Can God be seen, or is He by nature invisible? My first reaction to this question was to ignore it, mainly because it […]
Published on: 05-01-2019
Can God be seen, or is He by nature invisible?
My first reaction to this question was to ignore it, mainly because it could easily lead into speculations that do not nurture one’s spiritual life. Then I thought that perhaps dealing with the question could bring glory to God and to Christ. Here are some thoughts.
Created in the Likeness of God.
Genesis 1:26 establishes that God created humans in God’s “image” and “likeness,” two nouns used interchangeably in other places in the Old Testament. The terminology itself includes that idea of a concrete expression. Humans, each as an indivisible unity, were created in or as the image of God; therefore the image is what they are.
This daring thought raises in the mind of some the question of God’s material existence. Such a state is not denied in the Bible, but the emphasis of our passage is on the uniqueness of human beings, not on God’s outward appearance. In other words, we cannot explore human material existence in order to define divine existence. We can affirm divine presence without delving into the mystery of its inscrutability. One could perhaps say that God does not have a body but that He is a body, without speculating about the nature of His material existence.
Invisibility is sometimes assigned to God, suggesting that He lacks a visible form. Paul refers to God as “the invisible [Greek: aoratos] God” (Col. 1:15), the “eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God” (1 Tim. 1:17, NIV). John adds, “No one has ever seen God” (John 1:18, NIV). However, the Greek word aoratos does not describe what by nature lacks visibility but that which cannot be immediately seen, e.g., for the Greeks the future or the face of the moon was invisible for a period of time. When we describe God as invisible, we are talking about something much deeper, namely, His divine transcendence, or the infinite distance between Creator and creature. The corporality of the creature cannot contain the fullness of God as He is in Himself.
Here the role of Jesus as mediator is indispensable, because He makes visible the One whom no one can see (John 1:18; 14:8, 9), but whom they want to see (cf. Matt. 5:8). Both the Old and the New Testaments (e.g., Ex. 24:17; 1 Tim. 6:16) testify that God dwells in impenetrable light; the light of His glory that reveals and hides at the same time His visible self and makes creatures aware of His presence.
Perhaps the most daring example of this phenomenon is found in Ezekiel, who sees on the divine throne-chariot “a figure like that of a man” covered by a brightness that “looked like glowing metal,” or “like fire,” surrounded by “brilliant light” (Eze. 1:26, 27, NIV). Ezekiel saw the indescribable light, the glory that covers the visible presence of God!
There is no need to speculate about the nature of God’s corporality; this is not given to us to understand. The topic is about the unique nature of the Creator and the promise of one day standing before the impenetrable light of His glory, dazzled by His brightness, to worship Him. All made possible through Jesus who revealed to us God’s love and who will glorify our bodies to enable us to stand and see God’ glory.