Did anyone ever hear the voice of God or see His form?
Jesus Christ made the following startling comment in John 5:37:
“And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form.”
He also said this in John 6:46:
“Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father.”
The Apostle John added the following in John 1:18:
“No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.”
He added in 1 John 4:12: “No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.”
The Apostle Paul, likewise, confirmed in 1 Timothy 6:13-16:
“I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Jesus Christ… that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing, which He [God] will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen.”
At the same time, we find different accounts about a voice from heaven or out of a cloud, speaking about Jesus Christ as “My beloved Son.”
Referring to the account of Christ’s baptism through John the Baptist, Matthew 3:17 says: “And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’”
Another account can be found in John 12:28-29, shortly before His betrayal:
“[Christ prayed:] ‘Father, glorify Your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.’ Therefore the people who stood by and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to Him.’ Jesus answered and said, ‘This voice did not come because of Me, but for your sake.’”
Also, when Christ and some of His disciples were on the Mount of Transfiguration, Matthew 17:5 records: “While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!’”
Peter would later reflect on that experience in 2 Peter 1:17-18: “For He [Jesus] received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’ And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.”
There exist quite a few attempts to explain this apparent inconsistency and contradiction.
One argument is that Jesus just talked to the Jews at His time, when He said in John 5:37 that they had never heard the voice of God. But His statement follows His baptism, when a voice was heard by those Jews (cp. John 1:29-34). This rules out the possibility that Jesus was limiting His comments to the Jews at His time.
Other explanations attempt to spiritualize Christ’s statements.
Jamieson Fausset and Brown say: “[They] never recognized Him in this character. The words are ‘designedly mysterious, like many others which our Lord uttered’… “
This explanation is clearly wrong, as Christ emphasized that they had not heard God’s voice nor seen His form… this has nothing to do with a recognition “in this character.” There is nothing “designedly mysterious” about it.
The Matthew Poole’s Commentary offers this somewhat adventurous concept:
“Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape; you have no knowledge of him, nor any acquaintance with him. It is expounded… Ye have not his word abiding in you: for though indeed God appeared to the Jews in no shape or similitude; yet they (that is, their forefathers) had heard his voice [Deuteronomy 4:12], speaking out of the midst of the fire… God, being an incorporeal Being, hath no such organs of speech as we have, by which we declare our minds unto others; but God had formed an audible voice, by which he revealed his will unto the Jews; so as it could only be said of the Jews of that generation and their forefathers, from the time of giving the law, that they had not heard his voice; for, Exodus 20:19, they then desired that Moses might speak to them, and that God would speak no more immediately. Accordingly, he did by the prophets speak to them…”
Even though God is a spiritual being, consisting of Spirit, that does not mean that He does not have form and shape, nor, that He does not have a “voice” with which to communicate. We read about communication between God and His angels, or even with Satan. When He speaks, then it is His voice, and it is not just the formation or creation of an audible voice which otherwise does not exist. The idea is also based, in part, on the false concept that God does not have a voice or form and shape, and that that is the reason why people could not have heard His voice or seen His form. Only confused “theologians” could come up with such a nonsense.
A third explanation is advanced by Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, as follows:
“Jesus does not here deny that God had ‘appeared’ in this manner, but he says they had not seen – that is, had not ‘paid attention to,’ or ‘regarded,’ the appearance of God. He had manifested himself, but they disregarded it, and, in particular, they had disregarded his manifestations in attestation of the Messiah. As the word ‘hear’ means to obey, to listen to, so the word ‘see’ means ‘to pay attention to, to regard’…”
Again, this explanation overlooks the fact that we read, for instance, in John 1:18, that “NO ONE has seen God AT ANY TIME” (compare too 1 John 4:12). Surely, righteous people like Abraham, Moses, David and all the ancient prophets “paid attention to” or “regarded” the words of God and the “attestations” of the Messiah (cp. 1 Peter 1:10-12).
None of these “explanations” are correct; still, as The Pulpit Commentary confirms, “Doubtless the voice of Jehovah had been heard (Exodus 20:19…), the face of Jehovah had been seen (Genesis 32:30; Exodus 24:10; Numbers 12:8; Deuteronomy 5:4, 24). Isaiah saw the glory of… the Lord (cp. John 12:41) and Ezekiel likewise by the river of Chebar (Ezekiel 3:23).”
Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible comes closer to the Truth, by pointing out an important aspect that is being overlooked by most commentaries:
“… ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape; for the voices that were heard, and the forms that were seen under the Old Testament dispensation, from the first of this kind in Eden’s garden, to the incarnation of Christ, which are ascribed to God, or to a divine person, were either by the ministry of angels, or they were voices uttered by the Son of God, or forms assumed by him, who often appeared in an human form, as a prelude of his incarnation; so that it was unusual, and wonderful, and remarkable, that the Father should bear a testimony to the sonship of Christ by a voice from heaven; and which therefore ought to be attended to, and received as a sufficient and valid testimony.”
At least, the commentary seems to acknowledge that the voice people heard in Old Testament times might have been the voice of Jesus Christ—not of the Father—even though some of the other remarks miss the point.
When Christ and the New Testament writers said that no one has seen God or His form and that people had not heard His voice, the reference is to God the FATHER. On the other hand, people DID hear the voice and see the form of the GLORIFIED Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Christ was the God of the Old Testament who communicated and dealt with the people.
Philippians 2:5–7 reads: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of GOD, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, TAKING THE FORM OF A BONDSERVANT, and coming IN THE LIKENESS OF MEN.”
Notice, too, John 1:1–3: “In the beginning was the WORD [Note that Christ is still referred to as the “Word of God,” for instance in Revelation 19:13], and the Word was with God, AND THE WORD WAS GOD. He was in the beginning with God [that means there were two God beings—Christ, the “Word of God,” and God the FATHER]. All things were made through Him [the Word, Jesus Christ, compare Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:1–2], and without Him nothing was made that was made.”
John 17:5 adds these words of Christ, “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” Earlier, Jesus had this to say while instructing His disciples: “I came forth from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go to the Father” (John 16:28).
The Bible reveals that Christ was the Personage within the Family of God who actually dealt directly with mankind. God the Father created everything, including man, through Jesus Christ. Christ talked with Abraham (John 8:56-58). He was the God being who led Israel out of Egypt (1 Corinthians 10:1-4). It was Christ who was tried by disobedient Israel (verse 9). And, most importantly, it was the Spirit of CHRIST which dwelled in the prophets of old, as 1 Peter 1:10-11 clearly proves: “Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST [WHICH] WAS IN THEM was indicating when [it] testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.”
These passages are clear and speak for themselves. The biblical testimony is unequivocal: Jesus Christ was GOD before He came to this earth!
One of the purposes for Christ’s first coming was to reveal the EXISTENCE of God the Father.
John 1:18 tells us: “No one has ever seen God [the Father]. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known” (New Revised Standard Version). Notice the rendering of this passage in the New American Bible: “No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him.”
In our free booklet, “God is a Family,” we said this under the headline, “Jesus Came to Reveal the Father”:
“The Jews at the time of Christ did not know—and most still don’t know today—that God is a Family, presently consisting of two God beings. Christ came to REVEAL the Father to them (Matthew 11:27; Luke 10:22). The Jews thought they knew the Father, not realizing that the God of the Old Testament, who directly worked with and dealt with Israel, was Jesus Christ—not God the Father.
“We have already read in John 1:18 that ‘no one has seen God at any time.’ John 5:37 confirms that ‘you have neither heard His [the Father’s] voice at any time, nor seen His form.’ Again, we read in John 6:46: ‘Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God,’ that is, Jesus Christ. Finally, 1 John 4:12 repeats, ‘No one has seen God at any time.’
“Still, we have read that God did appear to the ancient Israelites. They did hear His voice many times. Some even saw the form of God, to an extent, in His glorified state (compare Genesis 32:30; Exodus 33:11, 17–23; 34:6–8; Numbers 12:8; Deuteronomy 34:10; Isaiah 6:1–10; Ezekiel 1:26–28; 3:23; 8:4).
“According to Biblical testimony, some did see ‘God’ in Old Testament times, and they did hear His voice. On the other hand, Christ and the apostles taught that no human has ever seen… ‘God.’ Since God does not contradict Himself in His Word, He is obviously talking about two different personages here. Indeed, the Bible clarifies that no one has ever seen God the Father (compare again John 5:37; 6:46). But some did see ‘God’—that is, the second being in the God Family—Jesus Christ, in His glorified state.
“The Bible confirms that it was Jesus Christ who appeared to people and spoke with them in Old Testament times (compare John 8:56–58; 1 Corinthians 10:4, 9).”
It is true, of course, that righteous people in the Old Testament, such as Abraham, Moses, David and the prophets, knew about the Father, but this is not true for the overwhelming majority, nor for the Jews living at the time of Jesus. For instance, Acts 3:13 states that the “God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His servant Jesus.” Abraham, Isaac and Jacob understood that their God was the Father, who would later glorify Jesus Christ, the Son.
Still, Christ, as the Son of God, had to come to reveal the Father, even though the Old Testament clearly revealed His existence. References to “the Father” in the Old Testament can be found in Isaiah 63:16; Malachi 1:6; 2:10; 2 Samuel 7:13–14; 1 Chronicles 22:10; and Deuteronomy 32:6.
In those passages, Christ—the “Word” or Spokesman for the Father—communicated to the people the words of the Father. When the Bible speaks of the “Father,” it normally refers strictly and exclusively to the highest God being in the God Family.
However, the Jews were under the misimpression that they were worshipping “the Father.” They did not understand that the God being functioning as the Messenger or Spokesperson of the Father and the God Family, who had been dealing directly with the ancients, was actually Jesus Christ. (Compare Christ’s words in John 8:54, “It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God.”)
We have explained that Jesus’ words that no one has seen the form of God and that people did not hear the voice of God refer to God the Father, as people did see the form of the Son of God—Jesus Christ (compare again Numbers 12:8), and they did hear His voice. It was Christ who communicated and spoke the words of the Father. This makes sense for Old Testament passages, but what about the fact that people heard a voice from heaven about Jesus Christ when Christ was here on earth? This voice could not have been the voice of Christ.
Nor could it have been the voice of the Father, because we read later that people did NOT hear the voice of God (the Father) at any time. It is also quite ridiculous to assume that God the Father just formed an audible voice for the occasion, which He otherwise does not have.
In his comments, Gill had referred to the possibility of angels ministering to the people.
Already in Old Testament times, we read that an angel spoke on behalf of God, voicing the command of God. We read in Zechariah 6:5-8 (Authorized Version):
“5 And the angel answered and said unto me, These are the four spirits of the heavens, which go forth from standing before the Lord of all the earth. 6 The black horses which are therein go forth into the north country; and the white go forth after them; and the grisled go forth toward the south country. 7 And the bay went forth, and sought to go that they might walk to and fro through the earth: and he said, Get you hence, walk to and fro through the earth. So they walked to and fro through the earth. 8 Then cried he upon me, and spake unto me, saying, Behold, these that go toward the north country have quieted my spirit in the north country.”Even though an angel speaks to Zechariah, it says that “my spirit” has been quieted—an obvious reference to God’s Holy Spirit. So, the angel is communicating God’s words to the prophet, but it appears as if God spoke directly to Zechariah.
In the New Testament, we read the angelic message, “the true sayings of God” (Revelation 19:9-10), coming from God the Father and Jesus Christ, in Revelation 22:8-16 (Authorized Version):
“8 And I John saw these things, and heard [them]. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things. 9 Then saith he unto me, See [thou do it] not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God. 10 And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand. 11 He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. 12 And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward [is] with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. 13 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. 14 Blessed [are] they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. 15 For without [are] dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie. 16 I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, [and] the bright and morning star.”
In the passage above, we see that the message of the angel contains the direct words of Jesus Christ, but it is the angel who communicates these words to John. In fact, the message is from God the Father, given to Christ who gave it to the angel to communicate to John (Revelation 1:1). In the same way, an angel communicated the words of the Father to the people when the voice of the angel said: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
Lead Writer: Norbert Link