“Happy Are the Pure in Heart, Since They Will See God”
What does it mean to be pure in heart? How can one see God?
IN THE educational film “Unseen Enemies” the producers highlighted, among other things, the importance of pure water. They graphically portrayed the terrible suffering that impure water and insects cause by spreading such disfiguring diseases as leprosy, elephantiasis, yaws, and so forth. In fact, cleanliness and purity of water are so essential to the health of man that one medical historian stated that man’s conquest of many of the infectious diseases was more due to his progress in sanitation than his progress in medicine.
Appreciating the importance of purity in food and drugs, modern governments have pure food and drug laws and departments concerned with enforcing such laws. All such makes for the physical well-being of the people. Because of the importance of cleanliness, someone long ago coined the expression, “Cleanliness is next to godliness.”
Important as are purity of water and of food, there is a purity that is far more vital. God’s Word, the Bible, therefore stresses purity of heart or spiritual cleanliness. When the inspired Scriptures say, “Let us cleanse ourselves of every defilement of flesh,” they are urging us to stay morally clean. Thus also when we read, “Let us approach with true hearts in the full assurance of faith, having had our hearts sprinkled from a wicked conscience,” it refers to sprinkling by the cleansing blood of Christ.—2 Cor. 7:1; Heb. 10:22; 13:4.
Yes, the Christian Greek Scriptures link godly devotion with spiritual cleanliness, with cleanness of mind and heart, with having also a clean conscience. They command us to hold “the sacred secret of the faith with a clean conscience.” For Christians to be pleasing to God they must engage in the “worship that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God and Father,” to which end they must keep themselves “without spot from the world.”—1 Tim. 3:9; Jas. 1:27.
Why, Jesus Christ attached so much importance to this kind of purity that he said, as his sixth felicity or beatitude, “Happy are the pure in heart, since they will see God.” Of all the desirable things that Jesus held out in his Sermon on the Mount, this might very well be said to represent the greatest happiness, the very acme of bliss, being able to see Jehovah God, the Creator, the Sovereign Ruler of the universe, himself!—Matt. 5:8.
The apostle Paul appreciated this relationship between being pure in heart and seeing God, for he wrote, “Pursue peace with all people, and the sanctification [or holiness] without which no man will see the Lord,” the glorified Jesus Christ. Seeing him would assure one of also seeing Jehovah God, for since his resurrection Jesus Christ is in his Father’s express image as well as being in his presence.—Heb. 12:14; 1:3.
On the other hand, the apostle John shows that the hope or prospect of seeing God as he actually is serves as a spur, an incentive to being pure in heart: “Beloved ones, now we are children of God, but as yet it has not been made manifest what we shall be. We do know that whenever he [Jehovah God] is made manifest we shall be like him, because we shall see him just as he is. And everyone who has this hope set upon him purifies himself just as that one is pure.”—1 John 3:2, 3.
WHAT PURITY OF HEART INCLUDES
What does it mean to be pure in heart? Above all else it means to have pure motives. It means having a heart that is free from malice, free from bitterness or resentment, free from such defiling uncleannesses that at times may lodge in the heart as “wicked reasonings, murders, adulteries, fornications, thieveries, false testimonies, blasphemies. These are the things defiling a man; but to take a meal with unwashed hands does not defile a man.”—Matt. 15:19, 20.
To be pure in heart also means to be sincere, to be free from hypocrisy, having all of one’s affections focused or set in one direction, on one thing, on gaining God’s approval. The apostle Paul was concerned lest the Christians at Corinth have their minds corrupted “away from the sincerity and the chastity that are due the Christ.” He counseled slaves, and therefore all in the employ of others, to serve, “not with acts of eyeservice, as men pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, with fear of Jehovah.”—2 Cor. 11:3; Col. 3:22.
In a similar vein the Christian disciple James gave counsel to those Christians who were trying to be friends of Jehovah God and at the same time friends of the world: “Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you indecisive ones,” literally, you “two-souled” or two-minded ones. Jesus had a like thought in his head, no doubt, when he said: “If, then, your eye is simple [sincere, in focus, all one way], your whole body will be bright.” And the words of the apostle Paul to Timothy seem to combine the two thoughts of the heart’s being pure as to virtue and its being pure as to sincerity and singleness of purpose: “Really the objective of this mandate is love out of a clean heart and out of a good conscience and out of faith without hypocrisy.”—Jas. 4:8; Matt. 6:22; 1 Tim. 1:5.
Nor may we overlook the fact that to be pure in heart also means having full trust, full faith in the Creator, Jehovah God, for Christians are warned: “Beware, brothers, for fear there should ever develop in any one of you a wicked heart lacking faith by drawing away from the living God; but keep on exhorting one another each day, as long as it may be called ‘Today,’ for fear any one of you should become hardened by the deceptive power of sin.” In other words, Jehovah God does not view anyone as being pure in heart even though he may be sincere and morally clean unless he also has faith in the one true God Jehovah.—Heb. 3:12, 13.
SOME WILL LITERALLY SEE GOD
Then will everyone who exerts himself to be pure in heart in these several ways see Jehovah God? Not necessarily. At least not literally, for “God is a Spirit,” and a spirit cannot be seen by human eyes, even as Jesus pointed out to the Jewish religious leader Nicodemus, a Pharisee: “What has been born from the flesh is flesh, and what has been born from the spirit is spirit. The wind blows where it wants to, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from and where it is going.”—John 4:24; 3:6, 8.
The apostle John, therefore, wrote, at the beginning of his Gospel: “No man has seen God at any time; the only-begotten god [Jesus Christ] who is in the bosom position with the Father is the one that has explained him.” In fact, it would be impossible for any human to see God and survive, because, as Jehovah himself told Moses when Moses asked to see God’s face: “No man may see me and yet live.”—John 1:18; Ex. 33:20.
But there are and will be some, a comparatively small number with pure hearts, that will literally see God. Who are they? They are the ones the apostle John saw standing upon heavenly Mount Zion, the 144,000 redeemed from the earth, who will share heavenly glory with their Lord Jesus Christ.—Rev. 14:1; 20:4.
Why will it be possible for these to see God? Because they will have spirit bodies, having been raised from the dead “changed,” for “flesh and blood cannot inherit God’s kingdom, neither does corruption inherit incorruption.” (1 Cor. 15:50, 51) These will have a share in what the Scriptures term “the first resurrection,” concerning which we further read: “It is sown a physical body, it is raised up a spiritual body. . . . For this which is corruptible must put on incorruption, and this which is mortal must put on immortality.” Sharing heavenly glory with Jesus Christ as incorruptible, immortal spirits, these will indeed be able to see Jehovah God literally and yet live.—Rev. 20:6; 1 Cor. 15:44, 53.
SEEING GOD FIGURATIVELY
However, while the promise of Matthew 5:8 about the pure in heart seeing God has its primary and literal application to those belonging to the anointed Christian congregation against whom the gates of Haʹdes will not prevail, there might be said to be a principle stated in Jesus’ words that has a wider application. Thus, for example, after Jehovah God had given Job a lesson on how great Jehovah is compared with puny and tiny man, Job exclaimed: “I have heard about you, but now my own eye does see you.” Not with his literal eye but with his eye of understanding, his eye of faith and appreciation, Job could now look at God’s work and God’s dealings with him and see God as he had not been able to see him before.—Job 42:5; Matt. 16:18.
Thus even to those pure in heart whose eternal destiny is life on earth God reveals himself in both his written Word and his book of the visible creation. Because of having pure hearts of faith these, like the prophet Moses, are able to continue “steadfast as seeing the One who is invisible.” And soon, in the coming system of things, these will see more evidence all about them that God exists and that he is indeed the kind of God the Bible shows him to be, infinite in wisdom and power, perfect in justice and the very personification of love.—Heb. 11:27.
However, we should not conclude that the happiness of the pure in heart is limited to seeing God, either literally or figuratively. Jesus does not say that; he merely implies that that is its chief reward. But there are other blessings that come to the pure in heart even now. Being pure in heart gives one peace of mind and a clear conscience. It makes for contentment. It also works for peaceful relations with Jehovah God and with one’s neighbors, be they the people living next door, one’s fellow employees or one’s fellow worshipers in the Christian congregation. And surely all this is added reason for striving to be among those who are “pure in heart.”