Has Anyone Seen God’s Face?

Uncovering God’s Holy Face

In Genesis 32:30, Jacob said, “…I have seen God face to face,” and yet in John 1: 18, “No man hath seen God at any time.” Again, Jesus says in John 14:7, 9, “If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him … he that hath seen me hath seen the Father….” How then do we reconcile “seeing the face of God?”

Nobody Has Seen God’s Face

Certainly, no man has seen the face of God. As God told Moses in Exodus 33:20, when Moses was on Mt. Sinai and wanted to see God: And he said, “Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me and live. And the Lord said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock.” What God did was actually hide Moses so that he could not see Him and all of His glory. So, we do know when God said, “no man can see my face,” this is what He meant.

What About Jacob? Didn’t He See God’s Face?

Now, what is meant by Genesis 32:30 when Jacob said, “I have seen the face of God?” We know that in John 1:18, Jesus refers to what God told Moses here in Exodus, that no man has seen the face of God; and yet, there are other passages in the Word of God that mention someone seeing God. This, of course, is dealing with a theophany, or really, a spiritual seeing of the face of God, but not in all of His glory. In the same chapter (Exodus 33) where God said, “There shall no man see my face and live,” the Bible also says, “And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face as a man speaketh unto a friend. So here again this has to be dealing with a spiritual seeing of the face of God, and it is not contradictory.”

Moses in God’s Presence

Moses certainly was in God’s presence, just as he was in His presence when he walked up on Mt. Sinai and saw the bush burning. Although he did not see God, he saw the effects (the burning bush) and knew the relationship of God, as God said, “Take off your shoes, you are on holy ground.” So, here is an instance of God supposedly meeting someone “face to face.”

Also, in Deuteronomy, it says, “The Lord make His face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee, and lift up His covenants unto thee.” Certainly, God’s Word says no man has seen His face, so what we are dealing with here is not only a physical and personal relationship with a man, because Genesis 32:24 says very simply, “And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.” Now, it doesn’t say that God wrestled with Jacob.

This could have been an angel, a theophany, or a preincarnate appearance of Jesus Christ, wrestling with him. Jacob was wrestling with God spiritually, as well as physically. So, certainly, when God had dealt with him through this wrestling match, if you will, and when God had not only crippled him, but also healed him, this is when Jacob said, “I have seen God face to face.” It did not mean that he had literally looked into his face, but that he had met with Him in a very personal way.

Christ Reflects God’s Face

There is a time in a believer’s life when he meets God face to face. That is when he comes to know Jesus Christ as his personal Savior. When a sinner realizes he is lost, and the only way to be saved — the only way for salvation is to come to God on His grounds and to repent (confess his sin of rejecting God’s Son).

Then in a very real way that sinner comes face to face with God, though never really seeing His face. This certainly is not a contradiction. This is something that we need to take in its full context through the Word of God. It must be kept in mind, really, what Jacob was seeing was not the face of God in all of His splendor, but really a display of the power of God as he wrestled with Him. He was seeing God work in his life.

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Dr. Elmer Towns is a college and seminary professor, an author of popular and scholarly works (the editor of two encyclopedias), a popular seminar lecturer, and dedicated worker in Sunday school, and has developed over 20 resource packets for leadership education.His personal education includes a B.S. from Northwestern College in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a M.A. from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary also in Dallas, a MRE from Garrett Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, and a D.Min. from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.He is co-founder of Liberty University, with Jerry Falwell, in 1971, and was the only full-time teacher in the first year of Liberty’s existence. Today, the University has over 11,400 students on campus with 39,000 in the Distance Learning Program (now Liberty University Online), and he is the Dean of the School of Religion.Dr. Towns has given theological lectures and taught intensive seminars at over 50 theological seminaries in America and abroad. He holds visiting professorship rank in five seminaries. He has written over 2,000 reference and/or popular articles and received six honorary doctoral degrees. Four doctoral dissertations have analyzed his contribution to religious education and evangelism.

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