Face to Face in the Flesh
Thursday of Pentecost 3
9 June 2016
When troops deployed to foreign battlefields return from their tour of duty and are reunited with their families in those joyous and tearful entanglements of long anticipated embraces, those embraces inevitably dissolve when husbands and wives grasp the faces of those from whom they have been separated for long months of anxiety, and holding them at arm's length drink in once again the face of their beloved.
The hope of seeing their beloved face to face has been a constant refrain of e-mails, Skype calls, and letters during their separation. Now they hold in their hands the fleshly face of the one whom they had only held in the frozen frame of a photograph. Now they gaze into the twinkling, relieved, joyous eyes of one whose eyes were gazed upon but whose form never looked back. A face to face meeting with our beloved after a long physical separation is one of the most joyous events in human experience. It is a foretaste of the reunion of the kingdom of God in heaven at the completion of our earthly deployment.
Taking his cue from St. Paul's joyous hope of a face to face meeting with our Lord Jesus Christ in the new age (1Co 13:12), Augustine of Hippo writes of the blessed vision of the faithful seeing face to face the fleshly visage of the God-Man Jesus Christ. In the age to come the God-Man shall not be divested of his human nature or its flesh. Both the faithful and the ungodly will see Him in His flesh at the judgment, yet only for the faithful will this be a blessed vision of joy and relief. The meeting of the faithful with the Lord of glory will be a fleshly reunion. Perhaps I am going too far (you be the judge), but I see the faithful on that day holding the fleshly face of their Lord in their hands made new at the resurrection of the flesh and gazing into the eyes of Him who beheld them always from His heavenly throne, watching them upon their way home from their deployment to this world. We desire to see Him face to face in the flesh.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Augustine of Hippo

"Paul the apostle would not say of the princes of this world, 'For had they had understood it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory' (1Co 2:8) unless He who is the Son of Man on account of the form of a servant which He took, was also the Son of God on account of the form of God in which He is. For He was crucified in the form of a servant, yet 'the Lord of glory' was crucified. For that 'taking' was such as to make God man, and man God. Yet what is said on account of that, the thoughtful, diligent, and pious reader discerns for himself, the Lord being his helper.
"For instance, we have said that He glorifies His own, as being God, and certainly then as being the Lord of glory. Yet the Lord of glory was crucified, because even God is rightly said to have been crucified, not according to the power of the divinity, but according to the weakness of the flesh (2Co 13:4). Just as we say, that He judges as God, that is, by divine power, not by human; and yet the man Himself will judge, just as the Lord of glory was crucified. He expressly says, 'When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with Him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before Him will be gathered all the nations' (Mt 25:31-32) . The ungodly, inasmuch as they will be punished in that judgment for persisting in their wickedness, 'shall look upon Him whom they have pierced' (Zech 12:10).
"Both good and bad shall see the Judge of the living and the dead, without doubt the bad will not be able to see Him, except after the form in which He is the Son of Man. They shall see Him in the glory in which He will judge, not in the lowliness in which He once was judged. But the ungodly without doubt will not see the form of God, in which He is equal to the Father. For they are not pure in heart; 'Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God' (Mt 5:8). And that sight is face to face (1Co 13:12), the very sight that is promised as the highest reward to the just. This will then take place when He 'shall have delivered up the kingdom to God the Father.' By this 'kingdom' He means the sight of His own form also understood, the whole creature being made subject to God, including that in which the Son of God was made the Son of Man. Because, according to this creature, 'The Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all' (1Co 15:24-28)."

Augustine, On the Trinity, 1.13
1 Corinthians

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For "God has put all things in subjection under his feet." But when it says, "all things are put in subjection," it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.   (ESV)
Come, Lord Jesus, that we may see You face to face. Amen.
For Leslie Roch, that the Lord Jesus would grant her recovery from surgery
For all married couples, that they might find strength in God's mercy for them
For all our troops, that the holy angels would watch over them
Art: Durer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 
Memorial Lutheran Church
©  Scott Murray 2016