Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Face to Face With God (Moses)

In this study we look at what it means to come "face to face" with God, and how it differs from "seeing God's face".  We also explore the glory of God and why Moses wore a veil.


  • Gen 18:1-2
  • Gen 18:22
  • Genesis 19:1
  • John 1:18
  • 1 John 4:12
  • Rev 22:1-4
  • Col 1:15
  • Exodus 3:1-6
  • Judges 6:22-23
  • Genesis 32:30
  • Deuteronomy 4:10-12
  • Deuteronomy 34:10-12
  • Exodus 6:2-3
  • Numbers 12:5-8
  • Exodus 33:17-23
  • Psalms 80:19 
  • Psalms 34:15-16
  • Numbers 6:22-26
  • Psalms 102:1-2
  • Jeremiah 18:17
  • Psalms 43:5
  • Proverbs 25:23
  • Gen 4:6-7
  • Proverbs 27:17
  • Luke 1:19
  • Matthew 18:10
  • Exodus 34:29-35
  • Luke 9:28-32
  • 2 Corinthians 3:7-18

Series: Angels and the Spirit Realm

The 3rd Man of Abraham

Gen 18:1-2
1The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. 2Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.
  • Who appeared to Abraham near the great trees?
    • The Lord (YHVH)
  • Who else does it say appeared to Abraham?
    • 3 men
  • Did Abraham bow down to them?
    • yes
  • Did they stop him?
    • no

Gen 18:22
22The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the Lord.
  • Who stayed with Abraham?
    • the Lord
  • What happened to the 3rd man who appeared to Abraham in Gen 18:2?
    • There were 3 men who appeared to Abraham but only 2 went to Sodom
    • He must have stayed  with Abraham
  • Who was Abraham talking to after the angels left?
    • God
  • So who was the 3rd man?
    • God!!!!
    • God appeared to Abraham as a man
  • Is this God’s normal appearance?
    • ??

Has Anyone Seen God?


Many theologians refer to the appearances of God in these passages, and others like them, as “theophanies” (Greek: theos = “God” + phaino = “appear”) meaning  “appearances of God” to men.

Has Anyone Seen God?

John 1:18
No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

1 John 4:12
12No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

Col 1:15
The Son is the image of the invisible [aóratos] God, the firstborn over all creation.
aóratos (from 1 /A "not" and 3708 /horáō, "see") – properly, not seen; invisible to the physical ("naked") eye; (figuratively) spiritual reality as perceived through God's inbirthings of faith.
  • If God is spirit it may imply that we can’t see Him with our physical eye
  • Perhaps we must be “in the spirit” to see God

Rev 22:1-4
1Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.
  • When is this that we will be able to see God’s face?
    • when we go to Heaven

Fear of The Face of God

Exodus 3:1-6
1Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”
4When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
And Moses said, “Here I am.”
5“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6Then he said, “I am the God of your father,a the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
  • Did it say that Moses saw God?
    • not really
  • Why did Moses hide his face?
    • He was afraid to look at God
    • Jewish tradition stated that if you looked at the face of God you would die

Judges 6:22-23
22When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the Lord, he exclaimed, “Alas, Sovereign Lord! I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!”
23But the Lord said to him, “Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.”
  • Why did Gideon think he was going to die?
    • because he saw the angel of the Lord “face to face”

Genesis 32:30
So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, "It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared."

We see that even though in some places it states that no one has seen God, in other places it states that some have seen God “face to face”.

The Israelites Didn’t See God

Deuteronomy 4:10-12
10Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when he said to me, “Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children.” 11You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain while it blazed with fire to the very heavens, with black clouds and deep darkness. 12Then the Lord spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice.
  • What does it mean that they saw no form?
    • they didn’t see what God’s body looked like

No Prophet After Moses Saw God

Deuteronomy 34:10-12
10Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, 11who did all those signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. 12For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.

Moses’ Encounter With God

Moses’ Encounter Was Unique

Exodus 6:2-3
2God also said to Moses, “I am the Lord. 3 I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty,a but by my name the Lord[YHWH]b I did not make myself fully known to them.

We see that Moses is seeing a different part of God than Abraham, Isaac or Jacob.  

Numbers 12:5-8
5 Then the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud; he stood at the entrance to the tent and summoned Aaron and Miriam. When the two of them stepped forward, 6 he said, “Listen to my words:

“When there is a prophet among you,
   I, the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions,
   I speak to them in dreams.
7 But this is not true of my servant Moses;
   he is faithful in all my house.
8 With him I speak face to face,
   clearly and not in riddles;
   he sees the form of the Lord.
Why then were you not afraid
   to speak against my servant Moses?”
  • Did Moses see God’s form?
    • yes
  • God appeared face to face to Moses
God says that with Moses:

I speak face to face,
   clearly and not in riddles;
   he sees the form of the Lord.

'face to face' is an expression that means that it’s not through some abstract communication like  a dream, or vision but that God is speaking audibly to the person while under some visible form.  In other words, God spoke to Moses like a person does who is having a conversation.  Moses could speak back to God and God would respond.

Moses Relationship With God

Exodus 33:17-23
17And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”
18Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”
19And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 20But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”
21Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. 22When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”
  • Had Moses seen God previously?
    • maybe
    • the Israelites only heard a voice and saw no form of God at the burning bush
  • Did Mose see God’s face?
    • no
  • What did Moses request from God?
    • to see God’s glory

Moses wanted to see God in His true form which apparently no one else had ever seen - neither Abraham, Isaac nor Jacob.  God said: “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live”.  “seeing His face” is equated to seeing Him in His full/true form.   Abraham, and Jacob “saw God”, but He hadn’t seen “God’s glory”.   This lets us know that we can see God but not see His full glory.  This is because God can appear in a non-glorified state as well as in a glorified state.  

Uses of the Word Face

The word face is used in multiple ways, and can have completely different meanings depending on the context.

To Show Favor

The term: “turn your face towards us” or “make your face shine on us” was a request to show favor on them.

Psalms 80:19
19Restore us, Lord God Almighty;
make your face shine on us,
that we may be saved.

Psalms 34:15-16
15The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are attentive to their cry;
16but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to blot out their name from the earth.

Numbers 6:22-26
22The Lord said to Moses, 23“Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:
24“ ‘ “The Lord bless you
and keep you;
25the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
26the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.” ’

Psalms 102:1-2
1Hear my prayer, Lord;
let my cry for help come to you.
2Do not hide your face from me
when I am in distress.
Turn your ear to me;
when I call, answer me quickly.

Jeremiah 18:17
17Like a wind from the east,
I will scatter them before their enemies;
I will show them my back and not my face
in the day of their disaster.”

It is seen as the favor or even the heart of the Lord.


countenance = a person's face or facial expression.

It is also used to represent the disposition of  person’s heart and your emotional state at the current time

Psalms 43:5
5Why are you in despair, O my soul?
           And why are you disturbed within me?
           Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him,
           The help of my countenance and my God.

Prov 25:23
     23The north wind brings forth rain,
           And a backbiting tongue, an angry countenance.
  • an “angry countenance” meaning an angry facial expression
  • meaning that you’re angry
  • someone who has a backbiting tongue can cause anger in someone else

Gen 4:6-7
6Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7“If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”
  • What did God say will change Cain’s countenance?
    • “doing well”
    • good behaviour

So we see that a change in a person’s countenance is influenced whether the person is acting inline with the desires of God.  “If you do well” your countenance will be lifted up.

Proverbs 27:17
Iron sharpens iron,
   and one man sharpens another.

Proverbs 27:17 (KJV)
17Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

true interpretation: one man’s face sharpens the countenance of another

The concept is that the face of another can change your countenance, or your emotional state.  If you approach someone and you have an angry countenance then they will be affected in a negative way.  If you have a positive countenance you will lift their countenance.   Glancing into the face of another can change your state.

When you look into the face of someone you can see into their eye's, along with the expression on their face, their essential personality or being. If you only saw the back of their head, you might not even know who you were looking at.

Seeing God’s face is to see Him in His fully glorified stated. Yet seeing God “face to face” refers to seeing God in any form.   So if God appears as an unglorified man as He did to Abraham, it is indeed possible to see Him.  Even though it is not possible for man to see God in His full glory.

Had others seen God in His “glorified state” like Moses did?
  • it seems that no one else had

Not Even All Angels Can See God’s Face?

Luke 1:19
19The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stands in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.
  • Why did Gabriel make it a point to say that he stand in the presence of God?
    • because all angels don’t get to be in the presence of God

Matthew 18:10
10“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.

Story: Adele - Hello

The Glory of God

Exodus 34:29-35
29When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. 30When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him. 31But Moses called to them; so Aaron and all the leaders of the community came back to him, and he spoke to them. 32Afterward all the Israelites came near him, and he gave them all the commands the Lord had given him on Mount Sinai.
33When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. 34But whenever he entered the Lord’s presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, 35they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the Lord.
  • Why was Moses’ face radiant?
    • he had been in the presence of God
    • so it is clear that he was in the presence of some form of God
  • What was Aaron and the Israelites reaction to seeing Moses’ face?
    • they were frightened of it
  • Why did Moses put a veil over his face?
    • ??
  • When would he take the veil off?
    • after he spoke with the Lord again

Jesus and the Glory

Luke 9:28-32
28About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. 29As he was praying, the appearance of his face [countenance] changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. 30Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. 31They spoke about his departure,a which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. 32Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him.
  • Who’s glory did the disciples see?
    • Jesus’
  • What else happened to Jesus?
    • His clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning

So both Moses and Jesus’ faces were affected by the glory of God when they went to commune with Him.

The Mountain

  • Notice that both Moses and Jesus were up on mountains in order to see God’s glory
  • Moses took Aaron, Nadab and Abihu to the mountain and Jesus took Peter, John and James.
  • A mountain can also be seen as a symbolic representation of being closer to God
    • Jesus’ temptation
    • Jesus’ transfiguration
    • Moses and the law
    • Sermon on the mount
  • Some refer to “going up the mountain of God” as being “in the spirit”
  • Remember John said he was “in the spirit” when he received the revelation from Jesus
  • The angels always ministered to Jesus on the mountain

2 Corinthians 3:7-18
7Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, 8will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? 9If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! 10For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. 11And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!
  • Which glory is transitory?
    • The glory of Moses
    • The glory of the law
  • What is the glory that lasts?
    • the glory of the New Testament, the glory of Christ
    • our glory is greater than Moses’ glory
  • if the ministry of angels brought glory the ministry of the Holy Spirit should have more
  • if the old testament brought glory to Moses face shouldn’t the new testament bring us glory
12Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 13We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away.
  • Why did Moses put a veil over his face?
    • So the Israelites wouldn’t realize that his glory would pass away
    • So they wouldn’t realize that it was temporary
14But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate[reflect]a the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
  • Who’s minds were made dull?
    • the Israelites
  • Where else does this veil remain?
    • when the old covenant is read
  • What is veiled in the old covenant?
    • the fact that the law was temporary
    • Moses hid the fact that the glory of the law was fading
    • the fact that Jesus was coming as the Messiah to take the place of the law is hidden to them
  • How is this veil taken away?
    • only in Christ
  • Who are those who “contemplate/reflect the Lord’s glory” that are being transformed into His image
    • those who commune with Jesus face to face
    • they reflect His glory in their faces
    • they are being transformed

The truth of the New Testament was veiled to the Jews.  They couldn’t see that the Messiah was coming to save the worlds, and also couldn’t see that the law was temporary.


There are multiple contexts in which the term “face” is used.  You have to look at the complete phrase that was used in order to understand what context it was used in.   Different passages referring to God’s face have different meaning depending on the rest of the context.  

We saw that “seeing God’s face” means seeing Him in His full glory, and that we cannot do that and remain alive.  We saw that the term “face to face” means to be in God’s presence and to see Him in any form and communicate with Him directly, without a mediator.  

We saw in the last lesson that sometimes God expresses Himself using a mediator of an angel.  We see now that even if God appears Himself there are various manifestations through which He can present Himself.  

As we attain a closer relationship with God and approach a true face to face encounter with God we are physically and spiritually changed through the encounter.  Moses and the Old Testament saints did not have the benefit of having the Holy Spirit within them like we do.  We know that even Jesus was ministered to using angels after He resisted the temptations of Satan.   But now we have a Comforter who has come to dwell in us to aid us in connecting with the spiritual realm.   We should all be pursuing a deeper encounter with God which has now been made through the sacrifice of Jesus.  We need to pursue how we can visit God “in the spirit”.

Food for Thought:
  1. Since the glory of the New Testament is brighter than that of the Old Testament would our faces reflect God’s glory if we are in His presence long enough?
  2. If we are deep enough in His presence could we be transfigured like Jesus?

If we learn how to engage Jesus (or God)  “in the spirit” then we will be able to communicate face to face and the result of it will be that our faces will literally reflect glory.


  • We saw that the bible says that 3 men came to Abraham to tell him about the miracle of his soon to be child.  Two of the men were identified as angels and went to Sodom.   The text doesn’t say what happened to the third man, but that Abraham stayed and talked with the Lord.
  • We deduced that the third man was God in the form of a man
  • We then saw that God stated that no man can see the face of God and live
  • We also saw that the bible states that Moses saw God “face to face”
  • We uncovered that seeing “the face of God” means seeing God in His full glory, and seeing His true form
  • Whereas “face to face” means being in the presence of God in any form, but having a conversation with God without a mediator.  It means not just hearing from God, but having a two way conversation.
  • We saw the both Jesus and Moses had a radiance about them when the glory of God was upon them after interacting with God “face to face”.
  • ·We then saw how Paul discusses that we now have a greater access to God than what was available through the Old Testament, and that we should have a greater glory.

Presenter: Michael Leadon



Extra Scriptures

Face to Face

Deuteronomy 5:1-5
1Moses summoned all Israel and said:
Hear, Israel, the decrees and laws I declare in your hearing today. Learn them and be sure to follow them. 2The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. 3It was not with our ancestorsa that the Lord made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today. 4The Lord spoke to you face to face out of the fire on the mountain. 5(At that time I stood between the Lord and you to declare to you the word of the Lord, because you were afraid of the fire and did not go up the mountain.) And he said:

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