No man shall ever behold the glory of Christ by sight hereafter, who does not in some measure behold it by faith here in this world. Grace is a necessary preparation for glory, and faith for sight. Where the subject (the soul) is not previously seasoned with grace and faith, it is not capable of glory or vision. Nay, persons not disposed hereby unto it cannot desire it, whatever they pretend; they only deceive their own souls in supposing that so they do. Most men will say with confidence, living and dying, that they desire to be with Christ, and to behold his glory; but they can give no reason why they should desire any such thing, — only they think it somewhat that is better than to be in that evil condition which otherwise they must be cast into for ever, when they can be here no more. If a man pretend himself to be enamoured on, or greatly to desire, what he never saw, nor was ever represented unto him, he does but dote on his own imaginations. And the pretended desires of many to behold the glory of Christ in heaven, who have no view of it by faith whilst they are here in this world, are nothing but self-deceiving imaginations….Wherefore let no man deceive himself; he that has no sight of the glory of Christ here, shall never have any of it hereafter unto his advantage. It is not, therefore, unto edification to discourse of beholding the glory of Christ in heaven by vision, until we go through a trial whether we see anything of it in this world by faith or no.
The apostle tells us concerning himself and other believers, when the Lord Christ was present and conversed with them in the days of his flesh, that they “saw his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth,” John i. 14. And we may inquire, what was this glory of Christ which they so saw, and by what means they obtained a prospect of it. For, — 1. It was not the glory of his outward condition, as we behold the glory and grandeur of the kings and potentates of the earth; for he made himself of no reputation, but being in the form of a servant, he walked in the condition of a man of low degree. The secular grandeur of his pretended Vicar makes no representation of that glory of his which his disciples saw. He kept no court, nor house of entertainment, nor (though he made all things) had of his own where to lay his head. Nor, — 2. Was it with respect to the outward form of the flesh which he was made, wherein he took our nature on him, as we see the glory of a comely or beautiful person; — for he had therein neither form nor comeliness that he should be desired, “his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men,” Isa. lii. 14; liii. 2, 3. All things appeared in him as became “a man of sorrows.” Nor, — 3. Was it absolutely the eternal essential glory of his divine nature that is intended; for this no man can see in this world. What we shall attain in a view thereof hereafter we know not. But, — 4. It was his glory, as he was “full of grace and truth.” They saw the glory of his person and his office in the administration of grace and truth. And how or by what means did they see this glory of Christ? It was by faith, and no otherwise; for this privilege was granted unto them only who “received him,” and believed on his name, John i. 12. This was that glory which the Baptist saw, when, upon his coming unto him he said unto all that were present, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!” verses 29–33.
Wherefore let no man deceive himself; he that has no sight of the glory of Christ here, shall never have any of it hereafter unto his advantage. It is not, therefore, unto edification to discourse of beholding the glory of Christ in heaven by vision, until we go through a trial whether we see anything of it in this world by faith or no.
….The sight of the glory of Christ is the spring and cause of our everlasting blessedness. “We shall ever be with the Lord,” 1 Thess. iv. 17, or “be with Christ,” which is best of all, Phil. i. 23. For there shall we “behold his glory,” John xvii. 24; and by “seeing him as he is, we shall be made like him,” 1 John iii. 2; — which is our everlasting blessedness.
John Owen in The Glory of Christ