In Matthew 5:8 Jesus says, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." And Revelation 22:4 refers to those in the New Jerusalem who "will see [God's] face." How can this be, since God told Moses that "no one may see me and live" (Exodus 33:20 NIV)?
Will we see God the Father and God the Holy Spirit in heaven?
In John 4:24, Christ taught that God the Father is "spirit." And, of course, the Holy Spirit is spirit as well. Jesus, God the Son, however, has a body. In Luke 24:39, appearing to His disciples after His resurrection, Jesus said, "See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." Later, Jesus ascended bodily into heaven (Acts 1:9). So God the Father, who is spirit, does not have flesh and bones, and neither does the Holy Spirit. They are therefore invisible to our eyes. In contrast, Jesus is visible: "The Son is the image of the invisible God" (Colossians 1:15 NIV). At the Incarnation, the Son of God took upon Himself sinless flesh in order to be our sin-bearer and provide salvation (1 Peter 2:24).
This is not to say that a spirit can never be visible to us. Angels are ministering spirits (Hebrews 1:14). Yet they have some kind of form and are able to manifest themselves to people when necessary. Gabriel took a visible form when he spoke to Mary (Luke 1:26–38). And the heralding angels were visible when they announced Christ's birth to the shepherds (Luke 2:9–14).
There are times when God also manifested Himself in ways people could actually see. For example, when the Lord spoke to Moses "face to face, as a man speaks to his friend" in Exodus 33:11, it must have been what we call a theophany—a limited manifestation of God in human form. Later in the same chapter, Moses asked the Lord to see His glory. The Lord accommodated Moses but told him that no man could see His face and live. God passed by Moses and showed him His "back" but not His face (Exodus 33:18–23). There is no contradiction here regarding the Lord speaking face-to-face with Moses and then telling Moses that he couldn't see His face and live. In the face-to-face meeting, God veiled His glory. In fact, Moses could very well have been talking to the pre-incarnate Christ. Colossians 2:9 (NIV) says that "in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form."
The Shekinah glory was another visible demonstration of God's invisible presence (Deuteronomy 31:15). Also, God chose to appear in the "cloud over the mercy seat" of the Ark of the Covenant (Leviticus 16:2) and as a cloud on top of Mt. Sinai: "The glory of the Lord dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. … Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel" (Exodus 24:16–17). In each case, the eyewitnesses knew they were seeing a manifestation of God.
So, even in the Old Testament, there were times when people "saw" God—usually in a veiled, indirect way. Moses was given a more direct view, but even then, God's full glory was hidden. In the New Testament, many people "saw" God in the Person of Jesus Christ. Jesus told one of His disciples, "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). Jesus was not referring to His appearance, of course, but to His teaching and actions.
What's the conclusion? God the Father and God the Holy Spirit are not visible to us. The redeemed, however, will still see God, as Jesus promised. We will definitely see the risen, glorified Jesus Christ when He returns (Isaiah 52:7; Revelation 1:8). We shall see Him as He is and be "pure in heart" like Him (1 John 3:1–3).
It could be that, in our resurrected, glorified bodies, we will be able to see what is now invisible to us. Perhaps our "eyes will be opened" as were those of Elisha's servant (2 Kings 6:17), and we will be able to see the Father and the Spirit. "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face" (1 Corinthians 13:12). Or it could be that Matthew 5:8 and Revelation 22:4 refer to our future beholding of God the Son in all His glory (cf. Revelation 1:9–18).
Both David and Job were confident that they would see God. Their hope was based on the fact of resurrection: Job said, "And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God" (Job 19:26). And David echoed the sentiment: "As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness" (Psalm 17:15).
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