by Thomas Watson
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (v.8)
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
“Blessed are those who are persecuted, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”
Let us put ourselves on TRIAL whether we are pure-hearted or not. Here I shall show the signs of an impure heart; and then, signs of a pure heart.
The blessed PRIVILEGE of seeing God explained
“They shall see God!” Matthew 5:8
These words are linked to the former and they are a great incentive to heart-purity. The pure heart shall see the pure God. There is a double sight which the saints have of God.
1. In this life; that is, spiritually by the eye of faith. Faith sees God’s glorious attributes in the looking-glass of his Word. Faith beholds him showing forth himself through the lattice of his ordinances. Thus Moses saw him who was invisible (Hebrews 11:27). Believers see God’s glory as it were—veiled over. They behold his ‘back parts’ (Exodus 33:23).
2. In the life to come; and this glorious sight is meant in the text, ‘They shall see God.’ A glorious prospect! This divines call ‘the beatific vision’. At that day the veil will be pulled off, and God will show himself in all his glory to the soul, just as a king on a day of coronation, shows himself in all his royalty and magnificence. This sight of God, will be the heaven of heaven. We shall indeed have a sight of angels, and that will be sweet—but the quintessence of happiness and the diamond in the ring will be this—’We shall see God!’ It would be night in heaven, if the Sun of Righteousness did not shine there. It is the king’s presence, which makes the court. Absalom counted himself half-alive, unless he might see the king’s face (2 Samuel 14:32).
‘Blessed are the pure in heart—for they shall see God!’ This sight of God in glory is, first, partly mental and intellectual. We shall see him with the eyes of our mind.
But second, it is partly physical; not that we can with bodily eyes behold the bright essence of God. Indeed, some erroneously held that God had a visible shape and figure. As man was made in God’s image, so they thought that God was made in man’s image; but God is a Spirit (John 4:24), and being a Spirit, he is invisible (1 Timothy 1:17). He cannot be beheld by bodily eyes. ‘Whom no man has seen, nor can see’ (1 Timothy 6:16). A sight of his glory would overwhelm us. This wine is too strong for our weak heads.
But when I say our seeing of God in heaven is physical, my meaning is that we shall with bodily eyes behold Jesus Christ, through whom the glory of God, his wisdom, holiness, and mercy, shall shine forth to the soul. Put a back of steel to the glass—and you may see a face in it. So the human nature of Christ is as it were a back of steel through which we may see the glory of God (2 Corinthians 4:6). In this sense that scripture is to be understood, ‘With these eyes shall I see God’ (Job 19:26, 27).
Now concerning this blessed sight of God, it is so sublime and sweet, that I can only draw a dark shadow of it. We shall better understand it—when we come to heaven.
At present I shall lay down these nine MAXIMS concerning this beatific vision.
1. Our sight of God in heaven shall be a CLEAR sight. Here we see him ‘through a glass darkly’ (1 Corinthians 13:12). But through Christ we shall behold God in a very illustrious manner. God will unveil himself and show forth his glory—so far as the soul is capable to receive. If Adam had not sinned, it is probable that he would never have had such a clear sight of God—as the saints in glory shall have. ‘We shall see him as he is’ (1 John 3:2). Now we see him as he is not. There we shall see him ‘as he is’ in a very clear manner. ‘Then shall I know—even as also I am known’ (1 Corinthians 13:12), that is, ‘clearly’. Does not God know us clearly and fully? Then shall the saints know him (according to their capacity) as they are known. As their love to God, so their sight of God—shall be perfect.
2. This sight of God will be a TRANSCENDENT sight. It will surpass in glory. Such glittering beams shall sparkle forth from the Lord Jesus, as shall infinitely amaze and delight the eyes of the beholders! Imagine what a blessed sight it will be, to see Christ wearing the robe of our human nature and to see that nature sitting in glory above the angels. If God is so beautiful here in his ordinances, Word, prayer, sacraments; if there is such excellency in him when we see him by the eye of faith through the telescope of a promise, O what will it be when we shall see him ‘face to face’!
When Christ was transfigured on the mount, he was full of glory (Matthew 17:2). If his transfiguration was so glorious, what will his exaltation be! What a glorious time will it be when (as it was said of Mordecai) we shall see him in the presence of his Father, ‘arrayed in royal apparel, and with a great crown of gold upon his head’ (Esther 8:15). This will be glory beyond hyperbole! If the sun were ten thousand times brighter than it is—it could not so much as shadow out this glory. In the heavenly horizon we behold beauty in its first magnitude and highest elevation. There we shall ‘see the king in his glory’ (Isaiah 33:17). All lights are but eclipses, compared with that glorious vision. Apelles’ pencil could but blot it; angels’ tongues could but dishonor it.
3. This sight of God will be a TRANSFORMING sight. ‘We shall be like him’ (1 John 3:2). The saints shall be changed into glory. As when the light springs into a dark room, the room may be said to be changed from what it was; the saints shall so see God—as to be changed into his image! (Psalm 17:15). Here on earth, God’s people are blackened and sullied with infirmities—but in heaven they shall be as the dove covered with silver wings. They shall have some rays and beams of God’s glory shining in them. The crystal, by having the sun shine on it, sparkles and looks like the sun. Just so, the saints by beholding the brightness of God’s glory shall have a tincture of that glory upon them. Not that they shall partake of God’s very essence, for as the iron in the fire becomes fire—yet remains iron still, so the saints by beholding the luster of God’s majesty shall be glorious creatures—but yet creatures still.
4. This sight of God will be a JOYFUL sight. ‘You shall make me glad with the light of your countenance’ (Acts 2:28). After a sharp winter, how pleasant will it be to see the Sun of Righteousness displaying himself in all his glory! Does faith breed joy? ‘Even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy’ (1 Peter 1:8). If the joy of faith is such, what will the joy of vision be! The sight of Christ will amaze the eye with wonder, and ravish the heart with joy. If the face of a friend whom we entirely love so affects us and drives away sorrow—O how cheering will the sight of God be to the saints in heaven! Then indeed it may be said, ‘Your heart shall rejoice!’ (John 16:22). There are two things which will make the saints’ vision of God in heaven joyful.
 Through Jesus Christ, the dread and terror of the divine essence shall be taken away. Majesty shall appear in God to preserve reverence—but however, it will be a majesty clothed with beauty and tempered with sweetness, to excite joy in the saints. We shall see God as a friend, not as guilty Adam did, who was afraid, and hid himself (Genesis 3:10)—but as Queen Esther looked upon King Ahasuerus holding forth the golden scepter (Esther 5:2). Surely this sight of God will not be dreadful, but delightful!
 The saints shall not only have vision, but fruition. They shall so see God, as to enjoy him. True blessedness lies partly in the understanding—by seeing the glory of God richly displayed; and partly in the will—by a sweet delicious taste of it and acquiescence of the soul in it. We shall so see God—as to love him—and so love him as to be filled with him. The seeing of God implies fruition. ‘Enter into the joy of your Lord’ (Matthew 25:21) not only behold it—but enter into it. ‘In your light we shall see light’ (Psalm 36:9); there is vision. ‘At your right hand there are pleasures for evermore’ (Psalm 16:11); there is fruition. So great is the joy which flows from the sight of God—as will make the saints break forth into triumphant praises and hallelujahs.
5. This sight of God will be a SATISFYING sight. Cast three worlds into the heart, and they will not fill it—but the sight of God satisfies! ‘I shall be satisfied when I awake with your likeness’ (Psalm 17:15). Solomon says ‘The eye is never satisfied with seeing’ (Ecclesiastes 1:8). But there the eye will be satisfied with seeing. God, and nothing but God, can satisfy. The saints shall have their heads so full of knowledge, and their hearts so full of joy—that they shall have no lack.
6. This sight of God will be an UNWEARYING sight. Let a man see the rarest sight that is—he will soon be cloyed. When he comes into a garden and sees delightful walks, lovely arbours, pleasant flowers, within a little while he grows weary; but it is not so in heaven. There is no cloying there. We shall never be weary of seeing God, for the divine essence being infinite, there shall be every moment new and fresh delights springing forth from God into the glorified soul! The soul shall be full and satisfied—yet still desire more of God. So sweet will God be—that the more the saints behold God—the more they will be ravished with desire and delight!
7. This sight of God will be a BENEFICIAL sight. It will tend to the bettering and advantaging of the soul. Some colors, while they delight the eyes, hurt them. But this knowledge and vision of God, shall better the soul and tend to its infinite happiness. Eve’s looking upon the tree of knowledge, was harmful to her. But the saints can receive no detriment from the eternal beholding of God’s glory. This sight will be beneficial. The soul will never be in its perfection, until it comes to see God. This will be the crowning blessing.
8. This sight of God shall be PERPETUAL. Here we see objects awhile, and then our eyes grow dim and we need eye-glasses. But the saints shall always behold God. As there shall be no cloud upon God’s face, so the saints shall have no mote in their eye. Their sight shall never grow dim—but they shall be to all eternity looking on God, that beautiful and delightful object! O what a soul-ravishing sight will this be! God must make us able to bear it. We can no more endure a sight of glory—than a sight of wrath. But the saints in heaven, shall have their capacities enlarged, and they shall be made fit to receive the delightful beams of divine glory!
9. This sight of God will be an IMMEDIATE sight. There are some who deny that the soul is immediately after death admitted to the sight of God—but I assert that the saints shall have an immediate transition and passage from death to glory. As soon as death has closed their eyes—they shall see God. If the soul is not immediately after death translated to the beatific vision—then what becomes of the soul in that period of time, until the resurrection?
Does the soul go into torment? That cannot be, for the soul of a believer is a member of Christ’s mystical body, and if this soul should go to hell—a member of Christ might be for a time damned. But that is impossible.
Does the soul sleep in the body as some drowsily imagine? How then shall we make good sense of that scripture ‘We are willing rather to be absent from the body—and to be present with the Lord’?(2 Corinthians 5:8) If the soul at death is absent from the body, then it cannot sleep in the body.
Does the soul die? It appears that the soul of a believer after death, goes immediately to God. ‘This day shall you be with me in paradise’ (Luke 23:43). That word ‘with me’ shows clearly that the thief on the cross was translated to heaven. For there Christ was (Ephesians 4:10). And the word ‘this day’ shows that the thief on the cross had an immediate passage from the cross to paradise. Therefore, the souls of believers have an immediate vision of God after death. It is but winking—and they shall see God!