Ask a Franciscan

Has Anyone Seen God Face-to-Face?

Man walks on the beach | Photo by David Monje on Unsplash

From the description in Genesis 3:8-24, it does not sound as though Adam and Eve saw God face-to-face. When Moses encountered the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-22), he heard God speak but did not see God. At the terebinth of Mamre, three angels conveyed God’s message that Abraham and Sarah would soon have a son (Genesis 18:1-15). Did anyone see God before Jesus came?

The biblical evidence about seeing God is mixed. After the patriarch Jacob wrestles all night with a mysterious stranger, Jacob names that place Peniel, “Because I have seen God face to face…yet my life has been spared” (Genesis 32:31).

According to Exodus 33:11a, “The LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as one man speaks to another.” This passage is cited in Numbers 12:8, Deuteronomy 34:10 and Sirach 45:5.

In Exodus 33:20, however, God says to Moses, “But my face you cannot see, for no man sees me and still lives.” For this reason, God created a hollow place in the rock where Moses could see God pass by, but see only God’s back (v. 22-23).

References to God as hiding the divine face occur in Deuteronomy 31:17, Psalms 13:2, 51:11 and 104:29, plus Isaiah 8:17—to mention only a few of the biblical references.

In the New Testament, Jesus says that angels look on the face of God (Matthew 18:10). The author of 1 Peter 3:12 says that the “face of the Lord is against evildoers.” The Book of Revelation has two references to God’s face. After saying that the face of the son of man [Jesus] “shone like the sun at its brightest” (1:16), John later states that God’s servants “will look upon his face, and his name will be on their foreheads” (22:4).

All comparisons of God to humans are approximate—whether we are talking about parts of the body (the Bible refers to God’s face, hands, heart, arms, feet, etc.) or about emotions (anger, laughter, contentment, etc.).

I once made a list of Scriptures that speak of God as having human body parts. Using the New American Bible translation, the most common usages in the Hebrew Scriptures were hand (201), voice (92) and eyes (52). The most common New Testament usages were also hand (23), voice (23) and eyes (10).

The Bible includes many verbal portraits of God but strictly prohibits any physical representations (see Exodus 20:4-5 or Deuteronomy 5:8-9). The Book of Genesis says that men and women were made in God’s image and likeness (1:27).

Any divine/human comparisons must remain tentative this side of the eternal banquet. Once people are there, however, there is no need for description because they are experiencing God directly.


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12 thoughts on “Has Anyone Seen God Face-to-Face?”

  1. Dear Friar McCloskey,
    Thank you so much for your answer to this question. I had typed in the same Question in Google and found someone else had the same question as I did. Your answer was so clear and easy for me to understand. I must admit when I read your last statement my eyes filled with tears and my heart was full of joy, so I had joyful tears because I know one day I will be able to look upon the full Glory of God.
    Thank you with all my heart ❤
    Nance

    1. Joseph Pandithurai

      For my questions that god was seen face to face by the people dear to the Lord,your explanation really thought provoking and fantasy.Any more explanation in the biblical verses can also be explained.The Angel of God have been seen by many people in bible can also be narrated.

  2. How can it be said that no one has seen the face of God when Jesus, who we know and believe is God made man, walked this earth and was visibly seen by thousands? It seems to be a denial of Jesus as God, if it’s said and believed no one has seen God.

    1. Just a supposition on my part & I’m not a theologian by any means but as I understand it, in my very limited understanding, God took a tiny part of himself & formed his son Jesus in Mary, partly due to the mere fact that we are unable to look upon God’s face & live, yet His plans for Jesus needed to be fulfilled. So, yes, Jesus was & is God but not the entirety of God, the father. We know God was separate from Jesus as he prayed unceasingly to Him but he was a part of God. The bible says no one has ever seen God except he who is of God, which I believe refers to Jesus. I could be entirely wrong about it of course, it’s just how I’ve always thought about it & again, I’m no expert or clergyman, just a lifelong Baptist who was pondering what our heavenly father might look like. I mean I know he made us in his image but I was wondering if maybe he shone brighter than the sun or something like that because we cannot see him & survive but then I recalled passages from Genesis of God talking to Adam, Eve, Cain, etc as well as walking in the garden, so I looked online & happened upon this page. I hope this input helps someone. It’s not meant to be an answer or argumentative in any way & if I’m wrong, I welcome feedback! Perhaps someone will correct me & I’m the one who it will help, lol God Bless you all!!

      1. You are not so wrong at all, I’m actually amazed that you came up with that from your readings! I can tell you this much is also true, I am GOD! I’m also the rightful King of Mother Earth, which can all be shown in the bible, and in every day music that I listen to which is a never ending voice to show true leadership, and you are correct because one can not hold all this power by himself(me) that’s why it takes multiples to do so. But dont get me wrong my older self is above me now still because now he became the Lord and now he sits on his rightful seat. Because so many had thought the Lord is Jesus Christ. But The Lord over sees all of us! And yes it’s so true that I am Joesph Jesk, James Green and the last part is my (kk) part which is my baby’s mother Christina and Tina. Which I’m hoping this time I can save her also. But I’m running out of time and I need help but many police have been corrupt and they are in on this whole sex trafficking thing going on that she has fallen victim to.
        Just to say lastly it’s all how it’s spelled and how everything goes with my “letter code” jes-us (because everyone called him jesk and me together make us but that’s where the whole kkk, is chopped at because my baby mother would always put (kk) for everything and it used to drive me crazy, because sometimes she would spend minutes going back and forth with spell check just to take out the OK it would correct it to, just so that she could put kk. And the cross stands 4 a few things because the actually way it’s all worded is: Jesus Christ in a Nutshell!!!! So christina is broken into two chris and tina (which is another name for meth) and Nuts hell so many people would like to say but it’s because I take no L’s so its (Nut-shell) (Nuts-he)(Nut-she). And this is why I came up with the “letter code” I came up with! Can explain more later, still need to save my Ex some how some way. While also being broke doing the Lord’s work, which I am always happy to do!

    2. Through Holy Spirit Jesus came in flesh . In the heaven God is Spirit only, we are worshipping spiritual God , not physical God .
      One and only God (Father) [1 Corinthians 8:6] exists in heaven as a “SPRIT” [John 4:24]. Lord (Son of God – Jesus) is also a “SPIRIT” [2Corinthians 3:17-18], who is same as God (Father) because Lord Jesus Christ said “Father and I are one” (John10:30) and Word is same as God (John 1:1) and who is a great God (Titus 2:13).

  3. The eternal and immortal God can also exist in humam form but He is spirit example Moses saw his back and not his face another example is recorded in Genesis 5:24 which states that Enoch walk with God and he was no more because God took him

  4. Barney Blankenship

    YES – Jacob most certainly saw God face to face and he qualified his experience by declaring that, “I still live” after doing so… Surely Jacob knew exactly what he had both seen and felt.

    1. Barney, so did Isaia, but it doesn’t mean that they saw the Father face literally.. I think that’s something even beyond our understanding, but in the end it does says “we will see He’s face” He will be our God and He’s name will be on our foreheads.. I doubt it we will have face tattoos, but hey, let’s say hello to each other in His paradise, let’s make it there.. it will be beyond amazing

  5. I can also say upon reading the Bible that no one has seen the Father. All of those confessions where they have encountered or have seen God, it could only be Jesus, the Son. We all know that Jesus was the Word of God. All that we read in the Bible where God spoke to prophets, it must be Jesus, and no one else. ” In the beginning was the Word,.. and the Word was God”, it correspond to Genesis 1:1 ” In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth”. And God said, ” Let there be light”, so that was Jesus who spoke. God the Father is not everywhere. This was confirmed by Jesus. “No one has seen the Father but the Son”, and the prayer he taught as to pray, “Our Father who art in Heaven..”. But he knows and sees everything, that’s because He owns our soul, ( Eze 18:4: Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die”.) So whatever our soul does, God the Father knows it. This is my clear understanding of God the Father and God the Son. The Father stays in Heaven and the Son speaks to us as the Word of God.

  6. Your comment makes sense to me, otherwise 1John 4:12 would not be true.
    No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

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