February 1, 2015 § Leave a comment
Is there anything better than a joyful reunion with someone you love? Maybe it’s an old friend you’ve lost track of over the years, or a long lost parent you’ve reconciled with that you’ve welcomed back into your life. Or maybe it’s the thrill of meeting a celebrity, or your favorite rock star, author, or rock-star author. We’ve all experienced the anticipation and excitement of that face-to-face meeting. I look forward to seeing my dad again in heaven. A grieving friend of mine recently spoke of two miscarried children she will meet in eternity. These are the reasons Christians mourn the loss of their brothers and sisters in the Lord differently than the world does.
One Day, we will see the face of God. Take a break from this screen a moment and really think about that meeting. What do you think that will be like? Will you be thinking about your other relationships? Will you remember your joys or trials, your victories or losses? Will you laugh at or cry about the way you spent your time in this life? Or will you be lost in His gaze? Will anything else matter at that moment?
As mortal human beings, a look at God in His full glory would literally kill us. God, hidden in a pillar of cloud, answered Moses’ request to see His glory in Exodus 33:20: “No one may see me and live.” 1 Timothy 6:16 describes a God “who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see.” John 1:18 and 1 John 4:12 also tell us that “No one has ever seen God” except God’s Son. What about seeing God’s full glory, His “unapproachable light”, would kill us? (A bug zapper comes to mind. Well, my mind. You can decide how well that analogy fits).
Jonathan Edwards wrote: “God is arrayed with an infinite brightness, a brightness that doesn’t create pain as the light of the sun pains the eyes to behold it, but rather fills with excess of joy and delight. Indeed, no man can see God and live, because the sight of such glory would overpower nature, . . . ’tis because the joy and pleasure in beholding would be too strong for a frail nature.”
As far as a medical cause of death, we’re probably talking about cardiac arrest here, which can occur in cases of extreme pleasure. I’m certain there are other views on what aspects of God’s glory is so overwhelming, or the ways God might physically and sensorily manifest His full glory (and what a portion of that glory really looked like to Moses)—but it’s clear from Scripture that it’s simply too much for human beings to behold.
God did allow certain people to get a glimpse of Him in a subdued form. There was a cloud as mentioned above, or a pillar of fire, a burning bush, a sanitized vision or dream, an angelic messenger, and of course Jesus Christ. Jesus retained His deity but was fully man too, His glory concealed in a wrapping of humanity. He did this so that He could die in our place and so that we could relate to Him and live. Much of who God is was revealed in the person of Jesus Christ, but as far as the the “unapproachable light” of God, there were only brief glimpses in Jesus (i.e. the Transfiguration in Matthew 17:2).
In Exodus 33, God acquiesces to Moses’ request for a taste of His glory. He gets a glimpse of His back as God passes by. This particular narrative ends before we find out how Moses’ reacted to seeing the backside (usually regarded as the worst side of anything) of God Himself, but in the next chapter “the skin of Moses’ face was shining” when he returned from the encounter (Ex. 34:29-35). Sort of a divine sunburn?
As mortal beings we can’t handle the full brunt of God’s glory, but what does a glimpse of Him typically bring? Although we don’t see Moses’ immediate reaction to seeing God’s back in Ex. 33, in the next chapter he is on his face in worship and repentence at God’s next cloud-masked appearance (Ex. 34:8-9). Other encounters with a glimpse of God in scripture reveal a similar penetant reaction. After Job heard and saw as much of God as he could handle, Job despised himself and repented immediately (Job 42:5-6). When God appeared to the prophet Isaiah in a vision, he declared “Woe is me!” as he lamented his own sin (Isaiah 6:5). Jesus’ disciple John, who walked with Jesus years earlier, saw a vision of Him in fuller (but not full) glory on the Island of Patmos and “fell at His feet as though dead.” (Rev. 1:17).
No doubt there was terror and awe in seeing just a part of God’s glory, but there is something about Him that made people want to also repent. When we are faced with God’s perfect holiness and righteousness, we can also see how far short we come to it. Repentance is an appropriate posture. This is part of what distinguishes the fear of man or monsters from a healthy fear of God (Matt. 10:28).
Francis Chan thought enough about our meeting God that he writes a great deal about it in a book that is supposed to be about marriage. On page 24 of You and Me Forever, Chan says, “Oddly, I meet very few people who think about that moment. Is it because we don’t really believe it’s going to happen? We think about upcoming vacations and imagine how much fun we will have. We think about upcoming trials and worry about how difficult they will be, Why don’t we think about seeing God for the first time?”
The moment we see God, no other relationship, not even our marriages, will come to mind. In fact the only relationship that matters in light of eternity is the one between you and Jesus Christ. And we could see Him at any moment. Any moment! That should change everything. Are you ready?
Everyone will see the face of God one day. We will be outside of the limitations of our physical body when we do, so we will not be able to “die” in His presence. If our sins are covered by the blood of Christ, we will be looking at the Savior. If we are still in our sin, we will be looking at our Judge. But “one day every knee will bow” (Rom. 14:11, Phil. 2:10), and we would all benefit from thinking about finally gazing upon His face. Especially if the realization of who He is (holy) and who we are (sinners) brings our repentance.
Fathers spend their time preparing for their children to leave home; our Heavenly Father is preparing a place for us to come home (John 14:3). This truth should leave with us with both hope and urgency. Our hope is the assurance that although we may be completely unraveled by the sight of our Savior’s face, He will be welcoming us home. A sense of urgency should come from the fact that many do not have this hope. The days are fleeting and we have work to do (Matt. 28:16-20).
“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.” (1 Cor. 13:12). Wherever you are, think long and hard about seeing the face of God, and then decide what really matters.