1 Corinthians 13:12
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
1. There is something very solemn in this anticipation of my future being; "Then shall I know even as also I am known"; that there will be a clearness and certainty around me, no prejudice, no distorting medium, no unsettling estimate, no tremulous light; and that this same clearness and certainty will not only shine around, but through me, so that as little possible as it is for me to mistake anything will it be for others to mistake me; I can no longer wear a mask; I can no longer practise an imposition; I intuitively know, and as intuitively am known.
2. It is a relief, in considering that universal perception which we shall take of others, and others shall take of us, to institute the inquiry, Will Christian friends then meet — will they recognise each other? We cannot withstand a thought of the past. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain. In casting my eye over the present assembly, I am only struck with bereavement and loss; I know not whither to turn to find some friend of my youth. But is there an absolute privation? We must think of heaven as aa existing reality. We speak of it as if forgetting that it is only future to us. But our brethren, sainted and glorified in heaven, have their present beatitudes, splendours, and songs. Let us think of them, therefore, as only separated from us by a veil, which will soon be torn aside. Will there be those who shall be ready to welcome us? Shall there be those whom we ourselves remember? This is not a barren speculation; it is that which surely has engaged every thinking mind and every susceptible heart. "Oh, renowned day," exclaimed the Roman orator, "when I shall have reached the Divine assemblage of those minds with which I have congenial predilections, and shall escape this untoward and uncongenial throng!" "We but depart," said the lyrist of the same nation, "to meet our AEneas, and our Tully, and our Ancus."
I. THE CONTRARY CONCLUSION IMPLIES A DESTRUCTION WHICH IS QUITE OPPOSITE TO THE DEALINGS OF GOD WITH OUR NATURE. If I do not know in heaven those whom I have known here, there must have taken place an imperfection in my mind. We must suppose that God blots out some of the exercises of the recollection. But this seems quite opposite to His ordinary dealings with us; and therefore, unless there was the strongest proof that we should not, know each other, we should argue that it was contrary to all that we might infer. Now, heaven is the consummation of our present happiness. And what makes us happier upon earth than mutual acquaintance? "I have no greater joy," said the beloved disciple, "than to hear that my children walk in truth": and was that joy entirely torn from his spirit when he passed from this world of distraction and discord to that region where all was love? Besides, it is impossible to think that all will be without a history and without a name; some, we know, will be preeminent; we shall sit down with Abraham, and with Isaac, and with Jacob, in the kingdom of God. And will all other spirits flit before us unstoried and nameless?
II. BUT LET SCRIPTURE DECIDE.
1. When David thought of his dying child, he agonised in fasting and in prayer; when that child was taken away he found encouragement. "I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me." That his head should recline on the same clod? Nay; here is an intimation of immortality and of the communings of two spirits in that immortality. And the same remark may be made when the pious are said to be "buried with their fathers." It is chilling and repulsive to think that the cemetery only is referred to, and that there is no mingling of the departed except in the dust of the sepulchre.
2. There are other phrases in the latter portion of the Christian Scriptures which we think are absolutely decisive. "Knowing," says the apostle, "that He who raised up the Lord Jesus Christ, shall also raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you." And again, he adjures those to whom he writes, " by our gathering together unto Jesus Christ." Now there seems to be a banishment of all point and of all spirit, unless you suppose that they will know each other. To prove how disinterested was the spirit and purpose of the first Christian teachers, they always rested their labours upon a reward, which consisted in the glory of those spirits whom they had saved. "For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For ye are our glory and our joy." "That I may rejoice in the day of the Lord that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain." "Look to yourselves, that ye receive a full reward." " That we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus." Now this cannot, for a moment, be separated from the recognition of those who were the fruits of their ministry (see particularly 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17).
3. When standing near the grave of Bethany, our Lord says, "Thy brother shall rise again"; was it that that brother was to be absorbed and lost in the myriads of spirits; so that the sisters who had lately laid him in the grave should see him and know him no more?
4. The process of judgment seems to include this recognition of each other. A cup of cold water given to a disciple in the name of Jesus shall not be without its reward. The Saviour, specifying those who are before Him, shall say, "I was an hungered, and ye gave Me meat," etc. Now, this is reflected in the persons of those who are in the crowd: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me."
5. Then, when we go further, and consider the Christian doctrine upon she destruction and overthrow of death. "O grave, where is thy victory?" Now, this implies that all that death has done of evil and of pain shall be compensated. But what has been a more bitter consequence of death than bereavement? How, if that is never repaired, can it be said that death has no sting, that the grave has no victory?
6. But think of the happiness of the heavenly world. Will all remembrance of that world which we have left be suspended? Shall we not think of the means of our conversion — what we have done for others — what others have done for us? Hear the new language: "Thou hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation." Is not this a rush of the past upon the soul? Is not this like living again? Conclusion: We are not at all, however, unconscious that objections may be raised against this doctrine. If we recognise our beloved friends, must we not deplore the absence of those who, whatever was their guilt, were dear to our bosoms, and were twined around our hearts? But remember that you are perfect in heaven. You cannot conceive of that which is perfect in heaven without the most entire acquiescence, in what God has arranged, or what God has suffered.
(R. W. Hamilton, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.