it says, “it is not yet manifest what we shall be,” it does not mean that we know nothing about what we shall be, for it goes on to say that we do know that we shall be like Him, and while we do not yet see Him as He is, our vision of Him is not wholly wrong; we do see Him truly, though not in full. We do know in part, though not as we are known. We do see in a mirror dimly, though not yet face to face. Thus, what we shall be, though not yet manifest, is not wholly foreign to us (or, in other words, though not yet complete is yet begun). No likeness we now have to Christ, no union we now have with Him, shall be lost in the Beatific Vision. No good we have on earth shall be lost in Heaven. God makes all things new.

We shall be perfectly like Christ. No likeness to God which is suited to our nature shall be denied us. Thus every likeness to Christ, every share in His Person and Work, which is ours on earth shall be in Heaven yet more perfectly ours.

This means that, contrary to the opinion of some, there is no reason to think that the Blessed in Heaven cannot and do not pray for us on earth, and this does not detract from the priesthood and exaltation of Christ any more than the prayers of those on earth detract from that priesthood and exaltation, which is to say, not at all. In intercession for others, we are on earth share in the priesthood and intercession of Christ; we are conformed to His image and one with Him in the glory of the Trinity, as we pray with His voice, by His Spirit, in His Name, for His intentions and purposes. We shall not lose that in Heaven, for perfect union with Jesus will not destroy our share in His priesthood but complete it. Rather, we will share yet more fully and perfectly in His high priestly intercession.

As another way of denying that the saints in Heaven can pray for those on earth, some claim that those in Heaven know nothing of what passes on earth, for the alleged reason that “to know the miseries of earth would render them incapable of enjoying the bliss of Heaven.” This, too, is a strange idea.

God knows the miseries of earth; God is Heaven. It diminishes the bliss of Heaven, the glory of oneness with God, it denies the Beatific Vision, to say that to know the corruption of earth would destroy that glorious joy. If so, whence comes the joy we can experience even in the depth of inconceivable corruption, horror, or anguish, such joy that we can scarcely believe, if we can believe, that Heaven can be better – that what we know is not itself already the Beatific Vision (certainly, we can find no other word for it)? Are the miseries of earth not answered by the joy of Heaven? Is evil not overcome by good? If the answers to these questions are no, Christ is a lie. If the answers to these questions are yes, then the Blessed in Heaven may know of what passes on earth without having their bliss destroyed, for they know the Will of God and trust Him fully; they know, immediately and directly, the joy of His Being, and that, in the words of Julian of Norwich, “all shall be made well,” and of George MacDonald, “all that shall be well is well even now.” Or are we more compassionate than God? No! Pity and compassion do not ruin the Beatific Vision.

We on earth may sometimes have our joy overshadowed by the evil of earth, because we do not know in full and face to face what is the Good, nor do we know in full what is the suffering, and what will be the transformation of the suffering and evil. The Blessed in Heaven know enough of the eschaton, the final form of all things, Eternity, and are perfectly united to the Joy and Will of God, to know that all is and shall be well. If Eternity does not answer the horrors of time, then Christ is a lie. And if Eternity does answer the horrors of time, knowing those horrors cannot dull the bliss of those who know Eternity.

Additionally, some say that those in Heaven remember not at all their earthly lives. Why anyone thinks this I cannot fathom. Can it be that those who think this, and the above idea that to know the evil of earth is to be rendered incapable of experiencing Heaven, not believe that there is a God or a Beatific Vision at all? For, as St. Paul wrote, “the sufferings of this present age are not worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed in us.” Anyone who believes there is a Heaven should know that; it is obvious; inherent in the very meaning of Heaven. But why would we not remember earth? God has done so much for us here. We have known such union with Him here. Here we have known Him in the fellowship of His sufferings, and surely the glory and truth of that fellowship will remain in Heaven, there all glory and joy, without stain of sorrow or torment, but still the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, His grief. Why does He even leave us on earth if not that what we know and suffer and do – above all, encompassing all, love – on earth should be an Eternal component of our glory – and the glory of all the Redeemed – in Heaven? Or, to say it another way, the eternal glorification of His Name and the glory which He shares with us – ours only because it is His and we are one with Him? He does not need us here on earth. He does not need us here to spread the Good News; He could do it Himself. We are here in order that, as He is, so we may be in this world. We are here for that union with Christ which can be especially known in the labours and joys and sufferings and ignorance and all the general flavour of life on earth, to love forever in that fashion which we must and can love on earth.

No good shall we lose in Heaven. No union with Christ we had here shall we not have in Heaven. Perhaps, we shall not remember this life on earth as we remember it now; for much of that may be illusion, not the true form, substance, essence, not the truth of the matter. But what this life on earth really is, that we shall remember and know, for that union with Christ we shall keep forever. Every share in Christ we have on earth, including our share in His intercession, we shall have, in no way diminished but in all ways perfected, in Heaven. This life on earth, too, shall be perfected in the Beatific Vision. God never does or makes anything in order to cancel it later; the only thing God erases is the thing which is not, namely sin. Heaven is the Truth. Heaven is utter and whole Reality.

“No good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly.”

“Those who trust in YHWH will be in want of no good thing.”

Copyright 2019 Raina Nightingale

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