Seeing God Face-to-Face

by Nancy Taylor and Phil Ryken, adapted by
Time: 2 Minutes

“No one has ever seen God; the only God,
who is at the Father’s side,
he has made him known.”
(John 1:18 ESV)

There are few things in life as wonderful as a face-to-face conversation with someone we love. Sitting across a table and sharing a meal together is pure joy. As we grow deeper in our relationship with God, we often wish we could have that same level of intimacy with him. But is that even possible?

Throughout the Old Testament, very few people even wanted to see God. They knew of his holiness and great glory, and they feared that if they saw the face of God, they would die. After all, in those days if you appeared before a king in an unworthy way you could be put to death—and how much more frightening it would be to approach the King of kings! Their fears were not unfounded. When Moses asked to see the Almighty, God said, “You cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live” (Exodus 33:20 ESV). God allowed Moses to see the back of his glory, but not his face.

Occasionally, God allowed prophets and apostles to see him seated in his glory in heaven.

  • Moses and the elders of Israel saw God (Exodus 24:9-11). However, because the only thing described is the ground around his throne, it seems likely that they were flat on their faces in worship and didn’t actually look up to see God’s face.
  • Isaiah had a vision of God, and his response was, “Woe is me! . . . for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5 ESV).
  • John the evangelist also was transported to heaven and saw God (Revelation 4).


Although he dwells in holy glory and we are unworthy sinners, God wants us to know him, to talk to him, and to see him. So he made it possible for us to know him through Jesus, who became a man and lived on earth for a time. Jesus told his disciples, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9 ESV). Jesus was God himself, in human flesh. His physical death on the cross and his bodily resurrection from the grave made it possible for us to have an eternal relationship with God.

This relationship will culminate in our appearance before his throne and our entrance into heaven, where we will be with him and worship him forever. What people in the Old Testament thought was impossible has now been made possible for us: one day we will see God face-to-face and live with him forever.

This article was adapted from Nancy Taylor and Phil Ryken’s book, Is God Real: Encountering the Almighty.
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