Has anyone really ever seen God?
This one has stumped me in the past, so hopefully we can shed some light on this today.
Throughout the Bible, we know there are passages that say people have seen God, and yet other passages clearly state people have not seen Him. So which is it?
- Passages supporting people seeing God
- When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. –Genesis 17:1
- The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. – Genesis 18:1
- 2 God also said to Moses, “I am the Lord. 3 I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD I did not make myself fully known to them. – Exodus 6:2-3
- 9 Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up 10 and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of lapis lazuli, as bright blue as the sky. 11 But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank. –Exodus 24:9-11
- To this he replied: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Harran. – Acts 7:2
- Scripture denying that anyone can see God
- But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” – Exodus 33:20
- No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. – John 1:18
- And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, – John 5:37
- No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. – John 6:46
So, we have Scriptures both supporting and denying the possibility of seeing God. Isn’t this a contradiction? First, we know that “all Scripture is God-inspired” 2 Timothy 3:16.
So, if God inspired the Scripture, there can’t be any mistakes. Under this proposition then, we must assume that people have both seen God, and that yet it is impossible to see God. How is this possible?
I think it revolves around our understanding (or lack thereof) how God works. Remember that there is ONE God, but that God is in three forms: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Therefore it is possible to see God in one form, but not in all three.
If Scripture says that Abraham saw God Almighty (Genesis 17:1), then He did. However, if Jesus mentioned in John 6:46 that no one has seen the Father, then no one has seen the Father. This would imply then that Abraham saw either the Holy Spirit or Jesus prior to His incarnation.
This explanation further validates the belief and understanding of the truth of the Trinity. If Abraham saw God Almighty, but we have concluded he had to have seen Jesus (or the Holy Spirit), since no one has seen the Father, then Jesus is God Almighty also.
Furthermore, we can look at additional Scriptures, such as those below to understand that others who have testified as seeing “God,” really saw a representation of God or symbolic image of Him:
- 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak . . .. 28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” – Genesis 32:24-30
2 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up.. . . .“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. – Exodus 3:2-6
- 18 He replied, “Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding.” . . . 19 Then Manoah took a young goat, together with the grain offering, and sacrificed it on a rock to the Lord. And the Lord did an amazing thing while Manoah and his wife watched: 20 As the flame blazed up from the altar toward heaven, the angel of the Lord ascended in the flame. Seeing this, Manoah and his wife fell with their faces to the ground . . .. 22 “We are doomed to die!” he said to his wife. “We have seen God!”– Judges 13:18-22
One more passage showing a representation was Jesus in John 14:9 when He said “whoever has seen me has seen the father.” This passage further supports that God the Father has not been seen firsthand, but that representations of God the Father have been seen by people.