These thoughts are from Randy Alcorn, who will be a main speaker at this year’s WorshipGod Conference:
“[God’s servants] will see his face.” Revelation 22:4
Our longing for Heaven is a longing for God—a longing that involves not only our inner selves, but our bodies as well. Being with God is the heart and soul of Heaven. Every other heavenly pleasure will derive from and be secondary to his holy presence. God’s greatest gift to us is, and always will be, himself. His presence brings satisfaction. His absence brings thirst and longing.
“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” (Psalm 42:1-2).
“O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1).
Ancient theologians often spoke of the “beatific vision.” The term comes from three Latin words that together mean “a happy-making sight.” The sight they spoke of was God. To see God’s face is the loftiest of all aspirations. It’s sad, then, that for most of us, it’s not at the top of our list of desires.
When Moses said to God, “Show me your glory,” God responded, “‘I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you.…[But] you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.… When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen’” (Exodus 33:18-23).
Moses saw God, but not God’s face. The New Testament says that God “lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see” (1 Timothy 6:16). Thus, when we’re told in Revelation 22:4 that we’ll see God’s face, it should astound us.
“Without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). The obstacles to seeing God are daunting. It’s only because we’ll be fully righteous in Christ and completely sinless that we’ll be able to see God and live. To see God will be our greatest joy, the joy by which all other joys will be measured.
David says, “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple” (Psalm 27:4). David was preoccupied with God’s person, and also with God’s place. He longed to be where God was and to gaze on his beauty. To see God’s face is to behold his beauty.
When Jesus Christ came to Earth as one of us (John 1:14), God, who is transcendent, became immanent. Thus, one of the names given to Jesus is Immanuel, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). Because God the Father and God the Son are one (John 10:30), whenever we see Jesus in Heaven, we will see God. Because Jesus Christ is a permanent manifestation of God, he could say to his disciple Philip, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Certainly, then, a primary way that we will see God the Father on the New Earth is through his Son, Jesus.
Jesus also said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8). In Revelation 22:4, when it says “they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads,” it appears to be referring to seeing the face of God the Father.
Does God, who is not inherently physical, have a face in any sense but a figurative one? I’m not certain. And I don’t pretend to understand how we will see his face. But I rejoice in the anticipation that we will!
Scripture is full of great promises about what awaits us in Heaven. But none is greater than the promise that we, as resurrected human beings, will actually see God.
If you’re a follower of Jesus, what would you like to say now to the God whom you will one day see?
(Randy will be speaking on Anticipating God’s Presence at the WorshipGod conference. If you’re thinking about coming, you may want to know that pre-registration ends two weeks from today, on July 24. You can register here.)