This question is from my friend Joseph who asks, “What does God look like?”
This fabulous question has an answer which can be ridiculously simple, but also can be very complex.
Let’s do both!
Here’s the simple answer.
God doesn’t look like anything because your eyes are part of your physical body, and God is a spiritual being. Physical eyes can only see physical things, so of course you can’t see anything made only of Spirit. So you can’t see God, and so you can’t find out what he looks like.
But there’s lots more if you look deeper.
First of all let’s illustrate what I’ve said above.
The pagans of Bible days would build gods out of wood, stone, gold and silver and worship them. We call these “idols”, and the worship we call “idolatry”. They worshipped these idols hoping that they would get better crops, more children, or more wealth given to them by their god.
The pagans had a real problem with these weird Jews. They had a God they couldn’t see!
But the Jews knew that their INvisible God was the REAL one, the one who had created everything, even the wood and stones the pagans used for their idols.
And they knew that their invisible God was powerful, and the idols had no power.
Isaiah called him, “A God who hides himself”, but then Isaiah said he “created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth”, (Isaiah 45:15-18) so he must be powerful without limit.
God’s people often called him “The Living God”, to distinguish him from the dead idols of other nations. Read Jeremiah 10:6-10.
Moses used to have conversations with God all the time, but he’d never seen God, only heard him. So Moses eventually asked if he could see God’s glory. God fixed it so Moses could see something of him, but told Moses “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” (Exodus 20:20)
So the idea grew that you would die if you actually saw God.
There was once a man called Manoah. He and his wife were visited by an “angel” (we’ll find out later who he really was) who announced they would have a baby boy. (They became Samson’s parents.)
When the “angel” suddenly disappeared in a flash of fire, Manoah thought it had been God himself and said “We are doomed to die! We have seen God!” (Judges 13:22)
Funnily enough, they didn’t die. I wonder why?
Just every now and then in the Old Testament, somebody who acts like God and speaks like God appears in the shape of a man.
So, for example Abraham is visited by three “men”. When one of them speaks, we are told “The Lord said…”. Eventually we are told “When the Lord had finished speaking, he left”. Then the two other angels went off in a different direction. (This great story is in Genesis Chapter 18.)
So it looks like God really had appeared, somehow, looking like one of the three angels, and all three seemed to be shaped like men!
OK. Cut to the New Testament!
Here, we find somebody who appears in the form of a man, but who speaks like God.
Familiar? (Could this be also the Old Testament “angel”?)
The Bible tells us that Jesus is the “image of the invisible God”. (Colossians 1:15)
The word “image” is a Greek word “Eikon” which means a likeness, or portrait. This word was hardly used in English – until – in 1981, Xerox launched the Xerox Star. This was an early computer with tiny pictures which represented the things the computer could do. Xerox said, “The icons are visible concrete embodiments of the corresponding physical objects.”
And now, on our computers and phones we have tiny icons which represent each computer program or app so exactly that we have come to think the icon IS the app.
So this means that Jesus represents God – who God is and what he can do – so exactly that we can legitimately think that Jesus IS God.
And Jesus represents God perfectly. Hebrews says, “The Son is the radiance (literally this means “the shining-out-ness”) of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being.” (Hebrews 1:3).
“Exact representation” is a Greek word “Character”. Yep, that’s our word too, but back then it really meant a “stamp”, in the sense that when a coin was made, a metal mould, called a die, was placed over a disc of silver, gold or copper, and the die was hit with a hammer. This stamped the EXACT pattern of the mould on the coin.
So when Jesus said “Anyone who has seen me, has seen the Father”, he really meant it! (John 14:9)
He knew that his Father could not be seen by human eyes, to the Pharisees he said “You have never heard his voice nor seen his form” (John 5:36)
But his disciples kept saying that one of the remarkable things about him was that, though he really was God, they had SEEN him – and they hadn’t died!
So John says, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have SEEN his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 – read also 1 John 1:1-5)
So, what does God look like now? Now that Jesus has left the earth, for a while, and gone to rule with his Father in the Throne room of Heaven – what does he look like there?
Well, while he was on the earth, he kept asking his Father if he could have his glory back! (John 17:1-5)
And every now and then, in the Bible, some people have been allowed a glimpse, not with their physical eyes, but their spiritual eyes, of Jesus in his glory! Read Revelation 1:13 – 16
So the REAL answer to your question “What does God look like?” is “He looks like Jesus!”