For now we see in a mirror, darkly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)
If you’re like me then you remember the first time you read this passage you were absolutely dumbfounded as to what Paul was attempting to convey. However, overtime I’ve come to rely on this passage immensely. We, Christians, continually yearn for a deeper understanding of our God. We seek it out daily, we pray for it, we cry out for it, we perseverate on it, but in the end we know we all fall short. It’s this communal knowledge of falling short that galvanizes you and me to patiently endure. Once we are born again everything about us changes. Our thought process, the way we speak, the things we do, the way we react to situations, etc. In other words, we begin to see Christ within ourselves. What Paul is trying to convey in his letter to the church at Corinth is when you and I look in the mirror can we truly see a crystal clear reflection of our Savior? No…instead what we see is a dim reflection like gazing into a looking glass. A distorted image that you can just make out ever so slightly, but may become more clear over time.
“But He said, you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” (Exodus 33:20) At one point in Exodus Moses asks God if he can see His glory and God says no. Knowing Moses is eager He hides Moses in the cleft of a rock and tells him He will show him the “trail” of His glory because that’s all Moses could handle and stay alive. We cannot see God in His eternal uncreated state. Why? God is spirit and perfection. He is the intrinsic value. We are temporal beings who do not exist in an eternal state…not yet anyway. Knowing this makes you appreciate Jesus even that much more. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1) Let’s say you sit across from a stranger and you would like to get to know this person on a deeper level so you begin a conversation. You say, “hello, my name is…”. No response. So you try and ask questions… “what’s your name?” No response. This continues on and on. Can you get to know this person if they don’t use words to express themselves? We can’t deny that Jesus can show himself to us whenever, wherever, and however he wants to. He does this throughout scripture on numerous occasions in The Old Testament through “Christophanies”. He shows up in the middle of the desert to Abraham and tells him he’s going to be a father. He wrestles with Jacob (not really) and breaks his hip. He shows up as a military commander to Joshua and tells him he’s not on his nor his enemies’ side. He shows up in a fiery furnace to save Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Jesus was the corporeal expression of God on earth, and gave us an open invitation to get to know him on a deeper level. “Who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:6-7) God, though not sacrificing any divinity or power, became flesh like you and me. Yet still there is always this sense of “separation” between God and man since Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden.
“When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” (Revelation 1:17-18) When the apostle John is imprisoned on the island of Patmos he receives the Revelation of Jesus Christ. Our Lord appears to John in a vision. Notice the portion of the passage where Jesus tells John not to be afraid because John is seeing a glorified version of Christ that he doesn’t necessarily fully recognize. It’s a being of extreme power and authority. A being who seems absolutely unreachable and untouchable. John is terrified. There’s a feeling of complete separation, but yet familiarity. John has an inkling of who it is. He describes this omnipotent being as “like A Son of Man”. (See Daniel 7 reference) Then Jesus reaches out and touches John with his “right” hand. I imagine this maybe the moment John realizes that this fantastical unreal being before him is actually his old companion and confidant. The companion that laughed with him, journeyed with him, gave him an endearing nickname being one half of “the sons of thunder”, broke bread with him, ministered with him. The friend he had to witness be chained, spit on, ridiculed, mocked, whipped and scourged. The friend he saw rise to defeat death once and for all only to leave again, but promise to return.
“Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.” (1 Corinthians 13:8-10) When will the gifts of prophecy and speaking in tongues finally cease? Well here, in this passage, Paul clearly states it’s when you and I are face to face with our Lord. He capsulizes this concept when he says… “but when completeness comes…”. It’s inevitable that someday whether by “the catching up” or through translation by death, we will all meet our Maker. When we are finally with Him will we need scripture? No. Will we need the gift of speaking in tongues? No. Will we need the grift of prophecy? No. Why won’t we need these things any longer? We will be in the presence, face to face, with the origin of the greatest gift of all…love.