This Is the Way Walk in It: We Shall See Him as He Is

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This Is the Way Walk in It

We Shall See Him as He Is

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Two thousand years ago, the apostle John prophesied a resounding declaration regarding God that “we shall see Him as He is.” Normally when we think of John’s prophetic writings, our eyes turn to the book of Revelation, but this statement is found in 1 John 3:2 1 John 3:2Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
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. Nonetheless, this resounding assurance to true believers fits all the traits of prophecy, including foretelling what cannot be known by natural means.

John starts out in 1 John 3:1 1 John 3:1Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knows us not, because it knew him not.
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, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us” and then seamlessly transitions into 1 John 3:2 1 John 3:2Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
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of foretelling that which is yet to occur as we experience the fullness of God’s love by seeing “Him as He is.” Just imagine personally encountering God!

But why were the words “we shall see Him as He is” written to the original audience, and what do we gain by this prophetic promise? Think about it for a moment. After writing such profound words, John must have sat back in his chair or even walked around in his room as the power of what he had just written began to sink in. John must have been smiling a little as he began to contemplate what it meant to behold God in such a one-on-one fashion.

The beginning of close encounters

He realized, as did every man taught from the Hebrew Scriptures, that his God was not to be considered in similar terms as those of the pagan gods. The all-knowing and ever-present God who inhabits eternity (Isaiah 57:15 Isaiah 57:15For thus said the high and lofty One that inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
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) was not like the gods of the nations.

An ancient believer’s view of God was far different from what John’s declaration was projecting. In former times, God had revealed His sovereignty and covenant desire toward the patriarch Job and others in terms of power and the order of nature and divine intervention, but not in terms of close encounters that depict glancing upon deity.

Perhaps John continued to smile at such revelation when he considered how Moses had desired to behold God’s glory (Exodus 33:18-23 Exodus 33:18-23 18 And he said, I beseech you, show me your glory. 19 And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 And he said, You can not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live. 21 And the LORD said, Behold, there is a place by me, and you shall stand on a rock: 22 And it shall come to pass, while my glory passes by, that I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and will cover you with my hand while I pass by: 23 And I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.
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). It was a time in which Moses needed encouragement that God had not forsaken the children of Israel. God gave Moses a glimmer of His glory; even so, God did not allow Moses to directly gaze upon Him.

God declared, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.” The physical deliverer of Israel stood behind a rock as the ultimate Deliverer of Israel passed by. Moses only saw His back, but it was seemingly more than enough to grant him that much-needed encouragement!

John might have gone out of the house and lingered a little more with this revelation. We can imagine him thinking of the imagery set before Ezekiel, as the portable throne room of God passed by in the whirlwind with “the likeness of the throne…with the appearance of a man high above it” (Ezekiel 1:26 Ezekiel 1:26And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and on the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above on it.
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).

It was here that God revealed to Ezekiel what Israel had forsaken: the holiness of God and their dire need to grasp what they had so carelessly rejected. Even so, the imagery is set in tones of cosmic distance and divine omnipotence.

Perhaps historically John quietly chuckled as he considered how many of the invading forces that had conquered Jerusalem had come up to the temple to get a peek at the God of Israel. They wanted to look into the eyes of whoever lay behind that veil in the temple. They figured He must be something to look at to cause such zealous devotion among the Jews.

Nebuchadnezzar’s generals, Antiochus Epiphanes, Pompey the Great and Titus all gave it a try in their times. All came up empty. No image of God lay on the other side of the veil in the Holy of Holies. God alone decides to whom He will offer the privilege of a personal encounter and at what level.

But now, a special need

But now, it was toward the end of the first century. The ongoing, day-by-day struggle was difficult for the followers of Christ. The long-awaited return of Jesus had not materialized. He said He would return, but where was He?

Almost all of the original apostles chosen by Christ were dead. Persecution leading to martyrdom was becoming rampant under the Roman Emperor Domitian. The persecution 20 years before under Nero had been horrible, but now it was really bleak!

Now it seemed John, alone, remained alive of all those who had heard Jesus’ voice, seen Him in face-to-face encounters and literally handled Him (1 John 1:1-2 1 John 1:1-2 1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked on, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; 2 (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show to you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested to us;)
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).

In addition to the physical touch of day-to-day life with Jesus of Nazareth, John along with a few others had experienced the radiant transfiguration of Christ (Matthew 17:1-3 Matthew 17:1-3 1 And after six days Jesus takes Peter, James, and John his brother, and brings them up into an high mountain apart, 2 And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. 3 And, behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elias talking with him.
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).

Yes, John seemed to be the one human link to connect the years gone by with the promised eternity that lay ahead, but he was getting old. Special times create special needs. It was time to stir up the heart. It was time to awaken what God had in store. It was time to inform all those who would strive to emulate Christ that all they were going through would be worth it.

Again, John starts this thought in 1 John 3:1 1 John 3:1Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knows us not, because it knew him not.
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by describing “what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us.” The Greek words convey the thought that such affection is not of this world! In a folksy way, one might say, “It sure isn’t from around here.” Of course not! It’s divine!

John then reminds those who might be discouraged that “we should be called children of God.” Our status with God does not require us to wait for the future. The relationship is already in play. We are not awaiting adoption, only the full inheritance, which in part, assures us that “we shall see Him as He is.”

Seeing the unfathomable

The apostle then reminds his audience and reinforces their sagging enthusiasm by saying, “when He is revealed” (1 John 3:2 1 John 3:2Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
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), speaking of Christ’s second coming to this earth. Yes, in God’s perfect timing, the exalted Christ shall once more be seen by all who remain alive after the Great Tribulation, the heavenly signs and the Day of the Lord.

But the revealing becomes personal to those of a spiritual nature. It moves beyond simply the sounding of the seventh trumpet as human beings become acquainted with their Maker. For converted Christians John says, “We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” Those who have been granted the reward of immortality will see things that human eyes alone cannot see.

It was during this same general time of John’s ministry that God granted “the disciple whom Jesus loved” one more peek at what lay in store for us all. Its details are captured in the book of Revelation. It is in Revelation that God threw the window of heaven’s throne room wide open.

John describes the exalted Christ as “One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength” (Revelation 1:13-16 Revelation 1:13-16 13 And in the middle of the seven candlesticks one like to the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the breasts with a golden girdle. 14 His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; 15 And his feet like to fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. 16 And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shines in his strength.
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).

In Revelation 1:17 Revelation 1:17And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand on me, saying to me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:
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John adds a moving description that makes this unlike the divine encounters of old: “And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, ‘Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades [the grave] and of Death. Write the things which you have seen’ ” (Revelation 1:17-19 Revelation 1:17-19 17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand on me, saying to me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: 18 I am he that lives, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for ever more, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. 19 Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter;
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).

The picture comes alive

This statement moves beyond deified grandeur. It moves to the tangible relationship of personal connection that here, once again, Christ reaches out and touches John just as He did so many others during His earthly ministry.

Have you ever been to an art gallery and beheld something so beautiful that you almost involuntarily reached out to touch it? I have—that is, until the guard reminded me to refrain.

But in Revelation 1 the scenario is reversed. It is the picture that is truly alive, reaching out of the frame of eternity, touching mortal man and reminding him of a scene on a hill so long ago with his brother and Peter at the transfiguration.

The book of Revelation and John’s vision are but the invitation to behold and “see Him as He is.” Our arrival is yet ahead.

John’s fellow apostle Paul had made a similar allusion to what awaits. Writing years before, Paul declares: “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 1 Timothy 6:15-16 15 Which in his times he shall show, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; 16 Who only has immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach to; whom no man has seen, nor can see: to whom be honor and power everlasting. Amen.
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).

Can you imagine your personal invitation and experience at the resurrection, being welcomed by Christ and touched, embraced and encouraged to move into the unapproachable light of God’s dynamic presence and the inner workings of His Kingdom? The spiritual firstfruits are called to be at the epicenter of God’s throne room as pillars in His temple to support and display His purpose, plans, promises and provisions in all realms that exist before Him (Revelation 3:12 Revelation 3:12Him that overcomes will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God: and I will write on him my new name.
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). Does such a future seem distant, vague and impossible?

Imagine no more!

Imagine no more! This is prophetic reality unlike Moses’ glimmering peek-in-a-rearview-mirror experience or John’s vision. Instead, our future God-given, immortal bodies will enable us to experience Him in fullness once and forever.

Such wonderment does not come by wishful thinking on our part. The apostle John concludes his hope-filled insight in 1 John 3 by stating, “And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:3 1 John 3:3And every man that has this hope in him purifies himself, even as he is pure.
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).

Such purity does not come in a vacuum, whether it is A.D. 85 or 2009. It is a purity that is deepened and sustained as this world grows further and further apart from the intentions of our Heavenly Father. It is a hope that stays alive in our everyday interactions and troubling circumstances. It is a hope that stays vibrant as this “present evil age” (Galatians 1:4 Galatians 1:4Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:
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) moves through turbulent times such as the Tribulation and the Day of the Lord.

It is in this hope that members of the Body of Christ around the world proclaim this prophetic reality of ultimately seeing God as He is, as they assemble around this time of the year to observe the annual festivals mentioned throughout Scripture. (Read the Bible study aid  God’s Holy Day Plan: The Promise of Hope for all Mankind . )

How then do we approach the unapproachable light and view it straight on? In regards to such a hope, perhaps the message of Isaiah 30:21 Isaiah 30:21And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, This is the way, walk you in it, when you turn to the right hand, and when you turn to the left.
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(“This is the way, walk in it”) is best realized in the simple words of Jesus Christ when He said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8 Matthew 5:8Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
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).

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