If our hearts are pure, the wonderful promise is that we shall see God! To “see God” is to have the eyes of our hearts opened to encounter and perceive the reality of God Himself. To see God, as used in this sense, is to enter into the fullness of the knowledge of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is to enter into the intimate fellowship of His love and presence. The one whose heart is pure will be given nothing less than the vision of God.
Of the five senses, “seeing” is perhaps the sense that is most likely to give us an assurance of the existence of a thing. We say “seeing is believing.” Why? Because we associate “seeing” with “certainty.” Notice that this is the sense Jesus chooses to describe the reward of those pure in heart—not hearing or smelling (senses which are not quite as reliable). Jesus is saying that for the pure in heart, God—though we cannot “see” Him in the physical realm—will supernaturally make His presence and existence an absolute certainty to us as sure as if we could see Him with our natural eyes! Agnostics say, “If I could see God, I would believe.” Jesus says we can know this kind of certainty—if we are pure in heart.
We can know Him with the kind of certainty that physically “seeing” brings. This is why Paul prayed in Ephesians 1:18, “that the eyes of our heart may be enlightened” that we may see God and know the reality of the “hope to which He has called us, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparable great power for us who believe.” The pure in heart will be given spiritual discernment and, with the eyes of our understanding opened, be able to see clearly “the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
Often, that kind of “seeing” is experienced when we perceive God’s glory. And though we may not see the fullness of His glory this side of eternity, God means for us to experience a strong measure of it now. We can feel His presence though we do not see Him. The manifestation of God’s glory is not merely intellectual enlightenment, nor simply the power that transforms character, although both of these qualities are experienced when we behold His glory. God’s glory is palpably felt as an awareness of God’s presence, almost like a “weightiness” in the atmosphere. Paul understood that there was a tangible quality to the manifestation of God’s glory, and that the Holy Spirit intends us to encounter that glory, and thus be transformed. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is,” Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:17-18, “there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
John, too, spoke of encountering this glory when he reported that “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Had John meant to convey that they had encountered perfect moral character in Jesus, he would have said as much. It is important to remember that a first-century Jew understood the glory of God against the backdrop of his people's national history—a history marked by divine interventions such as Moses’ glimpse of His glory from the cleft in the rock (Exodus 34:6-7) and Solomon’s encounter with His glory when it filled the temple (2 Chronicles 7).
The New Testament apostles understood God’s glory as an encounter with His essence, as well as the enlightenment of His character. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 3:7-8 that the glory Moses experienced caused his face to shine so brightly that he had to put a veil over it. Paul then went on to say that the manifestation was only a small glimpse of the glory revealed in and through Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and that glory is what transforms us. He is defining that glory as the awesome weight of His presence that is to be tangibly sensed! When Jesus took upon Himself human flesh and walked upon the earth, He revealed the glory of God’s character, and His power and presence—and now that character, power, and presence can be known by you and me…if we walk in purity of heart.
How can we have a pure heart that enables us to behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ? We must come daily into His presence with unveiled face, for it is the veils (or masks) of life that block the heart from the cleansing, restoring, renewing stream that flows from Calvary. As long as we are bound up with our insecurities, fears, sense of unworthiness, guilt, shortcomings, failures, hurts, disappointments and hopelessness, we will not be able to see the glory of God.
Many people are shut up in the dark prison of self-centered ambition, materialism, pleasure seeking, lusts of the flesh and carnal desires. When we turn to the Lord and truly repent by confessing the pollution, the mixture and the division of our heart, and turn to accept the cleansing of the blood of Jesus, the veil is removed and we can see the glory of God. When that happens, the Spirit of God transforms us from glory to glory, and the light of our Lord Jesus Christ will begin to shine through us.
As we focus daily on the Lord Jesus Christ and fix our eyes on “Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith,” we can run our race with the joy of His presence being manifest in our lives (Hebrews 12:2). The Psalmist said that in God’s “presence is fullness of joy” (16:11). The Holy Spirit has come so we can live in the reality of the presence of the Lord, and be blessed in this relationship with the Most High.
Author John DiFrances captured an image of “pure in heart” that is worth quoting at length here. Commenting on the root meaning of the world “integrity,” he wrote:
During the time of the Caesars, the Roman army would conduct morning inspections. As the inspecting Centurion would come in front of each legionnaire, the soldier would strike with his right fist the armor breastplate that covered his heart. The armor had to be strongest there in order to protect the heart from the sword thrusts and from arrow strikes. As the soldier struck his armor, he would shout “Integritas!” (in-teg-ri-tas), which in Latin mean material wholeness, completeness, and entirety. The inspecting Centurion would listen closely for this affirmation and also for the ring that well-kept armor would give off. Satisfied that the armor was sound and that the soldier beneath it was protected, he would then move on to the next man.
At about the same time, the Praetorians or imperial bodyguard were ascending into power and influence; drawn from the best “politically correct” soldiers of the legions, they received the finest equipment and armor. They no longer had to shout “Integritas!” to signify that their armor was sound. Instead, as they struck their breastplate, they would shout, “Hail Caesar!” to signify that their heart belonged to the imperial personage—not to their unit—not to an institution—not to a code of ideals. They armored themselves to serve the cause of a single man.
A century passed and the rift between the legion and the imperial bodyguard and its excesses grew larger. To signify the difference between the two organizations, the legionnaire, upon striking his armor, would no longer shout “Integritas!” but instead would shout “integer” (in-te-ger).
“Integer” means undiminished—complete—perfect. It not only indicated that the armor was sound, it also indicated that the soldier wearing the armor was sound of character. He was complete in his integrity. His heart was in the right place. His standards and morals were high. He was not associated with the immoral conduct that was rapidly becoming the signature of the Praetorian Guards.
The armor of integrity continued to serve the legion well. For over four centuries they held the line against the marauding Goths and Vandals, but by 383 A.D., the social decline that infected the republic and the Praetorian Guard had its effects upon the legion.
Because of negligence and laziness, parade ground drills were abandoned, and the customary armor began to feel heavy since the soldiers rarely, if ever, wore it. Therefore, they first asked the emperor to set aside the (armor). It was only a matter of a few years until the legion rotted from within and was unable to hold the frontiers. The barbarians were at the gates.
Again the promise? We shall see God—even in this life, to a measure. The poet Frederick W.O. Ward described the presence of God as “a Voice as sweet and soft as tears,” and that even…
While the earth shriveled up its broken toy,
I knew with sudden insight all was best,
The passion and the pain,
The searching that seemed vain
But led if by dim blood-stained steps to Rest.
And only are the beatings of God’s Breast
Beneath the iron chain…
I knew each work was blessed in its place,
The eagle and the dove,
While Nature was the glove
Of that dear Hand which everywhere we trace,
I felt a Presence though I saw no face,
And it was boundless Love.