|Is God Ever Seen?
by Matthew J. Slick
Christadelphianism is known theologically as dynamic monarchianism. It teaches there is a god, but that god is a single person. In contrast to this, the Trinity is one God who exists in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. To a Christadelphian, if God ever appeared in the Old Testament period, it would have to be the Father. This is problematic for them for two reasons. First, the Father cannot be seen according to scripture, and second, if God did appear, then it would have to be the Father, which they cannot accept. Nevertheless, the following study answers both those issues and leaves the Christadelphian, with a problem to solve.
In the Old Testament God appeared many times to many people (Genesis 17:1, 18:1; Exodus 6:2-3, 24:9-11, 33:20; Numbers 12:6-8). Yet there are verses that say that you cannot see God (Exodus 33:20; John 1:18). It would seem that there is a contradiction, but there isn't.
I will show you that there is no contradiction and that the theology that claims that God is one person, is incorrect. This study is directed at the Christadelphians, but it would also be appropriate for the Jehovah's Witnesses and The Way International.
The Bible clearly teaches that God was seen in the Old Testament. This fact is even mentioned in the New Testament. Acts 7:2 says, "The God of glory appeared to our Father Abraham ..." Did God appear or didn't He? Let's take a look at God's word.
Some will say that the appearances of God were nothing more than visions, dreams, or angels that represented God. This is definitely the case in some instances of the Old Testament, but it is not the case here. For example, is an angel God Almighty? Of course not. Yet God says in Exodus 6:2-3 that He appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty.
Are these visions or dreams? Not so with Moses. Consider Numbers 12:6-8 where God says that He does not appear to Moses in a vision or dream. Rather, Moses beholds Gods very form.
Was God seen? Yes. Consider Exodus 24:9-11 where it says that 74 people "saw the God of Israel." It does not say a vision, a dream, a cloud, a flame, etc. It says that they saw God.
Cult groups generally teach that when God appeared in the Old Testament, it was a representative angel, that it was a manifestation of God due to that angel possessing the name of God upon him. As God's direct representative, the angel was considered to be God Himself, though not really God. This is nullified by Exodus 6:2-3 where God says that He appeared as God Almighty. This is a title only applied to God Himself.
What then of the verses that say that God cannot be seen like John 1:1 and Exodus 33:20?
John 1:18, "No one has seen God at anytime. The only begotten Son in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him." The context is important. John began his book with the words, "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God." In verse 14 he says, "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us ..." The Word was obviously Jesus. The Word was with God. God, contextually, would be the Father. When it says in John 1:18 that no man has seen God, it is referring to the Father. This is supported by Jesus own words in John's gospel. Consider the following:
"Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father," (John 6:46). Jesus declares that the Father has not been seen.
Exodus 33:20, "You cannot see My face, for no one can see Me and live." This verse is a bit more difficult. But a look at the following verses tells us that God allowed Moses to see His backside, not His face.
There are 3 other verses in the Bible worth examining here. They deal with the plurality of God and they will help support the idea that there is more than one person in the Godhead and shed possible light on the verses of John 1:18 and Exodus 33:20. They are as follows.
Genesis 19:24, "Then the LORD rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the LORD out of the heavens." The word "LORD" in the Hebrew is the word YHWH from where we get Gods name, sometimes known as Jehovah. Look at the verse and you will see that there appears to be two Jehovahs; that is, two LORDs. Why is that?
Amos 4:10-11, "I sent among you a plague after the manner of Egypt; Your young men I killed with a sword, Along with your captive horses; I made the stench of your camps come up into your nostrils; Yet you have not returned to Me," Says the LORD. 11"I overthrew [some] of you, As God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, And you were like a firebrand plucked from the burning; Yet you have not returned to Me," Says the LORD."
Who is the one speaking in verse 10? The LORD, YHWH. But the LORD says in verse 11, "I overthrew some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah ..." The LORD is speaking and He speaks about God overthrowing Sodom and Gomorrah. There seems to be a plurality, a more than one-ness occurring here.
If you are a Trinitarian, there is no problem. God Almighty was seen in the Old Testament, only, it wasn't the Father. It was Jesus. Jesus said in John 8:58, "Before Abraham was, I AM." He was quoting God speaking to Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 3:14. Jesus claimed to be the I AM, YHWH. In fact, YHWH means, I AM.
Was God seen in the Old Testament? Yes. Was it the Father? No. The Christadelphian theology is wrong for there is more than one person in the God head.