Now we see through a glass darkly
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
How would you compare life now to life when Jesus returns?
So often we think of ‘the here and now’ as the concrete reality and Christ’s future as an ephemeral, ‘wafty’ hope. Paul thought of things precisely the other way around.
In the final paragraph of First Corinthians 13, Paul addresses our future hope. When compared to life in the presence of Jesus, it’s our present experiences that are insubstantial:
“Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake 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 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 Corinthians 13:8-12)
Paul uses three illustrations to compare ‘now’ and ‘then’.
In verse 10 he calls the future: ‘perfection.’ It’s the idea of everything brought to the goal for which it was designed. Right now all things are subjected to frustration. But then, our bodies will work the way they were meant to work. Relationships will work the way they are meant to work. The world will work the way it’s meant to work. Perfection. You are built for it. It is coming.
Verse 11 describes our future as ‘maturity.’ Paul says, we are like children now. Even the wisest and most knowledgeable among us are like babbling toddlers compared to our wisdom and maturity then.
In chapter 15 Paul will tell us that we are like seeds that die, go into the ground and rise up again. When we rise we will be immeasurably more glorious than how we have gone down. Now we are acorns. Then we will be oaks. We will grow up in every dimension. Maturity beyond our wildest dreams.
And then verse 12 we see the heart of our future: ‘Face to face’.
We’ve thought before about ‘face to face’ with Jesus. It’s about closeness, transparency, openness, adoration, intimacy. Right now “we see through a glass darkly”. We see Christ, but it’s frustratingly indistinct. We have foretastes of paradise but they are a poor reflection.
We readily think that now we experience life in technicolor. We can only imagine an after-life in shades of grey. Paul says no. Right now it’s like wearing a greased-up pair of sunglasses. Everything now is indistinct and shadowy. When Christ returns we will do life in High Definition. And what we will see is not just beauty – we will see Jesus. That is the heart of our future hope.
Every kiss you have ever desired, every affirmation you have ever craved, every relationship you have ever wanted, every success you have ever pursued, every longing you have ever felt is like seeing ‘through a glass darkly.’ Yet one day such desires will be met and surpassed. Life will begin when you are face to face with Jesus.
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