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‘Your eyes shall see the King in his beauty’ (Isaiah 33:17).

October 2016 | by John Thornbury

The immediate context of this promise is the threat Israel faced when the Assyrian king Sennacherib mounted a siege against the nation (c.700 BC).

The people had seen king Hezekiah in mourning, with sackcloth on his head because of the danger they were in. God assured them that the time would come when the pagan army would be defeated and their king would again ‘adorn himself with the robes of state and appear with a smiling countenance in all the beauty of joy’ (C. H. Spurgeon).

Serious students of Scripture know that, in the Old Testament, our glorious Saviour is prefigured in the context of historical situations and various personages. Here, the wonderful expression ‘the King in his beauty’ has a larger reference to Jesus the Messiah. This is the view of such reliable interpreters as John Gill, C. H. Spurgeon and John MacArthur.

And so, brothers and sisters, let us meditate on the marvellous thought that the time is coming when we — poor, sinful mortals that we are — will be able to see with our physical eyes the King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus Christ.

Birth and ministry

Of course, we see him now by faith, and worship and adore him here in our earthly pilgrimage. We read about his birth in Bethlehem in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, and we read about his earthly ministry of healing, forgiving and teaching.

We read about his passion, consisting of his rejection by his nation, his desertion by his own disciples, and his cruel torment and crucifixion by the reigning Roman government.

Although the Holy Spirit dwells in us and takes the place of Christ, who is now gone to heaven, we long for a more dynamic and intimate relationship with our King. The earth for us, with wickedness all around us and our own weakness and sins, is a place of sorrow and sadness.

We are pilgrims and strangers, and, like Abraham and Sarah of old, we seek a better country. We long to see physically the one who died for us and reigns in heaven for us. Yes, we even long to see the nail prints and scars in his brow, which will eternally remind us what he went through to redeem us.

We shall see Jesus in his glory, when he comes the second time for his people at the resurrection and translation of the living saints. John teaches this in these powerful words: ‘Beloved, now we are the children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be; but we know that, when he is revealed, we shall be like him for we shall see him as he is’ (1 John 3:2).

Transcendent glory

This verse speaks not only of our privilege of seeing Christ coming in glory, but also of the transformation that will happen then. We will leave behind our mortal bodies and be given transformed, sinless bodies such as Jesus had when he rose from the dead.

We know that Jesus Christ has transcendent beauty in all aspects of his person. He was beautiful as the perfect man who came and ‘went about doing good’. He is beautiful as the manifestation of God, the very image of his person; he is deity as well as man.

He is beautiful in his mediatorial office of prophet, priest and king. Because he was God he could satisfy divine justice; because he was man he could suffer. We can say with the bride in the Song of Solomon, ‘Yes, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved and this is my friend (5:16).

John F. Thornbury has served for many years as a pastor in Baptist churches in Pennsylvania and Kentucky