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What does it mean that without holiness no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14)?

without holiness no one will see the Lord

The holiness of God is a critical facet of His character. God desires—even commands—that His people seek after His holiness (Leviticus 11:44). Emulating a lifestyle that reflects God’s holiness is so important that the writer of Hebrews urged Christians to “strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14, ESV).

In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8). People who desire to live in close fellowship with the Lord and see Him face to face must turn away from self-seeking, unholy interests. They must “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). Believers are called to become like God in His holiness (Ephesians 1:4).

The apostle Peter instructed believers to “live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, ‘You must be holy because I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:14–16, NLT). Without a lifelong endeavor toward personal holiness, no one will see the Lord.

God must discipline willfully disobedient children who live to please themselves. Throughout Scripture, God appeals to His people to work at cultivating holiness: “For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life” (1 Thessalonians 4:7–8).

The declaration without holiness no one will see the Lord reflects a sense of the author’s anticipation of seeing Christ at His return (see 1 John 3:2). This is the culminating point of the broader passage (Hebrews 12:22–29). If our ultimate goal is to be like Christ and see Him when He returns, our practical daily pursuit must be toward complete purity of thought and lifestyle.

We are the temple of the living God (2 Corinthians 6:14–18). In light of this revelation, the apostle Paul urged, “Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God” (2 Corinthians 7:1, NLT). Paul told Timothy, “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:21, ESV).

We find a parallel idea to “without holiness no one will see the Lord” in these words from Paul: “For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (Ephesians 5:5). Of the future, glorious New Jerusalem, the apostle John said, “Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:27).

It’s vital to understand that, as the Lord’s redeemed people, we are made holy through Christ’s finished work, the offering of His body on the cross (Hebrews 10:10, 14; Ephesians 1:4; 1 Corinthians 1:2). We are saved by Jesus “to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began” (2 Timothy 1:9, ESV). “He saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5, NLT).

Sanctification is based on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the ongoing work of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Colossians 1:22; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; John 3:5–8; 1 Corinthians 6:11). Motivated by the knowledge that “without holiness no one will see the Lord,” we continue going all-out for Christ, striving to put on our “new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy” (Ephesians 4:24, NLT).

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What does it mean that without holiness no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14)?
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This page last updated: February 15, 2024