The Now and Then of Life
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.

The present life, in and by itself, is imperfect. Its completeness consists alone in viewing it as a part of a more complete whole. The present life is but a side, necessitating, to its completeness, another side. Viewed as a part of an entire whole, its discrepancies are corrected, its mysteries partially solved, and its significance and importance immeasurably enhanced. Note —

I. THE EXTREMES OF LIFE, AS VIEWED RELATIVE TO TIME: — "now" and "then." These extremes are parts of the same piece, only different in place, and perhaps also in circumstances and relations. The "now" and "then" of life —

1. Are dependent upon each other. The "then" of life is dependent upon the "now" of it as to its fact and character. There must be some antecedent "now" before there can be an anticipative "then." The "now" would be worth but little without the "then," any more than to-day could be highly prized without a hope of tomorrow. The "then" inspires us in our present discouragements, or depresses us in its anticipation. The "then"of life influences our minds as we view it applicable to our state and character. The guilty receives it with fear, the innocent with joy.

2. Are extremes only possible in conscious reality to superior beings. "Now" belongs to all existences alike; but only a rational being can conceive in thought of the future, and he, as a moral being, can anticipate it through his hope or fear.

3. Have in them all provided and possible for us. All the past crowds the present, and will follow us, in some form or other, to the future. All that is needed to fill the present hour and fit us for the future is given us in the "now," and all the blessings and privileges of the.heaven of the future will be included in the "then." Whatever you need is within the compass of the "now": whatever you hope and wish is comprehended in the "then."

4. Present themselves very differently to our conviction and faith. The present is a matter of direct consciousness, the future is a matter of inference. Our experience is all in the "now." We look at the "then" through promises and hope. The religion of the present would not only be absurd without the future, but groundless and impossible.

5. Are comprehensive only of one order. The moral order of truth and rectitude which obtains "now" will be the same "then." The authority which demands certain things "now" will be in force and unchanged "then"; nor will the essential powers of man be different "then" to what they are "now."

6. May be extremely different, and in no case will they be identical. "Now" we maybe happy and successful, but there may a "then" when these will not be our portion any more. Let the "now" be true and right, and the "then" will have its hope and brightness.


1. The mode of perception. In this state we behold spiritual objects through a glass. All the means and things in our earthly state are but glasses to show something unseen and spiritual above sense and our present imperfect perceptions. What is the universe but one glorious glass to show us the more glorious Maker? And what is the Bible but a glass of the Divine and spiritual in man and the universe? Christianity, in all its means and ordinances, is a glass to us of the real and spiritual above and beyond themselves. But with all the assistance of our glass media our perception is feeble of things invisible and eternal. And why? Is it in our glasses or our way of using them, or in a deficiency in our spiritual perception? Partly in all these. But in our future state it will be face to face. There will be no veil over the face of things, and many things we use are things for rude childish condition: the condition of manhood will dispense with them as unfit and useless. In the "then" condition of our being, the distance will be reduced into nearness, the attitude will be advantageous, the expression will be clear and in sight, and the powers of the soul will be strengthened and matured.

2. Clearness. In this state of things we see nothing perfectly clear. But in our future state not only win our perceptions be more acute and perfect, we shall not be subject to delusions and illusions, which so much confuse and mar our perceptions in this world.

3. The degree of knowledge. We in part know something about most things, but in the light of another day we shall probably learn that our profoundest knowledge is but a small part. The present condition of things does not allow us to know except in part. The imperfections of our senses, the weakness and afflictions of our minds and bodies, the cares and anxieties of life, the want of means, the shortness of life, and other obstructions, are things which prevent our knowledge being anything but very partial. But such imperfection is not to be always our lot. "Then we shall know as now we are known." We shall know holy intelligences as they shall know us. As they and we are but part of the same family, and they the most perfect, their knowledge of us appears to be a natural conclusion. As they know us in our lower home, so shall we know them in their higher one. As they know us in our trials, so shall we know them in their joys. Though our knowledge of God will be infinitely less perfect of Him than His is of us, yet He will be known to us as real, as a fact, as we are to Him.

III. THE ADVANCEMENT OF LIFE AS VIEWED BETWEEN THE PRESENT AND THE FUTURE, Advancement, in some form or other, is seen everywhere. Life is a school for it, and everywhere there are suitable means and agents. This law runs through Christian life, and never is suspended, either in time or eternity.

1. It is a personal advancement. The few cannot procure it for the many, or the many for the few.

2. It is the advancement of the good and true in life — from the childhood of weakness to the manhood of strength.

3. It is a thing of consciousness to its subjects. The advancement which is outside our conscious knowledge must be outside our will, faith, and activity, for the thing that is written there we have in common with them. Such an advancement is the one of a plant or a brute, and not of a rational man.

4. It is an advancement which is comprehensive of all requisite life. It is complete both in quality and degree.

5. It is an advancement above the power of common and natural means to produce.

(T. Hughes.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

WEB: For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, even as I was also fully known.

The Nature of the Future Knowledge
Top of Page
Top of Page