Sunday, August 5, 2018

Face to Face with God

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning" (John 1:1–2).

In the Greek language there are three different words that are translated “with” in English. The Greeks understood that there are different ways you can be with people. The word syn, which we find in synagogue, means to be “with” in the sense of being part of a group, of being around others. The word meta means “with” in the sense of “alongside of,” as when a husband and wife walk side by side and hand in hand.

It is the third word, however, that is used in John 1:1–2. It is the word pros, which means “face to face.” It is used for the closest possible relationship of intimacy. John says that the Word, the pre-incarnate Son of God, was face to face with God in a covenantal bond of ultimate intimacy.

To get a better understanding of what John is saying we turn to the Old Testament. The greatest desire of the pious Jew was someday to see the face of God. Indeed, God Himself had provided the Israelites with a ritual blessing that pointed to this: “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24–26). This benediction was to be used whenever the priest blessed the people.

By way of contrast, the greatest horror conceivable was that God should turn His back on someone. Remember when God appeared between the Israelite and Egyptian armies at the Exodus, His cloud of glory shone a light to the Israelites, but manifested impenetrable darkness to the Egyptians (Exodus 14:19–20). The biblical image of damnation is “outer darkness.”

Now think for a moment of the Cross. When Jesus cried out “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” we read that suddenly darkness came over the place. In a real sense, God had to turn His back on Jesus, breaking that face-to-face relationship. At His ascension, however, the Word of God returned to stand pros the Father, but now carrying us with Him!

While hell is a quaking prospect for the unbeliever, the hope of the Christian is the uninterrupted benevolent gaze of God. Using 1 John 3:2, imagine today what heaven will be like.