About Jesus - Steve Sweetman
Can We See God?
In 1 Tim. 6:16 Paul says that "no one has seen God, nor can see God". We have two English verb tenses used in this phrase, past and present tense. From this phrase we can safely say that no one in the past has ever seen God, and no one in the present can see God. Can we say from this verse that no one "will ever see God in the future", that is in the next life? To the best of my limited ability in understanding Greek verb tenses, when Paul says that no one "can see God", he is speaking of present tense. Therefore from this verse, one can't conclude that we will always be unable to see God.
It is my opinion at present, that we will never be able to see God. In this same verse (1 Tim. 6:16) Paul says that "God lives in unapproachable light". It is for this reason that we, at least in human bodies, cannot see God. Our bodies cannot handle the brightness of who God is. Moses is an example of someone who was in God's immediate presence and could not handle this brightness, and therefore had to turn his back.
It is difficult for us to really describe what God looks like. Paul's words "unapproachable light" may be a good attempt of describing His appearance. It is partly for this reason why God sent Jesus to represent Him to us, and for Jesus to be our spokesman to God. Human kind does not have the ability to stand in God's "immediate presence". We need an intermediate. We have Jesus.
The book of Hebrews clearly states that Jesus will be our high priest forever. This means that Jesus will stand in God's immediate presence in our place, representing us to God for all eternity. If Jesus is our high priest even when we are in Heaven, this suggests to me that we will not be able to stand in God's immediate presence, even in Heaven.
John, in John 1:18 agrees with Paul when he says, "no one has ever seen God, but God, the One and Only (One and Only meaning Jesus) who is at the Father's side, who has made Him known". This verse does not address the issue of us ever seeing God in the next life. John says that no one has or can see God, except for Jesus. Once again Jesus is the intermediate one, between God and man.
In the book of Revelation, chapters 4 and 5 particularly, we see Jesus sitting at the right hand of God. Most scholars will tell you that the phrase "the right hand of God" was understood by first century Christians as meaning that Jesus stands in a place of universal authority. Using the words "right hand" does not mean that God actually has a right hand. It means that Jesus has the final authority over all there is.
The writer of Hebrews, in chapter 1:3 says concerning Jesus, our intermediate, that He is "the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of His being". By these words we can be assured that when we see Jesus, we see a clear reflection of God Himself. To me, God has made it such that we can see Him through Jesus for all of eternity. We will never be able to stand and look at God's personal being, but we will be able to stand before Jesus for all eternity and see God in Him.
Now on the other hand my good friend Robert Bailey has pointed out two Scriptures that add a twist to what I have just said. Job, in Job 19:26 says that after his death, he "in his flesh will see God". He continues to say, "I myself will see Him with my own eyes". In light of the above passages, we now have to deal with what Job says. This means that we, or I, will have to do some "Biblical interpreting", and not simply state what the Bible says.
This is how I would fit Job's statement into what I have said above. First of all, Job lived in Old Testament days with limited knowledge concerning these things. Job did not understand Heb. 1:3 where it says that Jesus is the exact representation of God. Job understood God in terms of God. Paul understood God in terms of Him being the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, as he so often said. Paul had a much clearer concept of God than what Job had. Yes, Job will see God, but he will see Him through Jesus, assuming my thinking is right. Paul understood this. Job did not.
Job said that he would see God in his (Job's) flesh. Another thing that Job did not understand was that "flesh and blood will not inherit the Kingdom of God", as Paul puts it. Job's understanding was limited, as you can see by this example. Job spoke the best he could with the understanding he had. Yes, he would see God at some point, but not in his present fleshly body, and he would see Him through Jesus.
The next Scripture that Robert pointed out was not found in the Old Testament, but was spoken by Jesus Himself. In Mat. 5:8 Jesus said, "blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God". This passage needs some thought given to it.
One possible way to correlate Jo.1:18 and 1 Tim. 6:16 with Mat. 5:8 would be this way. Paul and John clearly say that we can't see God in this age. Jesus said that some would see God at some future point. When those would see God, He doesn't say. We don't know if He means later in this life, or in the next life. All that we know for sure is that the pure in heart will God sometimes in their future. Therefore, maybe we can't see God now, but in Heaven we will see God. One "might" be able to make this conclusion from Mat. 5:8. The one problem with this conclusion is that Jesus does not specifically say the pure in heart will see God in Heaven. So even with this interpretation, speculation is involved.
Another way of looking at Jesus' words is that "we will see God, or experience God in Jesus Himself", not merely in the next life, but in this life as well. We would have to look at the context of this one verse, which is only one "blessed is the man verse" among many. Are the fulfillment of these "beatitudes", as they are called, in this present life or in the next. If they are in the present life, then you must interpret seeing God in a spiritual sense, not a literal sense. If we interpret their fulfillment in a "next life sense" then it might be possible to conclude that we will see God Himself.
I think that Jesus meant the beatitudes to be first fulfilled in this age, and ultimately fulfilled in the next. Thus those who are pure in heart will see God in a spiritual sense in this age. We cannot see Him physically in this age. Yet the ultimate fulfillment could be in the next life. If we remain pure throughout our lives on earth, we will see God in Heaven. How will we see God? This is where "my interpretation' comes in, and it is "my interpretation". The pure in heart will experience God in His fullness when he meets Jesus in Heaven. We will see God through Jesus, because he is the exact representation of God. To me, this is the only way to put all of these passages together and have them make good common sense.
Once again, this is only my thinking at the present time. The next time I will not ask Robert for input. He only complicates the issues at hand by quoting other Scriptures. Just fooling. We need his input.