And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses’ hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him. And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him.
And Moses called unto them; and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned unto him: and Moses talked with them. And afterward all the children of Israel came nigh: and he gave them in commandment all that the LORD had spoken with him in mount Sinai. And till (should read AFTER) Moses had done speaking with them, he put a veil on his face. But when Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he took the veil off, then he came out. And he came out, and spoke unto the children of Israel that which he was commanded. And the children of Israel saw the face of Moses that the skin of Moses’ face shone: and Moses put the veil upon his face again, until he went in to speak with him. (Ex. 34:29-35)
But if the ministration of death, written and engraved in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious? For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excels. For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remains is glorious. Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: And not as Moses, which put a veil over his face, that the children of Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: But their minds were blinded: for until this day remains the same veil untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which veil is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away. Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Cor 3:7-18)
Most of us have been taught that Moses took the veil off of his face when he talked with the Lord, but put it on his face when he talked with the people of Israel. We’ve generally believed that because Israel could not bear the reflection of God’s glory, the veil was necessary. But if we go back to Exodus 34 and discover the proper translation, we find that this interpretation is not correct. And once we find the correct interpretation, it opens us Paul’s teaching.
In Exodus 34, the KJV says, “And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a veil on his face.” This is where the problem begins in our understanding. It is an incorrect translation, and most KJV will note that the word, “till,” is not in the original. M.R. Vincent rightly translates this sentence, “When Moses ceased speaking to Israel, he put a veil in his face.” So we see that Moses did not wear a veil while speaking with Israel, in order to hide the fact that his face showed the glory of God. No. In fact, he wore the veil only after he was done speaking with them, so that they would not see the glory FADE.
So what we have is this: Moses would go in and talk with the Lord. For this, he would obviously take the veil OFF. Then he would come out, with the veil still off, and speak the word of the Lord to Israel, his face showing God’s glory. Then, after he was done speaking to them, he would put the veil ON, so that Israel should not see that glory fade. The whole purpose is not to conceal the glory of the Lord. It was to conceal the fact that the glory would fade.
Understanding this is crucial to seeing the meaning of Paul’s words in II Corinthians. Paul tells us that Israel is blinded to the fact that the OT is abolished – they are blinded to the fact that its glory has faded. He says, “But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart.” In other words, because Moses wore a veil when the glory faded, to them, the glory was always there. In like manner, when they READ Moses – the OT – the veil on their heart conceals the FADED glory. So they continue to think the glory is always there. The only way, Paul says, that they can possibly see that the OT glory is gone is if they turn to Christ. Then the veil is removed because His glory is vastly greater, never fades, and so by comparison, the faded glory is exposed for what it is.
Really, what Paul is teaching in this passage is fundamental to Christian freedom. He says, “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” Often, this verse is taken out of context and made to apply to many things in the Christian life, and rightly so, for Paul is stating a general principle – wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom and liberty. But if for a moment, we keep the verse in context, we begin to see Paul’s more local application. He is basically saying that wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is LIBERTY – all VEILS are removed — because the glory of Jesus Christ NEVER FADES. In short, once we SEE JESUS, everything else is exposed as lacking.
Get the contrast: The OT was GOD ORDAINED. At the time of Moses, it was THE covenant – and with it there was to be no compromise. The OT also brought much glory. Paul says so. But as we know, it could accomplish very little that was eternal. It was only able to shadow, and point to, the eternal that had to be brought to pass through Jesus Christ. The OT from the start was always going to fade away. But Israel could not understand this. God didn’t expect them to understand it at the time of Moses. Yet God needed to illustrate the Truth about the OT – He needed to show that it was eventually going to fade away in favor of an eternal covenant through Christ. The way He illustrated this was through Moses’ face, and the veil. The glory of the Lord – the glory of the OT – was shown to Israel through Moses’ face. But the fact it would fade was VEILED from them. Only once the true glory came – in Christ – could the veil be taken away and the OT be shown for what it was – temporary.
What is important to see is that the true nature of the OT cannot be seen until a person sees Christ. THEN, and only then, is the veil that hides the, “fading nature,” of the OT taken away. Indeed, it is only when a person SEES JESUS that they can be set free from, “being under the law” – set free from LEGALISM.
Have we understood that? That the solution to legalism, indeed, to EVERY BONDAGE, is to SEE JESUS CHRIST? Well, of course! Didn’t Jesus say, “And you shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall set you free?” And HE, HIMSELF, is the Truth! See Jesus and you will be set free from bondage to all that has faded away. See Jesus and there will come LIBERTY, for wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, Jesus is, and liberty abounds.
Note that in order to see error, you must see the Truth. If you have been walking in faded glory – under the law, in deception or bondage – you will never be free by trying to fight IT. You cannot fight it and make it go away. You have to SEE JESUS. You cannot fight darkness except that you bring in LIGHT.
When a person SEES JESUS, everything else becomes clear because they have an eternal basis of definition, comparison, and understanding. As Paul said to the Colossians, “IN HIM are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Only as you see and grow to know Jesus will these treasures be unfolded to you, as the outcome of seeing Him. You cannot have them independent of Christ. They are otherwise, “hidden IN HIM.”
Paul continues, “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” Here, Paul is talking about being set free by the Truth – by seeing Jesus Christ. He is talking about there being nothing veiled about Jesus Christ. But really, he is talking about much more. Note that he speaks of our being CHANGED into His image by the fact that we see Christ. Sure. You cannot see Jesus and remain the same. And the change that occurs is that we are formed together with Him.
So many problems and confusions in the Christian walk would be solved if we would only understand that the solution is to SEE JESUS. For if you see Jesus, you will immediately believe Him, and immediately surrender to Him. But you won’t do it because you HAVE TO. No. You will do it because you WANT TO.
But how does one come to SEE JESUS? That is the key, isn’t it? Well, Paul actually tells us in the passage. He tells us that you cannot see Jesus just because you want to – rather, you have to been changed so that you can see Jesus. Then he tells us what we must do. He says, “Nevertheless when the heart shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away.” In other words, do you want to SEE JESUS? Then turn your whole heart to Jesus. The result will be that you will SEE HIM – God will absolutely bring you to that place. It may not happen in ten minutes, indeed, when you turn a process may only begin. But you will more and more SEE JESUS.
Paul says, “When the heart turns to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away.” Here we see that parallel to seeing Jesus, a person will see that all that they have believed about God is – in comparison to the real Jesus – fading glory. They will see that they have been walking in shadows, doctrines, mental concepts, and emotions. They will see that they have been under many self-contrived laws and religious bondages – thinking that it was the truth. Once a person turns to Christ and actually SEE JESUS, everything that is of a fading glory is exposed, because you know see the glory that never fades, and you are set free.
There is simply no other place to begin with God than to turn to Him unconditionally. I’m not talking here about salvation – I’m talking about Christians. If you give yourself to God what you get IS GOD – and once you get God you begin to KNOW Him, and SEE HIM. Or, to put it another way, as John the apostle writes:
In him was life; and the life was the light of men. (John 1:4)
Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. (John 8:12)
If you want the LIGHT – if you want to see Jesus – you have to have the LIFE. In other words, in order to see Jesus you have to be enlarged with the LIFE of Jesus. But you cannot be unless you pick up your cross and die. Thus, my death, equals HIS life, resulting in light, or seeing Jesus.
This sounds a bit mechanical, but it is simply a way of explaining the fact that if you want to know the Truth — if you want light – you have to have the Person in whom there is LIFE. God cannot give you Truth as a THING – Truth and Light are not INFORMATION, or facts. No. God cannot give you a THING – He must give you Jesus. And if you have Jesus, you have both life and light, because HE IS THAT. He is the life, and He is the light, and His life is the light of men. In other words, what you need is to experience the Person of Christ. If you do that, you will have His life and His light – this will be revelation, and not merely information.
Christianity is, after all, CHRIST IN US. Christianity is an eternal oneness in Christ, bought and paid for through death and resurrection. We are to experience Christ. Thus, you cannot have Truth as a thing, separate from Christ, who is the Truth. You cannot be given eternal life as a thing, separate from Christ, who is the Life. No. You have to have Christ Himself, and if you do, you possess ALL that is of God. This is a fact stated over and over again:
And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: (Col 2:10)
But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glories, let him glory in the Lord. (1 Cor 1:30-31)
Anyone who says that you can be IN CHRIST – have Christ IN YOU – and yet remain incomplete, is deceived. Sure, you still have to come to SEE Christ, and grow in Him, but in Christ are all things that God has for us. What? – do we think we can have Christ in us and yet lack much of what God intends for us?
You will note that, yes, in Christ we have all things. But we may not experience them until we SURRENDER to Jesus as Lord. Of course. This is why many, despite having all things in Christ, never seem to know about them. If you have His life in you, you have potential for all LIGHT. But in order to come to see Him, you have to turn to Him continually. Then, because you have died to your life, you are enlarged in HIS – and with that release of life, comes a release of light. Sure. As Jesus become Lord of you in a practical, operative way, He brings life, light, and liberty.
For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death works in us, but life in you. (2 Cor 4:6-12)
Freedom From Ignorance
So many of us try to figure out what God wants. We try to do the right thing, or avoid the wrong thing. This sounds good, but often our motive is not faith. It is unbelief. We try to please God because we think He is displeased with us – perpetually mad at us. Or we try to please Him because we think we must in order to get Him to bless us, or to get Him to be with us. In short, we try to, “make the grade,” with God. And yet, all of this is nothing more than being, “under the law.” It is as a LAW that WE create and come under – that we think is necessary to be right with God. Of course, we think God has put us under this law. But He has not. We are deceived. We don’t KNOW Him. We haven’t seen Jesus. Thus, the whole thing is something we have created out of our unbelief and fear that we are not right with God.
Have we yet realized that it is possible to create a picture of God out of our fears, emotions, ignorance, and unbelief – and then to spend years trying to please this self-created God? You can try to please him, and then come under condemnation because you fail, or exalt in your righteousness because you think you have succeeded! You can actually develop a relationship with this self-styled god, and become somewhat conformed to his image. But he doesn’t exist. He is what you THINK God is like – but nevertheless, because you think God is like that, to you, he IS like that – and such deception will govern your entire life, thinking, and Christian walk.
Can we see that I am not talking here merely about DOCTRINE? No. I’m talking about the knowledge of God that GOVERNS me. It is entirely possible to hold to sound Biblical doctrine, but to have a personal knowledge of God that is utter deception and darkness – and to not even realize it. People do it all the time. They live in fear, condemnation, and unbelief, all the while preaching the Bible verses and doctrines that rightly say otherwise!
The only solution is to SEE JESUS. Then you will be set free from every concept of God that you have embraced that is not of the Truth – set free from all that has faded and all that is of darkness to begin with. And you will see that sound biblical doctrine lines up with it.