There are two ways of beholding the glory of Christ
The one is by faith, in this world,—which is “the evidence of things not seen;” the other is by sight, or immediate vision in eternity, “We walk by faith, and not by sight” (2 Cor 5:7). We do so whilst we are in this world, “whilst we are present in the body, and absent from the Lord” (2 Cor 5:8). But we shall live and walk by sight hereafter. And it is the Lord Christ and his glory which are the immediate object both of this faith and sight For we here “behold him darkly in a glass” (that is, by faith); “but we shall see him face to face” (by immediate vision). “Now we know him in part; but then we shall know him as we are known” (1 Cor 13:12).
What is the difference between these two ways of beholding the glory of Christ?
It is the second way—namely, by vision in the light of glory—that is principally included in that prayer of our blessed Saviour, that his disciples may be where he is, to behold his glory (John 17:24). But I shall not confine my inquiry thereunto; nor doth our Lord Jesus exclude from his desire that sight of his glory which we have by faith in this world, but prays for the perfection of it in heaven.
It is therefore the first way in which we must labor:
1. No man shall ever behold the glory of Christ by sight hereafter, who doth not in some measure behold it by faith here in this world. Grace is a necessary preparation for glory, and faith for sight.
2. The beholding of Christ in glory is that which in itself is too high, illustrious, and marvellous for us in our present condition. It hath a splendour and glory too great for our present spiritual visible [visive] faculty; as the direct, immediate sight of the sun darkens our sight, and doth not relieve or strengthen it at all.
3. Herein, then, our present edification is principally concerned; for in this present beholding of the glory of Christ, the life and power of faith are most eminently acted. And from this exercise of faith doth love unto Christ principally, if not solely, arise and spring. If, therefore, we desire to have faith in its vigour or love in its power, giving rest, complacency, and satisfaction unto our own souls, we are to seek for them in the diligent discharge of this duty;—elsewhere they will not be found.
Herein would I live;—herein would I live;—hereon would I dwell in my thoughts and affections, to the withering and consumption of all the painted beauties of this world, unto the crucifying all things here below, until they become unto me a dead and deformed thing, no way meet for affectionate embraces.
Adapted from The Works of John Owen, 1:288-291.