by John MacArthur
Without question, the most marvelous thing about heaven—heaven’s supreme delight—will be unbroken fellowship with God Himself.
Through salvation, we have communion with every member of the Godhead. We can talk and commune with Yahweh. We are adopted as His children (Romans 8:15). We pray to Him as our dear Father—Abba, in Paul’s favorite terminology. We hear Him speak to us in His Word. He moves providentially in our lives to reveal Himself. We enjoy real spiritual communion with eternal God.
But that communion nonetheless seems incomplete from an earthly perspective. It is shrouded. As Paul writes, “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 Corinthians 13:12). He’s talking about our fellowship with God. In heaven it will be perfect, unhindered, and unclouded by any sin or darkness.
This is one of the things that was on Jesus’ heart and mind as He prayed during the night of His betrayal. It was a prayer for the disciples—and also for every believer of all time.
Anticipating the completion of His work on earth, our Lord asked the Father to return Him to the glory He had before the world began. He prayed, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given Me, may be with Me where I am, to see My glory that You have given me because You loved Me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). He wants us to be with Him. But that’s not all. Notice the kind of relationship He prays for among all believers: “That they may be one; as thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us” (John 17:21, KJV). His design for us is perfect fellowship with Him and with one another—a picture of the unity that exists between Father and Son!
This is such an incredibly profound concept that there’s no way our finite minds can begin to appreciate it. But it was obviously the foremost thought on Jesus’ mind whenever He spoke of the promise of heaven to the disciples. Earlier that same night on the eve of His crucifixion, He told them, “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you will follow afterward” (John 13:36). Later, knowing the disciples were troubled at the thought of His leaving them, He expanded the same promise:
Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also. (John 14:1–3)
Jesus is personally preparing rooms in the Father’s own house for each one of the elect! That promises us the most intimate imaginable fellowship with the living God.
And bear in mind that in heaven we will actually see the Lord face-to-face. There is no way to overstate the wonder and privilege this affords us. John 1:18 and 1 John 4:12 both say, “No one has ever seen God.” First Timothy 6:16 declares that God “alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, Whom no one has ever seen or can see.” In Exodus 33, when Moses was craving a glimpse of God’s glory (Exodus 33:18), God agreed to show only His back, and said, “You cannot see My face, for man shall not see Me and live” (Exodus 33:20).
God is inaccessible to mortal man on a face-to-face basis. That is what made Christ’s incarnation so wonderful. Although “no one has ever seen God,” Jesus Christ, “Who is at the Father’s side, He has made Him known” (John 1:18). Christ “dwelt [Gk. skenoō; lit. “encamped” or “tabernacled”] among us” (John 1:14)—“and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
He came to our world to tabernacle among us, and He did it in order to redeem us and take us to heaven, where Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will encamp in our midst in perfect fellowship with us forever. What a breathtaking reality!
In heaven, since we will be free from sin, we will see God’s glory unveiled and in its fullness. That will be a more pleasing, spectacular sight than anything we have known or could ever imagine on earth. No mere earthly pleasure can even begin to measure up to the privilege and the ecstasy of an unhindered view of the divine glory.
Matthew 5:8 says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” The Greek verb translated “see” (horaō) is in a tense that denotes a future continuous reality. In heaven we will continually be beholding God, face-to-face. Kings generally seclude themselves from direct contact with their people. It is a rare privilege to have an audience with a king. But believers in heaven will forever have perfect, unbroken fellowship with the King of kings!
This has always been the deepest longing of the redeemed soul. The psalmist said, “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” (Psalm 42:1–2). And Philip, speaking for all the disciples, said to Christ, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us” (John 14:8). Moses’ petition, “Please show me Your glory” (Exodus 33:18) reflects the true desire of every reborn heart. David expresses it beautifully in Psalm 17:15: “As for me, I shall behold Your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with Your likeness.”
As Christians, our highest satisfaction will come when we see our God and His Son, Jesus Christ, and when we stand before them in perfect uprightness. Heaven will provide us with that privilege: the unclouded, undiminished, uninterrupted sight of His infinite glory and beauty, bringing us infinite and eternal delight.
Nineteenth-century songwriter Fanny Crosby expressed the hope of every believer in a well-loved gospel song titled “My Savior First of All”:
When my life work is ended, and I cross the swelling tide,
When the bright and glorious morning I shall see,
I shall know my Redeemer when I reach the other side,
And His smile will be the first to welcome me. . . .
Those words have special significance—Fanny Crosby was blind from infancy. She knew that literally the first person she would ever see would be Jesus Christ.
In a way, the same thing is true of us all. Our sight here on earth is virtually like blindness compared to the clearer vision we will have in heaven (1 Corinthians 13:12). We ought to be eagerly looking for that day when our vision will be enlightened by the glory of His presence. I sincerely hope that’s your deepest desire.
(Adapted from The Glory of Heaven; all Scripture references are taken from the English Standard Version.)