Spiritual Vision

“Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” —II Corinthians 4:17,18

HOW CAN ONE ‘look’ at things if they are not seen? Our natural eyes are limited in their range of vision, and our vision depends upon conditions and circumstances. We might look out our windows in the midst of a large city, but we cannot see the horizon because of the many man-made structures which have been erected around and in front of us which block our view. However, out on the plains one can see much farther because of more favorable conditions: the atmosphere is clear, and there is nothing to obstruct our vision.

When we look up into the heavens at night we can see thousands of heavenly bodies, many of them thousands of light years away. By the use of a telescope, millions are brought into view. No wonder David wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork.” (Ps. 19:1) David could see the glory of God manifested in the heavens even with his unaided vision. How much more should we appreciate the greatness of our God when we realize the vastness of his universe as revealed through the powerful telescopes of our day.

Just so, there are spiritual things which are discernible by the eye of faith—things which cannot be seen by our natural eyes. To ‘see’ these ‘unseen’ things we need spiritual aids. Paul wrote, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.”—I Cor. 2:9,10

The Holy Spirit, then, is the great aid which has been provided to enable us to discern the unseen things of God which cannot be seen by the natural eye. Before his death Jesus promised his disciples that the Holy Spirit would be sent, and that it would reveal to them things which at that time they were unable to see or understand. Jesus said, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: … and he will show you things to come.”—John 16:12,13

This promise was fulfilled at Pentecost. Acts 2:1-4 reads: “They were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.” Then Peter stood up and explained that this is what had been foretold by the Prophet Joel. He also explained that Jesus, who was now at “the right hand of God exalted, and, having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.”—Acts 2:33

This was the Holy Spirit of promise, the Comforter. It was by, or through, this divine power, which operates apart from and beyond all human faculties and abilities, that the followers of Jesus would henceforth be able to see and appreciate spiritual things. Paul explains that without this aid “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (I Cor. 2:14) These things which are spiritually discerned are the things which are ‘not seen’ by the natural man.


Just as light is necessary for natural vision, it is also necessary for spiritual vision—not natural light, but symbolic light—the light of the knowledge of God. We speak of being ‘illuminated’ by the Holy Spirit. This is a correct expression, for it is only by the aid of the Holy Spirit that we are able to understand and ‘see’ the spiritual things—the things which are eternal. Paul further wrote, “What man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but [by] the Spirit of God.”—I Cor. 2:11

What are some ‘of these unseen things, the hidden things of God, which we are now able to see by the aid of the Holy Spirit? One of them is what Paul describes as a ‘mystery’ which has been ‘hidden’. He wrote, “We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory” (I Cor. 2:7) In Colossians 1:26,27 we read further concerning this ‘hidden wisdom’ of God: “Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory”

This hidden mystery was not even understood by the prophets of old, though they wrote about it. Concerning this Peter wrote, “Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you. … Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you.”—I Pet. 1:10-12

Not only did the prophets fail to understand the great truth concerning ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory’, but the angels also failed to discern it, even though they desired to ‘look’ into the meaning of what the prophets wrote. How blessed, indeed, are those to whom the Lord reveals this precious truth of his plan of salvation!


As noted, this and other precious truths concerning our hope in Christ began to be revealed by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Peter wrote, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his great mercy hath regenerated us unto a living hope, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from among the dead, unto an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and unfading, reserved in the heavens for you who in God’s power are being guarded through faith unto salvation—ready to be revealed in the last ripe time.”—I Pet. 1:3-5, Rotherham Translation

When we catch a glimpse of this mystery—‘Christ in you, the hope of glory’—we begin to understand that the great Prophet, Priest, and King which is to reign as the ‘seed of Abraham’ consists, not only of our Lord Jesus, the Head, but also of the entire church, as members of his body. Together these constitute the Christ, or Messiah, which will bring deliverance and blessings, not only to the nation of Israel, but also to the entire world of mankind—all the families of the earth. This is one of the things, which is unseen and unappreciated by the natural mind.


As Christians we must have a definite objective, a definite hope in life, and we should continue striving for that goal. Paul wrote that we should “set your affection [Margin, mind] on things above, not on things on the earth.” We cannot see the things above with our natural eyes, but we discern by the eye of faith that “when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.”—Col. 3:2-4

The Apostle Peter explains how we secure these unseen things that are eternal. First he reminds us of the importance of a knowledge of God. We obtain this knowledge through the study of God’s Word, by the aid of the Holy Spirit. Peter wrote, “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord. According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness through the knowledge of him that hath called us to [Margin, ‘by’] glory and virtue.”—II Pet. 1:2,3

Then Peter explains in greater detail just what has been given to us by divine power; that is, by the Holy Spirit. He says: “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” (vs. 4) Then Peter reminds us that there is something which we need to do about this knowledge that has come to us through the precious promises of God. Peter continues:

“Beside this [‘and for this very thing also’, Wilson’s Emphatic Diaglott], giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity [love].” (vss. 5-7) Then Peter points out the importance of adding these fruits of the Spirit to our faith: “For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren [Margin, Gr. ‘idle’] nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off [cannot see, that is, the things which are ‘eternal’], and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall. For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”—vss. 8-11


Another of the unseen and eternal things to which we look is our home in heaven. Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:2,3) Paul wrote that when our earthly house is dissolved, we will have a building of God, “an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”—II Cor. 5:1

It is important to ask ourselves if we are doing all we can to lay up treasure in heaven where moth and rust do not corrupt (Matt. 6:19), and where thieves do not ‘break through and steal’. How much of our earthly time and talents are we actually sacrificing in our efforts to lay up treasure in heaven? How much of our energy are we devoting to banking in the heavenly vaults? It is only as we keep our spiritual vision focused on the unseen things of the Spirit that we will be able to maintain our zeal in sacrificing the flesh and its interests in favor of the eternal weight of glory.

We cannot at this time even begin to comprehend the glory of our future exalted position. John wrote, “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.” (I John 3:2) What a marvelous prospect! What a glorious hope!

But before we are ready for this change to heavenly glory there are lessons to be learned. We are to “endure hardness” as good soldiers of Jesus Christ. (II Tim. 2:3) We must suffer with Christ.

Peter wrote that the God of all grace has called us unto his eternal glory by Jesus Christ, and that we will attain to this high calling after we “have suffered awhile.” (I Pet. 5:10) In James 1:12 the same thought is expressed: “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.”


There are so many precious promises of God to those who keep their “eyes” fixed on the unseen things that are eternal in the heavens. One of them reads, “Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise,” or the fulfillment of the promise. (Heb. 10:35,36) This promise is based on the condition of maintaining patient endurance. Another promise is predicated on holding fast. “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised).”—Heb. 10:23

These promises of God are conditional. Paul wrote, “We are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end.” (Heb. 3:14) Again: “He that endureth to the end shall be saved.”—Matt. 10:22; 24:13

Prayer is essential in order to maintain our standing with the Lord, and receive the necessary strength for our every time of need. The apostle wrote again, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”—Heb. 4:16

Another precious promise reads: “Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.” (Ps. 73:24) Before many years have passed, each of us shall have finished his or her course, and if faithful will stand in the glorious presence of our Lord. Paul tells us that “as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” (I Cor. 15:49) As our change takes place, it will mean that one moment we are fleshly, and the next moment “clothed upon with our house which is from heaven”; one moment mortal, the next clothed with immortality.—II Cor. 5:2; I Cor. 15:53,54

As we look back over our lives from that heavenly vantage point with its many joys, and with its trials which have tested our faith, we will perhaps express the sentiments of a beautiful hymn to the effect that then the trials of the road will seem as nothing, because we have reached the end of the way. We will then be able to praise the way the Lord has led us day by day, while we kept our vision fixed on the unseen things which total up to make that eternal weight of glory.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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