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no one has ever seen God

10-01-2012 - Posted by Andre Piet

the unseen God

In the writings of John it is repeatedly assured that no one has ever seen God (John 1:18; 1John 4:12). Paul also speaks of “the invisible God” (Col.1:15; 1Tim1:17). And to Moses God declared:

You cannot see My face, for no human shall see Me and live. Exodus 33:20

Therefore, it is surprising that despite this clear information, there are a lot of Biblical examples where we do read that God appeared to people. Think of the appearance at the burning bush where YAHWEH speaks to Moses (Ex.3:4). But we must immediately ask the question: was it also literally God Himself? The answer is no, it was “the messenger of YAHWEH”, as we read in Ex.3:2. Stephen also supposes that it was a messenger who appeared to Moses (Acts 7:30). Later, YAHWEH again appears and gave His law through Moses to the people (Ex.19:20, 31:18 34:29). But was it YAHWEH, Himself, Who appeared and gave the law? No, so the NT assures us a number of times: the law is “through the mediation of messengers” given to the people (Acts 7:53; Gal 3:19; Hebrews 2:2). Next, we read that YAHWEH visibly led the people during the wilderness journey. But was it YAHWEH Himself? No, also here was it His messenger He had sent for this purpose (Ex.23:20-23; Judges 2:1).

still more examples

Not only in the days of Moses, do we see this phenomenon. Even centuries earlier, in the book of Genesis. So Abraham heard a voice “at the binding of Isaac”, say to him:

You must not stretch out your hand on the lad, and you must not do aught to him, for now I know that you fear the Elohim, for you have not kept back your son, your only one from Me.” Gen.22:12

The way in which Abraham is addressed, seems simply to suggest that it was YAHWEH, Himself, Who spoke. Yet we read also here that it was “the messenger of YAHWEH” (Gen.22:11). That is, the messenger spoke on behalf of God. So Hagar also testifies of God, Who had appeared to her (Gen.16:13). But it was “the messenger of Yahweh” (Gen.16:7). “The God of Bethel” (Gen.31:13) appears to Jacob, but not in person, it was His messenger (31:11). Balaam also testifies of God appearing to him (Num. 22:38), but also there, it was God’s messenger (22:35). So also God appears to Gideon (Judg.6:14,22) and to Manoach (Judg.13:22), but in both of these cases it also was “the messenger of YAHWEH” who was seen (Judg.6:11; 13:3).

the Son more than any messenger

With a large range of examples, the Bible proves that indeed no man on earth has ever seen God. Where God appeared, it was, by definition, by means of a messenger. Against this background we understand Hebrews 1, where it is made clear that the Son of God is exalted far above the messengers. Prior to the coming of the Son, God communicated through messengers (Heb.1:1; 2:2). Hebrews 1 shows that the Son of God “is so much more than the messengers” (1:4). With as first argument:

For to whom of the messengers said He at any time, “My Son art Thou! I, today, have begotten Thee”? Heb.1:5

With this, it is impossible that the Son of God Himself would be a messenger or possibly even “the messenger”. The Son is a human being, born of Mary (Luke 1:35). He is completely unique and therefore “the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:16). Later in the Hebrew letter it is explained that God, not to messengers, but to “the human” (Ben Adam) has subjected “the world to come” (Heb.2:4.5). The Son of God is no messenger, nor “the messenger of the Lord”. That both would be identical is also excluded, because “the messenger of the Lord” appeared to Joseph, when Maria already was pregnant (Matt. 1:24), which proves that this messenger is someone other than the fruit in Mary’s womb. Summarized: No one has ever seen God. Insofar as God appeared in the Hebrew Bible, it was always by means of one or more messengers. Now, since His exaltation, is the Son of God “the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person” (Heb.1:3). ——————————— translation: Peter Feddema