What Does “Now, We See Through a Glass Darkly” Mean?
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now stays faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. (1 Corinthians 13: 12-13)
That is a frequent question that drives traffic to this blog. It is one of the perks of parking along a little piece of the information highway, to get a peek inside the anxieties and conversations taking place amongst the streams of humanity whizzing by. But I am not a mere voyeur, I do pray a blessing for you on your travels! And if this question is all that troubles you, be of good cheer — here is your explanation. The ‘glass’ the writer describes here is actually a mirror. The mirrors of the ancients were of polished metal, in many cases they were of brass and they required constant polishing, so that a sponge with pounded pumice-stone was generally attached to it. And it was the apostle Paul who wrote this famous passage from the Bible in a letter to a church in Corinth, which was famous for the manufacture of these kinds of mirrors. The images reflected in these brass mirrors were indistinct in comparison to our modern mirrors. They were seen Darkly.
Which, literally translated from the original Greek language in which he wrote, means, “in a riddle or enigma…that the revelation appears indistinctly, imperfectly.” Paul is telling us that this is the state of our knowledge of divine things–imperfect and incomplete. “Now I know in part,” Paul mourns. There were limitations upon the knowledge even of Paul; only a part was seen. But wonderfully, it will not always be so. One glorious moment in the future every single human being on earth will suddenly face Him — Jesus! –without a veil, without obscurity, Face to Face!
Because, Then! When the murky image we are seeing is suddenly gone as we die, and the full revelation has come in the presence of Christ, what joy for those who believe and have proclaimed during their earthly lives that the name of Jesus is the Name above all Names! What dread and fear for those who never knew the power of that Name that could have saved them from their terrible moment. Because in our hearts we know that God is like a magnificent and dread Light that would extinguish any darkness approaching Him — we only have to look at the awesome Universe He created! We only need to examine the intricate workings of our own human eye that observes the worlds surrounding us–we need only study the micro-universe of our own human brains. All of these things were created to inspire awe, and to trouble us, and motivate us to seek the maker of these mysteries. And perhaps dear fellow traveler along the information highway — perhaps I have deeply troubled you, who innocently came here with a little bitty question about glass and darkness. Now you have bigger questions, and you are trembling inside, because you know you are not ready to die yet. You are filled with fear because of all the darkness of all of all the wrong things you have ever done, what the Bible calls sin. You know you are a sinner, and you are not ready for that dreadful moment of face to face.
Well, Paul has some wonderfully good news for you. He wrote this, that
When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good.But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God. (Romans 5:6-12)
Jesus died for us sinners, us wrongdoers, because we cannot reach Heaven on our own merit. But maybe you argue that you aren’t a sinner, and those kinds of words are positively medieval. The Spoken Word Artist Propaganda explains why those ideas matter, here:
Jesus died to provide the only way to eternal life. Believing the Bible’s truth about Who Jesus is, and what He did, is to trust in Jesus as the Savior from sin and to follow Him as the Lord of life. Jesus leads and strengthens every believer through His Word, the Holy Bible, and prepares them to meet this glorious, but unapproachable “Father of Lights”.
I will pray for you to trust in the good gift of salvation from sins that that our loving Heavenly Father has provided in His Son Jesus, and that you will not believe your good deeds have made you ready to see Him face to face. Because today might be the day when the door of Eternity opens to you. Are you filled with joy and peace at the prospect? I long to see Jesus face to face, and so did this man, Roby Duke — who has gone to that place he sings about here, he “stepped through the door, where time is no more…” He died suddenly of a heart attack just four days after this was recorded. Prophetically, tenderly, exquisitely, he sings here, “I Shall See God.” I urge you to bow your head to Him now, in thanksgiving and worship, while it is still today!