Let's pray together - and do pray with me that the Lord will meet with us now. Father, we have been learning these nights what it is to still ourselves in Your presence. Lord, it was even testified in this place last evening in prayer very late on that the very Spirit of Jesus came into our midst, and it was distinguishable and discernible that the risen Christ was here. Lord, we covet that again. We thank You for what we learned last evening, and we pray that You will make it real to us - Lord Jesus, that You will come to us; Father, that You will come with the Son, and make Your abode with us, face-to-face. In anticipation of what is yet to be, truly we can say: 'How lovely is Your Tabernacle, Your dwellingplace, O Lord of Hosts'. Our soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the Lord. Our heart and our flesh cry out for the Living God, for a day in Your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. We would rather be doorkeepers standing at the door in the house of God, than to dwell in tents of wickedness. So, Lord, the Lord God who is a sun and a shield, we pray that You will give grace and glory tonight. We know that no good thing will You withhold from those who walk upright. So we pray, Lord, come and give us a vision like John had of the glorified, risen Christ in the New Jerusalem. In whose name we pray, Amen.
Now, before we say anything let me just remind you - it may be that it's your first night here - the meeting is somewhat unconventional in respect to the fact that we don't really close it, the Lord closes it. We haven't closed in prayer as such, we don't sing a hymn to finish, and we've been learning what it is to preserve and conserve God's presence as He comes into our midst - and we have felt Him already tonight, and I believe He's going to come very close to us. But if you're at liberty, and you've nothing to get home for, and I know it's icy and snowy, but what better thing could you do than just stay all night here till the thaw comes in the morning! Well, I don't know whether that will be the case or not, but you're very welcome to hang on if you can. Don't feel in anyway inhibited if you have to go, just go quietly - but we want you to have the opportunity to enjoy the presence of God. It has been wonderful. We don't want it to stop, and there's no reason why it should stop, and we don't have to have meetings for it to continue. We can know this every moment of every day of our lives, and that's the wonderful truth of this.
We have been teaching each night that the word of God declares that God has a longing to dwell with people, and there is more in the word of God about God desiring to be with people than there is about people wanting to be with God. God's great passion is to dwell in the midst of His people, but we have seen these evenings that it's not just to be there, but to have a manifest presence. He wants to be seen to be there. He wants to give us the assurance that He is in our midst. We started on Monday night looking in the Garden of Eden at how, before the fall, Adam and Eve had this very intimate relationship with who we believe is the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus Christ, the Word before He became flesh. We looked at how in the late afternoon, after a day's work, Adam would come and, in this idyllic paradise that was a trysting place for him and God, he would meet with God - and maybe even have an evening meal, for dining is a thing of fellowship in the word of God; and God does invite us to dine with Him, and the Lord Jesus invites us to open the door and allow Him to come in and dine with us and we with Him. He walked toward them, and they heard Him walking toward them to fellowship.
Then we saw the Tabernacle and the Temple, and how God dwelt there over the Ark of the Covenant in particular, under the cherubim - the Shekinah glory was manifest. All of these things were pointing towards the greatest manifestation ever of God's power and presence, the Lord Jesus Christ, Immanuel. We saw that Immanuel, He declared and manifested this glory most particularly at the Transfiguration before Peter, James and John. The glory that was veiled in His human flesh shone through that day. We learned, and it's vital that we keep coming back to this, we learned: how does the Shekinah glory of God - the visible manifestation of the invisible God that we often see in the Old Testament through fire, through light, through cloud and a combination of those - how is that Shekinah manifest in this present-day? The answer is: the same way as it was at the Mount of Transfiguration. Let me remind you of what we looked at on Wednesday night and last night, 2 Corinthians 4:6, I'll quote it to you: '[God] has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ'. The source of God's glorious presence, where the Shekinah glory of God, the visible manifestation of the invisible God, is to be found today is in the face of Jesus Christ.
We see that face by faith. We need - if we're going to have the personal presence of God in our lives, we have seen this very clearly - we're going to have to get a fresh vision of the glorified Lord as He is in all His manifest glory in heaven at this very moment. But we also reflected on the fact that that's not where it stops: we are to, ourselves, we are to reflect that glory and carry it with us. It is to abide with us as the presence of God in our lives in everything that we are and all that we do. But last night was a very important evening, because last night we looked at the presence of God in Pentecost. In looking at that we found out the 'how' this happens. We read in 2 Corinthians 3 and verse 18: 'We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord'. The power that enables us to receive this presence, this abiding, into our lives - this manifest, visible presence of God - is the power and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost is the 'how' that Immanuel's presence is realised now with us personally and as the church.
We saw last evening that now the Shekinah presence of God is found in the presence of Jesus, His Son, in the life of the Christian through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. That is chiefly manifest, I believe, by spiritual character: the fruit of the Spirit. You can read it in Galatians chapter 5: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness and so on. But also we see that this Shekinah is to be manifested in the church, God's Temple today. It's to be manifest in the church by spiritual power. We saw an evidence of this in Acts chapter 2 on the day of Pentecost, the sight of cloven, parting tongues of fire on the heads of the early disciples. That, we saw, was a motif, a sign of Shekinah, saying that the visible presence of the invisible God had come to that moment where the church was being birthed, in order to herald that this was the new way that God's presence had come: through the indwelling of the church by the Holy Spirit.
Now all of this, all of it - from Eden, Tabernacle, Temple, Immanuel, Pentecost - all is preparing us for the New Jerusalem where the visible manifest presence and Shekinah of God will be experienced by the Christian and the church eternally. Now, for this I want you to turn to 1 Corinthians chapter 13 please, and beginning to read at verse 8: "Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known" - and we end our reading there at verse 12.
Now in verse 8 we see: where there are prophecies they will fail, where there are tongues they will cease - when? Well, what the clear context of the passage teaches is that the gifts of the Holy Spirit will be overtaken by the actual presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in glory, the physical presence of the Lord Jesus, when that which is perfect is come. Paul is saying: 'Now we see Him in part', and we see Him partly in the manifestation of the Shekinah glory that God is around in the church, by the spiritual character of believers and the spiritual gifts that He has imparted to the church. But that is only a poor reflection of the real image of the Christ of God, and there is going to come a day when the reality of His physical presence will overtake prophesying, tongues, and all these other gifts of the Spirit.
Now, in the ancient world a mirror was not like the mirrors that we have. Mirrors were made of polished metals, and the image was often unclear and somewhat distorted. Incidentally, Corinth was famous for producing some of the best mirrors in the world: bronze polished mirrors. Paul is saying to these folk who are familiar with these type of mirrors, even the best ones, that even your mirrors can't give you a true reflection of yourself. Even the great power of God in Shekinah that we were talking about last night, manifest in the New Testament church as it ought to be manifest - which it is not today as it should be - even when it is, it's only a dim reflection of the reality of what it will be to actually see the glorified Lord. Amazing. We see Jesus now only in a dim, unclear way - but one day we will see Him with perfect clarity.
How does Paul put it? Verse 12: 'face-to-face'. Can I remind you what we read last night in John chapter 14 verse 23, what I said I believe is the greatest verse in the Bible: 'If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him' - and we saw that 'come to him', the word 'to' is the Greek word 'pros', which means 'face-to-face'. We will come to be face-to-face with Him. We saw from John 1 and verse 1, where it says: 'In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God', that the word 'with' there is 'pros', which says that the Word, Jesus, was face-to-face with God - that means there can be no more closer fellowship than that, between Father and the Son. When we love Him, when we keep His word, He will come and meet us face-to-face.
But, you see, what we were talking about last night, that close fellowship, was knowing Christ spiritually face-to-face - and we can, praise God. But what Paul is now talking about in 1 Corinthians 13 is when faith gives way to sight, and we will see Him not just face-to-face spiritually with the eyes of our heart, but we will see Him with the eyes of our head - and glorified heads at that, in glorified bodies, that will be able to take in and just absorb the wonder of His blessed Person. We will experience Christ actually. Paul is using this term 'face-to-face' to teach us that we will have an actual, complete, unhindered fellowship with God. How would you like that? Unhindered fellowship with God. If you're honest, now, you know what it's like: sometimes our times in prayer can be like holding our breath beneath the water - but what will it be to have unhindered face-to-face actual communion with the Son of the Living God.
A wonderful illustration of this is found in Moses, in Numbers chapter 12 and verse 8 we read that God says: 'I speak to him', to Moses, 'face to face' - so it actually says 'face-to-face' - 'Even plainly, and not in dark sayings'. 'I will speak to Moses face-to-face' - now that was a figure of speech, it wasn't literal. It was speaking of intimacy, that Moses would speak with God in intimate fashion; but he did not see God face-to-face. He had open and direct communication with the Living God, but we know that he did not see Him face-to-face. Yet we read in Exodus 33:11 that the Lord spoke to Moses face-to-face, as a man speaks with his friend - what intimacy! He spoke to God like a man speaks to a friend! Now can I tell you something, from what we learned last night: we can have more intimacy with the Living God than Moses ever had, by the Spirit!
'What a Friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear.
What a privilege to carry
Everything to Him in prayer'.
But what Paul is speaking of here now, future, is even greater than all that. It's not just a spiritual intimacy that we have even now in Christ, but it is being with Christ really face-to-face.
'Oh, glorious face of beauty,
Oh gentle touch of care;
If here it is so blessed,
What will it be up there?'
John the intimate, one of this intimate circle that was taken up the Mount of Transfiguration, the one who in his Gospel talks about 'abiding in Christ' - that's what this presence is - talks about, in 1 John, 'fellowship with Christ', that's what eternal life is, fellowship with the Father and Jesus Christ His Son. He comes to Revelation and gives us the Book of the Lamb, and gives us what it will be like in the eternal state in the New Jerusalem. What is it that John says in his Epistle, 1 John 3:2? 'We shall see Him as He is' - and miracle of all miracles, we shall be like Him!
No more barriers in our relationship with God. Then Paul puts this phrase in at the end of verse 12: 'I will know just as I also am known' - now this is profound, 'I will now just as I also am known'. How are you known? Have you ever read Psalm 139, how God knows you? He knew you when you were being knit in your mother's womb. At the moment of conception He knew you, He knew you before you were even born. God knows everything there is to know about you - and as perfectly as He knows everything about me, I will know Him as perfectly as I can. As sure as He knows everything about you, you will know Him as perfectly as you can. The reason why I say 'as perfectly as you can', it's different than knowing Him perfectly, because you cannot know the eternal God perfectly for you would be all-knowing as He. But what I mean by saying that you will know Him as perfectly as you can is, you'll never exhaust the knowledge of God, but you will learn more and more - and what you will gain is more of a capacity to increase the knowledge you have. But whatever capacity you have initially when you get to heaven, and as it increases, you will continually have that capacity filled perfectly with the knowledge of God as far as you can at that given moment. I believe that for all the aeons of eternity, we will be learning more and more and more about God and His marvellous grace and His Son - that's what Paul says in Ephesians. All that you can take in in your glorified state, you will perfectly conceive of what you know up to that period, your capacity.
This will happen when that which is perfect is come - and I can't conceive of that being anything other than being face-to-face with our Lord Jesus Christ, it sure isn't perfection down here now, that's obvious. Then at that moment, when that which is perfect is come, the Shekinah will be transferred from the indwelling Spirit in the church on the Earth, the Temple, to the New Jerusalem in Heaven where it says there will be no need for a Temple, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its Temple.
Now, I have to say, I'm skipping out about a thousand years here as far as the Shekinah glory of God is concerned, because the Shekinah will be displayed in Jerusalem after our Lord Jesus returns. He will set up a thousand year reign on this earth, the Messianic Kingdom - and we know from Ezekiel chapter 44, remember I told you on Wednesday evening from Ezekiel how God's Shekinah presence pulled out of Israel because of their idolatry and left them. Well, we read in Ezekiel 44 that the Shekinah glory will return via the same gate that it left - the Eastern Gate of the Temple. After it returns, in the person of Christ I believe, the door will be shut behind that presence for the thousand years. In other words, that presence will reside in Jerusalem, in the Holy of Holies in the Millennial Temple, for a thousand years. We read in Isaiah chapter 4 that the Shekinah glory of God will cover the whole of Mount Zion in a cloud. We read in Zechariah 2 that the rest of the Shekinah will be over the whole Jerusalem area and, we read in Isaiah again, Jesus Himself, in His own risen, exalted, returned Person, will manifest the Shekinah glory of God - Isaiah chapter 40 verse 5: 'The glory of the LORD', Jehovah, 'shall be revealed, And all flesh shall see it together; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken'.
So we're skipping over a bit of time here, prophetically speaking, but we're wanting to get to the great climax of God's plan. You remember I've been saying that this has been God's heartbeat from the very inception of creation, and before, even when He was planning this, before the foundation of the world His desire has always been that a people would come into a redemptive relationship with Him whereby they could enjoy that love relationship in the Godhead itself. He wants to dwell in the midst of His people - and God's great climax is the New Heaven and the New Earth, wherein dwells righteousness.
In Genesis we saw Paradise lost, in Revelation we see Paradise regained. At the centre of that restored Paradise is the New Jerusalem, so let us read about that. We're turning to Revelation chapter 21 and verse 1: "Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away'".
In verse 2 we read that this New Jerusalem is like a bride - what could be more beautiful, or more pure, than a bride? Now, imagine this for a moment, this is the new city of Jerusalem - imagine a city without sin! Cities are usually cesspools of sin, but here is a city without sin. Now note: this is not possible to achieve this with politics. It is not even possible to achieve this in the present moment where the Shekinah glory of God is manifest in the New Testament church. Even revival, though it can cleanse and can sanctify whole communities, it cannot eradicate sin. This must come down out of heaven! God has to do this - and He directly intervenes in human history to do it!
This is the new presence of God, in verse 3 we see it: 'The tabernacle of God'. Do you remember what 'the tabernacle' means? The Shekinah of Jehovah, 'the tabernacle with God is with men, and He will dwell' - and again there's that word 'dwell', and 'Shekinah', of course, is derived from the Hebrew verb 'to dwell', 'shakan'. God's going to dwell, to tabernacle, this has always been His passion - and this city where He dwells now and stays with His people, it will manifest the Shekinah light and glory of God. Look at verse 10: 'And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal'. Imagine this!
Look at the result of this Shekinah glory in verse 22: 'But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there)'. There's no artificial lights, that's for sure, but there aren't even any natural lights - the sun is no longer there, the moon is no longer there - but there is the spiritual, pure light of God. God and the Lamb are the light thereof! And the saved of the nations shall walk in that light!
I can understand why Thomas Binney wrote his hymn: 'Eternal Light'. He felt his terrible sinfulness, and this is what happens when you encounter the presence of God - you feel your wickedness. It happened to Isaiah in Isaiah chapter 6, when he saw Jesus, the Lord, high and lifted up in the Temple, and he said: 'Woe is me, for I am undone! I am a man of unclean lips' - and he was a prophet of God, yet he considered his lips unclean. Peter, when he saw the Lord in His power, said: 'Depart from me, for I am a sinful man'. John fell as he was dead, Daniel fell as if he was dead, Ezekiel fell as if he was dead - this is what happens. You might ask the question: 'How could I, a filthy sinner, walk in this New Jerusalem with such perfection and light?'. Thomas Binney put it like this:
'O how shall I, whose native sphere
Is dark, whose mind is dim,
Before the Ineffable appear,
And on my naked spirit bear
That uncreated beam?
There is a way for man to rise
To that sublime abode:
An offering and a sacrifice,
A Holy Spirit's energies,
An Advocate with God'.
We've read that this is a city without sin, and the people in it have no sin. We could look down and see how nothing that defiles shall enter into that holy, holy place - but the reason why sin is no more in this city, and sin is no more in the saved, is because of the Lamb who was slain and has redeemed us to God by His blood, and who has loosed us from our sins in His own blood! Let me ask you tonight: are you loosed from your sins in the blood of Jesus? For if you're not, you'll never walk on the streets paved with gold, you'll never see the New Jerusalem, you'll never bask in the Shekinah glory of the risen, glorified Jesus. But is it any wonder that the song in heaven is: 'Blessing and honour, glory and power, be unto Him that sits on the Throne and to the Lamb forever and ever, Amen'.
It's hard to take this in, isn't it, when we live in the world that we do? All the heartache and trial, let alone the wickedness, the depravity and the immorality. Joseph Seiss, in his commentary, remarked: 'Man comes into the world with a cry; and goes out of it with a groan, and all between is more or less intoned with helpless wailing. But the Hallelujahs of the renewed world will drown out the voice of woe forever' - hallelujah! The hallelujahs of the renewed world will drown out the voice of woe forever! Any wonder, I ask it again, that the song is: 'Blessing and honour, glory and power, be unto Him who sits on the Throne and to the Lamb'. This is the Book of the Lamb, and it's filled with praise, it's filled with hallelujahs - and so should our lives be when we realise what we've been redeemed from, and what we're being redeemed to! Think of it!
But let's see more in chapter 22, and John says: 'He showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations'. Now think of this, even if you want to close your eyes and try to imagine it: a pure crystal river of water of life flowing from the throne of God and from the throne of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the New Jerusalem. We read of the Garden of Eden that there were four rivers flowing out of it, but there's only one river in this heavenly city. We read in the book of Ezekiel that there is a purifying river that flows from the Temple in the millennial scene in Ezekiel 47 - but this river is not flowing from the Temple, this river is not flowing from Eden, this river is flowing from the very Throne of God, directly from where the Almighty is seated and the Lamb! He is the source of this river and all purity!
On either side of this river grows the tree of life, and it's hard to imagine just one tree - but it may well be a type of tree that is growing up the banks of this river, and may even meet overhead in a sort of arch. It has twelve kinds of fruit, and the fruit of the tree of life will no longer be forbidden! We will be able to eat of it in the paradise of God! It speaks of constant provision, we will have want no more and the leaves of that tree are for the healing of the nations - that means we will have perpetual health.
But verse 4 is really where I want to get to tonight: 'They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads'. You remember I told you that this was the privilege denied Moses. Turn with me just to see this, to remind you, keep your finger in Revelation of course - Exodus 33. Now Moses has asked the Lord that he might see His glory - what a prayer! Is that a prayer of yours? It's a prayer that God couldn't answer, well, not in perfection for Moses - but He's going to answer it in perfection for us and Moses in this state, this eternal state, the New Jerusalem. But God said in verse 20 of Exodus 33: 'You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live'. 'And the LORD said, 'Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock. So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by'', He had to protect Moses from His glory, ''Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen''. Moses, the man of God, was not permitted to look at the face of God - but in this city all heaven will see His face!
Now what does this mean practically? What does it actually mean to see His face? Well, what it means is: we will see Christ in all His glory, and we'll be able to look at Him. No man has seen God in His glory and lived, but we will be able to look at Him. You see, we couldn't handle this now - because if we saw the glorified Lord in all of His manifest glory, the way it's going to be manifest in the New Jerusalem, we would see our awful sinfulness to such an extent that we would despair of ourselves and probably expire. Even the fear of the glorious sight of His manifest Shekinah would frighten us to death! We are in an unresurrected body, but in the New Jerusalem, after the Lord has come, we will have resurrected bodies - we will be like Him because we shall see Him as He is. But the only way we can see Him as He is, is in our resurrection body, because our own flesh that we are in now would just melt before His light, which Paul said to Timothy is 'unapproachable'.
So what does it mean to see Him? We'll be able to see Him and behold the glory of God in Christ, the full, unrestrained, unrestricted Shekinah of the Almighty God in Christ - we'll be able to see it and behold it! Is it any wonder the hymn says 'That will be glory for me, when by His grace I shall look at His face'. You know, He's going to show us God the Father, I believe - what I mean is in the glory, in His glory. He came into this world to reveal the character and nature of God the Father, but I believe in heaven - you may differ with me on this one - but I believe in heaven He's going to show us the glory of God the Father, because He's always the One who reveals the Father. He's going to show us God the Father in His glory, and Himself in His glory, something that has never been seen before - no man has ever seen God, or could see God, but we will see God! 'In my flesh', Job said, 'I shall see God'.
But it doesn't just mean we will see Him physically, I believe it means we will see Him spiritually - and I mean by that, well, Spurgeon puts it better than I could; he said: 'Our mental faculties shall be enlarged, so that they shall be enabled to look into the very heart, and soul, and character of Christ, so as to understand Him, His work, His love, His all in all, as they never understood Him before'. You're going to be able to look into the glorified Christ and understand something of Him! He went on to say on another occasion, Spurgeon, that a baby or a young adult that has trusted Christ and dies and is admitted to heaven discovers more of Christ in a single hour than is known by all the divines of the assemblies of the church on earth!
What does heaven mean for you? Now I believe we will know one another in heaven - what I thought! - and I believe that we will meet our loved ones again in heaven, and I believe we will talk with the saints in heaven. You know everybody wants to talk to Moses and Elijah, and Thomas and Peter! But what does heaven mean for you? Is it the splendour, pearly gates, whatever that means? The streets of gold, is that what it is? Spurgeon said: 'It is the chief blessing of heaven, the cream of heaven, the heaven of heaven, that the saints shall there see Jesus'.
'And when at last we see the face of Jesus,
Before whose image other loves all flee.
And when they crown him Lord of all I'll be there,
Now this is just what Heaven means to me'.
Is this what heaven means to you? You say: 'Well, we've a bit of a while to wait, don't we?' - well, you do. We will see somewhat of the glory of Christ when we go to be with Him, but not to the extent of this in the New Jerusalem - I believe this is a future state that comes after the Lord returns to the Earth, the thousand year reign, and then the eternal state is ushered in. But my friend, this is the whole point of these meetings, and in particular last night: we can know Him spiritually to a certain extent now, you certainly can know Him a lot more than you have known Him hitherto through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Do you know what Paul says in Ephesians that the Holy Spirit is in His blessed Person dwelling in our hearts? He is a down payment of heaven! He's a little bit of heaven put in our heart! O, has heaven come down, and glory filled your soul? We can know this.
Several years ago I did a series on heaven, and at the end of it we had a question time night. There were questions submitted, and one of the questions - some very interesting questions - but one of the questions was: 'Will we have the opportunity to spend one-to-one time with our Heavenly Father, Saviour, and Holy Spirit, either collectively or separately? Just to sit alone and commune with Them?'. My answer to that question was: you've got that opportunity now. We will have then, as Paul says, face-to-face, literally. We do have now, as John says, face-to-face, spiritually - but there are conditions. That great verse, John 14:23, let me reiterate it again: 'If anyone loves Me', Jesus says, 'He will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him' - but you've got to love Christ, and He said, 'If you love Me, you'll keep My commandments, you'll keep My word'. We saw last night: that's not just keeping the little isolated, legalistic principles, but keeping the whole weight and body of everything that He is, and everything He ever taught - it's the spirit and letter of the word. That's the condition to know a manifestation now, in anticipation of then seeing His face.
What did He say in the Beatitudes? Matthew 5 and verse 8: 'Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God'. I believe He's talking about now. The pure in heart shall see God, spiritually, face-to-face - the glory of the knowledge of God in the face of Jesus Christ, when the heart is pure. Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? Who shall stand on His holy place? He that hath clean hands and a pure heart. Hebrews 12 and 14 is not a very popular text for preachers, do you know that one? Turn with me to it please, Hebrews 12, here's another of the conditions - it's really the same thing - Hebrews 12:14: 'Pursue peace with all people', boy, that's some verse for the people of Ulster, 'Pursue peace with all people'. Don't say that's just for believers, you can't do that with the Bible, you're not allowed to do that. 'Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord'.
Now, what does that mean? Well, it might mean some things to do with the millennium, but I'll not go into that tonight. But what I think it definitely means is this chapter, chapter 12 of Hebrews, is all about discipline that we have as sons and daughters of God. Verse 10 shows us the reason for this discipline: 'For they indeed', that is, our earthly parents, 'for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He', that is, our Heavenly Father, 'for our profit', disciplines us, 'that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless', here's the purpose, 'afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it'. Now what this writer is saying is: without practical in-wrought holiness that comes through the disciplining afflictions of God, no man will see the Lord. Certainly what that means in a spiritual sense - because seeing the Lord is talking about fellowship, isn't it - is that we often have to be put through the mill in order to get to a position where we can truly see the Lord and fellowship with Him.
Some of you dear folk know exactly what I'm talking about. Some of you have been brought through a valley to get to these meetings. Some of you have had excruciating physical, emotional, mental, spiritual circumstances in your life, and pain. But so often, as believers, what we do is, we resist all those things that come across our path - I'm not saying we have to like them, we don't like them, there is something wrong with you if you did like them - but we don't understand the purpose of God in it all: that we may, through discipline, see the Lord; because He's purifying us in the furnace, in the crucible of life's vicissitudes in order that we should, in some way, have a pure heart in order to see God. He's taking away the distractions in order to see Him. He's wanting us to lose sight of other things, maybe other idols or other gods who have been taking His place, the trees of the garden, the Elijah and Moses, all these other things. Do you believe me about this?
Let me tell you: Job was a righteous man, and even the devil couldn't point the finger at him - now you remember that, Job hadn't any sin to get rid of, his accusers thought he maybe did, those who said they were his friends, but he didn't. But what he did need to have happen to him, because he was a sinner like the rest of us, he needed to be broken - and boy, did God break him. I wonder is God breaking you tonight? Has God been breaking you? Don't let the devil tell you, necessarily, that you've done something wrong. We all need chastening, there's no such a thing as an unchastened son or daughter - we need it! We need it that holiness might come forth. We need it to get rid of the things that hold us back, and the sins that so easily beset us. We need it from a loving Father that we might see God. Do you remember what happened? When Job, who was answering God and questioning God, when he came out of that whirlwind where God revealed Himself and all His character, and said: 'Where were you when I laid the foundations of the Earth?' - do you remember what Job said? 'I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You'.
Is that what God's been trying to do to you? O, we've heard a lot about Him - God help us, some of us are sick hearing about Him - but we need to see Him! He knows that if we're going to see Him, other things that we're holding too close to our chest that are in the way, and in His sights, have to be removed. My friend, let Him do it. Let Him do it! However He wants to do it, let Him do it! John Paton, the missionary, never forgot his father's deeply ingrained habits of devotional life and waiting on God. Day after day, as a child, he would hear his father praying in the next room in the little cottage where he lived. Even as a boy of six, he testifies to having noticed the bright countenance that his father perpetually wore. He later said that while the outside world might not understand the light of his father's face, he said, and I'm quoting him: 'We children knew that it was a reflection of the Divine presence in which his life was lived'. John Paton recalled, I'm quoting again: 'Never in the temple or cathedral, on mountain or in glen, can I hope to feel that the Lord God is more near, more visibly walking and talking with men, than under that humble cottage roof of thatch and oaken wattles. Though everything else in religion were by some unthinkable catastrophe to be swept out of memory, my soul would wander back to those early scenes, and would shut itself up once again in that Sanctuary Closet, and, hearing still the echoes of those cries to God, would hurl back all doubt with the victorious appeal, 'He walked with God, why may not I?'' - his father!
Later in life John Paton, as a missionary, experienced great difficulties and breathtaking dangers in the South Pacific. This is what he said: 'Without the abiding consciousness of the presence and power of my Lord and Saviour, nothing in the world could have preserved me from losing my reason and perishing miserably'. Some of you are on the brink of losing your reason, because of your circumstances. You need to get His presence. He went on to say: 'His words 'Lo I am with you always, even unto the end', became so real that it would not' - listen to this! - 'it would not have startled me to behold Him, as Stephen did, gazing down upon the scene' - it would not have startled me to have beheld Him as Stephen did! 'It is the sober truth', he went on, listen, 'I had my nearest and most intimate glimpses of the presence of my Lord in those dread moments when musket, club or spear was being levelled at my life'.
Samuel Rutherford was imprisoned in Aberdeen four centuries ago, persecuted for his faith. He wrote his famous letters in that prison cell, and to his parishioners he ended one of them with this sentence: 'Jesus Christ came into my prison cell last night, and every stone in it glowed like a ruby'. Jesus Christ can come into your prison cell tonight, and the things that have captivated you and imprisoned you can actually shine with His glory. One day we're going to see Him as He is - but, my friend, this pilgrimage is preparation. John Owen said, the Puritan, in his book 'The Glory of Christ': 'No man shall ever behold the glory of Christ by sight in heaven, who does not in some measure behold it by faith in this world'.
As I close this message tonight, and this series of meetings, let me ask you: do you see the Lord face-to-face? Let us pray.
Father, we thank You for the Lord Jesus, the Son in the bosom of the Father, who has declared You, the brightness of Your glory, the express image of Your Person. We worship Him tonight, we praise Him, we want to feel that we are experiencing heaven on earth. We want to feel that we are joining that great throng around the glassy sea, worshipping the Lamb, on their faces. O Lord, we want to be lifted up to that plain, that celestial existence. O Lord, in spirit and in heart let us have eyes of faith to see Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. O God, we need to see Him. There are dear ones here tonight and they needed to get a glimpse of what heaven will be like, what the New Jerusalem will be like - but they need to understand why they're going through the mill now: because You want them to get all the distractions out of the road that they might see the Lord now. O God, may that happen for some here tonight. Bless us now, as we wait on in Your presence may the very fragrance of the Son of God fill this place as we gaze on His glory. Amen.
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This sermon was delivered in The Lifeboat Fellowship in Moy, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the fifth recording in his 'The Presence Of God' series, entitled "In The New Jerusalem" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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