The Bible Nugget:
Exodus 33:20 And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.
The question frequently arises, “Has man ever seen God?” If you say “No,” then you must face many cases in the Bible where individuals, including Abraham and Jacob, are explicitly said to have seen God. If you say “Yes,” then you may be shown such a verse as Exodus 33:20 or even John 1:18.
This is the topic of a post which might have been intended for my consideration on a site where participants are discussing the question, “Jesus or Mohammad, who’s the Right Way to Heaven?”
A presumably Muslim commenter wrote, “Your Bible says no one can see the God of Abraham and live. No…your Bible does not have errors…and since people saw Jesus and lived…it’s settled. Your Bible has no errors. It says people saw and spoke with Jesus as an ordinary man…so Jesus is NOT a god…thanks for agreeing with me about the infallibility of Exodus 33:20.”
Not so fast, Greg Abdul. If you know this much about the Bible, how is it you don’t get it right?
First of all, there are what can be called “rules of interpretation” which apply to all written works, including the Bible as well as literature.
To learn just what it is that the Bible teaches, you must follow those rules.
One of the rules is that before you can draw a conclusion, you must take all of the relevant evidence into account that is contained in the Bible.
To do that, you must take into account the immediate context, what comes before and what comes after the passage that you reference.
Then you must use cross references to find the other passages in the Bible so that you can compare them, and learn what they in their totality actually teach. You can find cross references in the center column or side column of study Bibles. A more complete resource containing far more cross references is a volume called The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge.
Here is a sampling of such cross references for Exodus 33:20,
10 And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness.
30 And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.
8 With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the LORD shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?
24 And ye said, Behold, the LORD our God hath shewed us his glory and his greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire: we have seen this day that God doth talk with man, and he liveth.
22 And when Gideon perceived that he was an angel of the LORD, Gideon said, Alas, O Lord GOD! for because I have seen an angel of the LORD face to face.
22 And Manoah said unto his wife, We shall surely die, because we have seen God.
5 Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.
18 No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.
12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
16 Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.
3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;
2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
16 And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.
17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:
We can deduce from the above set of related reference passages that (1) no human being has ever seen God in His absolutely full glory as He displays in heaven itself; (2) individuals here upon earth have seen God many times as He has revealed Himself to them in the Person of the Angel of the Lord; (3) a careful study of the subject of the Angel of the Lord, which I have recently posted somewhere here, will demonstrate that in the narratives in Genesis the Angel of the Lord or Angel of Jehovah is in context called both Jehovah and God; (4) that there are two separate persons called Jehovah who appear together on the same scene in Genesis 19:24, the Jehovah on earth who had been speaking with Abraham, and the Jehovah in heaven who sent destruction on Sodom and Gomorrah; the Jehovah who appeared to Abraham was one of what appeared to be three men who visited with Abraham, and for whom Abraham prepared a meal, as we read in Genesis 18:1, 2 and following context; (5) we learn from John 1:18 that whenever man saw God in the Old Testament accounts, man actually saw the Second Person of the Godhead, Jesus Christ in His pre-incarnate appearances, so that it is He who has revealed or declared Him–that is, the Father, the First Person of the Godhead; (6) Jesus claimed to have existed before Abraham, and to have seen Abraham, and that Abraham “rejoiced to see his day” (John 8:56, 58).
This is certainly a very interesting subject to study in the Bible. I trust that what I have shared will help you better understand what the Bible teaches about this subject.
Now as to your claim that since Jesus was a man, and people saw and spoke to Him face to face as an ordinary man and did not die, then it is clear that “Jesus is NOT a god,” you have missed the truth about Jesus on several points:
(1) It is true that Jesus was truly a man, for He was fully human, but it is also true that He possessed two natures: a human nature and a divine nature at the same time in the same Person. He always possessed His divine nature from eternity past until all of eternity future. Therefore, it was possible for people to see Him in His human nature even though He was also God, being the Second Person of the Godhead. I have shared much Scripture recently on this theme, starting with such passages as John 1:1, 14; John 5:18; John 20:28 and the related cross references so I won’t repeat them here.
(2) It is actually true that “Jesus is NOT a god,” for the expression “a god” cannot be properly asserted of Jesus Christ. The expression is found in the New World Translation published by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who are a false cult and who do not represent genuine Christianity because of their many mistaken doctrines. The expression “a god” is a mistaken translation found at John 1:1 which, on the contrary, properly reads “and the Word was God.”