A friend of mine recently had cataract surgery and needed a ride to her surgeon’s office for the first follow-up visit. On our way home she surprised me by remarking that she did not remember that the tops of trees were visible. Or the detail of the leaves. She had been looking at life through opaque lenses for years that only got worse with age. Her visual view of life had narrowed.
Seeing God Face to Face
I could not help but think of the verse in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known (1 Cor 13:12). The first question in the Westminster Shorter Catechism is “What is the chief end of man?” The answer is: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” The goal of all Christians is to see God. We long to see God face to face. We long to know him and to see him in all his fullness, and all his majesty, and all his glory. For now, we see by faith, but then by sight.
Mature Christians should develop a frustration with being unable to see God clearly. Just as my friend became frustrated with not being able to see treetops or individual leaves, we must be dissatisfied with not having a perfect vision of God right now. Our vision is limited to earthly things. And here on this earth, we are still missing out on the greatest source of joy that we will not see until eternity. In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon looks at everything and declares all is worthless under the sun. Everything is vanity. It is depressing. Yet, Martin Luther considered Ecclesiastes to be one of the most optimistic books in the Bible because it clarifies where we are to find satisfaction and joy. It is not found in anything we can see in this world. It is found only in seeking God’s face and in waiting for his son’s return to make all things new.
Seeing God This Side of Heaven
So how do we attempt to see God this side of heaven? When we read and study our Bible, we are becoming familiar with the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. We see him dimly now, but we gain insight into the beauty of God’s character as we grow in understanding his son. In John 14 Jesus talks to his disciples in anticipation of his death. “If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him” (John 14:7). The disciples saw Jesus dimly, as through darkened glass, just as we do when we study Jesus’ life and promises.
The disciples walked and talked with Jesus. Peter had not only seen Jesus but had also been handpicked and personally trained by him. Peter knew him face-to-face and even saw Jesus alive after seeing him dead. Yet he marvels at the belief of those who love Jesus who have never seen him. “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:8-9). Salvation comes to those who believe in the Christ they have never seen but know by God’s revelation.
We all wait for the day when we will see God face to face. In Revelation 22:3-4, we read that the throne of God and of the lamb will be found in the New Jerusalem, and all the saints will worship him, “No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.”
Lord, thank you that we see in part now, and understand your glory in part. We pray for the day when we will see the new earth and the new heaven, when our vision of you will be face to face. We long for the time when we will enjoy your glory forever. Until then, give us repentant hearts, confidence in your revealed word, and a hunger for eternity with you. Amen.
Photo by Dave Hoefler on Unsplash