I have been occupied, for my own soul, with the inquiry what is the hope of the Christian, and I send you some points of the result, thinking they may be a means of cheering and encouraging some of God’s dear children. The first important point which this result brings powerfully home to the heart and conscience is, that the source of this hope, and the only means of rightly estimating it, the only sure ground on which the heart can rest in appropriating it, is that all that I hope for is the fruit of the grace of Jesus, that in which His own heart finds its delight, in giving to us, because it is that of which He knows in Himself the blessedness, and because His love is perfect towards .us. His interest in us is as perfect as Himself. This is essentially characteristic of perfect love. All this, I need not say, is according to the counsels of the Father. “It is not mine to give,” says Christ, “but to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.” For it is what He takes as man, that He gives to us, and hence, as receiving it Himself as man from His Father, and delighting in it as the expression of the Father’s love.
This thought brings out another simple, but remembering who Jesus is, a most blessed and wonderful truth-, that where there is perfect love on the one hand, and capacity of enjoyment through possession of the same nature on the other, love will seek to introduce its object into the common enjoyment of that which it possesses, and finds its blessing and happiness in. This is true of a friend, a parent, and every genuine human attachment; though, of course, in these cases, imperfection is attached to the affection itself, and to its power of accomplishing its wish to make happy. But the perfection of Christ’s love does not, since it is love to us, make our introduction into the enjoyment of His blessedness a thing not to be hoped for because it is too excellent, but just lays the sure ground for this hope. It is His own delight to make us happy, a part of the perfection of His nature, His own satisfaction. “He shall see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied.”
It is to this I would first of all direct the attention of yourself and your readers. Christ is finding His own delight and joy in blessing us, and in blessing us with Himself, because He loves us; and this blessing must be according to the perfectness of His own nature, for it flows from Him, and is to be enjoyed with Himself, and as He enjoys it before and with the Father. What a scene this opens before us, if we have indeed tasted His love! And yet it is all dependent on His own free goodness, and the fruit and display of it, the happiness itself being dependent on His own excellency. That His grace is the source of it every Christian will recognise; but I think you will find that, in taking Scripture to guide us in the details it gives of our future blessedness, this character of blessing shines out most evidently. And it is the elements of our future joy which Scripture affords, which I would present to you, though surely grace is needed to give them their value, which will be just proportionate to our personal estimate of Christ Himself; that is, to our spiritual knowledge of Him.
Our possession of the life of Christ, His being our life, so that it can be said of it, in its nature and fruits, “which thing is true in him and in you,” is the basis of our hope, and that which makes us, in connection with His work on the cross, capable of enjoying it. He became a man, and having first wrought redemption, and glorified God in our behalf, and put away sin for us, and made peace, He becomes, as victorious over death, and entering risen and glorified into God’s presence, the source of life to us, nay, more, our life. We are thus brought into the place of sons, all the old thing, with its fruits and nature, judged, condemned, and done away, whatever conflicts and exercises of heart we may have with it, and through it, while down here. As alive in Christ we stand before God, consequent on the accomplishment of redemption, and in virtue of complete forgiveness. “He hath quickened us together with him, having forgiven us all trespasses.” We are introduced in the place of sons with Christ, as the result and fruit of redemption, and as really partaking of the life in which He lives. See how the Spirit in 1 John (which specially treats of the existence, possession, and development of this life in Christ, and so in us. See chapter 1:1, 2; chap. 5:11, 12, for the general principle) connects us with Christ in life, position, and, consequently, hope. “If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him. Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the children of God.” We have, by adoption, Christ’s relationship with God, yet as really born of God, possessing a nature displayed in the same qualities. “Therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not” (the true and perfect Son of God). “Beloved, now are we the sons [children] of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him [Christ] purifieth himself, even as he is pure.”
Blessed testimony in all its parts! born of God, we have the nature (morally) and position of that true, blessed, and eternal Son made man, that in His glory we may be with Him and like Him. We are children of God, unknown by the world consequently as He was. We shall be perfectly like Him in glory, seeing Him as He now is above in heavenly glory, and hence can bear no lower standard now. Having this hope in Christ, reaching to, and founded on Himself, we seek to be as like Him now as possible, in the inner man, and in our ways we purify ourselves as He is pure. What a picture of the moral position of the Christian is here, through his living connection with Christ! It is sweet to say it is ours, sweeter to say we have it in Him, and that He Himself is the perfection of it. If His life is animating us, through the strengthening grace and communications of the Holy Spirit, what a power and value will such a statement have for us, living by and dwelling in Him!
Here, then, is one great and blessed part of our hope, “we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” It is perfect-ness in likeness to Christ, in ourselves morally in its full result, for it is in glory; that is, all the full fruit of the power of this life as in Christ, produced even as to the body, while its internal excellence, likeness to Christ, is perfect, and no hindrance to its exercise, but, quite the contrary, a suited condition: and with the blessed consciousness that we are like Him, though we have it all from Him. We shall be like Him.
But secondly, in this state we shall have the full blessed object, in which this perfect nature delights, and in this state is capable of delighting in, in all its absolute and heavenly excellency, before us—its satisfying object; an object which can keep all its powers in blessed and full exercise, can occupy it with perfect delight. And yet while I delight in Him as supremely excellent, the full display of heavenly excellence, I know that I am like Him; I could not (my desires being fixed on this, having tasted its excellence) be perfectly happy, were I not. Yet in us this excellence is a capacity to be occupied with its perfection in Him. However great our glory and excellency may be, it is only as being like Him. He is the thing we are like. He is it in its own proper and positive substantive being and existence. If I am adopted to be a son, am really born of God, a child, He is the Son. Hence all our excellence is the means of apprehending and adoring His.
We may remark that this is true, both in moral perfections and in relationship. God is perfect in Himself and for Himself. Love and holiness, as indeed every other attribute of God, have their joy in themselves, and of course perfectly and infinitely in God. But the creature needs an object to enjoy perfectly what this blessed nature is and gives, even when he possesses it. The new man delights in holiness, but the perfect holiness of God is needed for the perfect delight of our new and holy nature. The new man has a nature imbued with charity, and so can delight in its exercise; but the perfect love of God, manifested in Jesus, and known in communion, is his delight. So in our relationship we are sons with God; but I must learn in Jesus what it is to be a son, and what the power of that word is, “the Father loveth the Son.” We share in the glory; but the glory in which we share is His.
In the hope, then, presented to us in this passage, we have the Father’s love presented as the source, so that we are already children of God, so as to know our position; but this flowing from our being born of God, from Christ being our life, and we as He, so that even the world does not know us, as it did not know Him; we are so identified with Him that, though what we shall be does not yet appear, we know we shall be like Him when He shall do so; seeing Him in the very glory in which He now is as Son, with the Father, viewed in manhood on high. It is not as the world will see Him, being blessed under Him, and seeing Him so far as He can be revealed to mortal eyes; but being like Himself, and seeing Him as He is.
This leads to another part of the blessing, which is equally the joy of Jesus Himself. We shall be with Him. Evidently, if we love and delight in Him, this is needed for our full joy; and while He ministers this in us now, by being present with us in grace, it is the object of our hope in its full character and permanent fulness. “So shall we ever be with the Lord.” Remark here, that the apostle, when speaking here of the Lord’s coming, does not enter at all, as regards our portion, into the consequences in glory and dominion. This has its place; but what satisfies and fills the apostle’s heart, when he has the revelation of the way in which God would call up the saints to their enjoyment, is, for his own feeling of joy and delight, all embraced in this, “So shall we ever be with the Lord.”
This is, more than once, brought before us by Christ Himself. “Father, I will that they whom thou hast given me be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory; for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.” The connection of these last words with what precedes, throws light on the value and extent of this hope. The Lord continues, “O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee, but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me.”
The Father had to decide, so to speak, between Christ and His disciples on one side and the world on the other, for the moral separation was complete. What the Father was, had been fully shewn in Christ. The world could recognise nothing of it: there was no common principle or bond. The disciples had recognised, at least, through grace, that He came from the Father. He could not stay in the world. That was closed. His departure forms the groundwork of the whole chapter. Whether He or the world could be owned of the Father could leave no doubt. The Father, and necessarily so, had loved Him before ever the world existed; and if the world rejected Him, the hour was come for the Father to glorify Him with Himself. For the time, no doubt, the disciples were to remain in the world; but He had declared unto them the Father’s name, and would declare it, that the love wherewith the Father loved Him might be in them, and He in them. Hence He would have them where He was. They would be able to enjoy it, since they know the same love, and He was in them to be the power of the enjoyment. It was not only their desire and blessing, but His. He would have them where He was, if He could not (and it was far better, surely) remain where they must be for the moment.
Mark here, that this connects it with the knowledge of the Father’s love, as it rests on Jesus. He desired to have them with Himself. It was a part of His delight. He would shew them His glory, who had walked with Him in His humiliation. But besides this, there was the capacity of enjoying what He enjoyed along with Him; for the Father’s name He had revealed as He knew it, and that the love wherewith He was loved might be in them.
What a hope is this, and, blessed be God, founded on a present blessing, only as yet in an earthen vessel, and known in present imperfection! And if we are with Christ, it is in the Father’s house, where He is in the Father’s love. He is not alone, He is gone to prepare a place for us; nor will He be content to send and fetch us, He will come and receive us to Himself, that where He is we may be also. This same chapter (John 14) shews that it is our present knowledge of the Father, as revealed in the Son, that is the means of knowing what this joy is, and coming to the enjoyment of it. We shall be there with the Lord, ever with Him: no interruption, no decay of joy, but rather ever increasing delight, as there always is when the object is worthy of the heart, and here it is infinite: and this in the relation of the Father’s affection for the Son. We are with Him in that place, with Himself, and with Him in the joy, infinite joy, which He has in the Father’s love, a love resting on Him as Son, but in His excellency as such, loved before the world was, and now the accomplisher of redemption.
Some other passages will help to fill up the great leading traits here given, both as to the glory and our living with the Lord, shewing our identification or association with Him, and the character of this blessedness. “The glory thou hast given me, I have given them,” the Lord says, “that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and thou in me.” If Christ is in us now the hope of glory, He will be in us then the display of glory. He will be glorified in His saints, and admired in all them that believe. It is not here mutuality, but manifestation, manifestation through the fulness and excellency of that which is displayed, being in Him that displays it: the Father in Christ, and Christ in us. “Thou in me,” says the Lord. The Father is in Him, in divine unity and fulness; and yet here, mark, Christ is spoken of as one to whom glory is given: that is, though a divine Person, He is considered also as man; and then, “I in them,” so that as the Father is displayed in the Son, as in Him, so the Son, Christ, in us, as in us.
I will now refer to Psalms 16 and 17, which collaterally throw light on this part of our subject. In Psalm 16, which is (with others) quoted in Scripture as shewing the humanity of Jesus, His taking our sorrows and position of dependence on and obedience to God (that is, our position as saints), it is said, “I have said to Jehovah, Thou art my Lord, my goodness extendeth not to thee—to the saints on the earth, in them is all my delight.” That is, having the divine glory, He associates Himself with the saints on the earth, those excellent in God’s sight. At the close He shews that, as One who is the head of these, the path of life is shewn to Him. In God’s presence is fulness of joy, and at His right hand pleasures for evermore. This, then, in principle, is a part of our hope, as His “companions,” though He be anointed with the oil of joy above us. We are in God’s presence, where fulness of joy is. Where God’s presence shews itself, it fills all things, and excludes all contrary to itself. It necessarily makes infinitely and perfectly happy. It sufficed to Christ’s hope—His who knew it best and perfectly—surely, then, to ours: and, as we have seen, we have a nature capable, without alloy or mixture, of perfectly enjoying that presence.
Let me add, too, that we shall not lose the Holy Ghost by being in glory: loss indeed it would be. Our nature of joy will be the new nature, the divine nature of which we are made partakers; our power of joy the Holy Ghost who dwells in us. It is striking that even Jesus, after His resurrection, gave commandments to His apostles by the Holy Ghost. (Compare Romans 8:11.)
Psalm 16 gives the fruit of dependence; Psalm 17, as God will be found as a righteous answer to Christ’s claim, in virtue of His walk and obedience, to the beholding the Lord’s face, and awaking after His likeness; of this we have spoken in 1 John 3. The beholding of the face of God, we find again in Revelation 22: only it is there, in a more general way, the glory. God and the Lamb are thrown, so to speak, together. It is not the Father, and being with the Son. God and the Lamb that was slain are brought objectively into one point of view. The portion there shewn to us is seeing His face, His servants serving Him, His name on our foreheads; that is, privilege in approaching, service as it should be, and the perfect and evident witness in us of whose we are. This is a more external part of the joy, but it is most precious, and not to be omitted.
Luke 9 will afford us light also, both on the glory, and living with Christ. It is, we know, a picture, a momentary manifestation of the glory of the kingdom. Moses and Elias are in the same glory with Christ. They are with Him in all the intimacy of familiar conversation talking with Him. They are talking of what necessarily most interests Christ Himself, and man too—of His death, and that in connection with the great change about to take place in God’s ways—His death at Jerusalem. They do so with a divine knowledge, for it was not yet come. The excellent glory, too, is there. They enter into it. Remark here, that Christ speaks of the same things with the same familiarity to His disciples on the earth.
Another testimony gives what is more personal. For all we have spoken of is common to all saints. We shall have a white stone; that is, the perfectly approving testimony of the Lord; and on it a name written, which no man knew but he who received it. That is a joy and communion and personal knowledge of the Lord, which was for him alone who had it, between his soul and Christ.
I have thus spoken of what is personally or individually enjoyed: there is, besides all this, the presenting of the church to Christ; the glory of the kingdom, looking downwards, that is, towards that over which we shall reign. But these are not at the moment my object. But how bright and blessed is the hope that is before us, founded on the acceptance of Christ Himself! to see Him—be like Him—with Him in His own relationship with the Father—to converse with Him with divine intelligence—be before God with Him—enjoy the unmingled, unclouded blessedness of His presence—with and like Him—yet to receive it all from Him—to owe it all to Him. Another point in the transfiguration is worthy of all attention. They, that is, Moses and Elias, enter into the cloud. Now this cloud was the dwelling-place of the divine glory—“the excellent glory,” as Peter calls it. Hence, the three apostles feared, when Moses and Elias entered into it. But not so do we read of Moses and Elias.
This, then, is another part of our hope. If a voice comes out of the cloud for those on earth, it is the home of those who have their place in the heavenly glory. I may add, in connection with this part of my subject, that I do not doubt that Psalm 145 gives us something analogous on earth to the intercourse between the Lord and Moses and Elias. If you look at verses 5-7, there is, I doubt not, the intercourse between Messiah and the godly in the excellent glory of Jehovah. But this by the bye.
I would have the reader remark, how all this joy has its counterpart and commencement of realisation down here, save the glory of the body alone. How the heart knows that, how sweet soever the common joy of saints (a necessary proof and accompaniment of the holy liberty of the Spirit in a pure heart), yet that in joys and sorrows, there is a looking to Jesus, a communion with Jesus, a dependence of heart on His approbation, in which none can participate. On high it will be perfectly enjoyed and possessed, in the white stone and the new name. The heart that knows Him could not do without this.
Let us remark, too, how various the joy is—and so it is now. I delight in the nature of God; I delight in a Father’s love; I delight in the glory of Jesus; I delight in my intimacy with Him; I delight in the blessedness of being with the Son before the Father; I delight in His being a man, with whom I am, yet one divinely perfect; I delight in God and the Lamb—the blessed and glorious display of redeeming counsels and divine glory; I delight in being like Christ; I delight in all the saints being like Him; I delight in His being glorified in them; I delight in adequate service, in a full and perfect witness, in a fit and heavenly worship; I delight in what is proper to God; I delight in what is the glory of Christ Himself, as such; it is what is common to all, and what is peculiar to oneself. The Christian will remark, too, that in enjoying Christ in glory, he will not lose the blessed feeding on a once humbled Saviour: we know this also now, we delight in communion, and in hope in the glorified Lord; but we turn back and feed on Jesus, lowly and rejected, on the earth. If He is what we hope for in glory, He is what we need on earth; but our heavenly state will surely not diminish our power of delighting in the perfection of that blessed One. And as a pot of the manna, which had nourished Israel in the desert, was to be kept in the ark in Canaan, that Israel, in its rest, might know what had sustained them in the desert, so we shall eat of that hidden manna, which has nourished and fed our souls in our pilgrimage.
But I close. May hope be as living in the saints as the object of it is worthy of all their hearts. May they abound in hope, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
Let me recommend, as throwing light on this, Ephesians 1, where our position before God, our relationship with the Father, and the difference of our calling and our heritage, are very clearly brought out.