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Face to Face

By David A. DePra

For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. (1 Cor 13:12)

Paul the apostle had seen visions of God. He certainly had knowledge of Jesus Christ beyond what most of us come to possess in this life. Yet he says, "Now WE see through a glass darkly." Paul included himself in the crowd. On our best day, on the top of our highest mountain, we see God only as if, "through a glass darkly."

Now, that ought to be GOOD news. I sure don’t want a God who is limited to what I can presently see of Him. God had better be much bigger than that.


There are a couple of components of Paul’s statement that we need to look at. If we do, we will find that there is much more to this verse, pardon the pun, than meets the eye.


For NOW…..


In this life – NOW -- we see God only through, "a glass darkly." The Greek helps here. The phrase says, "Now we see by means of a glass or mirror -- we only see a reflection or enigma." The bottom line is this: You and I have never seen God. (John 1:18, I John 4:12, and Jesus said so in John 5:37) We have experienced God to a degree. We are one with God through the Spirit. We see His character in nature. Even in Christian people. And certainly, those who were alive in 30 A.D. saw God in human flesh. But no one has ever seen God. Not face to face.


God has always used vehicles through which He reveals Himself. But these aren’t, "pure God," if you know what I mean. They are what God uses, or the way in which God manifests Himself in the physical realm. God is SPIRIT, and so anything we can physically see isn’t, "pure God." Anything we can physically hear isn’t, "pure God." If these are OF GOD, they are indirect physical manifestations of God – in a form we can interpret.


God is so beyond us – and I mean this in an infinitely good way – that in order to reveal Himself to us, He sent His Son as a man. Jesus was God Incarnate – one hundred percent God and man in one person. But in order to become a man, Jesus had to strip Himself of something, didn’t He? Sure. (see Phil. 2) Jesus wasn’t walking around on earth the same as He was in heaven before He was born. He had taken OUR form and nature, primarily to redeem the human race. But also to show us the Father through Himself in a way that we could understand.


Jesus did not strip Himself of His Divinity, but of His existence in the eternal realm. He entered into the time and space realm. He had been a SPIRIT – but now was physical. He became as limited as any of us. Jesus as a man became as limited as any man – but did not have the sin nature. All that He did was a by-product of a MAN’S relationship with God – including all of His miracles.


Now can we see a little more about what Paul is getting at? Because that which is flesh IS flesh, and that which is Spirit IS Spirit, there is no frame of reference – for natural man – for God. We have no tools by which we can find God. He has to find us. Yet even when He does, He must reveal Himself to us in ways we can understand. Jesus was the fundamental way in which God has done this. (see Heb. 1:1-2)


There are some Christians who have had wonderful experiences – deeply spiritual experiences – in the Holy Spirit. But even these, as awesome as they might be, are experiences that, in the end, are given to us while we are still in our flesh. There is another dimension to them, to be sure – if they are spiritual experiences. We can know the things of God by the Spirit. But note: We still cannot know the things of God by the Spirit as beings freed from the flesh. We know them by the Spirit, but still in this realm and mode of existence. That is good and wonderful. But it is still through a glass darkly. We continue to, "see God by means of a mirrored glass," rather than face to face.


But THEN…..


Did you notice the contrast between, "BUT NOW…," and, "BUT THEN…." Every limitation of NOW will pass away. There shall be a THEN. Paul says, "Now I know in part. But THEN I shall know, even as I am known."

Can we see what He is saying? He is saying that in the eternal ages, we are going to see God, and know God, every bit as much as He knows us! Think about that. We are talking about GOD!


This does, of course, bring new perspective – and a sobering one – to a parable Jesus told wherein certain ones attempted to enter the kingdom, only to have Him say to them, "Depart from me, I never knew you." (Matt. 7:23) I mean, if we are going to know God to the extent that He knows us, we’d better open ourselves up and let Him know us. If we don’t, we may end up limiting our capacity to know Him.


God wants us to know Him. He is beginning that as a process NOW, but it will find it fullness when our capacity to know Him is released in the eternal ages. To know God is more than just knowing facts about Him. Knowing God is LIFE ITSELF. FREEDOM itself.


Note what Jesus said, "THIS IS eternal life, that they know You, and your Son, Jesus Christ." (Jn. 17:3)


God intends us to know Him FACE to FACE. What would you do if you stood face to face with God? We are all going to find out. That day will be the day that all the mirrors are broken, and all of the masks come off. There won’t be any more secrets, or need for God to hide Himself. And for those who love God, it will be the day worth living and dying for.


Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knows us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and 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. {3} And every man that hath this hope in him purifies himself, even as he is pure. (1 John 3:1-3) *


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