“And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” (Rev 22:7)
As we come to another Parousia Sunday (the holiday I invented to celebrate the coming return of Jesus Christ), I am thinking again about the fact that we all see God through a glass darkly (1 Cor 13:12). Jesus takes for granted that the fundamental hope of those who purify their hearts is that they would “see God” (Mt 5:8), and yet He is clear about the fact that in this life, we are hoping for something that is still “unseen” (2 Cor 4:18) . We see God’s hand at work all around us (Psalm 104:24) we see His divine power by what has been made (Rom 1:20). So what does it mean that when He comes “we shall see Him as He is” (1 Jn 3:2)?
Perhaps it has something to do with His face (Rev 22:4). Think about how a persons face reveals their identity. A few weeks ago at church, I saw a little boy through the window, running across the lawn. It looked like my son but it wasn’t until he turned around that I was sure. I knew it was him because I saw his face. Think about strangers you pass by on the street. If you see them from behind you will likely form a few initial judgments about them based on how they are dressed. But think about how dramatically those assumptions are impacted once you have seen their face. I imagine there is a similar logic at work with the biblical imagery in Revelation.
Today we see through a glass darkly. Today we see a world full of the glorious works and redeeming power of our God. We also see a world in the throes of the curse, groaning to be set free. Love and evil flourishing together in the time of the already and not yet.
God is reigning in love but we can’t yet see the look on His face.
About two years ago, someone I love was born, and someone else I love died on the same day. Never have I more intensely experienced the fullness of what it means to live in the already and not yet realities of the kingdom of God. The grace of life and the sting of death together, both from the hand of God.
There are times in the book of Revelation where the war for the worshipping heart of man becomes so intense that I begin to feel the way I did back on that cool September morning in 2016. The apocalypse reveals glorious grace mingled with anguish and sorrow. Resurrection triumph by means of worldly defeat. And the reason I feel tension in the midst of the ongoing war is not because I don’t know how it ends. It’s because the God I love has yet to show me his face. And that is perhaps one of the most fundamental distinctions between the present age and the age to come. In the world to come there will be no more darkness, for the glory of God will be our light. Yes gold streets. Yes the tree of life. Thank you Lord for these precious and mysterious promises. But there is one promise of this prophecy that blesses my earthly pilgrimage beyond all others. When we get to the New Jerusalem, there will be no more dark glass. “His servants will worship Him. They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads” (Rev 22:3-4). The picture is complete. Today we see through a glass darkly. But then…face to face. And it is good in the midst of battle to be reminded of these things.
I hope you can make it this Sunday!