Seeing God "Face To Face"

A querist asks, “Can you please explain how certain people in the Old Testament ‘saw’ God (Exodus 24:9-10; Genesis 32:30), but in 1 John 4:12 the text says that no one has seen God at any time?”

In Exodus 24, when the text states that Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and 70 of the elders, “saw the God of Israel” (Exodus 24:9-10), it means they “saw” God as He manifested Himself (“glory of the Lord”) in the form of  (1)a cloud“; and like (2)a devouring fire” (Exodus 24:16-18) – see commentary.

In the Genesis text, it was an angel of God in the “form” of a man that Jacob saw “face to face” (cf. Genesis 32:24-30; Hosea 12:3-4) – see commentary.

Also note that in Exodus 33, God tells Moses that he couldn’t see His face and live (Exodus 33:20; cf. 1 John 4:12) – see commentary.

In the margin of my Bible, I have reference back to Genesis 32:30. Moses was allowed, however, to physically see God’s back parts (Exodus 33:17-23).

There is no contradiction here, because Jacob did see God “face to face” as He manifested Himself as an angel in the form of a man (cf. Genesis 32:24; Hosea 12:3-4).

Mike Riley, Gospel Snippets

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