We were created for fellowship not only with the lower creatures and not just with our fellow humans but, above all, with God. As we read the opening chapters of the book ofGenesis we see that man and woman were accustomed to hearing, seeing and conversing with God in the Garden of Eden. It was only after they fell into a sinful condition that the manifest presence of God became to them a source of dread and something to avoid. (1:28-30; 2:15-17, 19, 22; 3:8) God, though He was and is, an infinite Spirit (Psalm 139:1-18;147:5; Isaiah 31:3; 46:5; John 4:24), has formed us as finite replicas of Himself, and therefore capable of feelingly and intelligently interacting with Him. This is the chief glory of our nature as human beings.
Enjoying the friendship and companionship of God is the highest of all goods and ought to be eagerly sought by us. But sadly, our fallen, sinful state of mind and will renders us averse to fellowship with God. In this condition, the thought of God is more likely to be boring, frightening or mystifying rather than exciting and enjoyable. Only as the Spirit of God plants in our minds a taste of God, a sample of what it means to know God and enjoy His favor, do we even have the beginnings of a desire for God. God visits the souls of everyone at some time in their lives with these glimpses of Himself but even then we frequently choose to harden our hearts against Him lest we yield to His persuasions and "lose out" on worldly pleasures. You see, we have no confidence in God's goodness. He is Spirit whereas we have come to believe that only material things can satisfy us. We reason, "How could an invisible, intangible Being be of any use to us?" I once asked an atheist, "If God did exist, that is, Someone who made you and everything else in the universe, would you want to meet Him?" He answered that he would not be interested! That was an honest answer and an answer that many who are not professed atheists would give if they were as honest about it. God has a very difficult time persuading us to believe that "He is and that He is a rewarder of everyone who seeks Him." (Hebrews 11:6)
But in fact, God is the reward of everyone who seeks Him. The testimony of the Psalmists is clear on this: "In Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever." (Psalm 16:11), "Upon the wicked He will rain snares; fire and brimstone and burning wind will be the portion of their cup. For the LORD is righteous, He loves righteousness; the upright will behold His face." (11:6-7), "Arise, O LORD, confront him, bring him low; deliver my soul from the wicked with Your sword, from men with Your hand O LORD, from men of the world, whose portion is in this life, and whose belly You fill with Your treasure; they are satisfied with children, and leave their abundance to their babes. As for me, I shall behold Your face in righteousness; I will be satisfied with Your likeness when I awake." (17:13-15)
In the last two passages we see the contrast between the rewards of the wicked and worldly with the reward of the righteous. In Psalm 11:6-7, we see the ultimate "reward" of the wicked: fire, brimstone and burning wind, all images that paint a picture of the most profound and terrible misery. This is contrasted with the ultimate reward of the upright: they will behold the face of God! That is the greatest of all rewards! Then, in Psalm 17:13-15, we see that worldly, unrighteous men find their "reward", their ultimate satisfaction, in the things of this world, created things, with which God richly blesses them and yet they turn their backs to Him. The godly psalmist, on the other hand, looks forward to beholding the face of God in heaven and of seeing God's likeness in himself as the image in a mirror conforms to the thing it reflects. This reminds us of what the Apostle John says, "Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure." (1 John 3:2-3)
So our ultimate reward in the life to come will be that we behold the face of God. In the movie, "A Man for All Seasons", Sir Thomas More, who is on trial for allegedly speaking against the divorce and remarriage of King Henry VIII, says, "If I have ever spoken to anyone about this, I pray that I shall never see God in the face!" This was the strongest oath that Sir Thomas More and his contemporaries in the 16th century could make because people of that time understood the scriptural truth that the highest good of the soul is found in the greatest possible awareness of, and communion with, God, which is caught by the expression, "beholding the face of God" and also known as "the Beatific Vision".
But this is not just for our future after death! It may and must begin here and now. Yes, "now we see as in a mirror, dimly, but then [in heaven] face to face" (1 Corinthians 13:12) so even now, in this life, we may see the Lord and that sight of Him, that fellowship with Him, is transformative. As Paul also says, "But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory…" (2 Corinthians 3:18)
Seeing and knowing God is our highest good and God has done everything He can to persuade us to seek and find Him now, in this life so that we might enjoy Him both now and forever in heaven. The Apostle Paul said to the crowd gathered on Mar's Hill in Athens, "He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist…" (Acts 17:26-28a) This means that the circumstances of our existence (when and where we live) are engineered by God so that we might seek Him and find Him for He is closer to us than any created thing. Beyond this, God has poured out His Spirit upon all flesh (Joel 2:28; John 16:8) and has sent His Son to die for all men that He might draw all men to Himself (John 12:32-33). So God has arranged our circumstances in life, has given us His Spirit and has sent His Son to die for us, all to persuade us to seek Him and find Him, whom to know is life eternal!
So how are we responding to His persuasion? Sadly, most people still stubbornly refuse to seek and find Him. Or, they seek Him as though He were a lesser good than any created thing. Such seeking will not find Him. He says, "You will seek Me and find Mewhen you search for Me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:13) In other words, you will find God when you seek Him for what He is - the highest good of your soul and of all souls. He is not far away but very near and you can know by experience that He, the giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17) is infinitely greater than anything He gives and better to know than to have all the riches and pleasures of this world.