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Will We See God the Father after We Are Glorified? Part 10

by Karl Kemp  
4/01/2017 / Bible Studies


First we finish the discussion under Section 8 of this paper: A BRIEF DISCUSSION OF SEVERAL NEW TESTAMENT PASSAGES THAT MIGHT SEEM TO DENY THAT GOD THE FATHER CAN EVER BE SEEN (JOHN 1:18; 6:46; COLOSSIANS 1:15; 1 TIMOTHY 1:17; 6:16; AND HEBREWS 11:27).

1 TIMOTHY 6:13-16: "I charge you [or, "I command you"; the apostle Paul was addressing Timothy] in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate [which means that He remained totally faithful to God the Father before Pontius Pilate, knowing that it would lead to His immediate crucifixion], (14) that you keep the commandment [The "commandment" (single noun) includes everything that was required of Timothy to be faithful to God as a Christian (cf. 2 Pet. 2:21; 3:2; "of our instruction" (NASB) in 1 Tim. 1:5 could be translated "of the commandment"). Being faithful to God as a Christian very much includes Timothy's being faithful in his assigned ministry.] without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ [We will stand before God the Father and His Son at the time the Lord Jesus returns.], (15) which He [God the Father] will bring about at the proper time - He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, (16) who alone possesses immortality [[I'll quote part of what William Hendricksen says here ("Thessalonians, Timothy, and Titus" [Baker Book House, 1979], pages 207-208): "This must not be confused with 'endless existence.' To be sure, that, too, is implied, but the concept 'immortality' is far more exalted. It means that God is life's never-failing Fountain. ... 'Athanasia' [the Greek noun used here] is deathlessness. It is fulness of life, imperishable ((cf. 1 Tim. 1:17 [[but a different Greek word (the Greek adjective "aphthartos, on") is used there; Donald Guthrie ["The Pastoral Epistles," Revised Edition (Inter-Varsity Press, 1990), page 129] points out that both words ("athanasia" and "aphthartos. on") are used in parallel clauses in 1 Cor. 15:53-54 with apparently no difference in meaning."]])) blessedness, the inalienable enjoyment of all the divine attributes. ... But while the believer has received immortality, as one receives a drink of water from a fountain, God has it. It belongs to his very being. He is himself the Fountain." 

I'll quote two sentences from what Thomas Lea and Hayne Griffin say here ("1, 2 Timothy and Titus" [Broadman Press, 1992], page 174): "The immortality of God is his deathlessness and self-existence. God alone possesses this immortality." I don't understand all the details of the Trinity, but God the Son has "life," life that He can impart (cf. John 1:4) and so does the Holy "Spirit of life" (Rom. 8:2), but I'm not suggesting that they have this life independent of God the Father or that they impart this life apart from the will of God the Father.]] and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. [I don't believe that with these words the apostle Paul intended to deny that God the Father revealed Himself in quite limited ways to quite a few people in the Old Testament or, much more importantly, that Paul meant to include the idea that we will not be able to see God the Father after we are glorified. When we are glorified the sin problem will be fully solved through new-covenant salvation, and we will be taken to an existence much higher than what Adam had before the fall, which includes having a glorified body, which Adam didn't have, and reigning with God the Father in the heavenly dimension, which Adam didn't have. It seems that the "unapproachable light" won't be unapproachable for us then. Even if God has to filter out some of His glory, I believe we will see Him. Also I don't believe these words were intended to deny that angelic beings can see Him now. Note that Paul said "whom no MAN has seen or can see." And God the Father may have permitted Adam and Eve to see Him in some limited ways before the fall.  

I'll quote a sentence from what J. H. Bernard says here ("The Pastoral Epistles" [Baker Book House, 1980], page 101): " 'We walk by faith and not by sight' (2 Cor. 5:7), though the Vision of God is promised to 'the pure in heart' (Matt. 5:6 [8]), compare Heb. 12:14)."]], To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen" 

8.5. HEBREWS 11:27. "By faith he [Moses] left Egypt ["he FORSOOK (my emphasis) Egypt" KJV, NKJV], not fearing the wrath of the king [of Pharaoh]; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen [Greek adjective "aoratos, on"]." When we read this verse in context with verses 24-26 we can see that Moses leaving Egypt by faith refers to his leaving it behind, his forsaking Egypt, not to his fleeing from Egypt as described in Ex. 2:11-15. (Exodus 2:14 mentions that Moses was afraid when he learned that it had become known that he had killed an Egyptian. Exodus 2:15 goes on to say that "when Pharaoh heard of the matter, he tried to kill Moses. But Moses fled from the presence of Pharaoh and settled in the land of Midian....") It was part of God's plan for Moses to flee from Egypt at that time. It was forty years after Moses fled from Egypt that the Angel of Yahweh (the Son of God) appeared to Moses in the burning bush (Acts 7:30; see Exodus chapter 3). The key point here is that Moses, BY FAITH, had his "sight," his priority, fixed on the unseen God, the very real and very much more important King and His kingdom, not on Pharaoh and his kingdom. By faith Moses was able to see the unseen. Moses was not literally seeing God the Father at that time, the time he left Egypt. He was seeing Him by faith. 

The fact that Moses (and all believers to some extent) was able to see the unseen by faith is a very important Biblical point for the writer of Hebrews to make here. However, adding the idea that God the Father is eternally invisible in His being wouldn't add anything relevant to the context here. 

The NIV, ESV, KJV, and NKJV translate the Greek adjective "aoratos, on" "invisible" here in Heb. 11:27. (We discussed this Greek adjective, which is used five times in the Greek New Testament, above under Col. 1:15, 16 and 1 Tim. 1:17.) The translation "unseen" of the NASB, which I prefer, fits well with the idea that we will be able to see God the Father after we are glorified, since He isn't invisible in His being, and it fits well with the idea that God the Father revealed Himself, though in very limited ways, to several leaders including Moses. Moses saw God the Father in very limited ways on many occasions after he was commissioned to lead Israel out of bondage in Egypt to the promised land.  That was some forty years after he left Egypt. 

 

9. "THE INVISIBILITY OF GOD: A SURVEY OF A MISUNDERSTOOD PHENOMENON," ARTICLE BY ANDREW S. MALONE. I'll quote some from, and discuss, this nineteen-page article that I found on the internet after I had essentially finished my paper: EQ 79.4 (2007), pages 311-329. I included a few excerpts from Malone above under 8.3 and 8.4. The author was a postgraduate student at Ridley College, Melbourne, Australia when he wrote this article. 

9.1. THE PROBLEM (pages 311-312). I'll quote his first two sentences; they are under the heading "The Problem." "Much modern theology...is built on the notion that God is invisible. God is incorporeal spirit (John 4:24) and 'no one has ever seen God' (John 1:18; 1 John 4:12). God is invisible (Col. 1:15; 1 Tim. 1:17; Heb. 11:27), whom no one has seen or is able to see (1 Tim. 6:16)." He goes on in the next paragraph to say, "The problem, of course, arises when we consider the many passages in the Old Testament where 'God appeared to' someone." At the bottom of the page he acknowledged that there were definite limits to seeing God in the Old Testament "but that there was also some outward form or manifestation of God which at least in part was able to be seen by man." These last words are part of the short excerpt that Malone took from Wayne Grudem, "Systematic Theology," page 188. I quoted several paragraphs from Grudem in the Introduction of this paper (my paper). 

Malone, in his last paragraph under "The Problem," says that in spite of what the Old Testament teaches on this topic there is an "entrenched tradition that God is utterly invisible." I'll quote the "Abstract" of his paper: "The Old and New Testaments appear to offer contradictory evidence as to whether God can be seen. The usual resolution is to defend the New Testament statements that God is invisible, and to somehow accommodate the Old Testament passages. This article brings together sometimes- overlooked data to suggest that such an approach is unhelpful. We do better to allow the Old Testament statements that God can be seen and to reconsider what the New Testament passages are trying to claim" (page 329).   

In my opinion Malone could/should have put a lot more emphasis on the passages in the New Testament that speak of our seeing God the Father after we are glorified. However, Malone does mention the following in the last paragraph of his seven and a half page section titled "New Testament passages: God is not seen" (pages 318-325) in which he discussed John 1:18 = 1 John  4:12; John 5:37; 6:46; Col. 1:15; 1 Tim. 1:17; 6:16; and Heb. 11:27: "...it is neither surprising nor unimportant that Paul elsewhere [apparently meaning in passages other that Col. 1:15 and 1 Tim. 1:17; 6:16] hints [I believe 1 Cor. 12:13, which Malone is going to mention here, is more than a "hint" that we will see God after we are glorified, but it probably isn't as weighty as verses like Matt. 5:8; Heb. 12:14; or Rev. 22:4.] at the possibility of seeing God, albeit under exceptional or eschatological circumstances [A primary point I want to make in this paper is that we will see God the Father AFTER WE ARE GLORIFIED, which is an "eschatological circumstance[s]."] (1 Cor. 13:12; perhaps the 'optasia' [vision] of 2 Cor.12:1 [It is quite possible that Paul was able to see God the Father in a very limited way when he was caught up to heaven as described in 2 Cor. 12:1-6). A minister that I have a lot of respect for tells how the Lord Jesus took him to heaven where he was permitted to see God the Father on His throne, but there was a veil between the Father and him which prevented him from seeing the Father in any clear way. He did however see a form like that of a man.]). Other authors [referring to writers of the New Testament other than the apostle Paul] confirm unequivocally that it will be possible to see 'see God' (e.g., Matt. 5:8; Heb. 12:14; 1 John 3:2; Rev. 22:4). God is not permanently invisible. This is certainly in keeping with the Old Testament passages, to which we turn briefly." From my point of view, the New Testament passages Malone just listed are just as important, if not more important, than the Old Testament passages. He doesn't discuss these New Testament passages in his article. 

Malone goes on to discuss the Old Testament passages for a little more than two pages (pages 325-327) under the heading "God is seen, however limitedly." I'll quote one of his summarizing sentences there: "For the Old Testament's part, there is nothing intrinsically invisible about God" (page 325). I agree, but I cannot agree with Malone's including passages where the Angel of the LORD [of Yahweh] appeared to Hagar and the parents of Samson as examples where people saw God the Father in the Old Testament (page 327). I believe they were seeing the Son of God in his preincarnate state. I believe, in agreement with many, that the Angel of Yahweh was the Son of God in His preincarnate state.    

9.2. "SOLUTION 1" (pages 312-315). The idea here, which Malone rejects, is that God the Father is invisible and that all of the theophanies in the Old Testament involved the Son of God, the Angel of Yahweh. As I discussed earlier in this paper, I agree that the Son of God often appeared to people in the Old Testament, but also, significantly, that there were occasions (quite a few very important occasions) where God the Father appeared to people. 

One very big difference between the accounts of seeing God the Father and the accounts of seeing the preincarnate Son is that it is emphasized that those who saw God the Father saw Him in very limited ways (see Ezek. 1:26-28 for example), but nothing like that is mentioned with the appearances of the preincarnate Son. (I am not suggesting that they saw the preincarnate Son as He is.) As I pointed out, passages like Ezekiel chapters 9-10 and Daniel chapter 7 are very important in that the Father and the Son both appeared together in the visions that Ezekiel and Daniel saw, and the Father and the Son interacted with One Another. 

"The idea of the Father being invisible has become commonplace in theology, shaped as much by the Platonic ideals [Plato was a very influential Greek philosopher, about 427-327 BC] of early authors like Justin [Martyr] - indeed, by the whole influence of Greek philosophy at the major turning points of church history - as by the biblical text itself" (page 313). I'm very interested in what Malone says here, but he doesn't document what he says here. 

I have spent some time trying to learn how much Greek philosophy influenced the widespread Christian viewpoint that God the Father is invisible (including the idea that since God is equally everywhere He cannot have a spiritual body), but I still don't have near enough information to answer this question. Anyway, I certainly don't believe that the Bible requires us to hold that view of God, and I believe the Bible rather strongly supports the viewpoint that we will see God the Father after we are glorified. If He really is eternally invisible in His being, I want to know it, but it isn't all that important for me to know where that idea (probably a wrong idea) came from. 

One related article I read was the 21 page article "The Visibility of the Invisible God" by Michael Allen (a seminary professor) in the "Journal of Reformed Theology" 9 (2015) pages 249-269. I'll quote two sentences where Allen comments on the influence of Greek philosophy on the idea of the invisibility of God: "We have seen that the doctrine of divine invisibility has a biblical pedigree, so that Berkouwer's [a Christian theologian] claim that it is merely a Hellenistic [Greek] accretion cannot be sustained. Again, it may have been heightened or even altered by Hellenistic thought, but it is not a mere positing of Greek philosophy alone: biblical exegesis of a slew of texts guided its transmission." For the record, I believe it is clear that Allen does not agree that we will literally see God the Father along with the Lord Jesus after we are glorified. The excerpts I'll include from a book that Malone mentions by Willis Shotwell that I'll include as we continue are quite relevant to the question regarding the influence of Greek philosophy on Justin Martyr, an early Christian scholar who had been a philosopher.  

(Still quoting from Malone on page 312) "... Apart from the New Testament texts cited above [John 4:24; John 1:18; 4:24; 6:46; Col. 1:15; 1 Tim. 1:17; 6:16; Heb. 11:27 (mentioned on his first page, page 311).], the argument [that God the Father is eternally invisible in His being] is found forcefully in the second century polemical works of Justin Martyr (especially Dial[ogue with Trypho (who was a Jew)], chapters 56-60, 126-129). Justin's [Justin, about 100-165 AD] influence on subsequent theologians like Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, and Eusebius is well known." [He has a footnote here:] "E.g. Willis A. Shotwell, 'The Biblical Exegesis of Justin Martyr' [London: SPCK, 1965), page 117. [I'll quote the rest of this footnote after I finish the followings three paragraphs that include some excerpts from this book by Willis Shotwell.]   

[[(This double bracket goes on for three paragraphs. I'll include a few excerpts from page 47 of this 136 page book by Willis Shotwell that are relevant to Justin's source(s) of truth and what he believed and taught.) "... This lack of philosophical allegory is interesting in a man [Justin] who has been, for centuries, considered a philosopher. [He had been a philosopher, following several philosophers. I'll quote a few sentences from page 1 of this book: "According to (Justin's) 'Dial(ogue with Trypho),' Ii.3-6 he searched after truth among the Stoics, the Peripatetics, the Pythagoreans, and the Platonists. However, his search availed him nothing. He relates in 'Dial.' iii-vii that he met a man (a serious, learned Christian) who showed him the futility of philosophy and led him to the study of the Scriptures. From this moment he began to be a Christian."] However, his own definition of philosophy provides the answer to this lack of philosophical allegory in Justin. In 'Dial.' Vlll.1 he says: 

'After saying these and many other things, of which it is not now the time to speak, he [the serious, learned Christian who introduced Justin to God the Father and His Son and new-covenant salvation], he departed commanding me to pursue these things. And I never saw him again. But a sudden fire was kindled in my soul, and a love for the prophets and those men who are friends of Christ possesses me. After reasoning out for myself his words, I have found that this alone is philosophy safe and profitable.' 

From this statement, it is obvious that Justin's idea of philosophy was distinctly his own. In his discussion about philosophy, the old man [the Christian] led Justin to the place where he could turn from philosophy to the Old Testament prophets. They, rather than philosophy, were the source of the knowledge of the truth. Hence, philosophy consists of the study and explication of the prophets. This is exactly what Justin's writings reveal him as doing - explicating the prophets. Justin is more an interpreter of the Bible than he is a philosopher." Justin used the New Testament writings too. I believe this is important information about Justin Martyr the Christian, but I don't certainly don't know enough to say that Justin wasn't influenced to some extent by Greek philosophy, and I don't assume that Shotwell would want to say that. (Now I'll continue to quote from Malone's footnote (page 312) where he mentions another book.)]] 

For the argument in some of the early fathers, especially Irenaeus and Eusebius, see Angela R. Christman, 'What Did Ezekiel see?', 'ProEccl 8.3' (1999), pages 338-363. ...." I haven't found "ProEccl 8.3 (1999), but I was able to find a copy of the book, "What Did Ezekiel See?: Christian Exegesis of Ezekiel's Vision of the Chariot [the movable throne of God the Father that was supported by four cherubim] from Irenaeus to Gregory the Great" by Angela R. Christman (Brill in the Netherlands, 2005, 195 pages). Chapter 3 of this book is titled "Ezekiel's Vision and the Incomprehensibility of God" (pages 63-98). I assume that this chapter is essentially the equivalent of the reference that Malone mentioned. There is a lot of information in this chapter, but essentially nothing that mentions, or directly deals with, the influence of "Platonic Ideals" or "Greek philosophy" on the incomprehensibility/invisibility of God the Father. (On "incomprehensibility," note the title of chapter 3. I'll quote footnote 91 from her page 91: "Claims that God is invisible and unfathomable often go hand in hand. See, e.g., John Chrysostom, 'Incomprehens. III.54." I don't have any room for the idea that we can fully know/comprehend God the Father during this present age, nor am I arguing for the idea that we will fully know/comprehend Him after we are glorified. 

I'll quote the two paragraphs that I am the most interested in for this study, taken from pages 91 and 93 of Christman's book. Both quotations are from Theodoret, a Christian scholar, commentator, and bishop (AD 393-457); the first quotation was taken from PG 81.833d. [PG is "Migne, Patrologiae cursus completes, Series Latina, Paris 1841-64"]; the second quotation was taken from SC 276, 258.46-50 [SC is Sources chretiennes, Paris 1941-]):  

"Therefore, whenever you hear accounts of different visions of God, do not conclude that the Divinity ([Greek] "ton theion") has multiple forms. For it [the Divinity] is entirely bodiless and without form, simple and not composite, without shape, invisible and unseen, and not circumscribed by any limit." And from page 93, "The Divinity ([Greek] 'to theion') does not have multiple forms, but is without both form and shape, not composite, simple, invisible, and beyond comprehension. This is why God says, 'I multiplied visions and in the hands of the prophets I was made a likeness ([Greek] 'homoiothen') (Hos. 12:11), not 'I was seen ([Greek] 'ophthen').' For God gives form to the visions as he wishes." Christman has a very similar quotation from Theodoret on her page 94, which I won't reproduce. 

This is a widespread viewpoint, which if true, would seemingly rule out the idea that we will be able to see God the Father after we are glorified, since He would be invisible in His essence, being, not having a body, form, or shape. I don't have much insight as to how much the viewpoint presented in this quotation might have been influenced by "Platonic Ideals" or "Greek philosophy," and Christman's book doesn't deal with this issue. (This quotation from Theodoret is the only place where she directly mentions this concept of God in this chapter. I'll quote a sentence from her page 89: "Although Theodoret allows that the vision [of Ezekiel chapter 1] evinces God's philanthropy and sovereignty, he repeatedly insists that it does not disclose God's essence.") Anyway, wherever this concept that God is totally invisible in His being came from, I, without being dogmatic, don't believe it is true.    

9.3. AN EXCERPT FROM JUSTIN'S DIALOGUE WITH TRYPHO THAT WAS MENTIONED BY ANDREW S. MALONE. (Taken from "Ante-Nicene Fathers," Vol. 1, edited by Roberts and Donaldson [Eerdmans, 1985 reprint], page 263; chapter 127.) Chapter 127 is titled "These Passages of Scripture Do Not Apply to the Father, But to the Word [the Son of God]." "... For the eneffable Father and Lord of all neither has come to any place, nor walks, nor sleeps, nor rises up, but remains in His own place, wherever that is, quick to behold and quick to hear, having neither eyes, nor ears, but being of indescribable might; and He sees all things, and knows all things, and none of us escapes His observation; and He is not moved or confined to a spot in the whole world, for He existed before the world was made. HOW, THEN, COULD HE TALK WITH ANY ONE, OR BE SEEN BY ANY ONE, OR APPEAR ON THE SMALLEST PORTION OF THE EARTH [my emphasis here and in the rest of this paragraph], when the people at Sinai were not able to look even on the glory of Him who was sent from Him [Justin means the Son of God, who, according to him, was sent by God the Father to Mt. Sinai].... THEREFORE NEITHER ABRAHAM, NOR ISAAC, NOR JACOB, NOR ANY OTHER MAN [which would include Moses, Isaiah, and Ezekiel, and apparently include the angels, and us after we are glorified], SAW THE FATHER AND INEFFABLE LORD OF ALL.... ...." 

That's all I'll quote from Malone. I'll close my paper here. 

May God the Father, God the Son, and the Holy Spirit be glorified through this paper and His people be edified!

© Copyright by Karl Kemp

http://www.karlkempteachingministries.com Karl Kemp worked as an engineer in the space field throughout the 60s. He became a born-again Christian in 1964. He received an MA in Biblical Studies in 1972. He has been a Bible teacher for 45 years. See the website for more info on his books, papers, etc.

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