Yet it's promised that we will see Him "face to face", we will know as we are
known. Without a doubt, God sees us: "Then she called the name of the
LORD who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees; for she said,
'Have I also here seen Him who sees me?'" (Genesis 16:13). Recall, He
does not see by gathering light rays reflected by solid objects; if He did,
darkness would veil His vision as it does our own, and opaque objects would block
His line of sight. One could, in short, hide from God. But this
cannot be: "'Am I a God near at hand,' says the LORD, 'And not a God afar off?
Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him?' saith the LORD. 'Do
not I fill heaven and earth?' saith the LORD." (Jeremiah 23:23-24).
The wicked foolishly thought that God saw by means of earthly light, enduring all the indignities and imperfections
of that mode of sight. But darkness is no obstacle to His sight: "If I say, 'Surely the darkness shall fall on me,'
even the night shall be light about me; indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, but the night shines as the day; the darkness
and the light are both alike to You." (Psalm 139:11-12). And it's this mode of sight: seeing as we are seen, knowing
as we are known — which we will enjoy in the life to come. We will know Him as He is, which is how John can promise we will know Him as triune.
This promised vision of God is called the beatific vision. It is
of such beauty and power that looking upon God will conform us to His likeness:
"we will be like him". John doesn't say 'we will be like
the physical body of Jesus of Nazareth', which is all that could be seen
if the materialists are right. Rather, he and Paul say that we will
see God, as He is, and know Him just as we are known. We will know
Him as triune, because that is His nature, which is why John offered this
vision as entry-way to eternity: Revelation
22:1. The Bible categorizes this way of encountering God as 'sight' because
sight presents its objects immediate, not built up piecemeal like 'touch'; the
object gazed upon stands complete, directly before us.
But this beatific vision is not subject to the limitations of earthly sight.
In this life we only see the skin of things, we do not know as we
are known. If we saw God by means of physical light, one standing
to His left would see something different from one standing to His right;
neither would see Him "as he is". God Himself will not
only be the object of the beatific vision, but also its medium and vehicle:
"The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for
the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light." (Revelation 21:23).
This mode of sight is not fully available to us in this life, but some
have received a foretaste. When the Bible speaks of 'seeing', it's
a mistake to compress that 'sight' down to the least common denominator
of materialism. The angels are "ministering spirits": "And
of the angels He says: 'Who makes His angels spirits And His ministers
a flame of fire.'" (Hebrews 1:7). If it were credible that angels
'materialize bodies' in order to be seen, as some say, then why would they be visible
to some, but not all?:
"And when the servant of the man of God arose early and went out,
there was an army, surrounding the city with horses and chariots. And his
servant said to him, 'Alas, my master! What shall we do?' So he answered,
'Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with
them.' And Elisha prayed, and said, 'LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he
may see.' Then the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And
behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around
Elisha." (2 Kings 6:15-17).
In speaking of 'opening his eyes', the Bible intimates there are different modes
of sight. Reducing Biblical 'sight' to the materialists' sole mode of
collecting light rays reflected from material objects inverts the natural order
of things; in fact, it's the materialists' 'sight' which is a pale imitation of the
real thing, not the other way around. Gehazi was not experiencing a
hallucination, seeing things that weren't there; he was seeing what was
there. Our everyday, quotidian way of seeing, by gathering reflected light,
hides more than it reveals. Nor did God work a Wizard of Oz special-effects
show by manipulating the creature to produce what Gehazi saw. If that
were how it's done, all observers would see the same thing.
But they don't. Balaam's blameless ass saw the Angel of the LORD
blocking the way, when rebellious Balaam did not: "And when the donkey saw the
Angel of the LORD, she lay down under Balaam; so Balaam's anger was aroused, and
he struck the donkey with his staff. Then the LORD opened the mouth of the donkey,
and she said to Balaam, 'What have I done to you, that you have struck me these
three times?'...Then the LORD opened Balaam's eyes, and he saw the Angel of the
LORD standing in the way with His drawn sword in His hand; and he bowed his head
and fell flat on his face." (Numbers 22:27-31). Again, Balaam wasn't
hallucinating what was not there, but rather had his eyes opened to what was there.
Is the Question Legal?
Demanding to know
what we will see when we see God raises a red flag, because trying to imagine what
God 'looks like' is a way of approach to Him which He had once criminalized:
"You shall not make for yourself a
carved image - any likeness of anything that is in
heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or
that is in the water under the earth; you shall not
bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the
LORD your God, am a jealous God..." (Exodus 20:4-5)
"Take careful heed to yourselves, for you saw no
form when the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the
midst of the fire, lest you act corruptly and make
for yourselves a carved image in the form of any
figure: the likeness of male or female, the
likeness of any animal that is on the earth or the
likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air,
the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground
or the likeness of any fish that is in the water
beneath the earth." (Deuteronomy 4:15-18).
It's precisely to avoid the dangers posed by 'dumbing down' the beatific
vision to the level of material sight that Moses criminalized the question.
The pagans made active use of their imaginations in visualizing God
under a material form, ending in ruin amidst a profusion of chimeras: "...because,
although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful...Professing
to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible
God into an image made like corruptible man — and birds and four-footed
animals and creeping things." (Romans 1:21-23).
Nevertheless, God promised His children that "we shall see Him as He
is." Not only that, but His servants and
friends have reported seeing Him, even in this life:
"Then Moses went up, also Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy
of the elders of Israel, and they saw the God of Israel. And there was under His feet as it were a
paved work of sapphire stone, and it was like the very heavens in its clarity. But on the nobles of
the children of Israel He did not lay His hand. So they saw God, and they ate and drank." (Exodus
"In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne,
high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim;
each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he
flew. And one cried to another and said: 'Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole
earth is full of His glory!'" (Isaiah 6:1-3).
Granted that man cannot on this earth gaze upon God in all His glory,
at full amperage so to speak, but must strain to catch of a glimpse
of Him veiled, shrouded, and
in part: still these occurrences are real; shame on those who deny
them. They include some of the most beautiful imagery in the Bible:
"On many occasions in Old Testament history it pleased
God to reveal Himself to the astonished gaze of men. With mortal
eyes they beheld Him, sometimes manifested in overpowering
brightness and at other times in angelic or human guise. To
patriarchs, judges, priests, kings, and prophets, to men and
women humble yet holy, in Israel or beyond its borders, the
vision was given. It surpassed every other delight in the
spiritual life. No scenes in the path of these worthies of old
are more instructive than those in which God appeared to them
displaying glory and grace, holiness and love, power and
gentleness. Yet by this very contrast, it also showed up the
need and unworthiness of the men and women to whom He deigned to
reveal Himself." (H. C. Hewlett, The Glories of Our Lord, p.
God's children believe every word He spoke, including the promise we will
see Him as He is. Among the visions of God granted to saints and
visionaries are several lethal to the 'Oneness' postulate that Jesus Christ
is the Father, such as:
"But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven
and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the
right hand of God, and said, 'Look! I see the
heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the
right hand of God!'" (Acts 7:55-56)
"Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One
sat on the throne... And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living
creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven
horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth. Then He came
and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him
who sat on the throne." (Revelation 4:1-5:7)
At this, the 'Oneness' Pentecostals do a 180 degree U-turn away from their demand to know
what we will see when we see God...and begin ridiculing with raucous
mockery the very notion of seeing God! It's true enough that if
these visions of God are true to life, the jig is up for 'Oneness'
Pentecostalism. But if the 'Oneness' Pentecostals rip out all the
Bible theophanies, they'll be left with gaping rents and tears in
their Bibles. They assume that only if God had a physical body
could He make Himself seen, and then only if one of His votaries is
thoughtful enough to shine a flashlight upon Him. While the living
God dwells in unapproachable light: "...which He will manifest in
His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of
kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in
unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be
honor and everlasting power. Amen." (1 Timothy 6:15-16),— the small
'god' of the new religions can only make himself seen under the same disabilities
we ourselves labor under: he must have a material body, and some helpful
attendant must shine a flashlight upon him.
Confronted by Stephen's dying vision, the 'Oneness' Pentecostals present us with the following false
dichotomy: either visions like Stephen's represent material bodies seen with earthly eyes by means of
reflected light rays, or else Stephen and other visionaries saw nothing at all, but only felt moved to
deliver themselves of vague verbal platitudes. But plainly Stephen
saw something, and says as much; nor is there anything Biblically impossible
in this. The Bible's category of 'sight' is more comprehensive than
our primitive and creaturely gathering of light rays, ranging from the
beatific vision at the high end to our darkly groveling in the muck at
the lower end. Our God is the God who sees: "You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees"
(Genesis 16:13),— and we shall see as we are seen, sharing in His marvellous sight.
God specifically promised to reveal Himself to mankind in this manner:
"Then He said, 'Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you,
I, the LORD, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream. Not so with My servant Moses; He is
faithful in all My house. I speak with him face to face, even plainly, and not in dark
sayings; and he sees the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against
My servant Moses?'" (Numbers 12:6-8). There's an even more astonishing set of Old
Testament theophanies, involving the 'angel
of the LORD', where wide-awake prophets and patriarchs saw, and
even wrestled with, God.
Just before his death as a martyr to the cause of Christ, Stephen was granted
the "vision" that God promised in Numbers 12:6. As with
Gehazi before his eyes were "opened", the mob gathered about
Stephen did not see what he saw. He, like Daniel and John, was granted
that rarest of visions, showing the interaction, the internal trialogue, within God.