On the day of Yom Kippur, the high priest came face to face with God. That is why he first brought incense into the Holy of Holies. The purpose of the incense was to create a cloud of smoke so he would not see the ark of the covenant and die. In this world, even our closest encounters with God are veiled and obscured. Paul says that "now we see in a mirror dimly" (1 Corinthians 13:12). He was referring to a brass mirror. Though it provided a reflection, it was not a sharp, clear reflection like modern mirrors provide. If the brass was not freshly polished, the reflection in the mirror became more dim.
Remembering that we do not see God clearly should help keep us humble. It should make us reluctant to criticize other people's theologies and their experiences with God. They may have perceived an aspect of the Almighty that we have not, or we may have found revelation that has been withheld from them. Neither of us is to be blamed for not seeing the whole picture. In this world, the whole picture is not available. Yeshua told the theologians of His day, "You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form" (John 5:37). That is why a true appreciation for the greatness of God excludes religious arrogance. The Apostle Paul exclaimed, "Now I know [only] in part, but then I will know fully" (1 Corinthians 13:12). Nobody on this side of the veil has apprehended absolute truth.
"No one has seen God at any time" (John 1:18), the Apostle John said. Nevertheless, John goes on to say that the only begotten Son of God has revealed Him. Yeshua says, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (John 14:9).
By clinging to Yeshua of Nazareth, we are spiritually carried with Him into the Holy of Holies. In Him we have a hope of sharing in the resurrection from the dead that He experienced. Paul reminds us that after the resurrection from the dead, we will see "face to face." In that day, we will step into the Holy of Holies of the true sanctuary, and there will be no cloud of smoke obscuring our view. We will see face to face.
"We have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Yeshua, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh" (Hebrews 10:19-20). This powerful truth, however, leaves us in the hazardous position of trivializing the awesome holiness and terror of almighty God. We must not allow this spiritual privilege of direct access to the Father to diminish our reverence for Him.
He shall put the incense on the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of incense may cover the mercy seat that is on the ark of the testimony, otherwise he will die. (Leviticus 16:13)