Show Me Your Glory, part 17: No Man May See My Face and Live

“And He said, ‘You will not be able to see my face, for no man can see me and live.’”

(Exodus 33:20)


The language of not being able to see the face of God and live is language that will be picked up later in the New Testament by both John (John 1:18) and Paul (1 Timothy 6:16).  God is infinite and incomprehensible to a finite mind.  This prohibition is not meant to keep us from knowing God (indeed, he has given us his Son and his Word so that we might know him), but it is meant to spare us from destruction.  To gaze upon his face would be like gazing upon the Sun; it is beautiful beyond comprehension and would sear our eyes forever.  So too, is God too wonderful for fallen man to set his eyes upon–yet, God has given us his Son, so that our finite eyes might gaze upon the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15) and we might see the glory of the Father revealed in the Son.

Oh, what a wonderful theme to reflect on for a time—seeing the face of God.  Sin has separated us from that blessing and redemption through Christ makes seeing his face something that we will experience once again in heaven.  In the face of God are glory, truth, and all beauty; there is radiance and joy for the believer and wrath and judgment for the unbeliever.  Redemption, hope, and peace can all be found when God’s face shines upon us.  Believer, let the hope of seeing God’s face fully revealed permeate into your very being; let it color the way you live, behave, and interact with the world.  It is a great promise that we have been given in Christ and this promise will sustain us through even the darkest of days.  Let the things of God become part of the very fabric of your soul that you may never be separated from them and that they will clothe you with hope even when it seems that all hope is gone.  Trust and hope in these promises, loved ones, and share them with your children and grandchildren, for these promises are for all who would trust in Christ for their salvation.

Author: preacherwin

A pastor, teacher, and a theologian concerned about the confused state of the church in America and elsewhere...Writing because the Christian should think Biblically.

4 thoughts on “Show Me Your Glory, part 17: No Man May See My Face and Live

  1. I have a question for you:

    My Mom and I have been discussing the end times lately, and we have been running across many views on how it will take place. I have read the Apocalypse of John a few times along with a few of the other prophetic writings in the scriptures, but have yet to understand completely what happens as we approach the end, and what happens when Jesus Returns.

    I have been praying for some direct answers. And the scripture say, “We have not because we ask not.”
    So I decided to take a forward action and ask someone.

    Here are some Specific Topics that I hope you may be able to use:
    *Rapture? Pre-Resurrection or Post?
    *different places for souls to rest
    *is “hell” and the “lake of fire” different?
    *If God is creating a new heaven and new earth who’s to be residing on the new earth when it comes?

    I have many more questions but I don’t want to over load you.
    I hope you don’t mind giving me your insight.
    Thank you

    Adrian Dwayne Leavell Jr.


  2. Adrian,

    These are some good questions and they ought to make some thought provoking posts for the future. Yet, for now, here are some of my thoughts on the questions that you are raising in as “straight-forward” a manner as I can muster.

    The first thing to remember, though, is that there are many different views on the interpretation of Revelation and other end-times sayings (like the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24). Different folks are going to argue differently, given their theological backgrounds and presuppositions. Yet, we need to remember that at the end of the day, as long as we are being faithful to the revealed word of God in the scriptures, we should not find ourselves wagging our fingers and yelling, ‘heretic.’ While I hold strongly to my view of eschatology (the study of the end times), and have Biblical and theological reasons for the eschatalogical understanding I have, in my teaching duties, I share a classroom with a teacher who has very different views on the matter. We discuss, we debate-sometimes with great vigor and passion-but we do so as brothers in Christ. I would encourage you to remember that as you search God’s word to understand these questions.

    The second thing to remember is that the bottom line question that end times issues must raise is “are you ready?” If you are trusting in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, believing in your heart and confessing with your lips, however these things finally play themselves out in God’s perfect plan, really doesn’t amount to that much. From the sound of your earlier post, my instinct is that you already have that kind of relationship with our Lord, but I have run into a number of people at different times in life who have been all bogged down in the end times questions, yet never had a saving relationship with Christ to begin with.

    The third thing that you need to always remember about the book of Revelation is that the book was written to real people in real churches who were undergoing real trials and difficulties. Sometimes, when the imagery of the book is pushed so far off into the future, you can lose a sense of that. John the Apostle wrote these words to encourage the weary saints back in the mainland churches, and they were encouraged by the words that he wrote. Do you know that the book of Revelation is the only book of the Bible that both begins and ends with a promise of blessing on those who will read it and hear it read? That means, if your study of Revelation causes you to walk away and not be encouraged, then you have missed something in that study.

    Also, the book of Revelation specifically is three kinds of literature: Apocalyptic, Prophetic, and a letter, thus we see elements of all three in the structure and content of the piece. I would argue that literarily the book of Revelation is as highly structured as any piece of classic literature from ages gone by. It also, as does all Biblical prophesy, contains a great deal of imagery, which can prove a challenge at times. At the same time, I would also argue that every image you find in Revelation either comes out of the Old Testament or is explained by John himself within the piece. I guess that the one exception to that would be some of the content of the letters to the seven churches, which contain a great deal of allusions to the contexts of the seven particular cities, whether in terms of the cities’ histories, architecture, etc…

    Okay, for now, what I will do is tip my hand as to how I understand Revelation/the end times to be unfolding, and then I will answer your specific questions as I understand them. In later posts I will likely introduce reflections on eschatalogical questions in more detail.

    My specific background, in terms of labels, would that of a covenantal, amillennial, post-trib, idealist theologian. In other words: I take the book of Revelation to cover redemptive history beginning at the fall of Adam and Eve and ending with the new creation-Revelation is the close of the Canon of scripture, it seems logical to me that it would recap all of the Canonical history (more on that later). I take the thousand-year reign of Christ to be metaphorical for the church age that we are now in; that means I do not see a two-fold return of our Lord, but only one in final judgment. I also hold that the calling of the church to himself (rapture language) takes place after the Great tribulation. Scripture speaks of tribulation as being a blessing to the church as it refines her-why would God take the church away from that great blessing? That at least is my label in a nutshell, here are my thoughts about your specific questions:

    1. The Rapture: The word, “rapture” comes from the Latin, “raptura” which is the translation of ἁρπάζω (harpazo) in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. This language of being “caught up” with Christ is language that was often used of the citizens of a city running out of the city to meet their king as he was coming home victorious from battle. Yet, the going out of the people was not for a long period of time, they went out to meet him and then followed him directly into the city. I think that Paul is picking up on that same imagery when he uses this same language. We are going to be caught up with Christ, the dead and those still living-all glorified-and then descend with him into the place of judgment.

    In terms of the “post-tribulation” timing, as I said above, the church’s light burns brightest when under intense persecution. If you read the letters to the seven churches, you will find that two of the churches receive no condemnation from Christ and two receive no commendation from him as well. The ones who receive no rebuke/condemnation are the two that are historically facing the worst persecution. The two that are facing the least persecution have gotten lazy and receive no commendation. James refers to it as “pure joy” when confronted with trials of every kind (James 1:2) and Jesus says to rejoice when the world does all kinds of wickedness to you for Christ’s name sake (Matthew 5:10-12), and similar passages are found elsewhere. In addition, the language of “great tribulations” is used elsewhere in the Bible to refer to the ongoing trials of the church age. Think about it, where is the evangelical light strongest in the world today? It is not America anymore, but is in places like Africa where they have seen intense persecution, in places like SE Asia where the persecution and tribal cults is dominant.

    Places for the souls to rest: Jesus says to the thief on the cross, “this day you will be with me in paradise.” He also makes the allusion to immediate spiritual torment in Hell that will one day be added to in a physical resurrection. So I would say that when you die, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you will go to heaven spiritually, if you are not, you will be condemned to hell spiritually. In the general resurrection, the souls will be rejoined to their physical bodies which have been made anew.

    3) Hell, the lake of fire, etc… are all different ways of illustrating the terrors of one very real place.

    4) And yes, God has promised to create a new heavens and new earth for believers to dwell upon in the eternal presence of Christ. Adam and Eve were supposed to subdue the earth-to take Eden and to spread it throughout creation. In sin, they failed in that task. Jesus, as our second-Adam, succeeds where the first-Adam failed.

    Fire as many questions as you like at me, I love this kind of stuff. In the future, I will add some posts reflecting in more depth to some of these issues as well.

    Blessings in Christ,



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