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‘No One Has Seen God At Any Time’

Jesus inspired John to write this controversial statement. What did he mean?

No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son of God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him (Jn 1:18).

Some ‘theologians’ maintain that this verse means that no one, except Jesus, has ever seen God at any time. Using this as the basis for their reasoning, they then myopically assert that if you claim to have had a vision of God, or an out-of-body experience when you were taken into the presence of God, that such an experience was not valid – that it was not real, or of God, but concocted by the devil.

They allege that the experience falls into the category of bogus occurrences which 2 Corinthians 11:14 classifies as masquerades:

...For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14).

The trouble with their thesis is that it is so devoid of spirituality and discernment! It fails utterly to perceive what John meant in John 1:18!

John didn’t mean that mortals have never, and can never, have a glimpse of God, or a vision of His majestic being. Such a claim would be completely at odds with a number of biblical writers who relate their extraordinary encounters meeting with God.

Encounters With God

Here are just some of those affidavits:

v       Then Moses went up, also Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and THEY SAW THE GOD OF ISRAEL. And there was under His feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone, and it was like the very heavens in its clarity... So they saw God and they ate and drank (Ex 24:9-11).

God declared to Aaron and Miriam:

v       ...My servant Moses; He is faithful in all My house. I speak with Him face to face, even plainly and not in dark sayings; and he sees the form of the Lord... (Num 12:6-8).

Moses pitched the tabernacle outside the camp of the Israelites, and God would meet with him there:

v       So the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. And he would return to the camp... (Ex 33:11).

Isaiah told of his shattering experience:

v       In the year that king Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple.

Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.

And one cried to another and said, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!”

And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.

So I said, “Woe is me, for I am undone! [cut off, destroyed.] Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” (Is 6:1-5.)

v             Ezekiel was equally overcome by what he saw:

Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the River Chebar, that the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God (Ezek 1:1).

I looked, and behold, a whirlwind was coming out of the north, a great cloud with raging fire engulfing itself; and brightness was all around it and radiating out of its midst like the colour of amber, out of the midst of the fire (Ezek 1:4).

The likeness of the firmament above the heads of the living creatures was like the colour of an awesome crystal, stretched out over their heads... And above the firmament over their heads was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like a sapphire stone; on the likeness of the throne was a likeness with the appearance of a Man above it (Ezek 1:22,26).

Also from the appearance of His waist and upward I saw, as it were, the colour of amber with the appearance of fire all around within it; and from the appearance of His waist and downward I saw, as it were, the appearance of fire with brightness all around. Like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud in a rainy day, so was the appearance of the brightness all around it. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord (Ezek 1:27,28).

Moreover He said to me, “Son of man, receive into your heart all My words that I speak to you, and hear with your ears...” (Ezek 3:10).

Then the hand of the Lord was upon me there, and He said to me, “Arise, go out into the plain, and there I shall talk with you.” So I arose and went out into the plain, and behold, the glory of the Lord stood there, like the glory which I saw by the River Chebar; and I fell on my face (3:22,23).

What are we to make of these accounts? Do we presume that these men were ‘hallucinating’? Or lying? Or just daydreaming? (As sceptics assert.)

Do we dismiss them just because we read a NT text which seems to say – in our shallow, puerile, physical-mindedness – that no man has seen God with his eyes? (It doesn’t actually say that.)

Or do we question our comprehension of what was meant by seeing God?

Surely we must do the latter!

John meant that no human has properly comprehended God – ‘seen’ Him in a metaphoric sense. No one, other than Jesus, has penetrated His nature and really seen it for what it is! Full of love, full of holy purity, full of grace and truth! (Jn 1:14.) You’ve got to read it in context.

Sinners Can’t See God

A similarly misunderstood statement appears in John 5:

The Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form (Jn 5:37).

Why not?

You do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe (Jn 5:38). ...you do not have the love of God in you (5:42).

Jesus did not mean that a human cannot hear the voice of God. He was castigating the unbelieving Jews, who, with sins of malevolence in their hearts against the Truth, rejected anything that did not fit their bigoted viewpoint.

Jesus bluntly told them that their sinfulness prevented them seeing God or hearing from Him.

A similar deep-seated prejudice motivates those who use – or rather, abuse – these scriptures to decry the true Spiritual experiences of believers to whom God has appeared in one supernatural way or another. Because of their pride, they don’t like to think that God would reveal Himself so amazingly to some- one else when He hasn’t revealed Himself to them.

Their arrogance and pride does not permit them to accept the genuine appearances of the Almighty to inconsequential people today. But it happened to Daniel (Dan 7:9,13), because of Daniel’s humility and fear of God. And God has not changed. He is the same today as He was then (Mal 3:6; Heb 13:8).

Why did God talk face to face with Moses? For the same reason as He appeared to Daniel:

Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth (Num 12:3).

Conversely, why do most people – even most religious folk – fail to perceive God in depth?

...your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you... (Is 59:2).

The Righteous See God

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God (Matt 5:8).

This principle is demonstrated every day, although you and I don’t see all that God does to show Himself to those who seek His face. By faith we know He does so, because He says so. And He has left us examples of it in His Word. (Abraham, Isaac, Moses, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, apostles Paul and John and others.)

Besides this company of witnesses, there are numerous contemporary testimonies of people seeing God in NDEs, out-of-body experiences, and visions. (G Scott Sparrow relates many such experiences in his book I Am With You Always, and Raymond Moody describes some of the thousands of NDEs in his book Life After Life.)

It’s a shame that religious people tend to be amongst the most close-minded. If such testimonies don’t fit their bigoted view, they reject them. They prefer to cling to a distorted concept of God or warped reasoning and bent apprehension of Scripture than to admit their failings and accept truth. They are the Pharisees of our time, and they come in so many denominational cliques.

God will not be seen by the unholy. That is why you and I cannot see Him in His immaculate purity and entirety. His wholeness is too much for any of us as mortals to encounter.

Moses asked God:

Please show me Your glory (Ex 33:18).

Then He said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.”

But He said, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me and live.” (Ex 33:19,20).

And the Lord said, “Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock [an analogy of Jesus]. So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand as I pass by. Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen.” (33:21-23.)

And God did so, and Moses bowed himself to the ground and worshipped (Ex 34:8). Then he said:

If now I have found grace in Your sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray, go among us, even though we are a stiff-necked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Your inheritance (Ex 34:9).

And Moses was there with God 40 days and 40 nights (Ex 34:28).

So, when you read what John wrote:

No one has seen God at any time (1 Jn 4:12).

read it in the context of God’s nature of purity, unlike man’s despoiled character. Then you will understand.

And you can have the love of God also (1 Jn 4:11), instead of the dreadful close-minded bigotry of religious diehards who cannot see God in His beauty.

Malcolm B Heap

Copyright: Midnight Ministries, PO Box 29, Aylesbury, HP17 8TL, UK