When you ask someone to describe their view of heaven you get a descriptive look at what the person thinks is good.  “Heaven” is whatever the person thinks is good in this life plus more and without hindrances or suffering.  So what is good?  If we are wrong about what is good then we will be wrong about heaven and the afterlife.  This is one of the questions we will study at our conference because knowing what is good is part of general revelation.

For some, heaven is wonderful because they get to see God.  This is called the beatific vision.  But what does it mean to “see” God?  For those who are empirically oriented, and many influential theologians have been, it is a similar kind of seeing to what we now do with our eyes.  But “seeing” is also used to refer to understanding as in “now I see.”  Job said this, but he did not mean that he physically saw a form but that he now understands.  Do light waves bounce off God?  No, God is a Spirit.  Does God radiate out light waves?  Again, God is a Spirit.  Not material.  

It is said that Moses saw God face to face.  But also that Moses saw no form.  And that none have seen or can see God.  To see a theophany is not to see God.  God is not an eternal burning bush. It also says that God spoke to Moses.  The contrast for Moses is that God spoke to him in a direct manner rather than through signs and symbols which is what the people of Israel were given.  We see similar language in Westminster Larger Catechism Question 86 when it speaks about beholding the face of God in light and glory, and in Question 90 when it speaks about the immediate vision of God.  To see, to behold, to have a vision, cannot mean material light striking your retina but means “to understand.”  

It is said “now we see through a glass darkly then we will see face to face.”  This did happen when the Logos became incarnate.  The old system of prophetic knowledge and signs was ending and the canon of scripture was about to be complete.  We have the full special revelation of redemption in Christ.  To see someone’s face is a phrase of familiarity.  You know them personally, not from afar.  The Logos is said to be life which is the light of man.  This doesn’t refer to photons.  It is that by which we understand.  We are told that the pure in heart will see God.  This is the point at which Job could say “now I see you” when he came to repent of the sin of unbelief.

We see God by understanding.  And God reveals Himself to be understood in general revelation.  If we have neglected to do so in this life we should repent the way Job did.  We should not expect that in the afterlife we won’t need to understand because we will see.  Our neglect of general revelation has consequences.  We should use our minds to learn how to draw inferences and make good and necessary consequences rather than needing to be told and shown what to believe.  This is a sign of maturity: learning to discern good and evil. 

The Platonic and Gnostic beatific vision says that this world is the source of evil and suffering and we should flee it to the world of pure spirit.  The Aristotelian beatific vision says that the best life is the life of retreat from this world to pure contemplation.  All of these deny the creation as a work of God that reveals God.  None of those philosophers saw God or even got close.  Each of them replaced the eternal power and divine nature of God with something else like a demiurge or unmoved mover.  They denied that the works of God are very good and should be understood.  They rejected the Logos who makes God known.

The beatific vision is understanding God in all of his works of creation and providence.  God reveals himself in his great and mighty works.  Job, who was upright, nonetheless came short here and was in sin.  This is shown in his repenting.  God directed Job’s attention to the creation not away from it.  Job’s hope was not in fleeing this life to be a spirit that can directly see God in the afterlife but in knowing God through His work of creation.  And in recognizing his sin Job hoped in seeing his Redeemer.  Redemption restores us to the knowledge of God; it does not call us away to neglect and ignore the works of God.  

Would you like to see God?  Let’s learn how to do so in the same way Job did.  Have you considered the works of God?  We look forward to meeting you at the conference on Feb 7-8.  There is also a live YouTube option for those who cannot make it.