The Mask of God
Oct 20, 2015
The goal of the salvation process is to re-establish mankind in the image and likeness of God. It is to regain that which was lost through Adam’s sin. The method that God has been using is different from what He did at the first. In the beginning God made man in His own image; later, after the work of Christ was finished, God began to beget man in order to bring them again into His image.
The Timeless Plan of God
Technically, this has been a timeless work. For this reason, it is not really accurate to say that the begetting began at the cross, or at the time of His resurrection, or even on the day of Pentecost. Historically speaking, it began on one of those days—or all of them in different ways. But we ought not to conclude that the saints prior to the time of Christ were left out of the divine plan. People have been begotten of God since Adam fell, though they may have been unaware of it in their understanding.
While we look back at the cross, the Old Testament saints looked forward to it. The cross marked the crossroad of history and unified Time itself, for “the works were finished from the foundation of the world” (Hebrews 4:3), and “the Lamb [was] slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8).
In fact, even though the Old Covenant was established at Sinai, this did not mean that Moses, Joshua, David, and all the prophets were saved by their works. Paul quoted Habakkuk 2:4 in teaching that “the just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17 KJV). This principle of faith has been the requirement from the beginning. The Old Covenant method of salvation by men’s work, men’s will, and men’s ability to fulfill their vow to God has never saved a single man or woman throughout history.
In fact, the New Covenant was given before the Old Covenant, for it was inherent in God’s vow to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and even as far back as the time of Noah. It is even traceable back to Adam, though not clarified. So historically speaking, we declare the New Covenant to be established by Christ’s ministry on earth, but from the timeless perspective of heaven, it was always with us—and was always intended to be the divine path to salvation.
When we speak of these things, then, it is apparent that there are two perspectives. There is the timeless heavenly perspective as well as the time-bound (historical) earthly perspective. Both perspectives are found in Scripture, and it is important for us to discern from which platform the speaker is teaching.
The Feasts of the Lord
The feast days are based upon historical events which occurred during Israel’s journey in the wilderness. Secondly, Passover was fulfilled by a historical event in the life of Christ when He died on the cross. Pentecost was fulfilled by a historical event with 120 people in an upper room in a house in Jerusalem in the second chapter of Acts.
But these feasts are also timeless, because one does not have to wait until a particular day of the year called Passover to be justified by faith. Neither does one have to wait for a day of Pentecost to be filled with the Spirit. Even Scripture gives us examples of men being justified and filled with the Spirit on days that were not feast days. For that matter, men like Moses and Samson were filled with the Spirit throughout history long before the disciples in the upper room experienced it. The point is that the historical fulfillment did not negate the timeless fulfillment, nor vice versa.
As we approach the time of the second coming of Christ, the final set of feast days will be historically fulfilled, even as Passover and Pentecost were fulfilled historically through Christ’s first appearance. Some see only a timeless fulfillment of Tabernacles, as they try to appropriate the blessings of this feast in their own lives. Others see only a historical fulfillment of Tabernacles, as they wait for it to happen in the future.
Each of these viewpoints represents a half-truth. The fact is that neither view negates the other. Both are true. There is room for both viewpoints without anyone stepping on another’s toes. If we would enjoy a more complete truth, we ought to understand, value, and appropriate, if possible, both levels of truth into our experience and teaching.
A veiled face is difficult to see. Likewise, it is difficult to see through a veil. Paul discusses this in 1 Corinthians 3 in his discussion of Moses, who put a veil over his face while the glory of God was upon him, so that he would not frighten the people. The story is told in Exodus 34:29, 30,
29 And it came about when Moses was coming down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the testimony were in Moses’ hand as he was coming down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face [paniym] shone because of his speaking with Him. 30 So when Aaron and all the sons of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face [paniym] shone, and they were afraid to come near him.
The Hebrew word paniym, translated “face,” also means “presence.” To stand before someone’s “face” means to stand in his presence, according to Hebrew idiom.
The Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament, translates paniym by the Greek word prosopon. So also the Apostle Paul used the same term twice in 2 Corinthians 3:7, saying, “the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face [prosopon] of Moses, because of the glory of his face [prosopon].”
The word prosopon was borrowed from the world of Greek theater, where it referred to a mask that actors used on stage to depict someone other than themselves. The Corinthian believers, then, pictured Moses with the mask of God as He descended from the mount. Then when Moses put a veil over his face, he put on the mask of human flesh.
The face of God comes upon us, Paul says, by beholding Him, by being in His presence, or by seeing God’s face. As Moses descended the mount (representing heaven) to the theater of earth, where, as Shakespeare said, we are all actors on a stage, he came with the mask of God on his face.
In that way, Moses was a type of Christ coming to earth in glory, prophesying of events yet to come on the eighth day of Tabernacles. (This was the end of Moses’ eighth trip up and down the mount, as I showed in my book, The Laws of the Second Coming, ch. 9.) Yet more than that, Moses also foreshadowed Christ in His incarnation, where Christ masked the glory that was in Him by taking on the veil of human flesh. He was unmasked briefly at the mount of Transfiguration, but this was witnessed only by three disciples.
On a broader level still, Moses and Christ reveal all who have the glory of God within their flesh-veil during their life time on earth, as well as a future time of glory when they shall be unveiled fully in the manifestation (unveiling) of the sons of God. In other words, our present veiled condition is like Christ in His first appearance, while we yet expect to be unveiled at the historical fulfillment of the feast of Tabernacles.
Meanwhile, a few (such as Moses) have even experienced a temporary unveiling in their own life time. Yet such experiences are never permanent, as with the glory in the face of Moses, “fading as it was” (2 Corinthians 3:7). Moses’ experience was personal, but he could not hold it permanently, because his experience was merely a type of the feast of Tabernacles. It will not be permanent until the appointed time in history when the feast is to be fulfilled in a larger body of people.
Hebrews 10:19, 20 says,
19 Since therefore, brethren, we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh…
Veils are designed to partially hide something. The metaphor of a veil, however, is insufficient to encompass the whole spiritual truth, so Paul used the term prosopon, a mask, to enhance our understanding of the truth. Our flesh indeed hides the glory that is in us even now, but the mask of human flesh pictures us in a theater, having the potential to change masks, depending on which role we are called to play on the stage of life.
Interestingly enough, when Paul expounds upon the story of Moses, he makes the point that the veil was designed to blind the people. It did not hinder Moses from seeing. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:14, 15,
14 But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remained unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. 15 But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart.
In other words, those who live by the old covenant have a veil over their heart, preventing them from seeing Moses (i.e., Christ). The only way to remove the veil, then, is to look to the Mediator of the New Covenant, “because it is removed in Christ.”
No doubt Paul had the Jews in mind when he wrote this, for the basis of Judaism was (and is) the Old Covenant. That covenant is man’s vow to God, which no man has been able to fulfill, even if made with good intentions. Man’s will is weakened by mortality and cannot find justification by that path. All who tread that path have a veil over their face and heart.
The veil is “removed in Christ,” because He is the Mediator of a New Covenant, wherein God has vowed to make us His people and to save us from the inadequacy of our own will. There are many truths which remove layers of veils over our eyes. Understanding the New Covenant as God’s vow to man removes a huge veil, allowing us to see the face of Christ much more clearly.
Likewise, Paul says, this brings us “liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17), because we may cease from our labors and rest in His promise to us. As long as we hinge our salvation upon our own will, our own well-intended vow, and our own fleshly ability to keep our vow, we will remain in bondage. But when we use the law in Leviticus 6:2-7 to be released from rash vows, we may find forgiveness through the sacrifice of ram (i.e., Christ).
This brings liberty, because we then can place our faith fully in the promises of God, rather than in our own rash vows to God. It is a liberty which only those who have done this can understand.
Dr. Stephen Jones