I’ve titled this teaching “No one has seen God at any time.” We’re going to be reading from the gospel of John 1:18: “No man has seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared him.” No one can see the nature or the essence of God. To see God is to die. Let’s turn to the book of Exodus 33:20 and he said “Thou canst not see my face, for there shall no man see me and live.” Only one who is himself divine can see God. Thus the Son of God is the only one who can declare him, that is to make him known.
However, there have been quite a few people who have seen the God of Israel in the Old Testament and lived. Exodus 24:9-10 “Then went up Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu and the 70 elders of Israel. And they saw the God of Israel, and there was under his feet as it were paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in its clearness.” Here we have Moses, his brother Aaron, who is the high priest, Nadab and Abihu and the 70 elders all seen God and they did not die.
In Genesis 18, Abraham entertains three strangers and one of these strangers is God. And God talks to Abraham face to face and God tells Abraham what his plans are for Sodom and Gomorrah. In the book of Genesis, we’re going to read about somebody else who saw God face to face and that is Jacob.
Genesis 32:22 22 The same night he arose and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven children,[a] and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 He took them and sent them across the stream, and everything else that he had. 24 And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. 25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” 29 Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. 30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.”
“Peniel” in Hebrew means “the face of El (i.e. God)” so here Jacob wrestled with God and seen God face to face and he did not die.
Isaiah 6:1: In the year that king Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne high and lifted up and the train of his robe filled the temple. Isaiah saw God face to face and Isaiah was not killed. Is the bible contradicting itself? Absolutely not. John 1:18 said “No man has seen God at any time.” so the question is: If no one has seen God at any time, then who did Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Isaiah see?
Anywhere in the Old Testament where you see a physical manifestation of God, that is the theophany of God. Who is the theophany of God? That’s the Son of God Jesus Christ. In Colossians 1:15 Paul says (referring to Jesus Yeshua) “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” Paul says that Jesus Yeshua is the image of the invisible God (i.e. the theophany), the firstborn of all creation, for by him all things were created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities, all things were created through him and for him.” So Jesus is the image of the unseen God, he is the theophany of God. In John 10: 30, Jesus says “I and my father are one.” This is a perfect example of the Godhead that Jesus and the Father, the eternal God, share the same “ousia”. That’s a greek word that means “essence, divine nature”.
So the question is: Who did Abraham, Jacob, Moses and Isaiah see? They saw the theophany of God, which is the Son of God, Jesus Christ, Yeshua Mashiach.