Pastor Armstrong teaches that God cannot tolerate sin in His presence. In the Genesis study, he taught God (mercifully) made noise in the Garden so Adam and Eve would hide from Him, and be spared instant death. Yet, in another Bible lesson, Pastor Armstrong remarked how, although he was thrown down from heaven, Satan still has access to God's throne room. Can you please help reconcile these differences for me?
Pastor Armstrong taught the biblical truth that no unclean man may enter into the presence of God without experiencing judgment. This principle is summed up by one verse that God spoke to Moses:
And John declares:
And Paul says the same:
God cannot be seen truly because to see God is to be judged by God.
In Exodus 33, God declares that Moses could not see God’s face and live. God cannot be seen (as Pastor Armstrong explained) because God’s holiness and perfect judgment requires that He must condemn sin if it enters His presence (i.e., sees His “face”). Since Moses desired to see God’s glory (i.e., to experience God’s presence firsthand), the Lord granted Moses’ request by making a necessary accommodation:
As an act of mercy for Moses, the Lord presented Himself to Moses in the form of the Shechinah glory. The Shechinah glory of God is not the full presence of God (i.e., His “face”) but only a physical manifestation or representation of Himself. Because the Shechinah glory is not the full presence of God, sinful people may survive such a personal encounter.
God mercifully appeared in this way to Moses so that the Lord would not be required to judge Moses’ sin. This same kind of accommodation is necessary any time God appears to mankind, and we find the pattern across the Bible. For example, the Lord gave Adam and Woman in the Garden protection from destruction by making noise to encourage them to hide from His presence. Similarly, God appeared to Moses in a burning bush and to Israel as a pillar of cloud rather than in His true form to protect them from judgment.
The Lord also placed His Shechinah glory in the tabernacle to protect the High Priest. The Shechinah glory also appeared to Isaiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Paul and John in manifestations that obscured His true appearance. In each case, God permitted His servants to witness His glory yet without seeing His “face” to protect them from judgment. Only a sinless being may observe the face of our holy God, as Jesus declares:
So how does Satan, the author of sin, stand in the presence of God (e.g., Job 1)? The answer is in the same way as these others. We know Satan currently has access to the throne of God, and therefore the Lord must be concealing His “face” from Satan in those moments, or else God would be required to pour out His wrath against Satan as well.
Furthermore, we also know from other scripture that the Lord is intentionally delaying judgment for Satan until the end of this age:
Until the final 3.5 years of this age, Satan has free access to the glory of God. But at the midpoint of Tribulation, Satan will finally be barred from entering into the presence of the Lord. In that moment, Satan will become aware that his time is short and turn his wrath against humanity on earth. Evidently, the Lord has delayed acting against Satan in this way out of mercy for mankind, since He does not want to provoke Satan’s anger prematurely. This would also explain why the Lord permits Satan the opportunity to enter into His presence now (though without seeing His face).
Nevertheless, in a day to come, the Lord will finally judge Satan as He must: