So I was having a conversation the other day concerning the nature of God (the Father specifically) and if we will ever be able to see him. My conclusion was no. Let me explain why.
Scripture teaches that God is a spirit (Jn. 4:24), and is invisible (Col. 1:15), and that no man has ever seen God (Jn. 1:18, I Jn. 4:12). A couple of questions arise from the aforementioned statements and Scripture references.
- What is a spirit?
- Can a spirit be perceived by the physical senses?
What is a spirit? The term is a very misunderstood concept in today’s culture. It usually evokes images of translucent, ethereal beings that float through the air and pass through walls. However this is not so. Indeed, if such ethereal beings existed they would of necessity be physical since they reflect or produce light (they can be seen) and float through the air (have some relation to the laws of physics). A spirit is a non-physical substance, a mind without a body. God is a spirit and is thus non-corporeal. The reason why no one has ever seen God is because He is invisible by definition. You cannot “see” (discern with the physical eyes) a Being that is not material.
The question remains however: Will we ever see God? Yes and no. We will see (with resurrected, physical eyes) Jesus Christ who is the “image of the invisible God”. However, I do not believe that we will ever see God the Father. I am not saying that God cannot manifest himself in visible ways (the various theophanies in Scripture), nor am I saying that we will not perceive God in other ways beyond the five senses (perhaps one of these perceptions is something like Husserl’s eidetic intuition). I just don’t think that is metaphysically possible that we will ever be able to see Him with our eyes. To say so is a category error (to physically see a non-physical being).
So what difference does it make? I believe that this matters for two very important reasons.
- God’s prohibition of making graven images: Scripture makes it clear that it is just as much a sin to make and worship an image of Yahweh as it is to make and worship the image of any other god. Why? Because God has no image but one; which leads me to the second reason why this whole line of reasoning is important…
- God has visibly manifested himself in Christ. Jesus is the only person of the Godhead who possesses a body. He is the image of God, and to seek to worship any other image is idolatry. In short, the incarnation of Christ demonstrated God’s appreciation of the material and his value of the human body. The ancient Gnostics, who were engrossed with the matter-despising teachings of neo-platonism, could not appreciate this fact.
Well, I hope this is intelligible. I’d be really interested in hearing other opinions on this subject. Maybe I’ll write some more about it in the future when I can give more thought to it.