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THEOLOGY > Future > The Believer in Eternity > The Presence of God  


The most definitive and satisfying statement that can be made regarding the believer in eternity is that the believer will be in the presence of God. This experience has been reflected on throughout Church history, revealing the intriguing nature of such an experience and a certain mysticism associated with it.

What does it mean for man to be in the presence of God? How are we to understand the creature appearing before the Creator? How can the individual contemplate Deity? What does the text mean: “they shall see His face” (Rev. 22:4). It is easy to lose oneself in wonder and question. However the experience is to be understood, and regardless of what can be postulated relative to the event, the Scriptures do teach the possibility of the occurrence, especially in eschatological passages. While all of the verses do not relate to eternity, each text does speak of the personal experience of God by the individual:

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day (Gen. 3:8);

Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel . . . they beheld God, and ate and drank (Ex. 24:9-11);

So the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend (Ex. 33:11; see: Deut. 5:4; 34:10; Ezek. 20:35);

I will make My dwelling among you, and My soul shall not abhor you; and I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be My people (Lev. 26:11-12);

The Lord spoke with you face to face at the mountain, out of the midst of the fire (Deut.  5:4);   I have seen the Angel of the Lord face to face (Jud. 6:22);

And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another; my heart faints within me! (Job 19:26);

You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore (Ps. 16:11);

My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people (Ezek. 37:27);

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face (I Cor. 13:12);

Beloved, . . . we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is (I Jo. 3:2);

the dwelling place of God is with men (Rev. 21:3);

He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people (Rev. 21:3);

God Himself will be with them and be their God (Rev. 21:3);

I will be his God and he shall be My son (Rev. 21:7);

the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it (Rev. 22:3);

His servants shall serve Him (Rev. 22:3);

they shall see His face (Rev. 22:4).

The Genesis account speaks of God “walking in the garden in the cool of the day,” and by this description the Scriptures suggest that Adam and Eve had constant and historical—note the words: “garden” and “day”—fellowship with God (Gen. 3:8). The Creator created man so He could commune with him; both man and woman were created so they could enjoy companionship with God, a companionship which was personal and direct in the Garden. Correctly understood God’s creative act is for the purpose of relationship.

While Scripture confirms the experience of individual fellowship with Deity, it also attributes the initiation and implementation of that experience to God:

I will dwell among the children of Israel and will be their God (Ex. 29:45; see: II Cor. 6:16);

I will walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people (Lev. 26:12);

I will make a covenant of peace with them . . . and I will set My sanctuary in their midst forevermore . . . the nations also will know that I, the Lord, sanctify Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forevermore (Ezek. 37:26-28);

Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God (Rev. 21:3).

It is God who establishes this fellowship with man, for man cannot fashion such a companionship; God creates it and sustains it. Note that in the above passages from Exodus, Leviticus, and Ezekiel, there is the repetition of “I will”; it is God who is accomplishing this. He “will dwell,” He “will walk,” and He “will make.” In each text the emphasis is on God, and in the Revelation of John it is God who prepares the city and brings it to earth in order that He might “dwell” with “His people.” The city “comes down out of heaven from God,” and it comes “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev. 21:2). Regardless of the identification of the city the Preparer is God (see: The Holy City).

Fellowship with God is not what man discovers and nurtures; it is not a natural or contrived evolutionary development—it does not originate with man. Rather, it resides in the action of God; it is His determination to reveal Himself to man. And it is by His Revelation to man that God relates to man and establishes an ongoing relationship with man. Grace is the initiative of God.

In this sense, man’s authentic significance is relational not ontological; man was not created just to be, but to be in fellowship with God. This capacity to communicate and have a relationship with God on the personal level is what gives man worth and defines his purpose. Man’s significance is not primarily in what man is, a creature made in the image of God, but in the reason for the image and the capabilities that are inherent within the image. Because man is like God, he can converse with God. Again this is a reflection on God not man. Because of the life God has given to man, man can have life with God.

And, again, from this perspective it is seen that man’s purpose and meaning can only be grasped when man is interpreted from the perspective of God. Without God man has no temporal significance, and he has no eternal hope. From chance, purpose does not arise and optimism is lacking a foundation. A valid anthropology must be developed in terms of Biblical Theism—the study of man is the study of God. And the understanding of man resides in an understanding of God.

The present relationship with God is merely an intimation of what is to be; and as the believer develops in his present fellowship with God, he comes to the conclusion that all that matters in life is fellowship with God:

You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore (Ps. 16:11);

Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You; my flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Ps. 73:25-26);

Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name; the upright shall dwell in your presence (Ps. 140:13).

The believer comes to understand that there is no life apart from fellowship with God, there is only emptiness and death. That is true both in this life and in the future life. God is the believer’s “strength” and “portion” forever; without a relationship with God, the believer has nothing.

But more important than all the physical beauty of the heavenly city, more important than the fellowship we will enjoy eternally with all God’s people from all nations and all periods in history, more important than our freedom from pain and sorrow and physical suffering, and more important than our reigning over God’s kingdom—more important by far than any of these will be the fact that we will be in the presence of God and enjoying unhindered fellowship with him (Wayne Grudem, ST, 1164).

Heaven is, first and foremost, the presence of God . . .
The correct perspective . . .
is to see the basic nature of heaven as the presence of God,
from which all the blessings of heaven follow.
Millard Erickson

When we look into the face of our Lord
and he looks back at us with infinite love,
we will see in him the fulfillment of everything
that we know to be good and right and desirable in the universe.
Wayne Grudem

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