Posted by: rcottrill | March 26, 2012

Face to Face

Words: Carrie Elizabeth Ellis Breck (b. Jan. 22, 1855; d. Mar. 27, 1934)
Music: Grant Colfax Tullar (b. Aug. 5, 1869; d. May 20, 1950)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: The Wordwise Hymns link provides the remarkable story of how this hymn came to be–an example of the wonderful providence of God. The Cyber hymnal uses the word “darkened” in CH-2. Mrs. Breck’s original word was “darkling,” meaning obscure and vaguely threatening. It’s a perfectly good word. No need to change it in my view.

Face to face. The phrase indicates that the two individuals involved are in one another’s presence, visible to one another, and close to one another. They are able to communicate directly, rather than through an intermediary, or using some device such as a phone or computer.

When applied to Christ, it has a wonderful significance for every child of God. The disciples of old had a privilege that we no longer enjoy. They saw Christ face to face–and were even given a glimpse of Him in heavenly glory (Matt. 17:1-2). Since His ascension, we have not been able to do that. We meet Him in His Word, and view Him with the eyes of faith, but it’s not the same. Like the veil in Israel’s tabernacle (and later in the temple) that curtained off the holy of holies, where God manifested His glorious presence, that privilege is denied us for now.

CH-2) Only faintly now I see Him,
With the darkling veil between,
But a blessèd day is coming,
When His glory shall be seen.

Our anticipation of heaven involves many things. Dwelling places especially prepared for us by the Lord Jesus (Jn. 14:2-3), the banishing of pain and sorrow and death (Rev. 21:4), and a reunion with saved loved ones who’ve gone on before us (I Thess. 4:14). But chief among the joys of heaven will surely be seeing our Saviour, face to face, in all His glory. With incredible understatement, Paul says that being with Christ will be “far better” (Phil. 1:23). “Now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face” (I Cor. 13:12, KJV).

CH-3) What rejoicing in His presence,
When are banished grief and pain;
When the crooked ways are straightened,
And the dark things shall be plain.

The anticipation of that has comforted and cheered countless believers in the face of danger and death. Many years ago, R. W. Porteous and his wife, missionaries serving with the China Inland Mission, were captured by bandits. Tied together, they were forced to march for miles over rough, mountainous terrain until they reached the outlaws’ stronghold. On a moonlit night, soon after, they were taken by those who guarded them to a lonely hill. There, one of the men drew out a large executioner’s knife.

It was plain what was intended. “We stood looking up at the stars,” says Porteous, “and God’s peace came into our hearts. We could not restrain ourselves from singing praise to Him. We sang [the hymn’s refrain]:

Face to face I shall behold Him,
Far beyond the starry sky;
Face to face in all His glory,
I shall see Him by and by!

One of the men said, ‘Listen to these foreigners singing! They are not afraid to die.’” In telling what happened, the missionary said, “We do not know whether it was the singing that touched the hearts of the guards, and kept them from carrying out their threat to kill us. But we do know it was the restraining hand of God.” Not only were they not slain, a few weeks later, they were released.

1) Are there spiritual benefits to be gained by not seeing Christ face to face, for the time being? (If so, what?)

2) What is it about the anticipation of seeing Christ face to face that sustains believers in difficult trials?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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